November Is Redfish Month In Georgia
This month is likely the easiest and best time of the year to catch a limit of slot-sized redfish and also have the chance at a trophy bull.
I fish with a lot of people in lots of places working on GON stories, and I’ve been fortunate to fish with some really great anglers throughout the years.
Harrison Lee falls into this elite category of anglers, and when it comes to redfish, he is one of the best and most focused anglers I have ever fished with period.
I managed to plan a trip with Harrison this fall just before his first child, Luke Lee, was born.
Harrison fishes all over the Georgia coast in virtually all of our major inshore river systems and says fall is as good as it gets for a good redfish bite.
“November is a prime time to catch a limit of slot-sized reds for dinner and to tangle with some 30-inch-plus bull reds that will test your drag and your heart rate,” said Harrison.
Anglers fishing in Georgia waters are allowed to keep five redfish a day between 14 and 23 inches in length.
On the morning of our trip, we met up in Nahunta since Harrison lives nearby in the Hickox community. After that, we headed toward Blythe Island in Brunswick with high hopes for a good morning on the water.
When we arrived in Brunswick, we swung into the Blythe Island Regional Park to get some bait as Harrison explained to me his fishing methods.
“I throw jigs and artificials a good bit, but it’s hard to beat a live shrimp under a cork, especially if the bite is tough,” said Harrison.
After putting the shrimp in the livewell, we headed down the road to the Park Street boat ramp on the other side of Blythe Island.
“The boat ramp in the Blythe Island Regional Park is a good place to put in and fish, too. It just seems like there is more pressure there than the Park Street ramp, especially on the weekends,” Harrison added.
After launching Harrison’s 19-foot Carolina Skiff and firing up his 70-hp Yamaha, we headed to our first stop of the morning.
As he killed the engine, he stood on the bow carefully scanning a 50-yard mud bank situated between shellbeds.
“Look, look, right there. Throw your jig in there to them,” Harrison said excitedly.
Following his instruction, I fired my jig to the huge school of fish. Before I could make one crank on my reel handle, my rod doubled over as an oversized redfish began stripping drag and making long runs as I struggled to pull him to deeper water.
After a couple of tense minutes, the fish finally surrendered as Harrison carefully slipped the net under him.
After a fist bump and some high fives, we snapped a quick photo of the 27-inch fish and carefully released it.
“These oversized fish are super fun to catch and put up a great fight, especially on medium-heavy tackle. You just need to handle them quickly so they can live to reproduce and fight another day,” said Harrison.
Harrison continued to scan the mud-lined bank as the tide continued to fall rapidly.
“When you plan a trip this fall, fishing the low tide is crucial. The water pulls the fish out of the grass, and you can bet they will be hanging around oyster beds and on mud bars adjacent to them, said Harrison.
Harrison went on to say that two hours before low tide to two hours after is the best time frame to plan your trip around.
A few minutes later, Harrison’s cork sank abruptly. After fighting the slot-sized red, Harrison dropped it in the ice box.
“Just as soon as I popped that Harper’s Super Striker cork, he smoked that shrimp. The sound of that cork pulls them in every time,” said Harrison.
For fishing live shrimp, Harrison likes to use a medium-heavy spinning combo spooled with 30-lb. Sufix braid. For the leader end of the cork, he prefers to use 17-lb. Sufix monofilament for its abrasion resistance and strength. The lighter monofilament leader also enables him to break the line below the cork if he hangs on a shellbed
Harrison likes to fish his shrimp on a 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook for its ability to mostly hook fish in the corner of the mouth as opposed to them swallowing the hook.
“The circle hook works great with the popping cork. Most of the time when they pull it down, the hook sets itself,” Harrison added.
We continued working the bank with Harrison fishing a shrimp and me fishing a jig on the bottom.
Harrison continued to scan the bank as we fished around shellbeds, picking up slot-sized reds at nearly every bed we fished.
“If you are new to fishing for reds, then Blythe Island is the place to be this time of year. There are thousands of oyster mounds that schools of redfish pile up around. It’s fun fishing, and it’s not hard to find them as long as you stay on the move,” Harrison said.
As we fished down the bank, I noticed that Harrison fishes his live bait much faster than the typical fisherman. Making long casts to creek mouths and shellbeds, Harrison works his shrimp back quickly with quick twitches, followed by a one-second pause.
