Capt. David Newlin Figures It All Out

A host of factors can play into a day of fishing the salt, but luckily a saltwater captain of 42 years knows the deal.

Daryl Gay | May 4, 2022

It’s two and a piece pre-dawn hours from home to Richmond Hill, then add on another 15 minutes to Ft. McAllister Marina. Windshield time is prime for cogitation, and all the way down I’ve tried to figure out just what my favorite part of an inshore fishing trip with Capt. David Newlin is. And that’s exactly the answer: trying to figure it all out!

Why? Because: You. Never. Know.

Old friends Capt. David Newlin (left) and GON’s Daryl Gay have spent some time in the boat together over the years. Their latest trip was last month, and Daryl admits he cried for mercy after catching so many reds in one of David’s spots.

Over the decades I’ve been doing this, it’s amazing how many folks ask about a top-notch guide to take them out to catch a freezer full of fish. My answer is always the same: go to the fish market!

The plan is thus: David is going to put me on redfish and trout, and I’m going to tell you all about it. From there, you call him and he repeats the process with you aboard. Ad infinitum. But you know the deal about best-laid plans; and when we’re on the big pond, I love it when they get blown right out of the water.

Fishing the ocean is capricious at best, with so many variables that it takes a whopping amount of time on the water to get a really good handle on it. Factor in weather—including sudden fronts whipping up—wind, tide, moon phase, then add myriad species to target… 

Here’s how it’s done: “I’ve fished this area all my life and made a living off of it right at 42 years now,” Newlin says. “We’re talking within 20 miles of here, because I don’t do offshore fishing at all anymore. We’ll go out a couple of miles to find the big sharks, but that’s about it.”

We’ll come back to those, but first let’s hit on what’s happening right now in the area of Ossabaw Sound. Then we’ll get you on through the summer, so get ready to pick your piscatorial poison and get a boat berth booked.

 There is always, every second, SOMETHING happening on Ossabaw Sound. Look up, down or sideways and you’ll see things moving under, on or above the water. Eagles are spotted on every trip, as are alligators; there may be deer and/or hogs roaming the banks; rays as wide as the boat have a tendency to take a flying leap from out of nowhere and go gliding 5 feet above the surface before slamming back down, spray flying, before you can even squeak out, “What was THAT???”

Just be glad it didn’t land IN the boat; them boys provide some serious bladder checks.

Fishermen have their favorites, and the truly fantastic thing about this area just below Savannah is that Newlin can almost always find them here. He knows, for instance, that if I don’t catch a redfish, then I’m apt to pout. That’s never been proven, however, because he has always put me on at least a few and sometimes a hundred within minutes of the marina. And while we’re putting them in the boat, who knows what else is going to jump on the bandwagon?

 For instance, fishing compadre Steve Brown and I went out with Newlin on April 13—after having been delayed by that same old wind-water-moon mix that had been mixed up. We hopped aboard David’s 24-foot Sea Pro Bay Boat with “all the bells and whistles I know that you can put on one,” about 7:30 a.m., and the 200 Suzuki rumbled us away from the marina, idling toward open water.

OK, so where do we go from here? There’s only about a million miles of water out there…

“The same old areas I’ve always fished,” Newlin says with a grin. But then adds, “You have to get out here and try to pinpoint the fish. A lot of it is experience, knowing where they’ve been in the past. I have my own tagging program and have put tags into thousands of reds. I’ve caught the same fish as many as 12 times. It’s amazing to keep up with where they go and when.

“There’s a lot more to it than just dunking shrimp for reds, but it always has something to do with oyster shell beds. That’s the first thing to look for; but then you need to find a point or dropoff or hole that provides an ambush spot. We’ll be looking for reds and trout, but you always have a black drum, flounder, whiting, bonnethead shark or whatever mixed in the pile when you toss that shrimp out. Just hold on and reel.”

Within seconds of a strike, Newlin can usually identify which hoodlum is mugging the shrimp. I wanted a red, but while daydreaming about it my first fish almost left with the rod and reel as well as the shrimp. Sometimes trout get finicky; this one didn’t.

WHAM! Jolted me to my shoulders, but we welcomed aboard the first of many to be hauled in over the course of the day. David had warned me, by the way, not to be on a schedule: “I’ve got one spot on the afternoon tide that your reds have been wearing out. They start about 1:30, and we may need a couple of hours.”

In that initial spot, Steve and I caught trout, reds, flounder and a good-eating bonnethead over the next hour. We were using a double-cork rig that I can never keep still; a wrist flick creates a “click” of the corks which, in my mind at least attracts fish. It seems to have worked for years, and this was no different. The reds, especially, were holding on submerged trees, and one thing you always have to remember is that as the tide rises and submerges them, the limbs of those trees are going to be in the same place—under the water and out of sight. File the locations away for casting so as not to get hung up or broken off.

On the subject of the tide coming in, moving water tends to move fish. They get active, and another factor is that some of the places you couldn’t get to earlier at low tide are now accessible. Water flowing into those, which were mere mud banks earlier in the day, flushes all manner of prey out for marauding reds, trout and other predators.

