Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – February 2020

GON Staff | January 30, 2020

Saltwater: Inshore & Nearshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The trout, redfish, black drum and sheepshead have been biting good. The large amount of freshwater coming down the rivers moved almost all the saltwater fish out of the Ogeechee River into the sound. On Jan. 23, the Ogeechee is still at flood stage, and it looks like it will be several weeks at least before the salinity levels come back up in the river. February can be a real good fish-catching month for us. Sheepshead are one of our main target species in February. All of the nearshore reefs in less than 60 feet of water will have sheepshead on them most of the month of February. On the reefs you need a good grapple-hook-type anchor and a bunch of fiddlers. The black sea bass can eat a lot of bait sometimes. If you are anchored on good structure and you don’t catch a sheepshead in 20 minutes, it is time to move. Keep moving until you find them. The inshore sheepshead fishing is often overlooked, but it can be really good in February. Fish real close to trees or old dock pilings with a fiddler on a 1/0 kahle hook. Look for structure that has at least 4 feet of water around it on low tide. My favorite tide is usually the last two hours of the outgoing tide and the first hour of the incoming tide. Trout should be biting good if the water temperature will stay in the 50s. This is a good time for fishing jigs with light tackle slow and deep just off the bottom. Any screw-tail jig will work at times. I like the ones with a lot of glitter and a touch of green in them. A few warm and sunny days will usually turn the trout on in February. If you can get them, a live shrimp fished deep under a slip cork will usually work. A poly-wog minnow fished live on a light slip-sinker rig on the bottom can be hot on some days. The redfish bite should be good for monster fish and slot-limit fish. On all the nearshore reefs some monster redfish will be on them at times. Fish a piece of cut fish on a big circle hook just off the bottom. All the redfish caught over 3 miles out must be released. Inshore redfish are scattered from the beach up into the brackish waters. Fish a live or dead shrimp on the bottom. When you find the redfish this time of year, sometimes there will be a big school of them. On sunny days, look for them to be in some shallow places possibly trying to get warm. The freshwater catfish should be thick in the lower Ogeechee. Catfish are usually a good fish to count on when nothing else will bite. Almost anywhere between the railroad tracks and Fort McAllister should have catfish. A dead shrimp on the bottom is hard to beat. While fishing up the river, try throwing a Rapala around some creek mouths for a striper. Try trolling a Rapala or a white Gulp! Swimming Mullet on a 1/2-oz. red jig head along the river banks.”

Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Inshore fishing in February can be very good for redfish. Pick areas in the sounds where sloughs flow onto bars or flats. Best fishing spots should have at least 6 inches of water at 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. Due to the last couple of hurricanes, lots of changes in the sandbars have taken place. Also, with more water, we have more current, which is the reason that our sandbars are resituating so often. I suggest last year’s frozen smelly shrimp and/or whole mullet cut in pieces like a loaf of bread. When using natural baits, all you need is 12 to 15 inches of 15- to 20-lb. test fluorocarbon leader tied to a small circle hook. For artificial baits during the cold-water bite, I suggest Berkley jerkbaits or Strike King flukes rigged on 1/4-oz. jig heads. White, or a combination of white, is the right pattern this time of the year. Also for redfish, you can use a  soft plastic worm. It seems that the extra mud/sand storm it makes when bumped along the bottom gets this fish’s attention. The warm winter temps have not put the spotted seatrout in the hibernation mode, which is the norm for the months of January/February. Our inshore captains have been catching spotted seatrout ranging from 14 to 23 inches while using live shrimp. They are catching their own live shrimp, which most of the time are being caught in the deeper holes. We have found that when deep dropping the cast net, that large schools of small yellow tails are situated above the shrimp. Where you start catching yellow tails in the net, there is bound to be shrimp down under. Throwing the net a few times should scatter the fish, leaving a better opportunity to catch more shrimp. 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 vertical structure are the ones that hold 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. This is a fish known for feeding vertically while circling around the wreck at a slow pace, which means the school is going to be making continuous passes. Just stay put. The artificial reefs located in more than 50 feet of water are holding black sea bass. During this time, 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 on the reef. To target the larger black sea bass, I suggest using a fish steak with all fins removed. The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish bite. Most of these trophy redfish that have migrated offshore during this time are in the 27- to 48-inch and bigger range. The best place to start looking is at the nearshore artificial reefs located in up to 50 feet of water. The artificial reefs that have been holding some nice trophy fish are SAV, DUA, CAT, KC and KTK. Best places to anchor over are barges or pallet balls. Watch for any formed rips and for birds. As far as artificial baits, try 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.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom bite at the Savannah Snapper Banks for large sea bass, trigger fish, vermilion snapper, white grunt, white bone porgy, red porgy and knobbed porgy is very good. Also, African pompano can be found schooling around the R7, M2R6 and R2 naval towers. We have caught them on live menhaden, mullet, pinfish, cigar minnows and Spanish sardines.  However, sometime live bait isn’t so available, so try whatever you have in the bait cooler. You can fish baits on blue water popping corks, an assorted sizes of traditional adjustment floats or just plain naked.”

Editor’s Note: 2020 Captain Judy’s Inshore/Offshore Fishing Clinics: Miss Judy’s clinics will run Feb. 22-23, 2020. Inshore and offshore clinics are $150/person for inshore or offshore. Both clinics are taught on the water. For the inshore clinics, you’ll learn proven light-tackle techniques for redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder. Offshore clinics will share proven techniques that took years to modify for artificial reefs, Savannah Snapper Banks and the Gulf Stream.

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