Inshore Fishing With Capt. David Newlin

From redfish and trout to sharks and tarpon, Capt. Newlin outlines everything that will bite during the summer months.

Daryl Gay | May 26, 2020

There’s a lot to process, mentally, as the 25-foot boat slips away from its Ft. McAllister Marina dock, 150 Evinrude growling and throbbing. Ossabaw Sound is still and silent in the dawning, its black waters hissing past underneath. After months of looking forward to this trip, now is the time of highest anticipation. Where are they? Those trout, redfish, flounder, sharks, drum, whiting… how big… how cooperative?

So much water. So much grass. It all looks alike. How can you ever decipher fish catching in this vast jumble?

The answer is standing next to me at the wheel. He grew up here on the Georgia coast in Richmond Hill, has fished 200-plus days a year for 40 years and has looked, listened, studied, learned and loved every minute of it.

Meet Captain David Newlin.

Or, as you’ll be referring to him minutes after arrival, David. If you’re looking for a fish-focused getaway among some of the coast’s most spectacular scenery, buzz him at 912.756.4573. is his online calling card, featuring more than 300 photos over which to drool. That library is, however, one photo short. That’s partly my fault, as you’ll soon see. But then, it also gives me an excuse for coming back and chasing a new addition to my personal bucket list. Had it not been for that stupid treetop…

Capt. David Newlin with a redfish caught while inshore fishing with Daryl Gay.

If you go snooping around for a charter trip, keep in mind that it is a multi-faceted affair. How much time, how much money, travel distance, species of fish and whether or not you know a spinning reel from a rod butt are just a few factors to consider. But for me, at the top of the list is the guide. He or she can make up for a lot of your or other party members’ shortcomings.

Newlin’s a pro, so you don’t have to be. When it comes to all things saltwater, he’s the most knowledgeable guy I know. Further, he has mastered how to impart that over the course of the day should there be a brief lull due to pouting fish. Finally, for what it’s worth, David Newlin is my friend. We’ve caught a lot of fish and missed a lot of birds together over the years. One thing you won’t be in his boat is miserable.

And should there be any questions concerning any type of shutdowns, here’s your answer: “We are in business. We never stop being in business. We’re going to keep going, and I think it would be hard to catch any kind of virus out here on the ocean.”

It’s always enjoyable to be able to introduce creek fishermen to saltwater. So, in the darkness of May 1, my buddy Larry Mullis and I left Dublin for the simple two-hour ride to Ft. McAllister Marina. Larry is another old pal, about to partake in coastal casting for the first time. It was a given that he’d have a ball. Me? Newlin knows how simple-minded I am. Put Gay on a couple of redfish, and he’ll drool like Pavlov’s dog…

The great thing about all those years of experience is that he can also figure out the species at the top of your list. If it swims around here…

Ossabaw was slick early, but while doing his homework poring over tide charts and weather reports, David knew that it wasn’t going to remain that way. In fact, on the 9-mile ride back at day’s end, we bounced off a 3-foot chop in the face of sustained 25-mph winds. That tends to get your heart rate up, and it was good to be with someone who knew what they were doing.

When scheduling a trip, it’s all about catching fish. And catching fish is all about weather, tides, location and water clarity. Be flexible.

“You want to keep the tide below 8 1/2 feet,” Newlin explains. “Higher than that, the high tide that is normally right on top of the new moon or full moon, messes fish up worse than anything. Another key to catching fish is finding water with good visibility in it, more so with trout than anything.”

The staples of inshore fishing are redfish, trout and flounder. The way to catch them is to put a live shrimp where they can see it. There’s more to it than that, of course, and a good guide will fill you in. But that will be the methodology throughout the summer for these three species. Locations and depths will change—as they do from hour to hour during the day with the tide—but soaking shrimp on a 1/0 kahle hook under a Harper Super Striker cork and a 3/4-oz. sinker is the way to go. Aboard Newlin’s boat, everything is rigged and ready.

Adrienne Feherenbac, of Cumming, enjoyed an inshore fishing trip with Capt. Newlin. She took home plenty of fresh fish for a fish fry.

