Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – September 2017

GON Staff | August 30, 2017

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The redfish bite has been incredible. On a lot of recent trips, we have caught more than 100 redfish in a couple hours of fishing. Catching a limit of redfish should be an easy thing to do in September. The redfish have been from 14 inches up to 40-inch monsters all in the same places. During September, a lot more big redfish will start being caught. A lot of big redfish will start showing up on the beaches and the usual big-fish spots in the sounds. Tide lines on the end of sandbars, small cuts in the bars and a lot of places that have a lot of rolling disturbed water, what I call tide rips, will all hold big reds some time in September. Fish a live shrimp under a cork to catch a lot of redfish, or fish a big piece of fresh fish on the bottom to catch a big redfish. Remember that the slot limit is 14 to 23 inches. All redfish over 23 inches must be released. Water temperatures are around 89 degrees, and the big redfish will start getting thick when the temperature gets below 80. The trout bite has been good the last few days. The end of August and the month of September is usually great trout fishing. In September, the bigger schools of trout are usually in the sounds and the lower parts of the rivers until the water starts getting into the 70s. The usual live-shrimp rigs are working great now. When the water starts cooling down, the trout will start hitting artificial baits with a vengeance. An artificial shrimp fished 3 feet under a fixed cork will catch a lot of trout in late September. The topwater bite can also be real good all month long. A Whopper Plopper in bone white has caught some real nice trout and redfish for me. I have been fishing a 6-inch piece of wire leader on mine to keep the sharks from biting it off. A lot of flounder, black drum and croaker have been caught the last month and should get more abundant on into September. September is always a good month to catch a good variety of eating fish in coastal Georgia. There is a huge crop of bait shrimp in the rivers. Catching bait with a cast net on low tide should be easy, if you don’t mind getting your boat a little muddy. The best tarpon fishing of the year can be the first couple weeks of September just before they head south for the winter. Look for fish chasing bait along the usual tide lines and in the channels a few miles offshore. Tarpon will stay until the water cools down into the middle 70s. September and October are always the best months of the year to catch fish in coastal Georgia.” 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. Just the fact that daylight is a couple of minutes shorter makes all the difference to those down under. This is not the month for migrations, but it’s the month for feeding on everything that is available. Spotted sea trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum and flounder might feed at different times of the tides. All of them like live shrimp. You can fish them naked (with or without any sort of leader or weight) or under popping or adjustable floats. If you run out of live shrimp, change over to any leftover parts from previous hits and/or start using DOA shrimp patterns. The DOA shrimp patterns work like a charm. Here’s tip: 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 becomes the perfect waving bait in the current under a popping cork or an adjustable float. The best early fall colors are root beer, clear gold glitter, clear chartreuse tail and golden cherry red. Also try a 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. If one pattern doesn’t work, remove off hook, drop it back in the sauce, and grab another. It’s that simple. Fish it under popping corks, traditional adjustable floats and threaded onto a jig head tied directly to your fluorocarbon leader. The creeks and back of creeks are full of schooling finger mullet. They do come in all sizes from petite to larger. I suggest keeping all sizes, because when using live bait you want to match the hatch. When using larger live finger mullet as bait, your chances of a big bite is going to be less. However, when you do get a hit, the fish are going to be larger. The other live baits, which you could catch while casting for shrimp or finger mullet, are mud minnows, peanut menhaden, croaker, yellow tail and basically any other small live fish.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The artificial reefs during September can be at times seemly completely baron. Then, as if someone turns on a switch, the bite starts. I suggest staying and waiting it out, because bites will happen at least eventually. When the bite is on, you could find yourself catching Spanish or king mackerel and barracuda. Trolling Clark and Drone spoons will get a topwater bite going. For those fishermen who prefer trolling real bait, I suggest using medium-sized ballyhoo rigged on a Sea Witch. 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 method 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. I suggest pulling this bait about 50 to 75 feet behind your boat. It is going to be best if you adjust your reel so that it has a medium drag. This helps in the hook-up department. As far as the bottom bite, I suggest doing a little drifting, keeping your baits at the mid to lower water column depth. The best bait is going to be exactly what you catch with your gold hook sabiki rig. Take along a little squid. This bait works offshore as well as shrimp does for inshore fish.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “September 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. The best places to look for one of these fish are the live-bottom ledges at the Savannah Snapper Banks. Best baits are going to be live cigar minnows, 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 bring on a big-time grouper bite. For those who prefer jigging for their gags, I suggest using 80-lb. braided main line, 4 to 15 feet of fluorocarbon leader and a jig (4 to 8 ounces) that has one or two hooks located at the top of the lure. You want your main line attached 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. While bottom fishing the Savannah Snapper Banks, we have been hooking up a lot of big bulls, tigers, nurse sharks and sandbar sharks. If you are going to take one of these large sharks, please check the regulations before heading out. The rules can be a little confusing. Any pan size or larger fish that you have just caught, cut tail off the tail and set it out on a beefed-up rig. Most of our sharks are caught on a Carolina-style rig, meaning an 8-oz. sinker on the main line. Then tie on a 100-lb. swivel, and then tie on a leader. As far as 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 set up, I tie my 14/0 circle hook directly onto 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, keep the line tight and not in-line with the shark The roughness of the shark’s skin will fray your leader. Always situate boat so that the main line is pulling straight off the shark’s head. As far as the topwater bite, we have been catching king mackerel nearshore at the Savannah River Channel, artificial reefs and at the Savannah Snapper Banks. The best bait when targeting these 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. While doing this, throw a few pieces of bait over the side.”

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!