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Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report May 2020

GON Staff | April 28, 2020

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “This year the shrimp have been plentiful all winter, and they seem to be plentiful now. That usually means we will have plenty of fat trout and redfish in the spring and summer. The redfish bite has been excellent the last few weeks and should continue the next couple of months. A few redfish have been almost everywhere, from up the rivers to the offshore reefs. I caught redfish from 16 to 34 inches the week of April 20-24 all over the place. One day we have been up in small creeks catching redfish, and the next day in the middle of the sound. Most of my fish catching has been with shrimp. On April 23, the small fish were taking all my shrimp, and we caught nine big redfish on small live mullet. The redfish were all over a couple of shallow oyster beds as soon as the tide covered them with a foot of water. Look for them to be feeding on top early and late in the day. The last hour before dark can be a real active feeding time for the shallow-water redfish. The May trout bite is usually some of the best trout fishing of the year. The big roe trout are usually feeding hard getting ready to spawn. Last May I caught several really big 25- to 27-inch trout. The bigger trout will be out in the sounds on almost all the usual drops. A regular slip-cork rig with a live shrimp will catch plenty of fish. If you are trophy trout hunting, try a 3- to 5-inch mullet under your cork. I like fishing a smaller hook like a 2X No. 2 hook in a live mullet. With the smaller hook, they seem to swim better. The topwater trout bite should be good next month. Try throwing a MirrOlure the first hour of daylight and the last hour before dark. Topwater trout bites can be few and far between, but the rewards are big trout. Black drum have been all over the place. Try fishing a shrimp on the bottom near some heavy, thick structure around low tide. We have caught a lot of small ones and a lot of nice ones lately. Black drum must be longer than 14 inches. I usually release the ones over 25. The 14- to 25-inch drum are good eating fish. Some real monster drum usually show up in May. Try fishing a whole blue crab on the bottom with 80-lb. line. A 50-pound-plus black drum is an incredibly strong fish that requires heavy tackle to catch in most places you will find him. The flounder bite has just started heating up the last few days. Next month it should be good. The better flounder drops for me are usually a combination of a mud and oyster-shell bottom. A lot of times flounder will be concentrated in a small area. A live shrimp, mullet or polywog minnow will all work. I like to fish my bait under a cork just off the bottom. The whiting bite has been hot and should continue right on through the month of May. The inshore sheepshead bite has been real good for me. Try fishing a small live shrimp or a fiddler crab real close to structure. A sheepshead bite can be really light. Sometimes a small cork can be useful trying to see the real subtle bites. On several real windy days last week, I caught a lot of sheepshead up in some areas that were protected from the wind. The big blacktip sharks are all over the shrimp boats that are 3 to 5 miles offshore.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “During this time, live shrimp can be caught holding on mud banks, deeps holes, backs of creeks and the bait shops. By the time, the spotted seatrout bite is joined up with the flounder bite. As always, live shrimp under an adjustable float or popping cork works like a charm. 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, spotted seatrout will find your bait and the flounder can see it. If it’s artificial lures that you prefer, I suggest purchasing yourself some Berkley Gulp! Alive! baits, which come in all sizes and shapes. The whiting bite has been pretty good and should continue well into June. I suggest bottom fishing around mud and sandbars in 10 to 30 feet of water. Whiting can be found in both shallow and deeper water. Whiting bite better with the least amount of current, so the two hours before until the two hours after the tide turns is going to be the optimum time to get your best bite. As far as bait, this fish loves small pieces of shrimp fished directly on the bottom. Whiting is the only fish that I know that peels its shrimp before eating them. If you get a bite and miss it, reeling in and finding a shrimp shell on your hook is a very common thing. Peel some just to see how that bite goes. Other great baits are small pieces of fresh whiting filet with or without small pieces of shrimp added. When the bite slows, change your bait and give that a try. Sometime using just shrimp or just small pieces of fish will turn the bite back on. For whiting, use a Carolina rig with an appropriate-sized egg sinker that will hold your bait on the bottom and a small, thin-tinned hook. It will be up to you whether or not you want to use a circle or a kahle-style hook. I mostly use small circle hooks that are No. 2 or smaller. I like the thin tinned hooks, specifically the Eagle Claw circle L197 hooks, when targeting whiting.”

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom fishing can be very good at this time of the year at the artificial reefs. Best bottom baits are cut squid and filet of fresh fish. The black sea bass, triggerfish, summer trout, flounder and other bottom biters love the option of a free meal. Any small fish that you catch can be lip-hooked on a beefed-up Carolina-style rig and sent back to the bottom. With a live-bait offering, you could find yourself catching anything from a large king mackerel to a big gag grouper to a cobia. As far as a topwater bite, the Spanish mackerel have arrived. 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 and around any sort of surface live bait or jumping Spanish mackerel, you also could catch king mackerel, barracuda or little tunny. May is also the cobia season at the artificial reefs. Best live baits are juvenile black fish, pinfish, cigar minnows, Spanish sardines, peanut menhaden, live shrimp and eels. If the live stuff doesn’t trigger a bite, I suggest being prepared with some sort of artificial bait. My go-to artificial is a green/white or blue/white 3-oz. jig, which I have threaded on a white eel or some sort of trailing soft artificial bait. This bait in most cases triggers a hit whether the fish is hungry or not. If a cobia comes to your boat, swims around and won’t take your bait, cast the jig out in front of where the fish is heading, letting it free fall for about 10 feet, then working it in an upward and downward motion while not reeling in any line. This action in most cases can get a cobia to strike. Give the jig time to work.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Grouper season opens May 1 and goes through Dec. 31. For more up to date fishery regulations, please go to http://www.safmc.net. I suggest using a nervous bait, such as live cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, which are easily caught on just about any type of gold-hook sabiki rigs. The secret is to use sabiki rigs made with No. 6 to No. 8 sized hooks laced with fish skin. Once these rigs are dipped into the water, baitfish can’t resist the gold flash or the secret smell delivered. Another method for getting a solid grouper bite is by jigging using cigar minnow or Spanish sardine colors. Drop to the depth where the fish are holding, and then work your jig by raising and dropping your rod. 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 pull some sort of a swimming lure. I like dragging a Sea Witch with a 1- to 2 1/2-oz. head, and I prefer a 6/0 j-style inline hook rigged 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 too loose and not too tight. At this drag, 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.”

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 http://sstcharts.com for free online sea surface temperature charts. The dolphin 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, pull birds with artificial squid in tow. My most favorite in-tow artificial are the 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 small live baits. With all the current fears of COVID-19 lurking, I would like to add that we are still in full fishing operation. We are keeping our boats as clean as possible, while following every virus cleaning protocol known. With the coronavirus being a concern to all, we appreciate anyone experiencing symptoms or not feeling well to cancel your charter in advance.”

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