Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report September 2015

GON Staff | August 26, 2015

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is not the month for migrations; it’s the month for feeding on everything that is available. Spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder might feed at different times of the tides. However, here’s what they have in common. All of them like live shrimp. The bottom line is you can serve it up anyway you like, from naked with or without any sort of leader or weight, or under popping or adjustable floats. Here is the secret to the bite in September: once you get the bite going, it’s easy to change your bait. The best artificial bait is going to be a fluke, paddle or screwtail soft plastic rigged on a 1/4-oz. red/black/white or a lead-colored jig head. This is where light tackle comes into play. When going with soft plastics, the lighter the main line used, the better your chances for hooking up quicker. Small spinners with either 8-lb. test monofilament or 20-lb. test braid will quickly make an inshore light tackle fisherman out of you. The reason being is when hooked up, it’s a fight from the bite. Another good live bait to use this time of the year, especially when targeting large spotted seatrout, is going to be small fish, such as pinfish, yellow tail or juvenile mullet. These baits can be delivered under traditional adjustable or popping floats. If you decide to use a circle hook, which means no setting of the hook, it is possible to fish two rods at a time. As far as the flounder bite, it can be very interesting, especially if you can find some clear water conditions. Back in the day while fishing with my father, working the bank was his favorite method when it came to going flounder fishing. At the low tide stage, he would situate our rowboat just far enough from the bank so as to not disturb those fish feeding in the shallow water. Then he would cast his bait offering of live shrimp rigged on a Carolina-type rig either to the left or right of the bank we were anchored on. And then we would wait for the bite, which normally started as soon as the tide turned to incoming. With the invention of the trolling motor, anchoring is just about a thing of the past, and working a bank with this technology is much easier. Remember that flounder most always situate themselves while facing the current. The reason for this stance is because it’s easier to breathe, and this is where the potential meal is coming from. The best live bait is going to be mud minnows, shrimp and juvenile mullet. For dead bait, I suggest cutting it in strips, so that it flows in the current. For artificial, fish a Straight Jacket by Boone Lures, jig heads rigged with Berkley Gulp Alive soft baits soaked in their special sauce. As far as which one, select the styles that imitate the best live baits used.” Capt. David Newlin reports, “The August trout bite has been hotter than the weather. The last couple of weeks have produced the best trout catching I have seen in a while. On several recent trips, we have caught 75 to 100 trout, a lot of small fish, but a lot of good fish, too. The usual live shrimp cork rigs have been working great, except when the bait thieves have been thick. We have had a huge crop of small ladyfish that have been mixing with the trout. When this happens, break out the artificial shrimp; any of them will work. I have caught a lot of fish on the Z-Man new penny-colored shrimp. Put 30 inches of 20-lb. fluorocarbon on a cork. Using a 1/0 long-shank hook, thread the artificial shrimp on the hook, make a cast, and slowly work it with a jerking motion. The trash fish will usually leave this rig alone, but the big trout love it. September should see a big increase in the trout action. Trout should be all over the usual drops in the sound, and toward the end of the month, they should start moving up the rivers and creeks as the water temps start to cool. The redfish have been everywhere—in the sounds and up the river. There seems to be a big crop of them this year. The big news is almost all of the juvenile redfish will be slot-limit fish by September. The redfish are not as picky as trout. Dead or live shrimp, they will eat anything that smells like a shrimp. On low tide, I like to chase redfish up in the smaller dead end creeks. On high tide, they will be all over the oyster shell flats. When you get into the redfish thick, I always smash the barbs off my hooks so we can easily get them off the hooks. Catching a limit of redfish should take five casts in the right spot. A lot of redfish are already way up in the rivers, and by the end of September, they will be way up in the brackish waters of the Ogeechee River. Fall is the time for the big bull redfish. These will be 30-inch plus fish. These are a totally different fish than the young redfish. The best method of catching the big reds is a chunk of dead bait on the bottom. Mullet, ladyfish, whiting, croaker, almost any chunked-up fish will work. In September, fish on the beaches, any creek mouths, tide rips, breaks in sand bars, anywhere from 3 to 30 feet of water. I have caught several 50-lb. reds while shark fishing the last few weeks. The areas around McQueens Inlet on St. Catherines Island has always been a local hot spot.”