Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – December 2023

GON Staff | November 29, 2023

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “Normally, the inshore bite will turn on big time when there is an approaching cold front. The best natural bait is going to be live shrimp, and the best artificial baits are those that imitate them. Live shrimp will work under popping or traditional adjustable corks or just plain naked, meaning using a hook only. Most spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder will take a chance on a shrimp, even if it does look a little fishy. From a fish’s point of view, the shrimp is easy to catch, easy to eat and easy on the stomach. Once you get the bite going on the live or fresh dead shrimp, it’s easy to change to artificial, such as DOAs. When it comes to getting the redfish to bite, I suggest pitching copper penny, baby bass or ice flukes made by Strike King (ZTOO) rigged weedless and cast right into the grass. When using artificial bait during cooler-water times, please remember to work your lure slower than normal. The reason being is everything is moving a bit slower, and this includes the bait and those that eat them. These are old-school suggestions that have been working for many years. When you can’t purchase or catch your own live shrimp, there is another bait to consider. The old standby mud minnow is easy to catch, and it is classified as one of those hardy baits. It is listed as the second on the best-bait-to-use scale. I can guarantee you that nine times out of 10 if you can’t find shrimp, neither can the fish. A single mud minnow works great and is usually good several times, even after hits, misses or catches. If one minnow lipped hooked either under a popping or adjustable cork doesn’t work, I suggest adding another one. Using doubled-up baits can turn an unlikely bite on. When the water gets cooler, it is much clearer, which means if you can see the fish, it most likely can see you, too. When approaching your fishing spot, do so slowly. I suggest offering the least amount of noise and impact. Once arriving slowly, drop your anchor quietly as possible. For those fishermen who prefer darkness over daylight fishing, this is the perfect time of the year to give it a try. Most isolated dock lights will hold the interest of some sort of bait, which in turn brings on one heck of a topwater bite. Best baits are DOA artificial-shrimp patterns rigged on 1/8- to 1/4-oz. jig heads and small floating/diving lures. For fishermen who prefer the live bait, such as shrimp or mud minnows, these baits will also work. The best procedures for working a dock light can be quickly ascertained by pitching and retrieving a few lures in different directions or placing baits rigged under a cork upcurrent of the light. Bites should be consistent for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then it will be time to move on or take a break to give the fish time to regroup uninterrupted. December is the month where it is possible to see right whales and great white sharks. I always ask my customers if they see anything unusual on the surface to please point it out to me. When I am making my way offshore, I always keep a good look out. Right whales are slow-moving creatures. If you find yourself close to a right whale, whatever you do don’t put your boat in gear. Just remain calm and as quickly as they arrive, they should leave. However, the good news is that there are no rules that specify that you can’t take pictures. Please take all you can because what is happening to you doesn’t happen to but a few. The very next thing that you need to do is to contact the Coast Guard or have someone relay coordinates of your whale encounter. This could save their life. The Coast Guard will then contact proper sources so that coordinates can be sent to boats/ships that are navigating around the sighting. Right whales, especially when swimming with their calves will quite often lay on the surface for long periods at a time. This normal act unfortunately can put them right in the path of large vessels. For right whales that you happen on, please keep your distance. You are required by law to stay the distance of at least 500 yards. The reason being there aren’t that many of these precious mammals left. A collision with one might cause serious injury or death to the whale. There are not that many left in the North Atlantic Ocean. Once again when you spot a right whale, please contact the Coast Guard on Channel 16 of your marine radio. As far as the great white sharks, there are quite a few sightings from November through April. Sharks migrate with the whales. When a right whale dies, it floats and provides sharks with a grand feeding arena, which if you happen up on is yet another great picture-taking event.”

