Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report December 2016

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Water temperatures have started to fall, and the fish will start heading to deeper water any day. The redfish bite is still hot. This fall the redfish numbers have been the best we have had in years. Right now the redfish are still hitting the usual shrimp under a cork rig as good as anything. Very shortly they will start biting better with your bait on the bottom. Redfish are way up the river on the Ogeechee all the way to Highway 17. Last week, I caught redfish, trout and stripers mixed together in several places up the river. As the water cools down, all the fish will move up the rivers. The trout are hitting artificial lures real good. My favorite is a green Gulp Swimming Mullet on a green 1/8-oz. head. Try fishing jigs on 8-lb. fluorocarbon. I do not like braid when fishing jigs for trout. Try fishing in deep holes up the creeks on low tide. Big McQueen’s Inlet has good trout fishing in the winter months. The sheepshead are starting to get turned on in the inside water. Fiddler crabs around docks, trees or any barnacle-covered structure should work. Keep moving until you find them. The offshore sheepshead bite will turn on in late December. Over the next few weeks we should have a good bite up the rivers. Everything is dry, and saltwater will be a long way upstream on all the rivers.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “For those fishermen who prefer darkness over daylight fishing, this is the perfect time of year to give it a try. Most all isolated dock lights will hold the interest of some sort of bait, which in turn brings on one heck of a topwater bite. Best baits are DOAs artificial shrimp patterns rigged on 1/8- to 1/4-oz. jig heads and small Rapala Pinns series floating/diving lures. For fishermen who prefer the live bait, such as shrimp or mud minnows, these baits will also work. The best way to work a dock light is by pitching and retrieving a few lures in different directions or placing bait rigged under a cork upcurrent of the light. Bites should be consistence for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then it will be time to move on or take a break to give the fish time to regroup uninterrupted.”

Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy reports, “Since the passing of Hurricane Mathew, I have noticed a few offshore reef changes. Normally by this time most artificial reefs in 45 to 60 feet of water are holding large amounts of hungry black sea bass and summer trout. However, we are not finding this situation at the reefs at this time. Bottom fish must have moved east to get away from the storm, leaving these reefs pretty bare. Since this is the current case, I suggest when heading to one of these areas that you be prepared by bringing both bottom baits, such as squid, frozen shrimp, cut fish and fiddlers. We have already starting catching sheepshead at the reefs. Those who love a light-tackle experience, December is still the month to visit the nearshore artificial reefs. Sheepshead, black drum, trophy redfish, flounder and cold-water sharks put these areas on their list of places to school and bulk up for winter migrations. Best baits for sheepshead, black drum and trophy redfish are going to be the purple-back fiddler, juvenile rock crabs and green mussels. Small pieces of shrimp will also work. These fish love anything wrapped in a shell or the meat that is removed from one. Flounder are known for situating themselves on the outskirts of the structure while waiting for that perfect meal. Best baits for the old flounder are jumbo mud minnows or small sand perch placed on a Carolina rig. Placement of this bait is simple. Cast to the outskirts of the structure, set the drag to medium, and place rod in holder. If sharking is on your mind, I suggest bringing along some squid or cut bait from some freshly caught fish. Another great bait when targeting sharks is going to be belly strips cut from a sheepshead. All you have to do is cut the belly out of the fish, leaving you the best part to eat. Hook it up, and put it on the bottom. It’s best to try and place this bait as far on the outskirts of the structure as possible. Large summer trout can also be found schooling on the artificial reefs, and some of these fish are in the 20-inch plus size range. The best bait is going to small pieces of cut fish, squid and cigar minnows. Grouper season is open until Dec. 31. Large gags are known for migrating into shallow water during this time of the year. Artificial reefs located in 35 to 90 feet of water are stopping-off staging places. The best places to fish on the artificial reefs are the places where you have wrecks, such as the barges, battle tanks, subway cars, ships, tugs and dredges. These fish prefer these areas because they can move in and out of structure feeding on those smaller fish that feel safe inside. Fish with pinfish, ruby red lips, sand perch and rock bass.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy reports, “Best bottom fishing baits are going to be small pieces of squid, cut fish and fresh or frozen cigar minnows. If you happen up on a school of cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, I suggest getting out a sabiki bait rig. These baits are known for triggering a fish bite that might not exist while using the cut-up dead stuff. All of these baits bring on the attention of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, white grunts, porgy, trigger fish and other colorful bottom biters. If you are looking for a bigger bottom bite, I suggest dropping a lip-hooked ruby red lip, sand perch, vermilion or rock bass to the bottom. These baits attract amberjack, grouper and red snapper. Before heading out, check www.safmc.net/ for current offshore regulations.”

Bluewater fishing: Capt. Judy reports, “Our blackfin tuna run is wide open. You can find these fish holding over ledges in 180 to 250 feet of water, or you might just happen to find a school holding in the upper water column that has rounded up a school of bait. Best lures are cedar plugs pre-soaked in menhaden oil. For those fishermen who troll with real bait, I suggest Ilander Trackers rigged with dink ballyhoo baits. The trick here is to rig the Ilander Trackers with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and small, short-shank, extra strong 4/0 to 5/0 hooks. This style rig works well when rigging with dink (small) ballyhoo. For those fishermen who love to do a little jigging, once you find the tuna, drop your lure to this depth, and work it.  Best deep-water jigs are those butterfly type designs from 3 to 6 ounces. For the best jigging results, I suggest using braid as a main line and a fluorocarbon leader above the jig.”

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