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “The tarpon and big sharks should be here through September, unless we have a big storm. Sometimes a big tropical storm will send the tarpon south in a hurry. Right now they are here in good numbers. The big schools of pogies almost always will have a tarpon following. Most of the fish I have seen lately have been off the beaches in the channels. In September, if you can hit a school migrating south, they are eager to eat a live pogy. The big sharks have been thick. We have caught a lot of tigers and blacktips. In September, fish the channels a mile or two off the beach. We should have a big batch of migrating sharks as soon as the water starts cooling off.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “September is ‘Snag a Gag Month!’ This just means the grouper bite is better, because things are cooling down causing more movement. During this month, gags, scamps and red grouper are more likely to be up and about. The best places to look for one of these fish are the live bottom ledges at the Savannah Snapper Banks. I like to call them fishing cites, which are small areas that hold all types of fish from small to large at most depths in the water column. These are basically ledges that are surrounded with sand. Best nervous (seemly bladderless) baits are going to be live cigar minnows and Spanish sardines, which can be caught with Sabiki gold hook rigs. These baits can be found surface schooling over the structure at the artificial reefs. However, these baits, especially around the artificial reefs, have been hard to come by. The Naval towers R7, R2 and M2R6 located in 85 to 115 feet of water have held their attention, which is where I would head in case the reefs are barren of nervous baits. Live Spanish sardines and cigar minnows are baits that are known for triggering the grouper bite, as well as vermilion snapper and white grunt. However, a bigger fish sometimes wants bigger bait. Baits caught at the banks are normally those fish that have air bladders, such as sand perch, rock bass, vermilion snapper, pinfish and ruby red lips. Before putting these in a livewell, I suggest deflating the air bladder with a sharp pointed knife. Here are a few tips on bigger baits for larger bottom fish. I consider the sand perch the best bait, because it seeks safety in the sand not the structure. Larger grouper will leave the protection of the ledge with hopes of an easy meal, which allows you a better chance of landing your fish. The reasons being is the larger fish will be too far from the safety of its habitant. However, on some days if the bottom visibility is not clear, the bigger fish won’t see the sand perch. When a sand perch settles down on a sandy bottom, it creates a sand storm, which catches the keen eyes of a grouper. Then there are those baits that prefer the safety of the structure, such as the rock bass. Best roaming baits that like to suspend up in the 1- to 5-foot range around the structure are vermilion snapper, scup, pinfish and ruby red lips. All baits that I have listed work, and I approve this message! As far as the topwater bite for Spanish and king mackerel, as well as mammoth jack crevalle, I suggest giving the Savannah River channel, artificial reefs and at the Savannah Snapper banks a try. Best baits when targeting the king mackerel is the liveliest possible. Those baits that fall into this category are blue runners, Spanish sardines, Spanish mackerel and pin fish. It is time for Spanish mackerel, and they should arrive in full force this month and can be caught trolling 0 to 00 Clark spoons in the sounds, off the beachfronts and around the nearshore artificial reefs located in less than 60 feet of water. The best ways to locate schools of feeding mackerel is to look for any diving seabirds. Our fine feathered friends with their keen eyesight are known for showing us the way. As is in 2014, our 2015 mackerel fishing season has not been as good as in the past years. When we do find them, we can catch them using these suggested techniques. It has been a looking more than a catching game. The best news I can report is that it’s fishing at its finest, whether you are looking or catching. During this time, it’s not unusual to catch mahi mahi while bottom fishing or under floating objects. Mahi mahi are curious fish, and they will swim right to the boat. Once they arrive, I suggest throwing out a few small pieces of bait, which should get their feeding attention. If you are bottom fishing, I suggest removing your weight off the rig, loosen your drag, and float your bait (squid or cut fish) right to the circling mahi mahi. Or if you happen to have a small jig, live bait imitating lure or a live cigar minnow that you can quickly rig up on some sort of light tackle, this will also get their attention. Another thing is to spray water up in the air allowing the sprinkles to hit the surface, creating a fake live bait frenzy. This won’t last long, because the second that the fish realizes it’s only for show, they will be gone. However, spraying along with casting cut bait overboard helps keeps their attention. Once this fish turns its feeding lights on, they will suck this bait in just like most of us do when chocolate is involved. If there is more than one mahi mahi, leave the hooked fish in the water until the next fish is hooked up.”

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