Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – September 2019

GON Staff | August 28, 2019

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “September is always my favorite month of the year to fish in coastal Georgia. The weather is usually nice, and the fishing is hot. The last few days has seen some really good fish catches. Redfish, trout, black drum, flounder, croaker and whiting have been biting. The redfish numbers are as good as they ever get. This morning I unhooked around 75 redfish in two hours. Right now they are all over the sounds, and shortly they will start moving up the rivers in big numbers. By the middle of September, they should be everywhere. It should be an everyday affair catching a limit of redfish in September. Fish a live shrimp under a cork or on the bottom should be a easy way to catch slot-limit redfish. The big redfish can be caught on a piece of mullet on a circle hook on the bottom around the beaches all September. Trout are in a lot of places all over the sounds. The trout bite is good now and will get better as the water starts cooling in September. They can be caught on shrimp jigs and topwater plugs next month. A live shrimp is hard to beat, a Gulp shrimp or Swimming Mullet fished 3 feet under a cork will work great. Most of September the best trout fishing will be in the sounds. By the end of the month, they will start moving up the rivers. Black drum and flounder should be caught all over next month. Fish on the bottom around a lot of structure if you are targeting drum. Flounder are in almost every place that has trout and redfish. September fishing should be the best fishing of the year. The redfish bite should be awesome. If you have any doubts about coastal Georgia fishing during September, it can be as good as anywhere in the world.” 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. 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 with a 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 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, balance and 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 root beer, 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. Now there are other artificial baits to be considered and have been proven. There is 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. Heck, the best news is if one pattern doesn’t work, remove it from the hook, drop back in the sauce and grab another. As far as the best way to present this bait since it looks alive, is to rig it that way. Fish on popping corks, traditional adjustable floats and threaded onto a jig head tied directly to your fluorocarbon leader. 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!’ There are quite a few alterative live baits that you can catch for yourself. And here’s where knowing how to throw a cast net is a big plus. During this time, 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. 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 because the smaller fish as well as the fetish fish will be scared off. What is a fetish fish? It is a small fish that dismantles and eats your shrimp one part at a time. The other live baits, which you could catch while casting for shrimp or finger mullet, are mud minnows, peanut menhaden, croaker, yellow tail, pin fish 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. So therefore when you arrive at a selected artificial reef, 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 some real bait, I suggest using medium-sized ballyhoo rigged on an old school Sea Witch type lure. 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 three hooks in a row while using 80- to 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 hooking the fish up department. 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. My favorite sabiki rig is a Tsunami Sabiki TSB-068GL-8/10 style iridescent hage-aurora green 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, also known as Judy Jigs, 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 is a couple of secrets to keep in mind when setting this trolling rig up. The first is the Drone spoon used normally when purchased does have 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 an assorted sizes of split rings available, and you can add your own. Believe me when I say that an added split ring to any lure makes a big difference in the movement delivered when retrieved or trolled. 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, well, 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 and click on the custom bait rigs button for detailed information on rigging for kings when using live bait. It is very informative. There is another type of rig that I use to target a large king mackerel bite. I take this live-bait rig pre-made or homemade by me, place the first live-bait hook under the chin of a shinny ballyhoo. Then I put the stinger hook (small treble hook) in the ballyhoo’s side. Since I do a lot of drifting when bottom fishing, this as my flat line. The best recipe for this rig is to cast out and let it fall down into the water column just until you can’t any longer see the shine from the ballyhoo. Then put in rod holder, select a light drag, and put the clicker on. The rest is pretty darn generic. King mackerel comes by, can’t resist the shine, hits it, eats it, and then screams off with your bait with hooks embedded. As with any larger fish, they might hit the bait first, and then come back. Your choice at this time is to wait or pick up the rod, drop the bait (controlled free spool) making it look as though it is falling in the water column, and the fish should turn to pick up the so-called spoils, Last but not least is fish on!”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey 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. 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 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. 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 a 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, this would be a great time to give this type of fishing a type. I suggest using any sort of butterfly or those less-expensive jigs that looks, acts and works like the same thing. 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). 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 the start to the finish. If you really want a 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, well that’s easy. Any fish that you have just caught, pan size or larger, cut the tail off the live fish 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, and then tie on a 100-lb. swivel, and then tie on a leader. As far as the 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 on either a 10/0, 12/0 or 14/0 circle hook directly on to my leader. This style hook pretty much insures a behind the jaws and in-line hook up, which means the shark normally can’t 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 shark’s head. During this time, it’s not unusual to catch mahi mahi while bottom fishing at the banks. They are curious fish and 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. Once these fish turn on their feeding lights, they will suck this bait in just like most of us do when ice cream is involved! I love ice cream! If there is more than on one mahi mahi, leave the last fish caught in the water until the next fish is hooked up.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is not a great month for blue water trolling due to the fact that water temps are still about the same in the Stream as the waters to the west. However, if you want to get a full pulling bottom fishing deal, now would be the time. The live bottom areas located in 150 to 220 feet of water are holding a lot of large fish. Just to name a few, which come in mostly large sizes: grouper (red, scamp, gag, snowy) sand tile, vermilion, black sea bass, triggerfish, white bone porgy, knobbed porgy, red porgy, white grunt, cobia, and then there are those fish that you could catch that we really don’t know what the heck they are. Whatever you do, don’t forget your fish identification book. So if you do make this trip to this area, the best bait is going to be squid and cut fish. If you happen to have cigar minnows or Spanish sardines (fresh dead, live, or frozen), these bait will also work.  These baits work great when used with a two- to three-hook bottom rig. Or you can skip the small baits and go straight to big live baits, such as ruby red lips, pin fish, vermilion snapper and tattlers.  Best rig for these fish are going to be Carolina-style rigs with long leaders (80- to 100-lb. monofilament) and large circle hooks (10/0 to 14/0). Now for those who want to do a little jigging, this is definitely the right place for this type of fishing. The best lure to use is a Williamson deep-water jig. We are now offering, once again, 14-hour Gulf Stream bottom fishing trips.”

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