Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – October 2023

GON Staff | September 27, 2023

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “I consider the month of October as being one of the best fishing months for both fish and fishermen. Inshore and offshore fish are in full migration mode. With water temperatures on the fall, the redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder bites get more predictable. Places where you caught them last year most likely will be great places to start. If you don’t find your fish in your old spots, try giving areas down or upriver a try. Best fall baits is going to be live shrimp fished anyway you care to deliver. The best news is once you get the bite going, switching to artificial shrimp patterns is going to be an option. It’s that time of the year when you can bring your cast net and catch your own bait. If doing so, put any small fish that you happen to catch in your livewell. Small live baits normally triggers a bigger fish bite. Artificial flukes rigged on red/black/white colored lead heads work great around any sort of structure. If the fish don’t hit the lure on the fall, let it sit on the bottom for a few seconds. Then reel a few times, twitch and repeat. Best fluke colors are baby bass, pearl white and golden bream. Inshore fishermen get to experience the big bull redfish migration, which starts taking place this month. These monsters start their migration pattern from where they have been holding in the creeks, rivers and upper sound areas. Once they make their way to the sounds and closer to the ocean, this is a fish that finds a suitable place to bulk up before making their way to the beachfronts and then to the ocean. Schooling baits such as mullet and menhaden provide much feeding opportunity for these fish. So when you see any surface action, stop, wait and look for any turbulence or seabirds in a heavy feeding or holding pattern. Another place to look are areas where currents come together forming some sort of a rip. Not all rips will hold the interest of fish, but I can guarantee you once you figure out what to look for, instance hook-ups can happen. Here are a few suggestions: Always look for any surface oils, sometimes referred to as cat paws. If there is any bird feeding action, always check out the size and type of birds. If it’s diving pelicans only, then you most likely have schools of menhaden down under. However, if you have pelicans, as well as other small sea birds, then you have a possible big feeding frenzy event going on. When anchored in areas around live oyster beds, use small adjustable floats with about 12 inches of 30- to 40-lb. test fluorocarbon leader with either a semi circle or a standard 2/0 to 3/0 kahle-style hook. Best baits for this rig are going to be lip-hooked live mullet or peanut menhaden or live shrimp hooked under the horn. If live bait isn’t an option, there are plenty of other baits that will work, such as smelly mullet cut in steaks like a loaf of bread or air dried shrimp with heads on or off threaded onto the hook. When working rips or actual feeding schools of redfish, use diamond-shape jigs (1 to 3 ounces) with or without red or green or yellow miniature tube lures. Jigs such as the 1- to 3-oz. Shimano Butterfly with double hooks located at the head of the lure are good to go. Most of the expensive to the non-expensive jigs with hook or hooks attached to the head do work. All of this boils down to location and the working of the lure used. Another way to get the best chance at a hook-up when fishing a rip or surface schooling baits is to take a beefed-up popping cork or traditional float rig rigged with some sort of bait. The meaning of bait when it comes to this situation is anything that you happen to have that is live or a steak of something fishy. Large sharks of all types, rays and also any left-behind tarpon would most likely find these baits alluring. Suspending your bait under a float whether it is alive or dead gives fish a 360-degree opportunity for attack, prompting a more serious hit. Let’s talk about a fish head with shoulders still attached. This is a simple mullet or whiting that you have cut the head off at the petrel fins. Believe it or not but this bait will deliver very serious scent. Fish heads, although thought by most fishers to be not usable, are great baits! Why? The head doesn’t lose all of its scent at once. I have used a large bonita head all day. And even after that, if you drop it into a bucket, blood and other smelly fish alluring liquids will seep out.”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “September, October and November are always the best fish-catching months of the year. The past week we have caught tarpon, trout, redfish, black drum and flounder. Sept. 19 was the latest I have ever hooked a big tarpon. The redfish bite is as good as I have ever seen. It is really hot. The next eight weeks should be really good. This week I have averaged around 60 redfish every day from 14 to 38 inches. Live shrimp under a cork has been working great. Redfish have been in shallow water and about every depth out to 30 feet. Trout have been hitting everything from shrimp to topwater plugs. I have caught a lot on DOA artificial shrimp this week. As the water cools down, the trout will start hitting a lot of different lures and jigs. All the Gulp! and D.O.A. Shrimp imitations will work. A sinking Rapala-style lure in bright colors works good for me. Firetiger color is a good one. Trout are really shallow today. In a couple of weeks, they will start moving into some deeper water. A lot of 3- to 10-lb. black drum are hitting shrimp. They will be mixed up with the redfish in a lot of places. Look for the drum around trees, old docks and any type of structure. A few flounder will hang around through October. Everything should start moving up the rivers as the water starts cooling down into the 75-degree range and cooler. We are having a pretty good striper bite in the lower Ogeechee. This should pick up shortly and get better into the winter. The Georgia coast has some of the best fishing in the world in the fall. Stay out of the woods for a day and let’s go fish catching.”

