Georgia Saltwater Fishing Great For Kids

A inshore fishing trip along Georgia's coast will bring lots of rod-pulling action and a wonderful outdoor experience.

Brandon Adams | June 1, 2024

A sight that warms the heart of any outdoorsman—both kids doubled up on fish.

Both of my kids love fishing.

Each child loves different types of hunting but will sometimes say no to the opportunity to go. That is not true with fishing. My son loves to go fishing of any type. His favorite type of fishing is a toss-up between bass and inshore saltwater fishing. Usually once a year we make a trip to the coast, and why not go fishing while we are there?

It had been a long time since I had been saltwater fishing, and neither of my kids had ever fished in saltwater the first time we went. I asked my son the day that we arrived if he still wanted to go, already knowing the answer, which was a resounding yes. I started looking up captains who could take us out. The fishing equipment that I had at home was not suited for most fish in saltwater. I also wanted to ensure that their first experience with saltwater fishing was a positive experience.

Most of the guides in the area offer trips designed with kids in mind. The main goal was for the kids to have an enjoyable time, and I knew from past experiences, and reading articles in previous issues of GON, that sharks tend to be a dependable fish to catch along the Georgia coast. The next step was deciding how long we should fish. A two- to three-hour trip would likely work best for the kids, and a shorter day on the water allowed time for other activities we had planned while exploring the Golden Isles. We set a date in hopes to avoid the rain predicted to come in that would likely slow the fishing down, that up to that time had been fantastic up and down the Atlantic Coast from the reports I had been seeing on Instagram, GON and other online sources.

For the rest of the week leading up to the trip, both of the kids, especially my son, were constantly asking about how many days until we go fishing. That question was asked more than questions about going to the ocean or the pool. Based on what we were seeing on radar, we felt we would have a window to get the trip in.

That morning we woke the kids up at 5:50 to get ready and to be able to catch the tide. I looked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website,, to check the local radar out of Jacksonville. It appeared that we would have a window to get the trip in, but it would be close. Radar showed rain moving over the southern tip of Jekyll Island and to the north of Saint Simons. I decided that we would go for it.

After leaving the marina’s no-wake zone, we ran to the first spot, a sand bar in the sound, which we learned often held large numbers of sharks. But with the rain moving in, the sharks were not there in the numbers they had been. We then ran to another spot up one of the estuaries of the sound between Jekyll and Saint Simons. Again, the sharks were just not there. One other option was to try one more place at the mouth of a creek that emptied into one of the major estuaries. We pulled up to the mouth of the creek, and the sharks were there on the sonar. We put out the anchor, and the kids were about to be fishing in the salt for the first time.

We put out the first cutbait, followed by a second round. Next we put out into the water several squirts of liquid that blends several of our captain’s trade secret ingredients that sharks love. I knew better than to ask what was in it. We noticed that the tide had really slowed down a lot earlier than it was expected to. Despite the slowing tide and incoming rain we had, our first rod bent over within minutes. My son was first up to tangle with a bonnethead shark. Within a few minutes the shark broke the surface, and he had caught his first bonnethead. It was around 36 inches long, and quickly released back into the water because the one thing my son wanted to make sure of was that all of the fish would be released. The rod was rebaited, and as soon as the bait hit the water, the other rod was bending. This time it was my daughter’s turn. As she was fighting her shark, another rod bent over. We had doubled up. Both of the kids listened as they were given directions to keep from entangling their lines. Both caught bonnetheads. My daughter’s was also about 36 inches long, and my son’s slightly longer at about 40 inches long. The adrenaline was on, and there were smiles across the boat.

Sharks are plentiful and typically ready to bite along the Georgia coast—offering strong fights and angling action.

My son then got to help with getting the bait out of the cooler to get the rods back out. It was not long before one of the rods bent over yet again. My daughter was up. While she was fighting the fish, another rod bent over with the line peeling out. This time Dad was called into action. Both sharks would take the line back that we had gained. I got my shark in first, and it was another bonnethead. This one was about 52 inches long. We then turned our attention to my daughter, releasing mine after a picture to fight another day. She was able to get her second bonnethead in for the day. It was around 42 inches long, and also released quickly.

The next rod that bent over was for my son because my wife had decided she wanted just to enjoy watching us catch fish. It was not long yet again, and the way the rod bent you could tell it was something different. As my son was fighting the fish, it would make short runs in one direction, followed by runs immediately in a different direction. After a two- to three-minute fight, we were able to see the shark, and it turned out to be a blacktip.

The author with a bonnethead.

Blacktips tend to be rather tricky to hold, especially the smaller ones with their ability to almost bite their own tails. As if on cue, the shark made a series of flops and caused both our friend and my son to get a very wide-eyed look with large smiles on their faces. The blacktip was only about 18 inches, but it put up a great fight on the spinning tackle we were using. Another rod then bent over, and we let my son get the rod. While he was battling another fish, we looked out over the marsh, and you could see the rain inbound. This was another bonnethead, again in the 40-inch range. The shark was quickly released, and then we worked as a team getting the rods in to get ready for the run back to the marina. As we left the creek, we had to run around the sand bar at the mouth of the creek which led right into the rain. This was one time that rain did not dampen the mood at all. If anything, it made the trip even more memorable. We were back at the dock in about an hour. We likely spent only about 45 minutes actually fishing but were able to catch several sharks. From the time we anchored, until the time we left, we were constantly catching sharks.