(Not to mention alligators, which you can read more about on the Back Page…)

Over the course of the morning, we checked out a dozen or more such spots, picking up fish on nearly every one. Limits on the reds are five between 14 and 23 inches per fisherman. You haven’t lived until you’ve lowered back-to-back 38- and 33-lb. redfish into the water and waved as they swam away—still muttering under their breath. Limits are not something to worry about because Newlin is up to date on all of them; just be aware that they are in place, both size and numbers.

Daryl was using this double-cork shrimp rig and caught trout, reds, flounder and one bonnethead shark.

If there is a better-eating fish than the speckled trout, I don’t know what it would be. For my money, the red comes in second, especially when filleted and grilled with skin and scales on—on the half shell. (Maybe it’s simply because they work so hard to avoid meeting that grill in the first place!) You can never go wrong with flounder, and grilled bonnethead is another delicacy. All are here in abundance.

And speaking of which, I could hardly wait to check out that afternoon redfish bite. Fishing is fishing, and also fickle, so you never know. But I had faith in Newlin. He wanted to be in a certain place at a certain time—and who knows these things other than someone on the water every day? So we arrived early. Earlier than the tide, in fact. Which meant that we sat on the mud bottom for a couple of minutes. But man, when we did get there…

Picture a very large shellcracker bed—filled with redfish. When it comes to these gorgeous critters with those glittering tell-tale spots, this is the first time I ever remember putting a rod down and simply saying, “Enough.” The three of us caught and released fish until my shoulders complained. There was plenty for the table, and more than plenty for the next couple dozen trips—in that one hole. That incoming tide brought ‘em in and flipped just the right switch. Our day was complete, minus a 45-minute boat ride; now let’s see what’s coming up.

May usually signals the end of wicked cold fronts and ushers in the breezes of summer. Reds and trout will be hanging out in these Ossabaw areas throughout that span. But there’s also a ton of other action to be found. David Newlin is a boat-driving encyclopedia of what’s happening year-round. Let him tell it.

“June is time for your serious shark fishing. The big sharks will start showing up then, including blacktips, lemon sharks, tiger sharks, whole bunches of 100-lb. plus fish, About the only big sharks we ever keep are the black tips. It has to be 58 inches to the tip of the tail to keep, and that shark is really good to eat.”

Just in case you’re not a math whiz, we’re talking about 5 feet of shark. My youngest son, Myles, caught one with David some years ago that was over 125 pounds. Only took an hour and 10 minutes to get it to the boat. Proved to be excellent table fare, and here’s a tip that won’t cost you anything extra: cook it like beef, not fish. Grilled is great.

Lee Sells with a nice blacktip shark. These toothy fish provide excellent tablefare when cooked properly.

“Last year the shark fishing in July and August was the best I’ve ever seen; it was phenomenal,” Newlin continued. “June and July will be the best months for flounder, and there’s a lot of them here. Sharks and tarpon will also be here thick through July and August. When you’re tarpon fishing, you’ve got to enjoy catching sharks, because you’ll be doing a lot of it! You don’t catch a tarpon every trip, but when you catch one here it’s usually a 150-plus fish. Last year I caught a tarpon about every other trip we went after them.”

This is the one fish left on my bucket list with Newlin: a 100-lb. tarpon. Oh, I’ve SEEN hundred-pound tarpon; in fact, on one trip I believe I could have gaffed one of an entire school of century-studs swimming right beside the boat. But we tossed everything short of the anchor at them, and they wouldn’t hit a steak sandwich.

Next day? David sent me a photo of a 115-lb. fish caught from the same seat I had been sitting in, from the same area we saw them the day before.

“Fish just blew up on the bait and tail-walked all over the sound,” he told me.

Thanks, dude.

“It’s hard to explain with tarpon,” he related. “Sometimes we’re using a live pogy or menhaden or whatever you want to call them, sometimes mullet, or whatever we can get our hands on a lot of times; just some type of fresh fish. Some days I prefer a live one and some days something dead. They’re just tarpon being tarpon.”

OK, so we’ve got you through the summer here. You dove shooters and deer hunters may want to turn the page and go on about your business now so as not to get ideas in your head that may foul up your fall. Fishermen, read on!

“The best fishing of the year inshore is September and October,” Newlin says. “That is the absolute best reds of the year. If you want to catch a hundred redfish a day, you may want to get out of the woods and get in the boat. There were a couple times last year when we had two people in the boat, and we were well over a hundred.”

 When it comes to species, I’ve touched on some of the glamor guys of the inshore area, but keep in mind that there are plenty more to be looked up. Newlin can take up to four fishermen out on four-, six-, or eight-hour trips, and you can look him up online at, or call 912.756.4573. Couple of things he wants you to know before you go:

“I’m in the fishing business, not in the boat-riding business. And when they book a trip with me, they will be fishing with me.”

 Your call…

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