Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report September 2016

GON Staff | August 30, 2016

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Redfish madness is a good description of the fishing the last few weeks. The redfish bite has been as good as I have ever seen it. Last week I had several trips where we caught around 100 redfish from 14 to 30 inches. Catching a limit of fish in 30 minutes has been almost an everyday affair. A live shrimp under a cork has been fool proof. I have caught a lot of redfish on jigs fished under a rattling cork. A jig with a lot of gold glitter in the tail has been hot. Gulp Swimming Mullet in green with a 1/8-oz. white jig head has caught a lot of redfish and trout for me lately. Almost all of the smaller redfish are longer than 14 inches. They seemed to get to 14 inches a few weeks earlier this year when compared to some years. The next two months should be some of the best redfish catching that we have had in years. Next month more big fish longer than 30 inches should be showing up. Try fishing on the bottom with dead mullet on the beaches for some real big redfish. The trout bite has been good with a lot of small fish and big trout mixed together. The main key to catching trout has been finding clear water in the right places. Trout have been thick when you find them. Topwater action has been good early and late in the day. A Z-man shrimp in new penny fished under a cork has worked good when the small trashfish are stealing shrimp real bad. The trout bite should get better in September. The black drum bite is still going strong. A lot of days we have had 10 to 15 mixed in with the catch. Try fishing a dead shrimp on the bottom if you are targeting drum. Flounder have been showing up in good numbers on a lot of days. Tarpon will be here a few more weeks before they head south. Tarpon fishing can be hot in late September and early October. A lot of big blacktip sharks have been just off the beaches. I caught three big ones well over 100 pounds yesterday, and we kept one that was 130 pounds. Every year coastal Georgia anglers wait on the fall fishing with much anticipation, and this is going to be a good one. September 2016 should be a month of fishing we remember for a long time. Stay out of the woods for a few days, and enjoy some good fishing.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The temperatures are still hot, but there is a subtle change that takes place in the month of September. All fish are basically put on notice that fall patterns are pending. This is the month for feeding on everything that is available. Spotted seatrout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum and flounder might feed at different times of the tides, but all of them like live shrimp. 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. Once you get the bite going, you can change over to any leftover parts from previous hits or start using DOA shrimp patterns. When using pre-rigged DOAs, meaning when they are purchased with hook and balance weight,  I suggest removing weight and hook. Then I suggest taking a 2/0 to 3/0 kahle hook and hooking the shrimp up like you do the real deal. Since you want the DOA to look as natural as possible, you would need to place the hook in the mid ship of the shrimp. Once it’s balanced on the hook’s bend, it become the perfect waving bait in the current under a popping cork or a adjustable float. The best early fall colors are root beer, clear gold glitter, clear chartreuse tail and golden cherry red. I suggest using 1/4-oz. DOA shrimp patterns: Another secret is to drop a few DOAs into the livewell. I call this ‘adding juice appeal.’ Also try fishing the Berkley Gulp Alive! I like the 3-inch Shrimp Assortment recharging baits, which have new penny/natural, shrimp/pearl and white/molting shrimp patterns all packed together: Use popping corks or traditional adjustable floats, and thread onto a jig head tied directly to your fluorocarbon leader. There are quite a few alterative live baits that you can catch yourself. The creeks and backs of creeks are full of schooling finger mullet. They do come in all sizes from petite to larger finger mullet. I suggest keeping all sizes, because when using live bait, you want to match the hatch. The other live baits, which you could catch while casting for shrimp or finger mullet, are mud minnows, peanut menhaden, croaker and yellow tail.”

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy reports, “The artificial reefs during September can at times seemly completely baron, and then as if someone turns on a switch, the bite starts. Therefore, when you arrive at a selected artificial reef, I suggest staying and waiting it out, because bites will happen eventually. When the bite is on, you could find yourself catching Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and barracuda. Trolling Clark and Drone spoons will get a topwater bite going. For those fishermen who prefer trolling, I suggest using medium-sized ballyhoo rigged with Sea Witches. The best colors have been red/black, blue/white and chartreuse. I prefer to rig the Sea Witch with my three hooks in a row, while using 100-lb. test single strand wire as my leader. It is old school, but it works. I take three 7/0 Mustad trailer hooks (j hook style with open eyes) and rig them in line: When a fish hits this rig, the hook configuration makes it almost impossible for them to avoid getting hooked up. As far as the bottom bite, I suggest doing a little drifting, keeping your baits at mid to lower water column depth. The best bait is going to be exactly what you catch with your gold-hook sabiki rig. And of course, always take along a little squid. This bait works offshore as well as shrimp does for inshore fish.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy reports, “September for us offshore fishermen is ‘snag a gag month!’ This just means the grouper bite is better, because things are cooling down, causing more movement. During this month, all grouper, such as gags, scamps and red grouper, are more likely to be up and about. Best places to look for one of these fish are the live-bottom ledges at the Savannah Snapper Banks. The best baits are going to be live cigar minnows and Spanish sardines, which can be caught with sabiki gold-hook rigs, schooling over the structure at the artificial reefs. These baits are known for triggering a serious grouper bite. 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, pin fish and ruby red lips. Before putting them in the livewell, I suggest deflating the air bladder with a sharp pointed knife. These baits will also bring on a big time grouper bite. For those who prefer jigging for their gags, I suggest using any sort of butterfly jig. When vertical jigging, I suggest using 80-lb. braided main line, 4 to 15 feet of fluorocarbon leader and a jig that has one or two hooks located at the top of the lure. You want your main line and your hooks at the same end. Jigging during this month is great because the large bottom fish start to move a little farther from the protection of the ledge. The secret to perfecting this style of fishing is to keep the jig moving as erratically as possible while still imitating a baitfish that’s trying to make a solid getaway move. If you really want a big, big pull, I suggest giving shark fishing a try in this area. So far this year while bottom fishing the Savannah Snapper Banks, we have been catching some of the largest bulls, sandbar tigers and sandbar sharks that I have seen in a while. If you are going to take one of these large sharks, please check regulations before heading out: As far as getting hooked up, any fish that you have just caught, pan size or larger, cut the tail off, and set out on a beefed-up rig. Most of our sharks are caught on a Carolina-style rig with an 8-oz. sinker on the main line. Then tie on a 100-lb. swivel, and then tie on a leader. As far as a leader, I do not use any sort of wire leader. Instead, I use 10 to 20 feet of 80- to 100-lb. test monofilament line. To this setup, I tie my 14/0 circle hook directly on to my leader. This style hook pretty much ensures a behind-the-jaws, in-line hook-up, which means the shark normally cannot use its teeth to cut the line. Once hooked up, it is suggested to keep the line tight and not in-line with the shark. The roughness of the shark’s skin will fray your leader. Always situate the boat so that the main line is pulling straight off the shark’s head. As far as the topwater bite, we have catching king mackerel nearshore at the Savannah River Channel, artificial reefs and at the Savannah Snapper Banks. Best bait when targeting this fish is the liveliest possible—blue runners, ocean menhaden, Spanish sardines, Spanish mackerel and cigar minnows are just some of the good live bait choices. During this time, it’s not unusual to catch mahi mahi while bottom fishing. They are curious fish, and they will swim right to the boat. Just remove your weight off the bottom rig, loosen your drag and float your bait (squid or cut fish) right to the circling mahi mahi. While doing this, throw freely over the side a few pieces of bait. If they are hungry, this will really get them going. If there is more than on one mahi mahi, leave the last fish caught in the water until the next fish is hooked up.”

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