Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – January 2024

GON Staff | December 28, 2023

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “On Dec. 18, the water temps were around 53 degrees. It looks like we may be in for a cold winter. When the water gets in the low 50s,  everything changes. The redfish slow down and can get a little harder to make bite. A couple days of sunshine and warm weather can turn redfish on real quick. If you don’t have live shrimp, try a white Gulp! Swimming Mullet on a green jig head fished slowly along the bottom. A fluorocarbon leader will get you a few more bites some days. Fish can be in big numbers when you find them. Use a little more stealthy approach on winter redfish since they can be real sensitive to noises. January can be a good time to catch trout on jigs fished slow and deep. Look for trout in deep curves, especially ones with trees, pilings or some kind of structure in them. I like green-colored jigs with glitter in them. I like to fish with 8- or 10-lb. monofilament. Some days smaller jigs will get more bites. Bring several different colors to try. Red and white colored MirrOlures and small lipless rattling crankbaits can work. When you catch one, there should be more close by. The one fish that cold doesn’t seem to bother are coastal stripers. In the lower Ogeechee, throw bright-colored Rapalas and yellow or white jigs. Creekmouths, deep curves and some deep river banks will hold stripers. Look for places where two currents run together. I usually fish between the railroad tracks and Fort McAllister. Live mullet will also work well. Dock lights can be real good places to find stripers in January. When all else fails, put a dead shrimp on the bottom in the lower Ogeechee and you can almost always catch a mess of catfish to take home.”

Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “By the time January rolls around, the inshore fish that are migrating have left, and the ones that are staying have gone into hibernation mode. 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 paddletails while using 4- to 6-lb. test main line. As far as the main line, I am from the old school and like monofilament because of the extra stretch cushion it adds. For those who prefer braided-type main line, it will work. However, you need to make sure the drag set matches the main line used. Spotted seatrout have soft mouths and a hook can easily be pulled free. The best freshwater jigs that I have found that really work are Jiffy Jigs. Check out all the colors at Now, I am really going to show you how old school that I am. I am going to mention If you haven’t tried this lure, I suggest doing so (and yes, this lure is still around, and it goes for very popular pricing, meaning less for more!) 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. There are hundreds of soft lures to choose from. The secret is that the baits need to be small, but when worked, they do a great job of imitating live bait. I like to use 1/16- and 1/24-oz. jig heads with assorted colors of curly and paddletails. My favorite jig color combinations are a white jig head with a 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 lure to the sides of the hole 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 keeping it near or right on the bottom. To get a trout’s attention during hibernating mode, you almost have to hit them right on the head with the lure. The inshore redfish bite can be very good, but you got to know the rules. During cold-water times, redfish senses are better tuned, meaning they can see and hear better. This fish stays in high-alert mode because of their two main predators, the dolphin and the fishermen. They fear dolphins more than man. Dolphins are very diligent in knowing where to wait for a quick meal. Where you have dolphins staging, you most likely have redfish schooling in the area. The best artificial baits are going to be flukes rigged weedless. Strike King Z-Too and 5-inch Zoom Flukes work great. 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 grove of this bait. Berkley Gulps! 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.”

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

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters 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 opportunities. 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 Then I suggest printing this information out and studying it before heading out. After all the kitchen table or your desk isn’t likely to move as much as your boat. I also suggest having more than one idea on where you plan to fish. Please remember there are other fishermen that will be in the same fish-catching mode as you. And since the winter sheepshead migration focus is on staging at the nearshore artificial reefs, all fishermen are headed to the same fishing grounds. The best bait for this fish is going to be anything wrapped in a shell, such as a purple back fiddler, black back fiddlers, barnacles, green mussels, oysters and shrimp. It is best to anchor over the wreck. Drop Carolina-style rigs to the bottom, and then reel up about 1 foot off the 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. As always, check out the regulations for the state ( and federal waters. (

Trophy Redfish: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters 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 they have corralled. I have caught them on 4-oz. single tube diamond jigs. Best colors tubes have been red and green. 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 onto 4/0 j-style 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 is not locked down. For those offshore fishermen who want 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 to allow the lure to fall at different depths of the water column. The best way to find an offshore redfish is to keep an eye on the sky. If the reds are feeding, the seabirds are diving. The best news is that any and all-sized seabirds will follow and feed on the surface leftovers. So if you see gannets, cormorants, loons and any size seabirds diving or sitting on the water, there is a good chance that trophy redfish have been feeding. They will most likely do so again and shortly. Stay in this area! Please remember that any size redfish caught in federal waters are protected and must 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, plenty of pictures can be taken!”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “Bottom fishing is always very good, especially when you bait your hooks with cut squid. If using live bait, I suggest lip hooking sand perch, rock bass, juvenile vermilion and tomtates. Please remember grouper season is closed and will not open until May 1, 2024. There are a few other offshore closers that are pending, so go to to get all the up-to-date regulations. The naval towers R7 (3149.000/8016.500. M2R6 (3132.000/8014.000) and R2 (3122.500/8034.000) sometimes hold African pompano. Although this is not a fish we normally catch in this area, this is the time we see them. Best baits are going to be the lively ones, such as tomtates, menhaden, horny bellies or lookdowns. The best presentation is either going to be rigging the bait under some sort of traditional adjustable cork or basic freelining and letting it just swim naturally. 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 up and losing them due to getting broke off on the tower’s legs is only going to spook them. I suggest placing baits under floats or freelines on the outskirts and down current 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.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “This is the time of the year that when you get good weather, you can make a blue-water run. 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. Your best bet is to know the coordinates of all ledges, holes and live-bottoms areas where you intend on fishing. When departing Savannah, head 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. 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.”

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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