Seatrout In The Sounds

The May bite is great for numbers and for big roe trout. Try live shrimp under slip corks, artificials under popping corks or the thrill of topwater plugs.

Capt. David Newlin | May 7, 2019

I had a charter cancel at the last minute, but the trout were biting. The boat was loaded and ready to go, and I had the rare chance to go fun fishing by myself and to do it when the conditions were right. 

It was a beautiful May morning as I went across the sound. I eased the boat near the mouth of a small creek and lowered my power pole to anchor the boat. The tide was starting to fall, and bait was all over the surface of the water coming out of the creek. I rigged up a shrimp under a slip-cork rig and cast it out to the edge of the current. 

Cork goes under, trout hooked up, game on! 

After a mild winter, the seatrout are in good shape this spring. Jack Goodwin caught this nice trout on April 3.

For the next two hours, it was put on a shrimp, cast out, and pull in a fish. When I picked up the power pole to head home, I had my limit of 15 trout, two redfish and three flounder in the cooler. 

I released around 35 more trout. This kind of trip doesn’t happen every day in May, but it will happen quite often.

The spring trout fishing is something that coastal Georgia fishermen wait for every year. In April, as the water warms into the 70s, the trout get active and start feeding heavily, getting ready to spawn in May, June and July. 

The biggest trout I catch every year are usually caught from the middle of April through June. Years back, a lot of the older fishermen used to call this the roe trout run. The trout will scatter their eggs around the beaches from May to July. 

On years with very severe cold during the winters, we seem to have less trout in the spring. This year, with the mild winter we had, there should be a big run of seatrout on the Georgia coast.

The most productive method for catching trout in the spring is almost always a live shrimp under a cork. I always fish an adjustable slip cork rig with a 1/2- or 3/4-oz. sinker under it. I like to fish a 20-lb. test flourocarbon leader around 15 inches long with a 1/0 Kahle hook. I like the Harper Striker corks and a couple of the Comcal corks. You key is that you want a cork that is durable and makes a good rattling noise. 

David has an addiction to throwing topwater like a Zara Spook for May trout. He’ll also use a Harper Striker slip cork (orange) with live shrimp, and a Cajun Thunder popping cork (green) with artificials like the DOA Shrimp or a Z-Man Shrimp.

The fixed-position corks will work, but you are stuck fishing the depth that your leader had been tied to, unless you want to re-tie to adjust. If the fish are deeper, fixed-position corks are very difficult to cast with 3 or 4 feet of leader on them, and they are dangerous to everybody else on the boat. 

Most days I fish a live shrimp under my corks. A small live mullet, menhaden or polywog works great when the small shrimp-stealing fish are hitting.

I usually fish a slip cork with a short jerk about every 30 seconds. Try not to move the cork much, just twitch it enough to lean it over and make it rattle without pulling it to you. Some days the trout like it worked more aggressively than other days. One good tip is on real windy days to shorten your leaders to about 10 inches to keep your bait from getting above your cork when you cast.

My two favorite charter-boat trout rods are 7 1/2-foot Ugly Sticks (models usesp761m and us1ssp761mh). 

I use a spinning reel loaded with 50-lb. braided line. The medium-heavy Ugly Stick rods work a little better when a big redfish hits and heads for cover. 

The other methods I like to use for trout are topwater plugs and artificials under a cork. 

Capt. David Newlin marked a map of the Ossabaw Sound with green, showing his good areas to fish for speckled trout in May.

A few years back, a boat captain friend of mine, Ray Golden, started telling me about catching big trout on topwater plugs. I got him to take me one morning, and it started an obsession that I can’t get enough of.

Ray fished a topwater MirrOlure in a fast walk-the-dog pattern, and it worked. That trip we caught trout, redfish, blues, sharks and jack crevalle. I was hooked on inshore topwater fishing. 

A lot of your topwater bass plugs will work. I like the MirrOlure, Zara Spook and the Bomber Badonk-A-Donk. My favorite colors are blue and silver, chartreuse and silver, red and white, or red and silver. 

