Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – May 2019

GON Staff | April 30, 2019

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “With the month of May here, the fish bite is more dependable and predictable. By this time the spotted sea trout 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. When presenting bait this way, the sea trout will find your bait, and the flounder can see it. If it’s artificial lures that you are looking to work instead, I suggest purchasing yourself some Berkley Gulp! Alive! baits, which come in all sizes and shapes. The old saying, ‘The secret is in the sauce’ comes into play when using this line of artificial baits. These styles of artificial baits have been proven by many fish and fishermen.”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “The whiting bite will start winding down in May. They will be here in good numbers all month, just not quite as thick as they are now. We have been catching whiting literally by the hundreds. The magic depth has been between 8 and 12 feet. Any sandy bottom in the sound has had them on it. The last of the outgoing tide and the last of the incoming tide has been working. By late May, the whiting will slow down, but good numbers can be caught all summer. The redfish bite has been good and should get better as we get into the month of May. I have been catching a lot of slot-limit fish and a lot more big redfish than I normally catch this time of year. Any creek that has some trees in it that keep a few feet of water around them on low tide seems to be holding a lot of redfish. All the usual oyster shell flats should be holding redfish during the month of May. Early and late in the day, look for them feeding in shallow water. A shrimp on a weedless hook works good when casting to fish in shallow water. A few redfish will be up the rivers, but by the middle of May, most of them will be closer to the ocean out in the sounds. When fishing in thick cover, try fishing a hook with a weed guard. You won’t catch a lot of trout with the weed guard, but the redfish usually hit hard enough that it doesn’t seem to matter. The trout bite should be hot the whole month of May. Most of the trout will be out in the sounds and on the beaches. On the decent weather days, the trout bite has been good the last few weeks. I have already caught a few trout on topwater plugs. The topwater bite can be good in May. Look for article on page 26 that I wrote on trout fishing. By May, we should be catching a lot of flounder. I caught a few good ones over the last few days. Look for them where the oysters end and the mud flats start and on the dead shell flat areas. A lot of small black drum have been caught. This should be good fishing in May. Sharks have started showing up the last few days. In the sound a lot of bonnethead sharks and Atlantic sharpnose sharks are around. Put a piece of shrimp out for the bonnetheads or a piece of fish on the bottom for the sharpnose sharks. The big blacktips should be all over the beach fronts. I usually do best on them about 3 miles out where the water clears up a little. Put out a good chum slick and fish some noisy popping corks with about 4 feet of 120-lb. mono with about a foot of single strand wire. Any kind of fresh fish will work. Some days the black tips seem to prefer a live bait over a dead one. Work the corks hard. The noise definitely attracts them. Tarpon and tripletail should show up around the middle and  end of May. Some years we have a good, short early tarpon run the last week of May and the first week or so of June. May should be a good month to watch a cork go under if the weather will cooperate.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom fishing can be very good at this time of the year at the artificial reefs. The best bottom baits are cut squid and fillet of fresh fish. These baits once put on or near the bottom get the fish’s attention. The black sea bass, triggerfish, summer trout, flounder and other bottom biters love the option of a free meal. If you catch a small fish, I suggest lip-hooking them on a Carolina rig and sending them right back to the bottom. With live bait offering, you could find yourself catching anything from a large king mackerel to a grouper. As far as a topwater bite, the Spanish mackerel should have arrived. You might not see them, but they are here. The best places to troll are going to be over and around structure. For those fishermen who don’t want to troll lures, I suggest pitching spoons or any sort of glass or cigar minnow imitators over and around the structure. If you happen to see a few Spanish jumping, I suggest working the area while pulling small to medium Clark spoons at different depths. While circling the structure or around any sort of surfacing bait or Spanish mackerel, you also could find yourself catching king mackerel, barracuda or little tunny. The month of May means a lot for the topwater fisherman because it is the cobia season at the artificial reefs. During this time, the allusive cobia arrives, along with its various ways for driving fishermen crazy. This is a fish that sometimes bites, and sometimes they don’t. You can see them, and they can see you, but sometimes bites don’t happen, so it is best that you try to trigger a bite. Best live baits are juvenile black fish, pinfish, cigar minnows, Spanish sardines, peanut menhaden, live shrimp and eels. The bottom line is these live baits might not work in regards to getting the eating attentions of this fish. If the live stuff doesn’t trigger a bite, I suggest being prepared with some sort of artificial jig. My go to jig is a I like a 3-oz. jig in green/white or blue/white. I will thread on a white eel or some sort of trailing soft artificial bait. This bait in most cases brings on a hit whether the fish are hungry or not. If a cobia comes to your boat, swims around and won’t take any of your bait offering, I suggest casting a jig out in front of where the fish is heading, letting it free fall for about 10 feet and then working it in an upward/downward motion while not reeling in any line. It is a known fact that this action in most cases can get the cobia to strike at the jig. Once in this mode, give the jig time to work. You might not see the cobia, but it will be watching your bait.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “When the month of May rolls around, offshore fishermen get excited because grouper season is in the wide-open mode. The season for is May 1 – Dec. 31. Always check for current regulations at because you would be surprised how much they change. This is the month where gags and scamps exercise their rights to make a move to feed. As far as what’s best to use for bait, I suggest the nervous baits, such as live cigar minnows or Spanish sardines. These 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. Once these rigs are dipped into the water, baits can’t resist the gold flash or the secret smell delivered. Another method for getting a solid grouper bite is by jigging, which has been working quite well for me. As far as best jigs colors, cigar minnow or Spanish sardine imitations has been the catching deal. 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. You never really know what might bite your hook out there. When moving from spot to spot, I try to always pull some sort of a swimming lure, like a Sea Witch (with three hooks in line) on a  1- to 2 1/2-oz. head. I rig it with a small to medium ballyhoo. The secret to hooking up is to make sure that you have your reel in a medium drag mode, which is not to lose and not too tight. At this drag setting, your fish will get hooked up in a more solid fashion. I like pulling this rig on a standard stand-up bottom fishing rod with a 4/0 reel loaded with 50-lb. test monofilament line. My father always said, ‘If you want to snag them, you got to drag them.’ For those offshore fishermen who like planning, genuine red snapper keeping season is July 12-14, 2019 and July 19-20, 2019.”

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 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. My most favorite in tow artificial, which are very old school, are No Alibi Dolphin Delight lures. I have seen dolphin cross over an entire boat wake passing numerous baits just to get to the No Alibi lure. It is a great lure that doesn’t have to be rigged with any sort of bait. I always like pulling them about 3 feet behind my birds. Once you find a school of dolphin, 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. Believe me, all will work. If dolphin come to the boat with their lights on, 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 and 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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