“Covering ground is crucial for finding reds,” said Harrison. “I’m fishing fast all the time looking for a school. Once I catch a fish, I like to fish that school a few more minutes, as I can usually catch a few more. Then when they quit, I’m on the move again. It’s run-and-gun fishing,”
For stopping on a school of fish, Harrison recommends having your anchor easily accessible so you can stop and make several more casts when you hook up.
After a couple hours of steady action, the bite abruptly stopped as the tide stopped pulling out
Harrison explained that though you may catch a fish or two when the tide goes slack, it’s not typical.
“When the tide gets ready to change, that’s a good chance to grab an ice-cold Pepsi (he’s a district sales leader with Pepsi in Waycross) and relax for a minute,” said Harrison. “As soon as the tide starts to bring water back in, the bite will fire back up.”
As the water starts moving again, Harrison likes to focus on narrow areas between shellbeds where the tide is pushing water through rapidly.
These areas are pinch points that the reds will swim through as they move up with the tide.
Another area that Harrison says reds will congregate to as the tide rises are creek mouths, especially those with shells present nearby.
The incoming tide is also a time when Harrison likes to throw artificials to cover as much water as possible in a short amount of time.
“When the water starts coming back in, the race is on. You only have about two or three hours tops before all the shell mounds are covered and the fish start moving out into the marsh grass,” said Harrison.
Harrison likes to fish a Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer Jr. on a 1/4-oz. GA BOY LURES Bipolar jig head to tempt reds into striking.
Using a steady hopping action, Harrison bounces his jig along the bottom until he feels the thump of a hungry redfish.
“When you get bit on the bottom, it’s important to reel in your slack and get a good hookset on the fish to try and pull him up and away from the submerged shells. Most of the time the initial hookset will send the red toward deeper water and give you a better chance to play it to the boat,” said Harrison.
On calm days when there isn’t much wind, Harrison pointed out that it’s important to keep an eye out for redfish cruising along mud banks and around shell mounds.
As we fished, we rounded a shell mound and I saw a giant redfish cruising the mud bar about 25 yards away.
With accuracy that even UGA quarterback Jake Fromm would appreciate, I fired my jig in front of the cruising red. As the lure landed 6 inches in front of the fish, he engulfed my swimbait and began stripping drag.
After several tense runs and the longest two minutes of my life, Harrison netted the giant fish.
As soon as the fish was aboard, Harrison quickly got down to business. After a quick measure and picture, Harrison was hanging over the boat reviving the beautiful, 30-inch fish.
“You can’t simply toss them back or leave them on the deck of the boat for 10 minutes while you hunt a camera or call your buddy,” said Harrison. “You have to handle each fish quickly and carefully to ensure the fish survives. We all need to be conservation minded to ensure are fishery thrives.”
We continued working the bank picking up fish as we went. As the tide inched higher, the giant shell mounds that lined the creek continued to disappear with each passing minute.
“It’s a race against the clock to catch as many fish as you can,” said Harrison. “I wish I could say there’s a secret hole you need to fish, but the truth is all you need to do is fish hard and fast around oyster mounds at low tide. If you do that, it won’t take long to get your rod bent.”
Once the rising water covered the shells, Harrison mentioned that a topwater plug such as a Spook or Devil’s Horse can work well fished directly over the mounds of oysters, particularly on overcast mornings. If the conditions are more on the sunny side, Harrison said a Zoom Super Fluke fished weightless is also a good option.
Before we could try any topwater offerings, a large set of dark clouds began to creep across the sky. We quickly made the decision to call it an early morning, more than content with the success we had.
We pulled out of the parking lot at 9:45 a.m. headed back home with some impressive fish in the cooler. In a few short hours, we had managed 20 redfish, 10 slot-sized keepers, five oversized fish and five that were too short to keep.
“As good as we did, this pales in comparison to what November will be like,” said Harrison. “Catches of 30 to 50 fish will be the norm, with the average fish measuring between 16 and 20 inches. Just remember to plan your trip around low tide, and key in on shellbeds.”
For those who want to make a weekend of it, Brunswick has numerous hotels, and the Blythe Island Regional Park is really nice for those who enjoy camping.
If you have never given the area around Blythe Island a try, I don’t know that there has ever been a better time than right now. Hitch up the boat and head toward Blythe Island for some great fall red fishing.
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