Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – June 2019

GON Staff | May 28, 2019

Saltwater:Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “May has been a good month of fish catching. The weather has been pretty good, and the fish have cooperated nicely. The water temperature is in the upper 70s and should hit 80 around the first week of June. The redfish bite has been really good with a good number of slot-limit fish and more 27- to 34-inch fish than we usually have in the month of May. I have caught a big redfish or two almost every trip over the last two months. The redfish will be all over the shallow-water flats next month. They have been shallow and in the deeper places the last few weeks. Almost always a live shrimp will work best when redfish are feeding. During the summer months, I will catch a lot of redfish on a big shrimp or a 3- to 5-inch mullet using a weedless hook by just casting it up in the marsh grass when you see any kind of movement in the water. Coastal Georgia water is often too dirty to see fish and tell what they are. When you see ripples in the water, throw a shrimp quietly nearby. It maybe a redfish, trout, shark, tripletail or a long list of shrimp eating fish. Early and late in the day, the topwater activity can be quite noticeable. The trout bite has been good and will be good right on through the summer. Almost all the usual summertime spots have some trout on them now. The usual live shrimp under a slip-cork rig has been working. As we get into summer water temperatures, the bait-stealing fish will start to get thick, and a small live mullet or polywog will sometimes get through the small fish that will eat your shrimp. This is topwater trout fishing time. This is one of the most fun ways to catch a trout in saltwater. MirrOlure, Zara Spooks and a lot of your bass fishing lures will catch a trout. I carried a client last week who caught three trout on a Whopper Plopper. He caught a couple ladyfish, and then a bluefish decided to cut off his $15 plug. I sometimes will fish a 4-inch piece of 20-lb. single strand wire on my lures to try to keep from loosing them to the toothy critters. I think you can catch more trout without the wire, but you will loose some lures. The best time to catch these topwater trout is the first hour of daylight and the last hour before dark. In June, a lot of trout should move out on the beaches. When a west wind is blowing, head to the beach front. Look for any structure, trees, old wrecks, small drop-offs, tide lines and any kind of change in the beach that will hold baitfish. Fish a noisy cork with a shrimp a few feet under it. Imitation shrimp will work good when the water is clear. Some days you can actually see trout chasing bait on the surface. Everything that should be biting seems to be. Black drum are in good numbers. Fish deep curves that have some cover in them. A shrimp on the bottom will work. Sheepshead have been good in several places in the sound. The whiting bite has been really good. I can usually stop for an hour and put 25 or more in the boat right on low tide. This will be good all summer. Probably the most fun fish to catch are the bonnethead sharks. Watch for them swimming along the mud flats. Flip a shrimp in front, and hang on. They are one of the most overlooked food fish that we have. I consider them to be one of the best eating fish that we catch. Carry a real sharp pocket knife. I carry a Havel’s scalpel knife. When you catch one of legal size (30 inches to the fork), throw him in a cooler until it dies. Pull it out, and get your fishing partner to hold it by the tail over the side. Cut the belly open, put the guts in the river, and in one minute, you are done. Fillet it when you get home, and I promise you will start keeping them. A lot of sharks and a few tarpon have already started showing up. We seem to have a good crop of pogies showing up in big schools. The big predator fish are usually right behind them. Any fresh, bloody fish will catch a shark. A good chum slick never hurts. If you can find a working shrimp boat that is picking up nets or cleaning the fish off the deck, that is usually a shark magnet. Put a piece of fish under a noisy popping cork, and you should be in business. The shark regulations are complicated, so make sure you can identify your sharks before killing one. One of the easiest identifications are the dorsal fins. If it has two large dorsal fins, let it go. It’s a sand tiger and can’t be kept. Every year we hear about people killing big illegal sharks just to get a picture and throw it away. Don’t do it. It looks like June should be a good month for about everything we usually catch. I have been tagging a lot of big redfish in the Ossabaw Sound area. If you catch one, just clip the tag and release it. Send the tag to DNR in Brunswick please.”

Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This would be the month to bring out the cast net and catch your own bait. Inshore fisherman can leave the dock without bait because peanut menhaden, finger mullet, mud minnows and shrimp are available and plentiful. All of these baits will work under traditional adjustable floats or popping corks, Carolina-style rigs or by fishing just plain naked. For those fishermen who want to use artificial lures, pick up an assortment of different colors of Strike King soft jerkbaits. Good colors are baby bass, ice, Arkansas shiner and smokey shad. These baits work rigged weedless on a 3/0 worm hook or threaded on to 1/8-oz. red, black or white jig heads. Cast them out, let them fall, and normally these lures never make it to the bottom before strikes happen. The Berkley Gulp! Alive is a great soft artificial bait that comes in many forms and flavors. These baits will work rigged on jig heads or under corks. It works whether it is in its original shape or not. After this bait is destroyed, I have taken the leftover parts, sliced the pieces up, dropped them back in the sauce to marinate and used them while bottom fishing. Also try a D.O.A. artificial shrimp. This artificial bait can be hooked up just like you do the real live shrimp. You need some of the new 2.75-inch shrimp, and the colors that have been proven by the fish are clear red glit and figi chix. These shrimp patterns come rigged with a keel weight for balance and are already threaded on to a hook. Charter boat captains swear by this D.O.A. lure. However, when using it for any sort of float fishing, we suggest making these changes. It’s best to remove the hook that the D.O.A. comes rigged with, while leaving the keel weight in place. I suggest taking a 2/0 kahle hook and hooking up the artificial shrimp as you do the real thing. When it comes to using this design, it is a must that the shrimp be balanced on the bend of the hook. Once embedding the hook, give the lure a pull, enlarging the hook’s hole, which allows the currents to swing it more naturally. When using a DOA 2.75 under a popping cork, I suggest using a 3- to 4-foot leader. For the leader material, I suggest 15- to 20-lb. Ande pink fluorocarbon or regular clear monofilament. While using a popping cork, your fish hit can come from your immediate splash down to after using your personal popping sequence or from a personal erratic freestyle retrieving method. During this month, the inshore shark populations are plentiful, which means they are hungry. For those fishermen who want lots of pulling sport, I suggest light-tackle shark fishing. The best bait during this time is blue fish, yellow tail or whiting steaks. It’s best to use these baits the same day they are caught. However, if you aren’t that lucky, then use what you have. Fresh cut fish offers a smell that sharks are drawn to. When using whiting, I suggest scaling and also cutting the tail off. The removal of the scales helps you get a more solid hook-up, especially when a softer bite is delivered. With the tail removed, fresh scents are delivered at intervals, which keeps a scattered smell around your bait. My father used to always say, ‘The larger the bait, the bigger the bite.’ In this case, it’s true. The bigger piece of bait normally does attract a much larger shark bite. Make sure you have plenty of line and a fisherman, or maybe two, strong enough to reel them in.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “June is mackerel catching time. For Spanish mackerel, all you need is a small 0 or 00 Clark spoon to get this catching job done. These spoons work great being pulled 10 feet behind 2-oz. trolling sinkers or small planers. I always keep No. 1, 2 and 3 planers on board to pull lures at different depths. If you find yourself surrounded by surface-holding Spanish mackerel, you can stop and pitch your favorite small-size lure. Just about anything will work as long as it matches the hatch, and it’s got some shine. The king mackerel bite will get hot and heavy. Best artificial bait is the ever-popular 3 1/2 Drone spoon pulled at around 5 to 7 knots behind deep-running planers. I like using at least 30 feet of leader between the Drone spoon and the planer.  For live bait, use Duster skirt rigs with stinger hooks in tow. You can purchase them pre-rigged or not. Best live baits are going to be the nervous baits, like Spanish sardines, cigar minnows or any small, shinny bait that can move up and down quickly in the water column. King mackerel like bling!”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Fishermen are catching lots of cobia around buoys, artificial reefs and at the Savannah Snapper banks. Best baits for cobia are eels under beefed-up adjustable floats or Carolina-style rigs. Live prawn shrimp is another favorite, along with menhaden. To add to this already good catching time, grouper, vermilion, amberjack, almaco jack and black bass catching seasons are open. Genuine red snapper is still closed to catch and release only. As far as baits for grouper, I suggest using live fish on the bottom, such as cigar minnows, Spanish sardines, vermilion snapper or sand perch. When using small vermilion snapper, sand perch or rock bass, I suggest using a Carolina-style rig. The leader used can be as short as 6 feet and as long as 30 feet. When using this style, I suggest a 7/0 offset circle hook. The Carolina-style rig allows your bait quite a bit of swimming freedom. Please remember when targeting fish in the snapper grouper complex, you must rig with circle hooks only. When using a single- or double-hook bottom rig, I suggest using live or dead whole or cut cigar minnows or Spanish sardines. These baits are known for triggering a bite, meaning they will strike quick and strong. When targeting the larger species of vermilion snapper, I suggest the liveliest bait­—cigar minnows, Boston mackerel or Spanish sardines—that you can catch. To catch this bait, you will need to bring along more than one set of sabiki gold hook rigs, which works great when dropping over any sort of structure at the artificial reefs or the naval towers.”

Gulf Stream fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is the time of the year when Mahi-mahi and wahoo go into the wandering mode. This means you could find yourself catching bluewater fish while fishing in green water. The Savannah Snapper Banks is a great place for these bluewater fish to wander to. Toward the middle of June those fish that travel and feed near the surface show us the way. Mahi look for anything floating that provides any sort of shade and makes for a great place for small baitfish to school. While these fish are feeding near the surface, the sea birds with their keen eyesight are picking up the leftovers. The large and mighty wahoo will also make way into the green zone. Normally a large wahoo is accompanied by a yellow bill tropical bird or some sort of fast seabird. If you happen to see a single bird diving fast and then making erratic air moves, it most likely is mimicking the movement down under of a large feeding wahoo. I have caught some nice 100-lb. wahoo while putting this knowledge to work. All you have to do when you find yourself in this target rich environment is to let the bird that is watching the fish’s movement lead you. I always presented the bait ahead of what I thought was the fish’s intended direction. During this time of the year, I normally keep larger baits such as red porgy and vermilion snapper in the livewell. My favorite rig is a beefed-up king mackerel rig using a single, extra-heavy-duty hook. It’s best to place the hook near the tail section, but you want to make sure the bait can still swim somewhat normally.” GON went to the Gulf Stream with Miss Judy Charters in May. Check out that story.

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