Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report January 2017

GON Staff | December 22, 2016

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “By the time the month of January rolls around, the inshore fish that are migrating have left, and the ones that are staying have gone into the hibernation mode. Spotted seatrout during this time are normally wintering in deep holes in the rivers or sounds. The best way to catch seatrout when in the hibernation mode is to use small saltwater or freshwater jigs with curly or paddle tails while using 4- to 6-lb. test main line. As far as main line, I like monofilament because of the extra stretch cushion it adds. The best freshwater jigs are and The bottom line when targeting saltwater fish in cold-water conditions is to go with a lure that is smaller but still gets their attention when worked. I like to use 1/16- and 1/24-oz. jig heads with assorted colors of curly and paddle tails. My favorite jig color combinations are a white jig head with a white tail and a red jig head with chartreuse flake tail. Another favorite is a white jig head or a plain lead jig head rigged with a yellow/white/chartreuse tail. The secret when using any kind of soft bait in cold water is that it should be smaller and worked slower than usual. The best method when fishing a deep hole is to cast into the deepest part, and let your lure hit the bottom. Wait, reel a few times, wait and repeat. Then I suggest casting to the sides of the hole so as to work the entire area. The secret to getting solid hits during cold-water times is to work your lure as slow as you can while still keeping it near or right on the bottom. The inshore redfish bite can be very good, but you have to know the rules. During cold-water times, the redfish can see and hear better. This fish stays in high alert mode because of their two main predators: the dolphin (aka porpoise) and the fishermen. They definitely fear the dolphin more than man. Dolphin are very diligent in knowing where to wait and how long to get a quick meal. Where you have dolphin staging, you most likely have redfish schooling to the inshore. The best artificial baits are going to be a fluke, like the Strike King Z-Too or Zoom Fluke, rigged weedless. Here are some proven colors: blue and gray glimmer, ice, Arkansas shiner, pearl and smokey shad. Don’t be afraid to lay a bead of some sort of fish sauce into the groove of this bait. Berkley Gulp! Alive! baits also offer up that favorite scent for getting a cold-water fish to eat. Fresh frozen pawn shrimp pieces and mullet steaks will also work. Adding, dipping and soaking your bait, whether it is real or not, is going to only entice the bite. And whatever you do, when you do get a bite, give them time to eat.”

Artifical Reefs: Capt. Judy reports, “The artificial reefs located in less than 50 feet of water are holding the winter migration of sheepshead. These fish are going to be staging on the wrecks that offer the most vertical feeding opportunity. Before heading out, make sure you know the coordinates for the wreck that you are going to fish. To get all information on Georgia’s artificial reefs, go to The best baits for this fish is going to be anything wrapped in a shell, such as purple-back fiddlers, black-back fiddlers, barnacles, green mussels, oysters and shrimp. It is best to anchor over a wreck and make a drop to the bottom using Carolina-style rigs, and then reel up about 1 foot off bottom. Once you have either had a bite or caught a sheepshead, I suggest staying where you are. Sheepshead bites can come in flurries and then stop completely. I suggest when the bite stops, not to relocate. Wait until the school makes its way back around to the wreck area that you are fishing over.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy reports, “Trophy redfish migrate to the offshore water during the cold-water times. They can be found schooling near the beachfronts, around offshore sandbars and on the artificial reefs. These fish are normally schooling and feeding on something that they have corralled. I have caught them on 4-oz. single-tube diamond jigs. Best color tubes have been red and green, and the best color jig-hair combinations have been blue/white and chartreuse/white. For those fishermen who prefer using real bait, I suggest squid and shrimp laced on 4/0 J or circle hooks fished directly on the bottom or suspended in the mid-water column. Make sure your drag is set light to medium and not locked down. For those offshore fishermen who want to troll for redfish, I suggest pulling a 3 1/2-inch Drone spoon in silver or black with chartreuse flash. Pull the spoon 20 feet behind a No. 3 planer or an 8-oz. trolling sinker. When trolling around diving/sitting birds, I suggest taking the boat in/out of gear so the lure falls at different depths of the water column. The best way to find an offshore redfish is to keep an eye to the sky. If the reds are feeding, the sea birds are diving. The best news is that any and all sized sea birds will follow and feed on the surfaced leftovers. So if you see gannets, cormorants, loons and any sized sea birds diving or sitting on the water, there is a good chance that trophy redfish have been feeding. They will most likely do it again and shortly, so stay in this area. Please remember that any size redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released. During this time, some of these trophy redfish being caught have been up to 45 inches long, so please handle with care. However, pictures can be taken before the release.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy reports, “The bottom fishing is always very good, especially when you bait your hooks with plain old cut squid. If using live bait, I suggest lip hooking sand perch, rock bass, juvenile vermilion or a ruby red lips. Please remember grouper season is closed and will not open until May 1, 2017. And there are a few other offshore closers that are pending, so go to to get all of the up-to-date regulations. Naval towers R7, M2R6 and R2 sometimes hold the interest of African pompano. Although this is not a fish that we normally catch in this area, this is the time we see them. Best bait is going to be the live ones, such as a ruby red lips, menhaden, horny belly or a lookdown. The best presentation is either going to be rigging bait under some sort of traditional adjustable cork or basic freelining. We normally try both methods. Targeting African pompano can be a little challenging because sometimes you can see them swimming on the surface right in the center of the tower. Once you see them, you most likely can get them to eat, but it’s best to try to get them to the outside of the tower legs. Hooking them and losing them in the tower’s legs is only going to spook them. I suggest placing baits under floats or a freeline on the outskirts and on the down-current side of the tower leg. In some cases, also dropping a bottom rig, hooking up and reeling in a live fish will spark their interest. Once outside of the legs, this fish is most likely going to feed. So be ready! Don’t forget your gaff or your camera.”

Blue water fishing: Capt. Judy reports, “This is the time of the year to make the blue water run if you get a good weather prediction. Trolling for wahoo, king mackerel and blackfin tuna can offer one heck of a catching affair. Mahi mahi are few and far between during this time, but hook-ups are still possible. Finding a well-defined edge at the stream during this time of the year can be done, but there is not that many large fish or schools of bait lining it. Your best bet is to know the coordinates of all ledges, holes and live-bottoms areas where you intend on fishing. When departing Savannah, I suggest always heading to the South Ledge area (3106.416/7955.300). This ledge has always held the interest of topwater fish, as well as bait during this time of the year. Best rigged baits are going to be chin-weighted dink ballyhoo pulled naked and medium/large ballyhoo on black or black/red Ilanders. I suggest rigging small dinks baits with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and medium/large ballyhoo with 80- to 100-lb. test wire leader. When it comes to pulling the artificial stuff, I always soak in menhaden cedar plugs. I always suggest pulling a couple of birds in your trolling spread. I pull No-Alibi Dolphin Delights about 5 feet behind by birds. My preferred combination colors are pink/white and blue/white. If your trolling spread doesn’t produce, then I suggest dropping to the bottom. Best bait is going to be cut ballyhoo, squid and cut fish. Or I suggest giving deep-water jigging a try.”

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