Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report May 2017

GON Staff | April 26, 2017

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The last few days have been really good fishing for trout, redfish and whiting. I have had a lot of trips that we have caught over 75 trout, with some really big ones. A lot of trout are in the 20-inch size range. Most of my trout have been caught out in the sounds or the bigger rivers. I have caught several really big trout on topwater plugs, early in the mornings. Over the next few weeks, we usually catch the biggest trout of the year. Watch close for trout breaking the surface chasing baitfish. If you see any surface activity, throw a plug or a live shrimp at it. This morning I caught 15 trout real quick in a place I usually don’t fish. I saw a few splashes and moved to them, and it was game on. May should be a good month for some big trout. The redfish bite has been good, everything from a few monster fish to plenty of slot-limit fish. I have caught the limit on a lot of mornings. Today, we kept 10 redfish from 20 to 23 inches and released six from 23 to 36 inches. They have been way up in the creeks and out in the sounds. We have caught some 38-inch-plus fish on the bottom while fishing for whiting. The redfish bite should stay about the same through May and on into the summer. A live shrimp on a slip-cork rig is a sure bet. The whiting catches have been absolutely great. A lot of days we have caught 75 or more in a couple of hours. They have been all over Ossabaw Sound and on the beach front. The magic depth has been from 8 to 12 feet deep. Some of the whiting have been 12 to 15 inches. I have had fried whiting several times this week, and it was good. They should be here thick in a few more weeks. Whiting can be caught all summer but just not quite as many as we are catching now. A lot of sharks have shown up this week. I caught four big bull sharks yesterday afternoon in the sound. A lot of big sharks are 3 to 5 miles offshore around the shrimp boats. The bigger blacktips will get real thick in May around the shrimpers. May will be a good month of fishing on the coast. Get a bucket full of shrimp, and go fishing.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Although the spotted seatrout have been a little unpredictable over the last few months, May is the month that changes everything. By the time this month rolls around, the spotted seatrout bite is joined up with the flounder bite, meaning two types of fish for one type of bait. As always, live shrimp under an adjustable float or popping cork works like a charm. However, if you are wanting to get your bait closer to the bottom, but not right on it, an adjustable cork will do just that. This way the seatrout will find your bait, and the flounder can see it. When purchasing adjustable corks, I suggest picking up some small, medium and large ones. If you are fishing on a windy day, you will need a larger cork. If it’s artificial lures that you are looking to work instead, try Berkley Gulp Alive baits, which come in all sizes, shapes and patterns.”

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Over the years, bottom fishing in these areas has been pretty darn good. However, I need to report, you can still catch fish, but you really have to look for them. It seems that those bottom fish, such as the black sea bass, didn’t migrate into these areas as they have in the past. The upside to this new occurrence is that when you do find a school of these fish, they are normally very hungry and accommodating. It is kind of a look, drop, wait, catch or not, or move kind of a fishing situation. My suggestion is if you start fishing in all of your normal places and don’t immediately start catching, try another structure. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the artificial reefs that you plan on fishing. Go to When in the plain old bottom-fishing mode, the best bait is always going to be cut squid and fish. If targeting larger sea bass only, I suggest using a whole fish steak. All you have to do is take a small fish and cut it up like a loaf of bread. Steaks should be around 1-inch thick, and the fins/appendages should be cut off close. Best rigs are two-hook bottom rigs with a sinker located at the bottom, a drop-through rig and Carolina-style rigs. We are experiencing a strong Spanish mackerel bite at the artificial reefs. To catch the Spanish, I suggest trolling the structure and keeping an eye on the fish finder. You might be able to find some of these fish by watching for any bird activity, but if not, stays near the structure and you will find the fish. The mackerel are holding deep. We have been catching quite a few Spanish while pulling small to medium Clark spoons at different depths. I like using No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 planers. You should attach a 90-lb. snap swivel to the back of all of your planers. Then tie the leader to the swivel. For my leader, I am using 10 feet of 30-lb. test monofilament. I like tying my spoon directly on to my leader. For those fishermen who want to cast, let the lure fall deep into the water column, and normally they will hit it on the fall. Another trolling rig that really works is to pull a 2-oz. trolling sinker (oversized trout sinker) with a Clark spoon. I suggest using 25- to 30-lb. test monofilament for a leader and tying the spoon directly on to the line. Once you pull this rig over the fish, take your boat out of gear, and let the sinker take the spoon deep. When using any sort of monofilament leader, always check for nicks. Our cobia season is closed. You can catch, but you can’t keep. However, the sport of catching and releasing does live on. The month of May means a lot for the topwater fisherman, because it is the cobia season at the artificial reefs. The best baits are going to be anything from a live fish, such as a juvenile black fish, pinfish, cigar minnow, Spanish sardines, peanut menhaden, live shrimp or eel. The bottom line is these perfect live baits might not work in regards to getting the eating attention of this fish. So I suggest being prepared with some artificial green and white eels, which are threaded on to about a 3-oz. jig head. This sometimes gets their eating attention. Cobia school around the wrecks located at the artificial reefs. For jig heads, I use rigged with big screw/paddle tails or some sort of plastic shaped eel. I work these in the upper water column. Another jig type that also works is the old school diamond jig with the tube tail in tow. I am using the 3-oz. jig with either the red, green, or white tail. Some examples are at I prefer the smooth metal jig over the hammered finished. As far as hook style, I suggest purchasing ones with “J” hooks. However, if you can only get jigs made with treble hooks, you can always change them out to the J style, which I strongly suggest doing.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The grouper season for our area is May 1-Dec. 31. For more up to date fishery regulations, go to Always check current regulations because they change so much. I suggest nervous baits, such as live cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, which are easily caught on just about any type of gold-hook sabiki rig. The secret is to use sabiki bait rigs made with No. 6 to No. 8 size hooks laced with fish skin. Another method for getting a solid grouper bite is to jig. Best colors are cigar minnow or Spanish sardine imitations. The secret to jigging when it comes to catching big grouper is to drop to the depth where the fish are holding, and then work your jig by raising and dropping your rod. This basically works your jig about 4 to 5 feet up and down at the same depth. As far as topwater fishing at the banks, anything goes from king mackerel to mahi mahi. When moving from spot to spot, I try to always put on some sort of a swimming lure. Or give my newly found lure called a Sand Eel a try. You can buy it at When pulling this lure, no bait is needed, because it works by itself. And what wants to eat it? Everything!

Blue water fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The blue waters of the Gulf Stream can certainly offer lots of action during the month of May. Water temperatures to the west of the stream are still cooler, meaning the edge is still strong. The best ways to find fish is to locate any temperatures breaks. Go to for free online sea surface temperature charts. The mahi mahi bite is normally the best during this month. You can catch them pulling small- to medium-rigged baits right on the surface. For those who don’t want to rig ballyhoo, there is another option. I suggest pulling old-school birds with artificial squid in tow. Once you find a school of mahi, I suggest stopping and pitching to them. You can use small jigs with screw tails, squid on a hook, cut ballyhoo on a hook, or you can use small, live baits. If they come to the boat with their lights on (colorful attire), they are most likely going to eat just about anything you throw at them. To keep the school’s attention, always leave the last fish hooked up swimming in the water right by your boat until you have landed the one before. Dolphins are very jealous fish and always want whatever their counterparts are eating.”

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