Christmas In October

Saltwater fishing in Christmas Creek will be dynamite this month.

Craig James | September 27, 2020

Now.. now.. I know we’re still a few months away from Christmas trees, gingerbread houses and jolly old Saint Nick, but there’s no reason to wait for Christmas to come to you. Now is the time to go to Christmas, Christmas Creek that is.

If there’s a better place to load down the boat during October, I haven’t found it yet. Reds, trout, flounder, black drum, you name it. Christmas Creek has it going on.

To help break down the fall pattern, I reached out to Christmas Creek regular, Harrison Lee, of Hickox, who makes the trip over to the Creek often.

“Christmas Creek is a magical place,” said Harrison. “Cumberland Island is absolutely beautiful, and the Creek runs right through it. One minute you’re reeling in a 22-inch trout and the next you’re watching wild horses on the shore.”

An added bonus to fishing Christmas Creek is the beautiful scenery. Keep an eye out for wild horses along the bank.

Harrison and I made a trip over to Christmas Creek one afternoon just before GON went to press, and he broke down his strategy for October fishing.

“October is great with mild weather, plenty of fish, and everyone is gone deer hunting so you practically have the place to yourself,” said Harrison.

We launched Harrison’s 19-foot Carolina Skiff from the Jekyll Island boat ramp, and with a quick turn of the key, his 115-hp Suzuki outboard roared to life. After a 15-minute cruise over to Cumberland, Harrison approached the creek mouth and told me to hang on as he rode a few swells into the Creek.

“Getting in and out of here doesn’t need to be taken lightly, it’s relatively safe to do, but you need to be paying attention to what you’re doing,” Harrison said.

As we idled into the Creek, I was amazed that though I’ve spent hundreds of hours fishing Georgia’s inshore waters, I’ve never seen scenery quite like that of Christmas. There’s pine forests running along steep bluff walls, wild horses, sandy beaches and some of the cleanest inshore water the Peach State has to offer.

During an October outing, fishing live shrimp and artificials along the trees in Christmas Creek can yield a pile of fish and a number of different species.

Harrison dropped his trolling motor into the water as he began to talk.

“Right here where you enter the Creek, all of these fallen trees run for hundreds of yards along the bank,” he said. “Fish can be found here 12 months out of the year, but October is when it gets really good. Depending on weather, the fish will be holding here in deeper water or could be shallow around the many shellbeds that line the Creek.”

Here’s Harrison’s breakdown of the bite by species this month:

Trout: The ticket to a good trout bite on the Creek this month is depth. Depending on the weather, trout will hold at a variety of different depths day to day and even hour to hour. Luckily, Harrison has a secret weapon to dissect the water column.

“I use a Harper’s Super Striker cork to find where the fish are holding as quickly as possible,” said Harrison. “With a quick adjustment of my bobber stop, I can change the depth I’m fishing by a foot, 5 feet or any depth I choose. It’s made right here local by Travis Harper, a long-time guide who specializes in this kind of fishing.”

Harrison recommends anglers key on the treetops that run out from the bank to deeper water. His tackle of choice is a 4000 series reel paired with an 8-foot, medium-heavy rod. He spools his reel with 40-lb. braid and threads on his bobber stop and Super Striker Cork. After that, he ties his braid to a 3/4-oz. sinker/swivel combo and then attaches 1 1/2 feet of 15-lb. monofilament line. He ties on a 4/0 kahle hook to complete the rig.

“I throw this setup the majority of the time in Christmas Creek,” said Harrison. “You can go from fishing 8 feet deep around a treetop or 2 feet deep on the edge of a shellbed with a split-second adjustment of the bobber stop.”

Harrison says to get on a good trout bite in the Creek, clean water is crucial. Water running dirty, or too fast, will put a damper on things quick.

“Like most places, your best trout bite is going to run from about two hours before and two hours after low tide,” said Harrison. “When you check your tides, pay attention to the coefficiency of the tide. Around the full or new moon the water in the Creek will often be much dirtier and stronger, making a proper presentation tough.”

