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Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report February 2019

GON Staff | January 25, 2019

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “February is sheepshead time. We are catching sheepshead now and will catch them great through the next couple of months. Inshore and offshore drops will have sheepshead on them. A live fiddler crab is always the best bait. Catching a good day to go offshore in February can be tough. A sturdy boat and a good grapple type anchor is a must have. Almost all of the reefs shallower than 60 feet will have sheepshead. Inshore, I like fishing 60-lb. braid with a 1/0 kahle. When fishing offshore, a 1/0 Owner circle hook has worked great. On the offshore reefs there are some big redfish, too. Put a big piece of fish on a 10/0 circle just off the bottom for the big redfish. If you want a big shark, put some wire on it. Most of the big sharks in the winter are tigers and white sharks, so release them in the water very carefully. Best thing to do is cut the line about a foot from them. Trout are still biting. A shrimp fished deep will work. A skilled fisherman who can fish a jig on light tackle can catch a lot of trout sometimes in February. A 1/8-oz. jig with a green swimming mullet tail on 10-lb. braid with a fluorocarbon leader works for me. Fishing a slip cork deep with a 1-oz. sinker and a shrimp or polywog will work. Try deep structure 10 to 15 feet that is out of the stronger currents. Redfish can be caught shallow and deep. On sunny days look on the mud flats just as the tide starts coming in. Put a shrimp or polywog on a hook with a small split shot about a foot above it. Throw past the fish, and move it very slowly by the redfish. Fishing a shrimp near heavy cover from 2 to 15 feet deep will also work. So far this winter has been very mild. If the cold weather will stay away, the February fishing should be good. After the cold winter last year, that is great news. All the freshwater has moved all the trout and redfish out of a lot of our rivers where they are some winters. The one fish that you can catch in the Ogeechee River tidewater good in February are the catfish. Fish a dead shrimp on the bottom anywhere between Kings Ferry and Fort McAllister, and you should catch a bucket full of good eating catfish. Add a few layers of clothes, and go fishing.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Inshore fishing in February can be very good for redfish, but you need to keep in mind that the water is a lot clearer, causing the fish to be a bit  more skittish. Keep as quiet as possible. Pick areas in the sounds where sloughs flow onto bars or flats. Best fishing spots should have at least 6 inches of water at mean low tide. The best days are going to be those that have a midday low tide stage with sunny conditions. I like to fish the bottom of the low tide stage until the water floods the grass. Another reason why I like to fish low to high tide is the water under your boat gets deeper not shallower. No one wants to spend the day high and dry on a sand bar. Due to the last couple of hurricanes, lots of changes in the sandbars have taken place. And also with more water we have more current, which is the reason that our sandbars re-situate so often! As far as baits, when it comes to the natural stuff, I suggest dead old last year’s frozen smelly shrimp, or whole mullet cut in pieces like a loaf of bread. Cut the bait first before heading out, and do it in the air and sun. This dries the bait, sealing in the fish juices. When using natural baits, all you need is 12 to 15 inches of 15- to 20-lb. test fluorocarbon leader tied to a small extra sharp circle hook. Cast into the area, let the bait fall to the bottom, and wait for a hit. Before setting the hook, give them time to eat. For artificial baits during the cold-water bite, I suggest Berkley soft jerkbaits or Strike King flukes rigged on 1/4-oz. jig heads. White is the right color for this time of the year—white with specks, glitter, two-tone, etc. And if you want to step outside the box, give these proven baits a try: trout trick lures (zmanfishing.com/store/categories/elaztech/elaztech_trouttrick) on a 1/8-oz. jig head and Houdini colored (zoombait.com/colors/houdini), Zoom Flukes on a heavy gauge EWG worm hook with no weight. Believe it or not, but this is the time of the year when targeting redfish to try using a soft plastic worm on a Texas- or Carolina-rig. It seems that the extra mud and sand storm it makes when bumped along the bottom gets this fish’s attention. However, too much or not enough movement is going to be the key to unlocking this cold water bite. For fishermen who want to give striped bass, also known a rock fish, a try, February is a great month. The Savannah River and Ogeechee River are the two areas that seem to hold the interest of these strong-pulling striped bass of the Georgia coast. Best baits are live shrimp, finger