Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – January 2020

GON Staff | December 31, 2019

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “On Dec. 16, the water in most places was around 56 degrees. A lot of fish have moved way up the rivers. Trout and redfish have been doing well up the Ogeechee River and surrounding areas. Next month all the trout should be in deeper water. Fish lures and shrimp really slow and close to the bottom. Redfish will be deep most of the time. On sunny days, you can find them shallower trying to get warm. January is usually a good month for catching sheepshead. Offshore go to the reefs a few miles out. Inshore look around trees, docks and any kind of structure that has barnacles growing on it. As always, a live fiddler crab will catch sheepshead. The stripers up the Ogeechee will bite all winter. When the weather is terrible, they seem to bite best. Throw a Rapala around creek mouths. Five or six fish is a good trip. Bring a few dead shrimp, and you can always catch some catfish. January fishing can be good if the weather will cooperate.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Spotted seatrout during this time are normally wintering in deep holes in the rivers or sounds. The best way to catch spotted seatrout when in the hibernation mode is to use small saltwater or freshwater jigs with curly or paddle tails on 4- to 6-lb. test main line. I like monofilament because of the extra stretch cushion it adds. When targeting saltwater fish in cold-water conditions, 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 head with assorted colors of curly and paddletails. My favorite color combinations are a white jig head with white tail and a red jig head with chartreuse flake. Another favorite is a white jig head or a plain lead jig head rigged with your favorite 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, let your lure hit the bottom, wait, reel a few times, wait and repeat. Then I suggest casting the lure to the sides of the hole so as to work this 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. The best artificial baits are going to be flukes rigged weedless. I like the Strike King Z-TOO and the 5-inch Zoom Fluke. Try blue and gray glimmer, ice, Arkansas shiner, pearl and smokey shad. Also, Berkley Gulp! Alive! baits offer up that favorite scent for getting a cold water fish to eat.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey 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. 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. I have started using sand fleas as an alternative bait for sheepshead. These baits can be purchased frozen and already packaged. Your best plan is to anchor over a wreck, drop Carolina-style rigs to the bottom, and then reel up about 1 foot off bottom. Once you have either had a bite or caught a sheepshead, I suggest staying were you are. Sheepshead bites can come in flurries and then stop completely. I suggest when the bite stops not to relocate, but to re-situate your bait. Then I suggest waiting until the school makes its way back around to the wreck area that you are fishing over.”

Trophy Redfish: Capt. Judy Helmey 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. I have caught them on 4-oz. single tube diamond jigs. While ordering jigs, I suggest ordering some of the Cobia Candy white eels. These eels work when threaded on the jigs. Best colors for diamond jigs have been red, yellow and green. The best color jig/hair combinations has been blue/white and chartreuse/white. For real bait, I suggest squid and shrimp laced on to 4/0 j or circle hook fished directly on the bottom or suspended in the mid-water column. To troll for redfish, I suggest pulling a 3 1/2-inch Drone spoon (silver or black with chartreuse flash) 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, allowing the lure used to fall to different depths of the water column. If you don’t like using planers, tie on a 100-lb. snap swivel to your main line, attach a Drone spoon, and let it out about 75-100 feet from the boat. Pull the spoon over where you think you have fish, pull the boat out of gear, and simply let the spoon sink. After half a minute or so, bump the engine in gear, speed it up a bit, and then take it out of gear. If the reds are there, you will know it. 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. Any size redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released.” 

Blue Water Fshing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is the time of the year, when you happen to get good weather and can make a blue-water run to troll for wahoo, king mackerel and blackfin tuna. There have been a few yellowfin tuna caught off our coast. Their sizes have ranged from 20 to 80 pounds. 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. 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. Old school blue-water fishermen are still using chum bags. And for those who are making their own homemade chum, I always suggest adding some gold/silver glitter and lots of menhaden oil. The addition of glitter, especially when sunshine is added, makes for an interesting 3-D fish attractant. I 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 deepwater jigging a try.”

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