Harrison starts his search at the ends of trees in deeper water by making long casts with a live shrimp. He flips his bail open to let his shrimp slowly drift past the tree through the strike zone. After a few casts with no results, he likes to adjust his cork to try a different depth. If this fails to yield results, he will quickly move down the bank to the next fallen tree and repeat the process.

“You have to be flexible in October,” said Harrison. “Water temps are in a transition and so is the bait that trout feed on. Whatever depth bait is holding, you can bet your Skiff the trout will be there. Once you figure that magic depth, you’re on the way to a box full of fish.”

Harrison said jigs, topwater plugs and other artificials also work well in the Creek during October. He said it’s a great idea if you have multiple anglers in the boat to try some different tactics to see what the fish are doing that day.

Black Drum: Expect to catch big numbers of black drum this month in Christmas Creek, and Harrison says they will often hold in the same deeper holes that harbor trout. The even better news is they often will cooperate in dirty water conditions and throughout different stages of the tide.

“When you see that cork start to go tick-tick-tick, it’s probably a black drum starting to chew his dinner off your hook,” said Harrison. “Let him have it a few seconds, and then set the hook hard. They are great fighters, and like their red drum cousins, they make for some excellent eating.”

Harrison went on to point out that these fish typically school up tight, and several more casts to the same place will often result in less space in your cooler.

“They don’t get the same publicity as other inshore species, but they make for a pile of fun, especially if the trout are turned off,” said Harrison.

Red Drum: Harrison said if you want to target redfish in October, you need to key on shallow oyster beds to get bit.

Harrison likes to fish for the reds a couple different ways. First, he will float a shrimp through the shallow water after making super long casts. He’ll allow his shrimp to drag and bump along the bottom where reds are actively feeding. His other method is to hop a 1/4-oz. jig and swimbait on the bottom.

“It’s hard to beat a good hard thumping swimbait if you can locate a school of reds working the shells,” said Harrison. “Oftentimes you will pick up some trout and flounder hanging around the shells, as well.”

He recommends varying the color of your artificials, as well as the speed of your retrieve until you can figure out what the fish are looking for.

Don’t forget that harvested redfish must fall between 14 and 23 inches total length to be legal.

Harrison Lee, of Hickox, and his son Luke show off a 24-inch redfish released after a quick photo was taken. Look for a good redfish bite this month on shallow oyster beds and fish live shrimp and artificials.

Flounder: Christmas Creek offers up excellent flounder fishing during summer months, and as they begin to migrate out to nearshore reefs to spend the winter, flounder still bite well during October, especially if temperatures remain warm.

“If you key in on long shell-lined flats in 3 to 6 feet of water, you will often be able to persuade a few flounder into biting,” said Harrison. “Both shrimp floated through the shallows under a cork and jigs hopped on the bottom will produce.”

Entering And Exiting Christmas Creek: As stated earlier, anglers new to fishing Christmas Creek need to be aware of the dangers associated with it. Depending on weather, waves can be rough, and sandbars are everywhere. This is not a good combination at all.

“I’d recommend to anyone, if you can, to try and go your first few times with someone familiar with getting in and out,” said Harrison. “It can be a little tricky sometimes.”

If you go at it without experience, Harrison recommends not entering or leaving within two hours of low tide. This ensures adequate water to get in and out safely.

Another important safety factor is weather. The day we made a trip for this story, we strolled into the Creek relatively easy, but three hours later a thunderstorm approached quickly from the east. Waves in the 4- to 5-foot range put Harrison’s Skiff to the test, but after a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, we managed to get ahead of the storm and safely back to Jekyll.

“It’s a wonderful place to fish, but you have to pay attention to the weather and tides for your safety and those you have on board. Catching fish is fun, but coming home in one piece is more important,” Harrison added.

To keep tabs on conditions, Harrison relies on the Weather Channel app, as well as the NOAA offshore forecast. He doesn’t recommend heading to fish Christmas Creek if seas are projected to be higher than 3 feet, especially if wind is coming from the east.

With proper planning and the right equipment, Christmas Creek is sure to offer up some excellent fishing this month. When you go, you’re sure to find a pile of presents suspended around the trees! To connect with Harrison about his methods or other questions you may have about Christmas Creek, look him up on Facebook under Harrison Lee.

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