Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – February 2024

GON Staff | January 31, 2024

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 in the fishing mode, I suggest keeping as quiet as possible. Knowing the importance of this information is key to successfully not only finding but also catching redfish. Pick areas in the sounds where sloughs flow onto bars or flats. The 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 at 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 sandbar. Due to the last couple of hurricanes, lots of changes in the sandbars have taken place. With more water, we have more current, which is the reason that our sandbars are re-situated so often. As far as baits when it comes to the natural stuff, I suggest last year’s frozen shrimp and/or whole mullet cut into pieces like a loaf of bread. I always suggest cutting the bait first before heading out. The best place to put the bait is out in the air and sun. This dries the bait, sealing in the fish juices that rings the dinner bell for a redfish once it is placed back in the water. 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. Please keep in mind before setting the hook to give them time to eat. For those fishermen who prefer pitching artificial baits during the cold-water bite, I suggest Berkley jerkbaits or Strike King flukes rigged on 1/4-oz. jig heads. Please remember white is the right color for this time of the year. White with specks, glitter, two-tone, etc. or more of a white background is preferred. If you want to step outside the box, try a Z-man Trout Trick bait on a 1/8-oz. jig head or a Houdini colored Zoom Fluke on a heavy-gauge worm hook. Believe it or not, but this is the time of the year when targeting redfish to try using a soft-plastic, worm-type shaped lure. It seems that the extra mud/sandstorm 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. Please remember to give them time to eat! For those fishermen who want to give striped bass fishing a try, February is a great month for this fish. In our area, the Savannah River and Ogeechee River are the two areas that seem to hold the interest of these strong-pulling fish. Best baits are live shrimp, finger mullet and threadfin herring. For those wanting to go artificial, I suggest 3-oz. lead heads with hair jigs rigged with 4-inch plastic worms or paddle tails. Remember the color white is right for this time of the year! The best jig for this job is the same bait that is called Cobia Candy. The striped bass loves windy, rainy and cold-water conditions. So, if you are this kind of a fisherman, this is the of type fish for you. Back in the old days, we used 6- to 8-inch broken-back lures Chubs and Cisco Kid lures. The best colors then were red/white and black/silver. The broken-back Chub’s standard colors were red/white. When fishing in the Savannah River area, some waters are considered by those law enforcers to be on the South Carolina side. Believe you me, you do not want to get in a confrontation because unfortunately there is no way to win.”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “Warm temperatures have really turned the fish on the last few days. Hopefully we won’t have any more 20-degree mornings. Water temps were around 54 degrees in some places today (Jan. 27). The redfish bite should stay turned on in February unless we have some severe cold. I caught fish shallow and 12 feet deep yesterday. I have caught all my fish on shrimp the last few days. Redfish are up the rivers and out in the sounds. Some of my better catching has been way back in really small creeks. Look for signs of fish movement in the shallows. Make accurate casts and be quiet with the winter redfish. Some days a shrimp fished with nothing but a hook on the line will catch wary redfish. The trout bite should get better if the water warms up a couple of degrees. Above 55 degrees is when they will turn on really good. Fishing a jig really slow in deeper creek curves will usually work. Trout should be schooled up when you find them. The sheepshead bite is going pretty good. Get some fiddler crabs and fish close to structure. Fish docks, trees, sunk boats or anything that grows barnacles. Some striper action is happening up the Ogeechee. Most of it is upriver from Fort McAllister. Live shrimp or bright-colored Rapala-type plugs will get you a bite. The go-to fish in the winter are the catfish in the brackish water between the railroad and Fort McAllister. Fish a piece of shrimp on the bottom in creek mouths and deep curves. Yesterday afternoon we caught 40 in about two hours. It is easy fishing and good eating. The online charter boat scam is still happening, so be careful booking a trip. If you can’t talk to the boat captain, beware. February should be good fishing if the weather cooperates.”

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

Offshore Options: 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 attentions of the most sheepshead and black drum. Best bait is going to be the purple or black-back fiddler. I suggest anchoring so that you can fish directly 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 move 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 feeds near the bottom. During this time, large schools of black fish can be found schooling around the structure. All structures have 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 over the holding area before the bite thins. If anchored, the bite will be about the same way, which means lots of bites, then no action, and after a short while, the bite normally starts back. It seems during cold-water times that these fish are more quickly spooked. The 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. It’s ‘the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish bite’ scenario. Before heading out, I suggest printing out a copy of the artificial reefs showing GPS coordinates and/or making sure your GPS has them. If it hasn’t been updated, key coordinates might not have been added to your unit. A good plan is to always know all the coordinates so that you can come up with a plan on which areas you need to fish. Since most artificial reefs are no longer marked with yellow reef buoys, I suggest when researching coordinates to use only the ones that mark the actual places that you want to anchor and not the area. Go to: to find this information. If you haven’t been to this site in a while, it has been up dated greatly. It is very fisherman friendly and if used will certainly get you much closer to the fish. February is considered our coldest month, meaning there is still plenty of time for offshore trophy redfish action to be had. As of Jan. 15, the nearshore water temp was 56 and the sound was 50 degrees. The secret is to know the deal, which I am going to share with you right now. For those fishermen wanting 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. The best places to anchor over are barges or pallet balls. If you have done your homework, you should already have all artificial coordinates either in your GPS or have a printed copy of the area that you are going to fish. Another suggestion is that while you are heading to your destination point, keep an eye out for any formed rips that are holding any interest from your eyes in the sky, aka the 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 that 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. 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 areas such as these. They think they are in a safe zone, but really, they are feeding zones for bigger fish. As far as best artificial baits, I like Causeway Diamond Jigs with red or green small tube lures or you can use  jigs without the tube. Also, squid, cut fish and shrimp will work, also. Just break out a bottom rig, bait it up and let it fall to the bottom. If the fish are there, it will not make it to the bottom. Over the years when using bait such as squid, when you drop into a school of redfish, if you have one hook, you hook one fish. If you have two hooks, you hook up two redfish! The point that I am trying to make is when redfish migrate to the offshore waters, they will feed on just about anything that they can get. So, when one fish finds something, the others come directly to the one that is feeding. 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, 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. I have always called this the ‘redfish tagging game.’ It’s as if each redfish is playing tag with the other. 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. Heck, even last year’s frozen ballyhoo once cut into steaks will get this fish’s feeding attention. 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 directly to the bottom. If you are lucky enough to enter 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 must be released as soon as possible. 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 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 naval towers. As far as the best bait to use, squid is universal, meaning all fish will eat this stuff. When water temps are on the colder side, most fish are not as picky due to the fact their realm of feeding opportunities are limited. Don’t over think bait used because presentation is higher on the list than taste. If you can deliver your bait to the fish’s strike zone, it is going to eat it because it is there.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “The blue waters of the Stream, especially during this time, are located way offshore. However, if you want an interesting trip and don’t mind the long ride, I suggest giving the South Ledge, the Triple Ledge or the Deli Ledge a try. It is a known fact that the South Ledge has proven many times over these past years to hold the attentions of black fin tun and occasional yahoo wahoo! Those fishers traveling from the north should always stop and give the closer ledges a try. As far as best methods for catching, I suggest trolling small, rigged dink baits or jigging proper size deep-water jigs. And what size is that? If you are marking tuna, I suggest you consider using a high-visibility jig that is 3 to 4 inches long or less. In other words, match the hatch!”

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.

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