Offshore Bottom & Trolling: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “When it comes to offshore fishing during October, lots of different bites can happen in the most unusual places. With moving on their minds, all fish have to bulk up as fast as they can, which boils down to major feeding times all of the time. Nearshore artificial reefs and natural live-bottom areas will start holding the attentions of lots of different-sized bottom and topwater fish. For those fishermen who want to get some big bottom fish action, fill the livewell before reaching the fishing grounds. The best place to stop to load up on bait is wrecks located at the artificial reefs in 55-plus feet of water. However, our bait populations in these areas have not been too good so far this year, which has been the norm for a while. Stop and give it a try, because it is on your way. Spanish sardines and cigar minnows usually school over any sort of high-relief structure. Most of the yellow buoys marking the offshore artificial reefs are gone. They have been gone for years, and they are not replacing them. These buoys held the interest of all types and sizes of baitfish. The locations where the buoys used to be anchored are still holding bait. The anchoring system used on the buoys is still there and so are the types of baits that used to school around the chain. Check this out, and you might be surprised. Fish gold-hook sabiki bait rigs. You can catch lots of bait each time you drop. Always make sure to have at least a dozen bait rigs in the tackle box, because once hooked up, large fish can attack. When this starts happening, move to another spot until the big fish feeding frenzy stops. These rigs are made for small baits not larger fish. Best live baits are cigar minnows, Spanish mackerel, Boston mackerel, horse mackerel and any others that are hanging with the school. However, sometimes you will find yourself catching a lot of horny bellies, which isn’t the best of live baits to use. However, we have noticed since the lack of availability of live baits, the horny belly has worked a time or two. There is an old saying, ‘If you can’t catch the perfect bait, there is a chance that the fish can’t either!’ This boils down to using what you happen to catch. The bait-catching year has once again not been the best for sure. I suggest taking some fresh frozen bait. Most bait shops normally stock both frozen cigar minnows and Spanish sardines, which both will work just fine. My suggestion is when you have a choice to purchase frozen Spanish sardines over cigar minnows. The reason being is the sardines are cheaper, and they will bring on the absolute same bite. Keep this bait frozen as long as you can and take only a few minnows out of your cooler at a time. They will stay on your hook much better when dropping to the bottom. This bait works whole or cut in half. When using this type of bait, the smell seems to be the attractant, not so much the shape. And believe me it does have some definite stink value! Another great live bait is menhaden, which you can catch by throwing a cast net. This is where one cast can catch you all the menhaden that you need. However, you shouldn’t put too many in your livewell at one time. The survival rate isn’t very good when menhaden populations are too high in the baitwell. The good news is that whole and fresh cut dead menhaden make for great bottom bait. Soak them in saltwater and a little ice. It is critical to keep as much of that alluring menhaden shine as possible. Have GPS coordinates for all structures on the artificial reefs that you are going to fish. I know paper isn’t popular, but having a hard copy on board of the coordinates for Georgia’s artificial reefs can turn out to be a very good idea. This information is free and can be found on website. Also have on board a copy of the Georgia DNR Sport Fishing regulations. I have fishermen ask me all of the time what are the best charts to purchase for this area. Give Top Spot Fishing Maps a try, which are available at most tackle stores. The best map for inshore fishing the Georgia coast is N232. Top Spots also offer a Georgia offshore chart. That map is N229. Most GPS units have a lot of this information already loaded. However, updates are needed. Check your GPS machine out. If you’re not sure, contact your unit’s company. Most updates can be retrieved free off the web. It’s also a good idea to have a destination plan before launching your boat. When bottom fishing in 100 feet (Savannah Snapper Banks) to 200 feet (edge of Gulf Stream) over any broken live bottom with ledges, use large live baits. Drop your lipped- or dorsal-hooked bait to the bottom and hang on for a grouper-biting affair. Best baits for this type of rig are vermilion snapper, tomtates, rock bass, sand perch, pinfish, scup, blue fish and etc. The best rig to use is going to be a beefed-up Carolina rig. I like using a 10- to 20-foot piece of 80- to 100-lb. monofilament leader between the hook (10/0 to 14/0 circle hook) and the egg (6 to 8 ounce) sinker. When using this style rig, grouper is not the only fish that you might catch. Just to name a few: cubera snapper, amberjack, genuine red snapper, king mackerel, tuna, etc. In other words, big mouth fish. Always check current regulations and fish closures before heading out. At this time, genuine red snapper and red porgy was the only fish that are currently closed. However, please always check before making your way to the fishing grounds. Best website to visit for current regulations is”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters reports, “During the spring when the waters to the west are much cooler than the Stream a great edge is formed. This edge is where larger fish feed on the smaller fish. This happens again in the late fall. Now is the time to keep an eye on the surface temperatures. When the cooling event starts, it will be time to do some serious blue water fishing.”

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