Capt. David Newlin  reports, “The water temperature was 65 on Nov. 22. It should continue falling in the next couple of weeks. The redfish bite has been really hot the last few weeks. We caught around 30 today. They are in every depth of water from 1 foot to 30 feet. A lot of redfish have moved up the rivers all the way to freshwater. The Ogeechee is full of them all the way to the railroad trestle. Live and dead shrimp are working really good. December redfish should be all over the sounds and up the rivers. The trout bite has been good. We are catching plenty on live shrimp. They have been hitting lures really good. A pink-imitation shrimp has been working for me. Look for the trout to move way up in the rivers over the next few weeks. Deeper holes in creeks will start holding a lot of trout when the water drops into the upper 50s. Fish a jig or a shrimp deep and slow. Stripers are biting in the Ogeechee all over and down to Fort McAllister. Live shrimp and Rapala-type plugs will catch them. December should be good fishing as long as the water stays above 55.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “December is a grand month for those fishermen who love a light-tackle fishing experience. Artificial reefs are holding sheepshead, black drum, trophy redfish, flounder and cold-water sharks. Fish put these areas on their list of places to school up to bulk up for winter migrations. The best baits for sheepshead, black drum and trophy redfish are going to be the purple-back fiddler, juvenile rock crabs and green mussels. Small pieces of shrimp will also work. These fish love anything wrapped in a shell or the meat that is removed from them. Flounder are known for situating themselves on the outskirts of the structure while waiting for that perfect meal. The best baits for the old flounder are jumbo mud minnows or small sand perch placed on a Carolina-style bottom rig. Placement of this bait is simple. Cast to the outskirts of the structure, set drag to medium and place rod in a holder. Another baiting-up method for flounder is to take a 3-oz. jig head ( which is still my favorite old-school-type jig. Bait it with live finger mullet or any live bait that is about the size of a cigar or strip bait and put it on the bottom. Or you can butterfly a small fish, which when introduced back into the water, offers up two working, flowing tails. The best thing about jig-head fishing is that you can move your bait along the bottom, and it imitates a small fish. When a small fish is skirting close to the bottom, it forms somewhat of a head-turning sandstorm. And a fish knows this, because they have been there and ate things doing this sort of thing before. When you get a hit, whatever you do don’t try to set your hook because flounder are known for being slow bait takers. In other words, give them time to eat. Old-time fishermen used to say that before you set the hook count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, and then set the hook. If you miss the set, I suggest quickly dropping your bait back and letting it just sit. It is going to be a waiting game to see if the fish will give it another try. If sharking is on your mind and if you are looking for an unbelievable fight of grand portions, I suggest bringing along some squid or cutting up some freshly caught fish. Another great bait when targeting shark is going to be the belly strip cut from a sheepshead. All you must do is cut the belly out of the fish, leaving you the best part to eat. Hook it up and put it on the bottom. Removing the belly only from any fish still allows it to be intact, meaning tail and head are still attached and can be used for  official measuring. It’s best to try to place this bait as far on the outskirts of the structure as possible. In other words, cast these baits as far as you can from where you are anchored. Please always check state and federal regulations for any closers and size limit. The artificial reefs located in less than 60 feet of water used to hold the interest of large numbers of summer trout. However, this has changed a bit. We don’t catch a lot of summer trout, aka weakfish, like we used to, but when we do, they are on the large size, meaning 20 inches and larger. The best bait is going to small pieces of cutfish, squid and cigar minnows. Way back when, it was a known fact that black sea bass migrated into the nearshore artificial reefs during the colder-water times. However, it seems that over the years this fish’s migration pattern has changed. What does this mean? Well, when the water temps drop, large schools of black fish find 70 to 80 feet of water their sweet spots for bulking up. So therefore, I have noticed that any isolated live-bottom areas or grown-over debris fields do hold the feeding interest of these fish. The gag grouper season is closed until May 1, 2024.”

Georgia Saltwater Fishing Page: Archived Articles, News and Fishing Reports

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “Bottom fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water can be very interesting because you never know what you might catch. The best bottom fishing baits are going to be small pieces of squid, cutfish and fresh or frozen cigar minnows. If you happen up on a school of baits, meaning schooling cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, I suggest getting out a sabiki bait rig and giving it a try. These types of baits are known for triggering a fish bite that might not have existed. And believe me fresh dead/halves of minnows in most cases work great. All of these baits bring the attention of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, white grunts, porgy, trigger fish and other colorful bottom biters. If you are looking for a bigger bottom bite, I suggest dropping a lipped-hooked ruby red lip, sand perch, vermilion or rock bass down to the bottom. These baits attract amberjack, grouper and red snapper. Catch and release only when targeting grouper, genuine red snapper and red porgy, also known as Charleston Snapper.”

Blue water fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “Our blackfin are normally on the wide-open mode, and this is one fish that can offer you a strong fight. You can find these fish holding over the ledges in 180 to 250 feet of water, or you might just happen to find a school holding in the upper water column that has rounded up a school of bait. The best lures that fit into what is called old-school tools are cedar plugs pre-soaked in menhaden oil. I am not talking about colored cedar plugs. I am suggesting the actual plug that is made with cedar showing, not the ones that are painted. These plugs absorb the menhaden oil while holding it longer when trolling, producing lots of happy fishy trails. For those fishermen who want to troll with bait, I suggest Ilander Trackers rigged with dink ballyhoo baits. The trick here is to rig the Ilander Trackers with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and small, short-shank, extra strong, 4/0 to 5/0 hooks. This style of rig works well when rigging with dink (small) ballyhoo. Back in the old days, I always liked to use pink, 50-to-60-lb. test Ande fluorocarbon line as my leader of choice. And I am sure you want to know why? While rigging one day, I happened to drop the leader onto the deck and I had a hard time finding it for sure. So therefore, it rightfully gained its name of disappearing pink because that is exactly what it did. With the disappearing Ande pink leader in the mix, a fish’s first look is going to be on the bait and not what’s holding it there, For those fishermen who love to do a little jigging, once you find the tuna, drop your lure to this depth and work it. The best deep-water jigs are those butterfly-type designs from 3 to 6 ounces. For the best jigging results, I suggest using braid as the main line and a fluorocarbon leader above the jig. It’s time to go, because now you know!”

2024 Captain Judy’s Inshore/Offshore Fishing Clinics: Feb. 16-18, 2024. Inshore/offshore boats in the water. $200 per person for inshore; $200 per person for offshore. Trips 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. Miss Judy Charters dock, 202 Wilmington Island Road, Savannah, Ga. 31410. Call 912.897.4921 for more details. We will be offering classes on the water in the boats.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.