We motored across the sound on a pretty fair run before entering the Bradley River. Less than an hour after first light, it doesn’t look like much of a river, and actually not much more than a narrow creek between lush pastures of waving grass, but as the tide begins rising, that will change. There’s hardly enough water to maneuver the big craft in for now, so we pull up to a spot, and David drops the Power Pole anchor.

You may be wondering what sets this spot apart from the two million other spots just like it that we’ve already cruised past. So was I, but the big pile of oyster shells was at least a clue.

“Oyster shells are the number one structure along the coast,” Newlin said. “We fish treetops, docks and whatever other breakup there is, but just about everywhere we fish out here has something to do with oyster shells.”

It also has to do with vast experience. When the guide points out where to cast, it may be a 3-foot circle that lands the bait here, allows it to drift there, and avoids the snags yonder.

If forced to single out my favorite coastal obsession, it would likely be sight fishing in the shallow grass for cruising reds, much like casting topwater to freshwater largemouth. Many times you can pick out fins and tails protruding above the surface as they nose in and out. Well, this ain’t it! (By the way, my redfish is David’s bass. You can dig up another half-dozen names for them, but they’re an awful lot of fun to play with under any monicker.)

At this first stop, there is no grass, only a submerged treetop in front of the boat and another behind. Larry and I are instructed to fish the one up front. He hooks up first, within 30 seconds. And excitedly hauls to the top the one thing we DON’T want to catch: a stingray.

And he didn’t acquire that name by accident. For the uninformed, until that windshield-wiper tail lashes into you, you just ain’t been stung! They’re members of the shark family and have the same bad attitude, although it’s fairly understandable when one thought he was getting a free shrimp breakfast and wound up with sharp steel in his jaw. Here’s the procedure: let out a little line, go to the OTHER end of the 25-foot boat, and watch from there as David swings the offender aboard with a long-handled net. He’ll handle it, so stay away.

These nasty critters are everywhere, and like everything else, they love shrimp. You WILL catch several. Should you be so unlucky as to get popped, there’s only one immediate pain-easing remedy that I’m aware of. Believe it or not, it’s hot water. So if you see some guy out there leaning over the back of a boat, arm under the water pump stream of an idling outboard, you’ll know what just happened.

And another thing that’s going to happen, and has on every single trip I’ve made with David, is that you’ll hang into something and never know what it was!

That first treetop produced several trout, a flounder and a couple of black drum, all in the 3- to 5-lb. range. We’re getting warmed up and I’m still waiting on a red when the cork pops once… and away we go.

This ain’t no speckled trout. I’m using a medium-action Ugly Stik rod with 50-lb. PowerPro line and a 30-lb. leader. When the fish makes its first run, it’s a lightning swoosh, and all I can do is hang on and thumb back the drag a little. Right about now is when you realize that this is about as much fun as fishing gets.

Those treetops are trouble—and he knows it—so I’m muscling one way to keep him out and he’s calling in even more horsepower to work his way in. This goes on for maybe five minutes before I can hoss him no longer. This is the best equipment out there, but the fish simply overpowers it, tangles the leader in the snag and snaps off.

Newlin can usually take one look at what a rod tip is doing and tell you precisely what kind of fish you’re fighting before ever getting a look at it.

“Big black drum,” he said at the time.

In a conversation a couple of weeks later, he took it further.

“I’m 90 percent sure it was a 30- to 40-lb. drum you hooked. If you’re lucky, he runs around and around for 30 or 40 minutes then rolls up on top. I’ve been back and hooked one there three times and haven’t seen him yet.”

So, I wanted a photo from his archives to show you what a 40-lb. black drum looked like. Seems there’s not one.

“That’s probably the one fish I don’t have a good photo of, because we always throw the big ones right back.”

OK. But we’re going back to that spot…

As the tide brings the Bradley’s level up enough to allow us to get to another area, we set up on a second jumble of partially submerged trees. Along the banks above our heads, occasionally we hear swishing through the surrounding grass as deer and a grunting hog or two move unsuspectingly by lapping water and nothing else. “Serene,” I believe, is the word.