mullet and threadfin herring. For those wanting to go artificial, I suggest 3-oz. lead head with hair jigs rigged with 4-inch plastic worms or paddle tail trailers. The best jig for this job is the same bait that is called Cobia Candy, made by the Whoop Ass Tackle Company. The striped bass is a fish that loves windy, rainy and cold-water conditions. So if you are this kind of a fisherman, this is the type fish for you! Back in the old days we used 6- to 8-inch broken-back Chubs and Cisco Kid lures. Best colors then were red/white and black/silver. When it came to the Cisco Kid, which only came in originally solid colors only, Daddy would spray paint silver on the head and shoulder section of the lure. Now that I am older, I figured it out it is never too late to go Old School!”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The nearshore artificial reefs located in 45 to 50 feet of water are holding the winter migration of large sheepshead. Normally the reefs offering the best veridical structure are the ones that hold the attentions of the most sheepshead and black drum. Best bait is going to be the purple or black back fiddler. I suggest anchoring while situating your boat so that you can fish over and around the wreck. These fish are known for biting furiously and then stopping. Your best stance to take when this happens is to keep fishing and not moving from this spot. This is a fish that is known for feeding vertically while circling around the wreck at a slow pace, which means the school is going to be making continuous passes. The artificial reefs located in more than 50 feet of water are holding black sea bass. Normally this is a fish that loves to school up in low relief areas and feed near the bottom. However, this time of year large schools of black fish can be found schooling just about every place where there is structure. All structure has potential, but you will most likely find them holding in only a few spots. If your plan is to drift fish, you are only going to get a few drifts before the bite will thin. If anchored, the bite will be about the same way. It seems during cold water times that these fish are more quickly spooked. Best bait is going to be cut squid and cut fish. To target the larger black sea bass, use a fish steak with all fins removed. Bigger the bait, the bigger the fish bite. Before heading out I suggest printing out a copy of the artificial reefs showing GPS coordinates or making sure your GPS has them updated. Since most artificial reefs are no longer marked with yellow reef buoys, use only the ones that mark the actual places that you want to anchor, not the area. Go to www.eregulations.com/georgia/fishing/ to find this information. February is considered our coldest month, meaning there is still plenty of time for offshore trophy redfish action to be had. For fishermen who want to give open-water trophy redfishing a try, February is definitely the month. Most of these trophy redfish that have migrated offshore during this time are in the 27- to 45-inch and bigger range. The best place to start looking is at the nearshore Georgia artificial reefs located in up to 50 feet of water. Here are a few artificial reefs that have been holding some nice trophy fish—SAV, DUA, CAT, KC and KTK. Best places to anchor over are barges or pallet balls. While heading to your destination point, keep an eye out for any formed rips that are holding any interest from the birds. I have caught many trophy redfish while working rips that the seabirds are also interested in. A rip is two different currents being pushed together making what I call a wall. Small baits and other creatures get held up here or migrate to these areas. The best artificial baits here that have always worked for me are Causeway Diamond jigs with red or green small tube lures, or any jigs without the tube. Once you have located the school, pitch your jig, let it free fall, and you should get a solid hit before it lands on the bottom. When more than one fisherman is jigging, I suggest waiting a few seconds before throwing out the second jig. Your hooked up redfish will most likely be followed by the entire school of fish. You need to be prepared in case this happens. I suggest cutting or chunking up any old mullet or menhaden that you might have. Heck, even last year’s frozen ballyhoo once cut in steaks will get this fish’s feeding attention. Have this ready to throw right into the school of redfish. This food will keep them near the surface for an extra second, but as soon as the chunks start to sink, the fish will disappear with them. While all this is going on, I suggest pitching another jig and letting it fall directly to the bottom. If you are lucky enough to penetrate the feeding school, believe me the jig will not make it to the bottom! Please remember all redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released as soon as possible.”

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