On the way back to Jekyll, I thought both of the kids would fall asleep after their early morning wake-up call, but I was absolutely wrong. All I heard on the way back was about how they wanted to do it again, and that it had to be with our new friend. It was a birthday experience that I know neither will forget.

After another trip after sharks, my son decided that he wanted to try something different. The next time we were able to go out, we decided to go after trout and sheepshead.

We again left from the marina at St. Simons running to the north along the Intercoastal Waterway. Our first stop was along a sharp bend on one of the many creek channels that created a deep channel. We were able to get several bites on live shrimp, but we were not able to get good hooksets on some seatrout.

We then ran by the historic Fort Frederica on the way to our next stop. One thing I enjoy when fishing the estuaries of the Georgia coast is the history of those waterways. At one point the water around Fort Frederica was of great military importance to the new colony of Georgia and was a priority target for the Spanish. I could close my eyes and imagine a wooden sailing ship anchored in the river along the remaining wall built in 1736—the sailors making the trip south from Savannah or having just completed their trip across the Atlantic.

We then pulled up at one of the many artificial reefs created by DNR. This reef was created from old chicken crates that can be seen at low tide. I was able to hook up on a trout but was broken off when the trout ran around one of the barnacle-coated crates. You must get a fish out from the reef quickly or run the risk of having your line cut on the barnacles and oysters. After re-tying and several more drifts across the reef, we decided to move to another artificial reef.

My son fished shallow across the reef near the far bank while I fished the deeper reef. I was the first to hook up. The fight demonstrated that it was not going to be a trout that I had caught in the past. The pull was more like that of a large bream and turned out to be a nice, average-size sheepshead. My son had decided on the trip he wanted to keep fish for supper, and this one was destined for the grill.

As we shifted our focus to the reef in deeper water and a seam created by the water running out of the creek as the tide receded, my son was able to hook up with a larger sheepshead that gave him a nice fight on the spinning setup we were using. He, of course, was sure to let Dad know that his fish was much larger than mine.

We continued to fish the area, moving down to pilings from a dock that has long been destroyed by one of the storms that moved along the Georgia coast. We were able to catch several more sheepshead along with a small mullet and a black drum, which we released. I was even able to catch one of the smallest sheepshead I have ever seen, and our new friend who had lived all his life along the Marshes of Glynn had never seen one caught that small. I told our captain that during all our family bream fishing trips, the smallest fish garnered as many bragging rights as the largest.

As the tide began to go slack, and the bite slowed, we decided we had enough for our family to eat with some cheese grits, asparagus and red potatoes, calling it a day.

That evening as we watched the sunset, we grilled the sheepshead filets with some lemon pepper seasoning, along with the asparagus with black pepper. Eating the meal as a family watching the birds head inshore to their roost, listening to the frogs and watching the deer walk around the yard completed the successful day fishing in the marshes.

The fishing we did each time we went was in the backwater estuaries and sounds in and around Jekyll and Saint Simons islands. Similar setups can be found up and down the Georgia coast. The plus about fishing in this area is the abundance of places to stay along with other attractions for the family.

For an introduction to saltwater fishing, I would highly recommend a short trip into the marshes of coastal Georgia. You can be on a variety of fish species within minutes of leaving the marina. A trip of two to three hours is long enough to get an introduction to saltwater fishing without overdoing it. Going out with a local guide who spends day in and day out on the water you want to fish ensures that you have the latest knowledge as to where the fish are and what they are biting. This also prevents time and fuel spent searching for fish, avoids the possibility of running aground on the numerous shifting sand bars and oyster beds and increases the likelihood of success.

With a positive first trip, you can then branch out into other species and even then begin to make runs offshore, which we have done once in which our kids were able to see how large a mature bull shark can be as they circled the boat. On that trip, we went after mackerel with the possibility of a cobia.

We are very fortunate to have miles of coastline and backwater to fish here in Georgia. We are also very fortunate to have some fantastic guides here to show us these wonderful areas, not only putting their clients on fish, but also teaching us about the resources and how we can sustain them. I feel it is important to stress to the youth and to people fishing for the first time in saltwater the importance of respecting and maintaining the habitat for future generations. It was very clear his love for the area that he not only makes a living from, but also calls home. If you are ever taking a trip to the coast, try a trip out into the saltwater. A quick trip for sharks is a perfect trip to introduce children into saltwater fishing, and then you can branch into other species like we have. The more that we can get kids outdoors the more they will respect and want to protect it. Children can also learn so many lessons about life while in the outdoors. Children learn to work together, learn a new style of fishing that those who do not live close to the coast get to experience, learn about boating safety on saltwater and about the species and the coastal habitat.

When you can, take a kid out into nature. Teach them about the plants and animals they see that call the habitat home. Show them the bad practices that people have done in the past and the scars that it left, as well as how we have learned from our mistakes to restore habitats and bring species back from the brink of extinction.

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