We’re quietly instructed to take a good look at the flooded timber because, “It will still be in the same place when the tide comes in and covers it. You just won’t be able to see it.”

That’s good advice when fighting big fish, as I’ve already learned. Fortunately, the game’s about to change.

My shrimp hasn’t been swimming 30 seconds before, suddenly, there is no cork. There was no subtle movement, no sliding sideways, neither dipping nor darting. Just GONE!

I don’t have to ask David what that is.

Capt. David Newlin with the author, Daryl Gay.

Regulations state that each angler may keep five redfish, with a slot limit between 14 and 23 inches. Now, I don’t mind tossing a foot-long red, but do you have any idea what it’s like to see a 41-incher go head-first back into the water?

In a stretch maybe 100 feet wide, we caught and released a couple dozen ranging up to 15 pounds, keeping two. But only because they’re great on the grill. I’ve been looking for a 50-inch red—to get my hands on and throw back—for years and am getting closer. David has had his own personal tagging program for the past 10 years and has caught the same fish as many as four times. That shows that the plan is working and also that 41 can grow nicely into 50 before long…

While we were intently focused on reds roaming the timber off to our left, we sort of overlooked a visitor slipping up to within a foot of the boat’s right side. David rather excitedly called for Larry to look straight down—at a 9-foot alligator that was bemusedly taking in the whole show. Fortunately, it’s a BIG boat. The reptile moved, as if upon a morning stroll, on up to the front, where he set up shop in the grass, and I stood directly above him snapping photos. So much for fear of man. He eventually figured out that we weren’t going to toss him breakfast and slithered on.

When it comes to fish for the table, the trout has long been at or near the top of culinary favorites. The limit is 15 fish, each 14 inches or longer. I’ve caught 4-lb. trout with Newlin, but they’re rare. Fifteen go a long way, though. Flounder, too, are hard to beat, and plentiful inshore.

Water temperatures in Ossabaw are beginning to warm, recently topping the 75-degree mark. If you’re looking for something with a little more muscle, be advised that 75 is the signal for sharks to begin moving in close. Shrimpers offshore are talking a ton of these fish have been sighted, so Newlin is looking for a good season. Should you prefer a fantastic opportunity to take a kid fishing, this is a place to build life-long memories. As a 13-year-old, my son Myles had a 70-minute tussle with a 125-lb. blacktip that wore all of us to a frazzle. Blacktips, as well as a variety of other sharks, are spectacularly overlooked when it comes to the grill. Blackened filets off that fish were about as good as any I recall. Thinking about the look on that kid’s face when the bruiser was finally gaffed aboard made them that much better.

There will be good, consistent meat fishing for whiting all summer, dropping bait to the bottom out in the sound. As the water continues to warm, reds, flounder and trout will also move farther out, even as the glamor guys move in.

“Come July we start looking for tarpon,” Newlin said. “Any tarpon before the Fourth of July is usually a bonus fish. When it starts to get really hot is when we get after the tarpon and sharks.”

As I can tell you from personal experience, tarpon are finicky critters. One June morning several years ago, David and I watched a group of real hosses swim right beside the boat, but they wouldn’t pay the slightest attention to our baitfish. Next day? A client caught a 115-pounder in the same area from my seat. David was either gracious or cold-blooded enough to email me a photo…

Along about the first of August, the smaller redfish, 13 to 15 inches, will begin showing up, and the cycle starts all over again.

Besides being easy to find and get into and out of, Ft. McAllister Marina also has another great calling card: Fish Tales Restaurant. This is one of my all-time favorites, and Newlin’s boat is docked right outside the back door. Indoor or sheltered outdoor seating allows great views and sea breezes in a family atmosphere. We brought our fish back to the dock, dressed them quickly, and they were prepared to perfection with all the trimmings on-site in about 30 minutes. That’s as fresh as it gets.

Whether your seagoing fish of choice is for the plate, the wall or the memories, David Newlin can put you on to it somewhere near Richmond Hill and Ft. McAllister. Things are beginning to heat up. Give him a call at 912.756.4573 or visit Capt. David Newlin online.

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