Georgia Saltwater Fishing Reports – July 2020

GON Staff | June 28, 2020

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Water temperatures are in the low 80s, and almost all the usual summertime fishing patterns are working. The flounder bite jumped in gear this week. I have been catching a good number of flounder and a lot of really big ones. All the usual spots in the sound seem to have a few flounder on them. A live shrimp fished just off the bottom has been working good. When you catch one, there are usually a few more close by. This should only get better into July. The trout bite has been good with a lot of fish of all sizes mixed up. Some days you have to catch a lot of trout to catch a mess of legal fish. They have been shallow and deep. In some places, I have been fishing a slip-cork rig set 20 feet deep. In other places, they have been 2 feet deep. The topwater bite has been real good early in the morning. Redfish have been in all sizes from 40-inch big ones down to little fish. We have a really good crop of small ones coming along. Most of my big fish have been out in the sounds around bigger oyster shell flats. Black drum have been in good numbers. Sheepshead have been in all their usual places, with some 5-pounders showing up. A small live shrimp or a fiddler crab has worked good. The whiting bite has been smoking hot. Several days we have caught 50 or more in an hour. Low tide has been the best whiting bite on most days. Shark fishing has been as good as I have ever seen for 3- to 5-footers.  They have been all over the sounds. The bigger sharks are a few miles offshore. A few tarpon are in the area, and a lot more should be here in a few weeks. July should be good fishing for big fish and little fish. Beware of the online booking sites. I know a few people who have recently been taken badly by several of them.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “For those inshore fishermen who just want to catch fish, I suggest purchasing or catching some live shrimp. Our captains have been catching their own live shrimp for the last couple of months. As soon as the water leaves the grass is a great starting time to catch shrimp. Most shrimp during this time are caught in less than 5 feet of water. Our captains are using a 6- to 8-foot cast net with 3/8-inch mesh for bait shrimp. After polling everyone, I have found that the Betts Hi Tider cast net is one brand that is preferred, especially at this time of the year. It seems lighter weights on these nets are the way to go when targeting shrimp. If you can’t buy or catch live shrimp, the creeks are full of peanut menhaden. They can stay pretty healthy if you don’t try to keep too many alive in your well at once. In the backs of creeks, there are schools of very small finger mullet. The mud minnows, especially during lean live shrimp times, have really saved us.   This bait can be caught using a minnow trap baited with bacon, cat food or saltines. The larger versions of spotted seatrout, flounder and redfish will all hit these baits. The secret to using these baits is that you have to give the larger fish time to eat. When it comes to fishing with live shrimp, finger mullet, peanut menhaden or mud minnows, try a traditional adjustable float, which comes in all sizes from super large to mini sizes. The ever-popular popping cork will work. The leader shouldn’t be longer than 4 feet and can’t be shorter than 12 inches. I suggest using this float when fishing in depths from 2 to 6 feet deep. Then there is fishing naked, which means tying on a short leader to your main line and then tying on a small kahle hook. Then I suggest placing the hook under the shrimp’s horn located on top of the head and letting the shrimp make its own way. When it comes to using peanut menhaden, finger mullet or mud minnows, I suggest lip hooking them or placing the hook right behind the dorsal fin. Shark fishing is very good during this time of the year. Lots of sharks are being landed while fishing in the sounds, off the beach fronts, around surfacing schooling baits and while fishing all points east. I have caught them on shrimp, cut fish, whole live and whole dead fish. My No. 1 bait is a fish steak cut up like a loaf of bread. Sharks roam all depths of the water column so fish from bottom to top. A shark’s keen sense of smell is unbelievable. Even the smallest drop of blood or scent from bait can be detected from very long distances.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Our beachfronts and artificial reefs are holding some pretty interesting topwater catching opportunities. Topwater fish such as Spanish and king mackerel, barracuda, little tunny, jack crevalle  and cobia have arrived. All fish will hit anything from a small trolled lure to a spoon being pulled slowly behind your boat. Another way to get their attention is to cast right into the school of fish. The best thing that I can suggest is that you match the size of the bait you use to the fish’s mouth that you are targeting. For instance, Spanish mackerel, little tunny and jack crevalle like glass minnows and juvenile squid.  Small silver Clark spoons in sizes 0 and 00 are the best to use and do a good job of imitating the real thing. There are other good spoons, but the Clark spoon with the red ball is proven by fish many times over. When targeting larger fish like king mackerel and barracuda, I suggest using a larger spoon. The best spoon for this job is a 3 1/2-inch Drone. And if you really want to get a barracuda’s attention, try using a fresh dead or alive Spanish mackerel. The secret when using a fresh dead Spanish mackerel is to pick the fish that looks the shiniest. For those of you who like pitching to the schools of mackerel and little tunny, I suggest using a Heddon Zara Spook Puppy (I like white) or a MirrOlure Top Pup (I like black/silver). I like using light spinning tackle with 40- to 50-lb. test braid, 18 inches of 15- to 20-lb. test leader and then one of the suggested topwater plugs. For leader material, I prefer using Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon in disappearing pink. When you locate a school of fish, shut down your engine and start casting your lure into the school. We got a cobia season! When targeting cobia, I suggest using a 6- to 8-inch diving plug or a hair jig tipped with a plastic eel/worm type. Hands down the best jig for this catching job is called Cobia Candy Blue Thunder. If you happen to have some live bait in your livewell, anything from shrimp to small fish works like a charm on cobia. Give them time to eat.” For a story on catching Spanish and king mackerel on the artificial reefs, turn to page 16 in the June 2020 issue of GON.

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Those fishermen who make it 30 miles out to the live-bottom area could find themselves catching anything from billfish to a wahoo. You can also catch them now at the Savannah Snapper Banks and possibly at the artificial reefs. Catching options at the Banks include grouper to red snapper to cobia to amberjack to all kinds of bottom fish. The main closure at this time is genuine red snapper. However, if you want to target and keep genuine red snapper, the open dates for this month are Friday, July 10, Saturday July 11 and Sunday July 12, 2020 and Friday July 17, 2020. The bag limit will be one genuine red snapper per person per day. There is not size limit. For more details, go to and print out a copy of the regulations.”

Blue water fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “I suggest high-speed trolling starting at about 50 feet of water and pulling a lure or lures until you pull the throttles back. Best high speed lures are If dragging lures and baits doesn’t work, I suggest bottom fishing with menhaden, sand perch, ruby red lips, vermilion snapper, pinfish or blue runners. Actually any hardy live bait will work. You can catch your own with a sabiki rig. As far as the menhaden, I suggest breaking out the cast net and loading up before departing the sound area. You can also cut a belly strip from one of those just caught topwater fish in your cooler. The type of fish does not matter. Belly strips cut from amberjack, sharks, little tunny, king mackerel, wahoo, etc. will work. If you don’t want to use bait, there is always jigging, which is very effective in deeper water.  I suggest a 5- to 8-oz. Williamson Lures Benthos Speed Jig on braided line. I like using 80-lb. test braided line. I suggest adding a line to line leader of about 4 feet of 60- to 80-lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon. The best way to work this jig is to let it free drop to the bottom. If you don’t get hooked up, reel your jig about 10 feet off the bottom and work it vertically at that depth. If you don’t have any luck, drop back to the bottom and repeat.”

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