Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – September 2018

GON Staff | September 4, 2018

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The fall fishing has started with redfish everywhere. We caught a limit in 20 casts (15 redfish) yesterday morning (Aug. 22). We are going to have some really great fishing for redfish the next three months. Right now most of the redfish are in the sounds, but in a few weeks a lot of them will start moving up the rivers. A live shrimp under a slip-cork rig will work in almost all the situations you will fish in September. In some places, a bottom rig will work a little better when fishing straight down in some real thick brushpiles. I rig a 1/2-oz. egg sinker to a swivel with main line 50-lb. braid and a 20-lb. test leader, so when you get your hook tangled, you usually just break off the hook. Deeper holes will also hold a lot of black drum the next few months. The big redfish should start showing up in a couple of weeks. A piece of fresh mullet on the bottom near some tide rips off the beach should get you a bite. Trout, black drum, flounder, croaker and sheepshead are all biting, and it should get better in September. Almost all of these fish can be caught around oyster shells next month. Keep moving until you catch fish. There are a lot of things to consider when trying to figure out when trying to fish coastal Georgia waters. Most spots are not good for fishing but an hour or so on most tides. You have to figure out the where and the when to catch these fish. A live shrimp will catch almost everything that swims in Georgia saltwater. Most of the month of September has pretty good fishing tides, except for a few days from the 7th to the 11th right around the next new moon. Tarpon fishing should be good until the end of September if we don’t get any bad storms. A lot of tarpon are here right now. Find a big school of pogies just off the beach, and you probably have found tarpon, too. The best fishing of the year is always September and October, so stay out of the woods a few days and go fishing. With some decent weather, the redfish catching should be as good as it can get from now through October.” Capt. David wrote a full feature on how to catch redfish that’s on page 52. 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 seatrout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum and flounder might feed at different times of the tides. However, 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. Once you get the bite going, it’s easy to change your bait. For instance, if you start using live shrimp, and they all happen to die or you run out, your best bet then is to change over to any leftover parts from previous hits and/or start using DOA shrimp patterns. The DOA shrimp patterns work like a charm. When using pre-rigged DOAs, meaning they are purchased with hook and balance weight, I suggest removing the 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 rootbeer, clear gold glitter, clear chartreuse tail and golden cherry red. I suggest using 1/4-oz. jig heads for DOA shrimp patterns ( Another secret is to drop a few DOAs into the livewell. I call this adding juice appeal. There are other artificial baits to be considered and have been proven by fish and fishermen. There is the Berkley Gulp Alive! I like the 3-inch Shrimp Assortment recharging baits, which have the new penny/natural, shrimp/pearl and white/molting shrimp patterns all packed together. The best news is that if one pattern doesn’t work, take off the hook, drop back in the sauce and grab another. Since it looks alive, rig it that way. Popping corks, traditional adjustable floats and threaded onto a jig head tied directly to your fluorocarbon leader will work. There are many more shrimp patterns out there on the tackle shelves. The secret is to use the lure that you have the most confidence in because it seems if you don’t, bites just don’t seem to happen. My father always said, ‘There should be no negativity when fishing!’ For those fishermen who don’t care to use artificial baits of any kind, you also have options. As you know, live shrimp is the most preferred bait that there is, and all fish like it. Since all fish eat it, a fisherman’s chance of catching a keeper as well as losing your live shrimp part by part is possible. There are quite a few alterative live baits that you can catch yourself. Here’s where knowing how to throw a cast net is a big plus. During this time, the creeks and backs of the 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. When using larger live finger mullet as bait, your chances of getting 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 at times seem completely baron. It can be frustrating for sure because you are marking lots of fish on your finder. And then as if someone turns on a switch, the bite starts. Therefore, when you arrive at your 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 or king mackerel and barracuda. Trolling Clark and Drone spoons will get a topwater bite going. For those fishermen who prefer trolling some real bait, I suggest using medium-sized ballyhoo rigged on a Sea Witch ( The best colors have been red/black, blue/white and chartreuse. As far as head style, I prefer the round lead heads. However, there are all sorts of different shapes (split, cone, bullet, etc.) that pull through the water differently.  You have to be the judge on whether or not you want your bait to push or be pulled through the water. It does seem that all of these heads do work. I rig the Sea Witch type lures 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, but they still somehow do sometimes. 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. Always take along a little squid. This bait works offshore, as well as shrimp does for inshore fish. My favorite sabiki rig is a Tsunami Sabiki TSB-068GL-8/10 style iridescent hage-aurora green with a gl head. It also has some fish skin on each gold hook, which adds yet another reason why it attracts fish. Please be responsible when discarding your bait rigs. I always dispose of mine by putting them in an empty water bottle and securing the top tight. Our king mackerel bite at the artificial reefs, as well as the live bottom areas at the Savannah Snapper Banks, has been very successful. I like pulling my Sea Witches on the surface that I have rigged with medium ballyhoo. One of my most favorite lures to pull behind a No. 3 planer is a 3  1/2-inch drone spoon. For a leader, I am using 30 feet of 80- to 100-lb. test monofilament line. There are a couple of secrets to keep in mind when setting this trolling rig up. The first is the Drone spoon. Sometimes when purchased, it has two welded rings, but sometimes they do not. However, if they don’t have two rings, the spoon will not work properly when pulled behind the planer. I always suggest having assorted sizes of split rings available, and you can add your own. The second suggestion is to tie a 100-lb barrel swivel into your leader. I suggest cutting the 30-foot leader in half and attach the swivel, which will give you 15 feet on each side of your swivel. This addition adds a little more movement to the Drone spoon. Now for those fishermen who prefer live-lining only for kings, this is the time for this kind of fishing. I suggest catching some live bait, rigging up with some duster king rigs, and give this a try. Go to for detailed information on rigging for kings when using live bait. It is very informative.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “In September, the grouper bite is better because things are cooling down. 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 theses fishing cities, which are small areas that hold all types of fish from small to large at all depths. These are basically ledges that are surrounded with sand. The best baits are going to be live cigar minnows and Spanish sardines, which can be caught with sabiki gold hook rigs. This bait is known for schooling over the structure at the artificial reefs. Baits such as these 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 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, this would be a great time to give this type of fishing a try. When vertical jigging, I suggest using 80-lb. braided main line, 4 to 15 feet of fluorocarbon leader and a jig (4 to 8 ounces). 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 erratically. This style of jigging does a great job of imitating a baitfish that’s trying to make a solid getaway move. Once you locate the depth of the fish, drop your lure to this depth and just jig. Do not reel and jig. You want your lure to stay in the strike zone. I love this type of fishing because when you get a hit, you are with the fish from start to the finish. 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 kill one of these large sharks, please check regulations before heading out. Believe me, the rules can be a little confusing. As far as getting hooked up, any fish that you have just caught pan size or larger can be bled by cutting the tail off and set 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 and then tie on a 100-lb. swivel, and then tie on 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 on to my leader. This style hook pretty much insures a behind the jaws 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 main line is pulling straight off the shark’s head. A large shark can be dangerous due to the fact it is so strong. Handle with care, and always make sure that the shark that you are going to keep is legal and will fit in your cooler.”

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