Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – May 2023
Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “This year’s cold-water seatrout bite was very good. Normally the spotted seatrout bite is about to really turn on. However, it really never shut off! For those who have had trouble finding a solid inshore bite up to this point, this is about to end. You need to know the whereabouts of live shrimp. You need to catch or purchase them if you want to get the best inshore bite. In May, the seatrout bite is joined up with the flounder bite, meaning two types of fish for one type of bait. 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 seatrout will find your bait and the flounder can see it. If it’s artificial lures you like, get some Berkley Gulp Alive baits, which come in all sizes and shapes.
Capt. David Newlin reports, “April has been a good fish catching month. On April 19, the water temp was 74 degrees. Redfish and trout have been biting good the last few days. May is usually a big transition month. As the water warms and heads toward summer, everything changes. Big schools of bait show up, the shrimp go from white shrimp to brown shrimp. The big migratory monsters move in. Everything changes in a few days. The big roe trout should be all over the sounds and out around the beaches. Look for them out in the sound around points, oyster beds and drop-offs on sand bars. A shrimp fished near the bottom under a slip cork usually works well. Some days I will fish a shrimp on a light bottom rig with a 1/4-oz. or lighter weight with a 2-foot fluorocarbon leader. Make a long cast and slowly retrieve it along the bottom. Early in the morning, try a topwater MirrOlure for a big trout bite. The topwater bite is usually over by 7:30 to 8. Six bites is a good morning. Redfish have been from 16 inches to 50 pounds this week. In May, they will be all over the place, from small creeks to oyster shells in the sound. In May, they will start showing up all over the shallow marsh flats on high tide. A live shrimp is hard to beat for bait. In the marsh, try a weedless hook with a big shrimp on it. The whiting bite has been good and should continue into May. A piece of shrimp on the bottom in 10 feet of water on a sandy bottom has worked great. Look for them on the beaches in May. Flounder should show up in good numbers. Look on the shallow flats where oyster shells mix with the mud and sand. A shrimp, polywog minnow or a small mullet fished just off the bottom will work. Depths from 1 to 4 feet should work. Big sharks should be all over the beaches. If any shrimp boats are working, they can be blacktip shark magnets. Almost any fresh fish will work. A noisy popping cork will attract the big blacktips. Read regulations carefully before killing a shark.”
Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters 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 fillet of fresh fish. The black sea bass, trigger fish, summer trout, flounder and other bottom biters love the option of a free meal. Any small fish that you catch, I suggest lip hooking them on a Carolina style and sending them right back to the bottom. With a 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 have arrived. You might not see them, but they are here. 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 catching air (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 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. This fish sometimes bites and sometimes won’t. 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 like a green/white or blue/white 3-oz. jig, and I will thread on a white eel or some sort of soft artificial bait. This bait in most cases brings on a hit whether the fish is hungry or not. If a cobia comes to your boat, swims around and won’t take any of your bait offering, cast the jig out in front of the fish’s heading, let it free fall for about 10 feet, then work it in an upward and 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. 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 of Miss Judy Charters reports, “The grouper season for our area is May 1 until Dec. 31. At this time, we do not know the opening day or days for the 2023 genuine red snapper season. Make sure to have the required gear when fishing for or possessing snapper/grouper species in the South Atlantic Federal water. Go to www.safmc.net. On the home page, open regulations, then Best Fishing Practices. This page explains all the new requirements that you must have onboard when fishing for snapper-grouper species. There are also several videos that are very informative. Get out the popcorn, it’s movie time! This is the month when gags and scamp grouper 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, which are easily caught on just about any type of gold hook sabiki rigs. Another method for getting a solid grouper bite is by jigging. As far as best jigs colors, cigar minnow or Spanish sardine imitations work. 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 always pull some sort of a swimming lure. I like dragging a three inline hook rig with a Sea Witch (1- to 2 1/2-oz. head) lure 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 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- to 60-lb. test monofilament line. My father always said, ‘If you want to snag them, you got to drag them!’”
Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters 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 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. 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 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 mahi 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 swimming in the water right by your boat until you have hooked up the next one. Mahi are a very jealous fish and always think they want whatever their counterparts are eating. I always keep different piles of bait on board. This is one fish that is known for changing its willingness to eat the same thing over and over. When you quickly change to a different bait, it works most of the time. We cut up small pieces of squid, ballyhoo, cigars, Spanish sardines, shrimp etc, but keep them separated. If it looks like the school is sucking in and quickly spitting out your bait offering, it is time to change up. Mahi are known for being very picky eaters, which leads into this question. Do fish taste first before they eat? In this situation, the mahi seemly really do!”
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