Hot Lure Working Magic On Georgia Flounder
Tactics for jetties and creeks, and a new jig that'll catch more flatfish.
Flounder are on the move this month, migrating back from nearshore reefs and wrecks. Every year they make a migration offshore in the fall and then back inshore in the spring. It’s the larger flounder that make the migrations. The smaller ones, the ones from the current and previous years’ hatches, remain inshore in the creeks and estuaries for the winter. They won’t migrate until they are a year or two old.
Knowing that the bigger flounder are on the move and knowing where they will be makes them easy targets this month. It’s time to break out the flounder rigs and find a doormat-sized flounder!
All along the Georgia coast, the inlets from the St. Marys River to the Savannah River will be holding flounder. I made several trips to locate some flounder for you, and we concentrated on the St. Marys area, and more specifically we looked to see if we could find a few definite locations where you can find flounder.
It’s been a warm winter, and the water is warming faster this year than in past years, which means the flounder will be here when you read this. If you have read any of my saltwater articles in GON, you know I write a lot about the St. Marys area. There are two reasons for that. First, it’s close to me. I’ll travel for fish, but if I can find them close to me, I fish at home. The second and main reason I fish this area so much is because there are so many fish here.
The first place we fished on each trip was the jetties at the entrance to the inlet. After a short ride from the public boat ramp in downtown St. Marys, we made our way around the end of the north set of jetties. Simple logic tells us the flounder have to come by here to make their way inshore, so we looked for them to be staging here on their way in.
We rounded the end of the north jetty and made our way back west toward the beach. The tide was about half down and outgoing, so the water coming out of the inlet was filtering through the rocks coming north toward us. It’s a perfect situation, because you don’t have to worry so much about being pushed too close to the rocks. Rather we had to use the trolling motor to keep us up close enough to cast to the rocks.
The flounder will lie in the sandy bottom along the edge of the rocks all along the jetties. We began fishing in water that is close to the shore, but not too close to the breaking surf. We worked from there out toward the end of the jetty and then cranked up and ran back and worked it again.
While a trolling motor is not an absolute necessity, it does allow us to fish more area with less effort. Anchoring is a definite possibility, but you will find yourself moving often and pulling and resetting your anchor. Use a rebar jetty anchor and move close to the rocks. Drop the anchor, and back off with your engine. Once the anchor hangs, the slight current coming through the rock on the outgoing tide will hold you off the rocks. You can then cast to the rocks fanning left and right and work the entire area close to the rocks. The flounder will seldom be far off the rocks, and working the bottom away from the rocks is usually not very productive.
On the inside of the jetty, the outgoing tidal current is swift and difficult to fish. You can work the inside of the jetty when the tide slows, stops and begins to move back in. Work the inside of the jetty the same way, making casts up to the rocks. Also cast close to and parallel to the rocks and work your bait back to you slowly along the bottom.
On our trips, the wind was out of the west, which is an ideal situation. The water was calm with almost no surf and no sea swell. An east wind will stir the water, and a strong east wind will make fishing the jetties a challenge, so look at the weather and choose the day the wind is either very calm or is out of the west. Those are the days when you have the best chance of finding flounder on the rocks.
I concentrate on artificial baits when I fish, simply because I prefer them. But natural live bait like a live mud minnow or finger mullet are actually the best baits for flounder. Live shrimp will work as well if you can’t find other bait. But, a 4-inch-long finger mullet is a killer for flounder.
When I fish with live bait, I use a flounder rig consisting of a sinker above a swivel. A 12- to 14-inch fluorocarbon leader is tied to the other end of the swivel, and a 2/0 or 3/0 kahle hook completes the rig.
This month, baitfish like mullet are on the move. It is easy to find small schools of mullet and catch them with a cast net. Hook them through both lips with the kahle hook, and work them along the bottom. I drag the sinker along the bottom close to the rocks as the mullet swims above it. A flounder simply cannot resist it.
When a flounder bites, it’s not going to be a hard-running strike. Often it’s more like a resistance on the line as the flounder grabs the passing bait. If you set the hook at that point, you’re going to end up with a half a bait because he does not have the whole bait in his mouth. You are going to have to be patient and allow the flounder to eat the whole bait before setting the hook. Let him move with it for a few seconds before you jerk. Mud minnows or live shrimp are less apt to be bitten in half, but the same rule applies. Let the fish eat the whole bait.