Throwing topwater plugs is trophy trout fishing—you don’t catch big numbers, but you will catch some big trout. A good morning is three to eight good seatrout on topwater. 

Last year I caught several trout over 4 pounds on topwaters. A 4-lb. trout is a big speckled trout. I like to fish topwater plugs the first hour or two after daybreak and the last hour before dark. On cloudy days, I have caught fish all day long on top. 

For throwing topwater, I like the same 7 1/2-foot Ugly Sticks I use on cork rigs, but I like to drop back to 20-lb. braid with a 4-foot, 20-lb. test fluorocarbon leader. When the sharks are thick, I will put a short piece of single strand wire leader on my lures.

David marked these areas in green for good places to fish in St. Catherines Sound this month. He also said to try topwater plugs on the beaches when the water is calm.

The other method I use is fishing artificials under a fixed-position cork. At times when the small bait stealers are thick, or when you can’t get shrimp, this can be a very productive method for catching trout.

I like the Cajun Thunder and Burnside Bopper corks for this type of fishing with artificial shrimp imitators. The heavier Burnside Bopper will cast a long way. You want a cork that makes a loud clicking, rattling noise. Put 3 feet of 20-lb. fluorocarbon  under your cork. I like to put a small clip on my leader, so I can change lures easier. This can be a difficult rig to cast—you need a 7 1/2 or 8-foot rod. 

Gary Wagner with a good catch of trout and a bonus flounder caught from David’s boat during a rainy morning May trip.

A large variety of imitation shrimp will work under a popping cork, like the DOA, Z-Man, Gulp! and Power Bait shrimp. And a lot of paddle tail and screw tail jigs will work under a popping cork. Some of my favorites are a DOA shrimp in pink or clear with gold glitter, a Gulp! shrimp in new penny, and a Z-Man shrimp in root beer with a chartreuse tail. My all-time favorite is a Gulp! Swimming Mullet in green with a red head. 

This is a super simple rig to work. Make a long cast, and retrieve it with 2- to 3-foot jerks, allowing the lure to settle a few second between jerks. Some days a faster or slower retrieve is what the trout want.

As the water warms into the middle 70s in May, most trout will leave the rivers and creeks and move out into the sounds and out on the beaches. In the sounds, most of the trout will be around oyster shell beds, creek mouths, points or some type of structure that holds bait. Some places will hold trout for no obvious reasons. Look for concentrations of mullet, shrimp or other small baitfish. Some days you can actively see trout crashing bait on the surface, especially early in the morning.

Capt. David Newlin with a beautiful speckled trout from the Georgia coast.

In St. Catherines Sound, a good area to start is from ICW marker 109 to the south end of Ossabaw Island. The area from ICW marker 110 south a mile or so well up into the Midway River is also good. Behind St. Catherines Island, try the area south of the big dock in Walburg Creek for about 1/2 mile. When the west wind is blowing, the beach front of St. Catherines will hold a lot of trout. Fish around the dead trees in the surf. I have had great topwater action on the beaches when the water was clear and calm.

Cam Gordon with a good trout he caught on June 9 last year.

In Ossabaw Sound, try the areas from marker 96 to Hells Gate, Egg Island, the south side of Raccoon Keys Island, the beach front of Little Wassaw Island, the dead trees on the front of Green Island.

Trying to fish these 6- to 9-foot tidal swings that we have in Georgia can be very frustrating. I suggest going out on low tides and try to figure out the area a little bit. Some spots are dry on low tide that hold a lot of fish on high tides. Look for the biggest oyster shell flats that have deep water close by. Small creek channels through the shells and mud are good. These small channels can hold a lot of trout when they are covered by a few feet of water on high tide. 

Keep your eyes and ears open. I have been fishing these waters for over 50 years, and I am still learning things on most days I’m out there. 

Good luck, see you on the water.

Always a bonus when fishing Georgia’s inshore waters is you never know what might hit, like this 32-inch redfish that surprised David when he was catching trout on April 11.

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