Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report March 2013

GON Staff | February 27, 2013

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “March is the month that all fishermen and fish have been waiting for. Inshore fishermen can expect the cold redfish bite to thaw and become less stealthy. Fishermen can count on Berkley Gulp baits—jerk style with forked tail—rigged weedless to work when casting and retrieving in and around shallow areas with structure such as oysters and grass pods. Color of baits used should be determined by color of water. Clear water, light-colored baits. When the water temperature reaches 65 degrees, everything is alive! This means once the redfish bite ends for the day, fishermen have a choice, which is give plain old bottom fishing in the sound near the mud flats for whiting, a try. The best bait is going to be little chunks of shrimp laced onto small hooks. It’s a lot of fun. Bull whiting are sometimes bigger than you think, and are lots of fun on light tackle. The Georgia DNR has changed the whiting, also known as southern kingfish, size and bag limit regulations. It’s now legal in Georgia to keep any size whiting and as many as you want. Since there has been such a large buildup of black sea bass in and around the nearshore artificial reefs, an early sheepshead migration back to the inshore waters has taken place. For those inshore fishermen who want to catch something, especially after they have targeted redfish and trout when the tides are moving, I suggest to make the switch to targeting sheepshead. Best times to fish for sheepshead two hours before high tide until two hours afterward. Best time to look for where the sheepshead are feeding is to look at the vertical structure when it is exposed, which is one hour before low to about one hour after low tide stage. Best baits are purple and black-back fiddlers, clam strips, green mussels, barnacles, shucked oysters with hearts and small pieces of bugged out shrimp.” Please know that all licensed Georgia saltwater fishermen are now required to have a SIP license.” Capt. David Newlin reports, “Winter is just about over, and the March fishing should be great. The trout are biting on artificial lures in the deeper holes. The smaller lures seem to be working better. The small 1/8-oz. jigs in bright green with glitter have been working for me. Live shrimp fished on a light bottom rig has worked good. We have been catching some nice black drum on the shrimp rig, too. Some redfish are being caught, and this should be getting better in March. Try looking for them on shallow flats on sunny days on the last of low tide and the first of the incoming.” On the southern coast, Capt. Greg Hildreth reports, “The inshore fishing has been very good these past few months with the mild winter. The trout have moved into the creeks and deeper parts of the rivers in 6- to 15-foot water depths. I would think the trout would stay on these patterns until the water warms in mid March. The trout have been biting best on live shrimp using a slip-cork float rig, so you can vary your depth.”

Nearshore: Capt. Newlin reports, “The whiting run is right around the corner. By the first of March, it should be going strong, and this year we have no limits on the whiting. Fishing a small piece of shrimp on the bottom on a long shank No. 6 or 8 hook can produce a lot of whiting and is real simple fishing. This is great fishing for children and the rest of us. Some sheepshead are being caught both inshore and on the artifical reefs. On the reefs, bring plenty of bait. You will catch a lot of sea bass for every sheepshead. On a recent trip we released more than 200 sea bass in three hours. We did catch 15 big sheepshead and also released four redfish around 30 pounds each. The big redfish will readily hit a fish fillet on the bottom. The trick is to put a big enough piece of bait on so the sea bass can’t eat it. With a little warm weather, March fishing should be real good.” Capt. Hildreth reports, “The nearshore fishing has been good for whiting and will get even better in late March. The best way to target the whiting is fishing on the bottom using a 1- to 3-oz. sinker depending on how hard the current is running. I like using a short 12- to 15-inch leader of 30-lb.mono and a No. 1 J-style hook. My bait of choice is a small piece of squid, but shrimp will work just as well. The offshore sheepshead fishing had been good, and as they start to spawn in mid March and April will get even better.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Offshore fishermen can look to catching some of the biggest sheepshead and black drum during this month, and the bite is going to be very active. Sheepshead and black drum are bulking up and feeding heavily so they will be ready to migrate back inshore. Best baits are purple-back fiddlers, raw oyster, clam strips and green mussels. Please remember when targeting fish listed in the snapper-grouper species, new regulations are you must use circle hooks only! Best offshore circle hooks for sheepshead are Eagle Claw Lazer sharp L-197 G Series, and the best proven sizes are No. 1, No. 2. and 2/0. There is sort of a new twist that can happen with targeting sheepshead at the artificial reefs. The reefs have been invaded by all size black sea bass, which means you’re sheepshead bait is most likely is in jeopardy. However, you do have options: Only use fiddlers, green mussels or clam strips as bait when targeting sheepshead and black drum. Never use squid, cut fish or shrimp, because this is a black fish’s favorite meal. If you start catching one black fish after another, I suggest stopping fishing for a while. This calms the black fish feeding frenzy. Please know that when using green mussels as bait it is illegal to pick your own unless it is from a designated safe shellfish area. If you purchase green mussels, please keep your receipt as proof of purchase.”

Offshore: “For those fishermen that want a true challenge, I suggest giving blue-water trolling and strolling a try,” Capt. Judy said. “The blue waters of the Gulf Stream, especially off the coast of Georgia, is especially interesting. During the month of March, big fish are on the move. You could find yourself fighting a mako shark, bill fish, wahoo, king mackerel or black fin tuna. It’s a stretch to get there, but once you arrive the possibilities could be a serious rod-bending affair!”

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