Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report December 2017

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “I will be glad to say goodbye to November. We have caught a lot of fish, but the weather and big tides have been a real headache. After Dec. 8, the tides look good for the rest of the month. The water has cooled down a lot. On Nov. 18, it was 58 degrees. The redfish catches have been real good, with most of the legal fish being nice fish around 17 to 20 inches. They are in the sounds and way up the rivers. Right now the Ogeechee is salty all the way to Highway 17 with the low water levels in the upper river. This will move a lot of redfish up the river. The usual shrimp rigs under a float and on the bottom will catch redfish all winter. A jig with a Gulp Swimming Mullet will catch winter redfish real good at times. With some good tides and clear water, the trout fishing should be good in December. As long as the water temp stays in the mid 50s, the trout will hit all the usual rigs. If it gets below 55, fish slow and deeper. A lot of trout should be way up the rivers in the usual wintertime patterns. Sheepshead should start being caught on nearshore reefs and around the usual places in the sounds and rivers. As always, a live fiddler crab should work. With some decent weather, the December fishing should be good.”

Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “December is a grand month for those fishermen who love a light-tackle fishing experience. Artificial reefs are holding sheepshead, black drum, trophy redfish, flounder and cold-water sharks. Fish put these areas on their lists of places to school up to 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 prefect meal. Best baits for the old flounder are jumbo mud minnows or small sand perch placed on a Carolina-style bottom rig. Cast to the outskirts of the structure, set drag to medium, and place rod in holder. Another baiting-up method for flounder is take a 3-oz. jig head, bait it with live finger mullet or any live bait that is about the size of a cigar, and put it on the bottom. Or you can butterfly a small fish, which when introduced back into the water offers up two working, flowing tails. The best thing about jig-head fishing is that you can move your bait along the bottom, and it imitates a small fish. When a small fish is skirting close the bottom, it forms somewhat of a sand storm. When you get a hit, don’t try to set your hook because flounder are known for being slow bait takers. Give them time to eat. Count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006… and then set the hook. If you miss the set, quickly drop your bait back, and repeat if the fish gives it another try. If sharking is on your mind, and if you are looking for an unbelievable fight of grand portions, bring along some squid or cut up some freshly caught fish. Another great bait when targeting sharks is going to be the belly strip cut from a sheepshead. All you have to do is cut the belly out of the fish. Hook it up, and put it on the bottom. It’s best to try to place this bait as far on the outskirts of the structure as possible. In other words, cast these baits as far away as you can from where you are anchored. Please always check state and federal regulations for any closers and size limits. For state, http://www.eregulations.com/georgia/fishing/, and for federal, go to  http://www.safmc.net/. During a normal winter season, all sizes of black fish make their way to most all artificial reefs in search of a colder water hold up. This is the best time to find large schools of these fish holding on all types of structure from the lower relief to wrecks. Large summer trout are 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 be small pieces of cut fish, squid and cigar minnows. With the grouper season open until Dec. 31, there is still time to end this grouper season with a big rod-bending bang. Large gags are known for migrating into shallow water during this time of the year. In the shallow department, 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. Grouper not only take advantage of its camouflage of blending in but also its ability to get into tight spots. I always suggest using the preferred live baits, such as pinfish, ruby red lips, sand perch and rock bass when targeting grouper. Large fish, at least most of the time, are not going to leave an already target-rich feeding environment for the likes of something that may or may not be worth its travels. These live baits normally offer up a grand incentive for a grouper to make a serious feeding move.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water can be very interesting because you really never know what you might catch. 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 baits, meaning schooling cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, I suggest getting out a sabiki bait rig and giving it a try. And believe me, fresh dead/halves of minnows in most cases work great. All of these baits bring on the attentions of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, white grunts, porgy, triggerfish and other colorful bottom biters. If you are looking for a bigger bottom bite, I suggest dropping a lipped-hooked ruby red lip, sand perch, vermilion or rock bass down to the bottom. These baits attract amberjack, grouper and red snapper, which by the way come in extra large sizes. Always check with http://www.safmc.net/ for current offshore regulations. There are a few new closers.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is one of those fishing opportunities that most fishermen don’t even think about. Heck, with the holiday season in full throttle, it’s understandable. However, if you get the chance and want to make the run to the blue water off the Georgia coast, this would be a great time to find yourself involved in a strong, line-stretching ordeal. Our blackfin tuna run is wide open, and this is one fish that can offer you a strong fight. You can find these fish holding over the 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. The best lure is old school cedar plugs pre-soaked in menhaden oil. I am suggesting the actual plug that is made with cedar, not the ones that are painted. These plugs absorb the menhaden oil while holding it longer when trolling, producing lots of happy fishy trails. It is a known fact that menhaden oil attracts fish. For fishermen who have to troll with real bait, I suggest Ilander Trackers rigged with dink ballyhoo baits. Rig the Ilander Trackers with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and small, short-shank, extra strong 4/0 to 5/0 hooks. This rig works well when rigging with small ballyhoo. For fishermen who love to do a little jigging, once you find the tuna, drop your lure to the depth and work it. Best deep-water jigs are those butterfly type designs from 3 to 6 ounces. For the best jigging results, use braid main line and a fluorocarbon leader above the jig.”

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