Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – February 2023

GON Staff | January 25, 2023

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey, of Miss Judy Charters, 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. When fishing, be 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. 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 re-situate so often. As far as baits, use frozen shrimp and/or whole mullet cut into pieces like a loaf of bread.  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. For artificial baits during the cold, I suggest white Berkley jerkbaits or Strike King flukes rigged on a 1/4-oz. jig head. To target redfish, use a soft plastic worm-shaped lure. It seems that the extra mud/sand storm it makes when bumped along the bottom triggers bites. However, too much or not enough movement is going to be the key to unlocking this cold-water bite. February is a great month for stripers in the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers. Best baits are live shrimp, finger mullet and threadfin herring. For those wanting to go artificial, I suggest a 3-oz. lead head with hair jigs rigged with 4-inch plastic worms or paddletails. The striped bass like windy, rainy and cold-water conditions. Back in the old days, we used 6- to 8-inch broken-back lures, Chubs and Cisco Kid lures. Best colors then were red/white and black/silver.  The Chubs standard colors were red/white.  When it came to the Cisco Kid, which only came originally in solid colors, Daddy would 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!”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “Coastal water temps are running between 50 and 58 degrees. I have found the warmer waters way up in creeks. Trout and redfish are being caught fishing deep and slow with shrimp and jigs. Look for trout up in creeks with deep curves around docks and some holes. Fishing 20 to 25 feet deep with a slip cork can be very effective. The older-style long corks that will support a 1- or 1 1/4-oz. sinker work real good for fishing deep. A screw tail or paddle tail 1/2-oz. jig fished real slow is a good trout catcher. I usually like green colors with a lot of glitter in it. A 1/2-oz., green DOA shrimp has worked well for me lately. Make a long cast, give it a few seconds to sink, and retrieve it slowly, bouncing on the bottom. As long as the water stays above 50 degrees, the trout should bite through February. Redfish should be around all winter. A lot of dead-end small creeks will be full of redfish. On sunny days, they can get active in midday as the water warms slightly. Days when the tide is low around noon, they can turn on when the tide starts coming in. A shrimp fished near the bottom will usually catch them. A little stealth can help a lot. Winter redfish can be easily spooked off a spot. The sheepshead bite should be good through February inshore and offshore. Fish a fiddler crab close to structure. The Garmin Livescope is helping to locate schools of sheepshead. The striper (rockfish) bite in the Ogeechee has been good. They will bite regardless of cold weather. Try throwing Rapalas or jigs around creek mouths and hard-running current edges. Saltwater stripers like bright colors. The almost fool-proof winter fish are the catfish in the brackish water between Fort McAllister and Highway 17. Fish a dead shrimp on the bottom in the deeper curves and creek mouths.”

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

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey, of Miss Judy Charters, 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 vertical structure are the ones that hold the most sheepshead and black drum. Best bait is going to be the purple or black-back fiddlers. Anchor your boat so that you can fish over and around the wreck. These fish are known for biting and then stopping. Just stay put. These fish will circle the wreck at a slow pace and be back around. 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, 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. 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, these fish are more quickly spooked. Best bait is going to be cut squid and fish. To target the larger black sea bass, I suggest using a fish steak with all fins removed. For those wanting to give open-water trophy redfishing a try, February is the month. 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 pallets. Keep an eye out for any formed rips that are holding the interest of birds. I have caught many trophy redfish while working rips that the seabirds are also interested in. Once you have slowed down to the area in question, look on your fish finder for any large solid marks. These large marks should be the fish you are looking for. While making your way offshore to the structure on the artificial reef, quite often a school of large redfish will find plenty to feed on in a formed rip. As far as best artificial baits, fish  Causeway Diamond jigs with red or green small tube lures or any jigs without the tube. Once you have located the school, pitch your preferred 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, wait 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. To get prepared, I suggest cutting or chunking up any old mullet or menhaden that you might have. You should 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 to the bottom. If you are lucky enough to penetrate the feeding school, the jig will not make it to the bottom. All redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey, of Miss Judy Charters, reports, “For those of you who want to take a longer ride, there is always the live-bottom areas of the Savannah Snapper Banks. During this time, the bottom bite for large seabass, triggerfish, vermilion snapper, white grunt, white bone porgy, red porgy and knobbed porgy is very good. Also, African pompano can be found schooling around the naval towers. As far as best bait to use, squid is universal, meaning all fish will eat this stuff. When waters temp are on the colder side, most fish are not picky due to the fact that their realm of feeding opportunities are limited. Don’t over-think bait used, because presentation is higher on the list than taste.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey, of Miss Judy Charters, reports, “I would take both bottom and topwater baits, such as squid, ballyhoo and last year’s cigar minnows. When trolling, I would drag areas having structure, such as ledges and any sort of wrecks. As far as my trolling spread, I would prefer trolling deeper than normal. I would pull my cedar plugs 25 feet behind No. 3 to No. 4 planers. I would also pull red/black Ilander lures rigged with large to horse-sized ballyhoo way back in my spread. I would add 8- to 12-oz. trolling sinkers to these lures.  While I was trolling, I would be looking for upwellings, any sort of bottom fish schooling near the bottom and any signs of mid-water school fish. I would also make sure my jigging rods and deep-drop jigs are on board. The best deep-drop jigs are Williamson Benthos Speed Jigs. I like using 10- to 14-oz. jigs. Start blue-water fishing at the South Ledge,  3106.416/7955.300.”

2023 Captain Judy’s Inshore/Offshore Fishing Clinics: Feb. 24-26, 2023. Inshore/offshore boats in the water. $195 per person for inshore; $195 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. Capt. Judy will be offering classes on the water in the boats. Proven inshore light-tackle techniques revealed for getting your best chance at catching redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder. You also get a signed copy of Captain Judy’s Inshore Fishing Techniques Presenting Old School Tools. All you will need to bring is food and drink.”

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