As for artificial lures, I like the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad in the electric-chicken color on a 1/4- to 1/2-oz. jig head. The tail has a nice swimming action, and the color is one that works well for me. The root-beer color also catches a lot of flounder. I cast to the rocks or parallel to the rocks and slowly work it back to the boat.
On one trip we used a new jig head that is coming to the market. Bett’s Tackle is producing a new jig head designed specifically for flounder. The lead head is flat, and the hook is bent upward and turned sideways. The flounder’s mouth is actually sideways, and the new sideways hook is designed to more easily get into the mouth on the first bite. The Flounder Fanatic will work with live bait as well as the artificial baits we used, and it seems to be just the thing for flounder. It works really well with a live mullet or mud minnow.
In freshwater, when you go bass fishing, you are generally going to catch bass. If you are crappie fishing, you catch crappie. But in saltwater it’s a different world. The baits and methods we use for one fish more often than not also catch other fish. On our trips, we caught a number of seatrout and red drum while looking for flounder. On the jetties, we were cut off numerous times by a passing school of bluefish. The blues were so thick at one point that we put a small wire leader on the jig heads to prevent cutoffs.
When the tide changed and was incoming, we could no longer stay positioned on the rocks. The now incoming current would push us into the rocks, so we moved and concentrated on fishing a creek. On this trip, we moved into the inlet to Beach Creek at the southern tip of Cumberland Island. This is a deep creek that meanders a mile or so back into the island marsh. It has numerous sloughs, feeder creeks and runoffs that provide feeding places for flounder. Flounder will position themselves at the mouths of these locations or along the edges of oyster bars and await meals coming to them on the outgoing tide. Lots of flounder are caught by working these mouths and oysters with the same baits and tactics we used on the rocks; live or artificial baits worked slowly on the bottom.
But what most people don’t realize is that you can catch the flounder in those same locations on the incoming tide. The same baitfish that came out of those sloughs and runoffs on the outgoing tide make their way back into the same areas on the incoming tide. And, the flounder will be there waiting for them to return.
The only requirement is that the water needs to be moving. The current has to be running to move the baitfish in.
Since we had fished the outgoing tide out on the jetties, we were now faced with a low and incoming tide at Beach Creek. We had to tilt the engine and slowly make our way across the bar at the entrance to the creek, but once in the creek, the water was plenty deep to navigate. However, we were not going far. Our plan was to start at the mouth of the creek and let the tide move us in with help from the trolling motor.
Whenever we came to a feeder branch or runoff location, we used the trolling motor to slow us and allow us to make several casts. As the tide came in, the current increased and we tended to speed along with the current. But, it was perfect. We could fish quietly and cover a lot of territory.
On the first and third trips we found zero flounder in Beach Creek. On the second trip, we caught a number of flounder, although most of them were small. The point is that flounder are on the move. They can be in a given location one day and be gone the next. So the key to being successful is finding similar territory to fish. There are numerous, literally hundreds of small creeks like Beach Creek along the Georgia coast. And, at some point all of them will hold flounder.
Get your chart out, and make a fishing plan so you can hit a number of these creeks during the day. Remember, as long as the water is moving, incoming or outgoing, you are subject to finding a flounder sitting in the mouths of the smaller feeder creeks.
The third opportunity we fished was hitting the docks at St. Marys. Any dock or piling in the water can hold a flounder. The tidal current moving past the piling forms a small eddy behind the piling, an ideal location from which a flounder can strike at a passing meal. Every dock in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) can hold a flounder or two. But, just like the creeks, they may be there one day and be gone the next. It’s a matter of finding them by fishing multiple locations.
Flounder fishing, that is fishing specifically for flounder, means a lot of moving. Flounder are not normally schooling fish, so anchoring and fishing in one location might get you one or two flounder all day, but not a limit of fish. You are going to have to hunt for them one or two at a time. You may get a limit of fish out of one creek, but they will be scattered in the creek. You have to move to catch them.
In spring and fall, the biggest flounder of the year are caught as they make their migrations. Now is the time to hit the inlets, the creeks and the docks on the Georgia coast and put some flatfish fillets in your freezer.
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