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Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report February 2018

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Winter has hit the Georgia coast hard. Water temps are around 48 degrees in the sounds and rivers. Grays Reef weather buoy about 20 miles offshore was reading 52 on Jan. 23. That is cold water for us. The month of February is usually the best sheepshead fishing of the year. Fish inshore with a fiddler crab around structure. Fish old dock pilings, sunk boats, trees, rocks—basically anything that will grow barnacles and keeps a few feet of water over it on low tide. All of the reefs within 15 miles of the coast will usually hold sheepshead, sea bass and some big redfish all month. February wind can sometimes make catching a good weather day to venture offshore a lot harder than catching fish. The redfish bite can be good in February when we have a few days of warm weather and they move into shallow water. Some days the redfish will be all over mudflats on the first of the incoming tide trying to get warm. Keep looking until you find one, and usually a few more will be in the area. In the Ogeechee River, the striper fishing has been producing a steady bite, and action should continue through February. The cold water temps seem to get the stripers hungry and in a biting mood. Try Rapalas and bright-colored jigs in yellow, white and green. With some decent weather, we should catch some fish this February.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Inshore fishing in February can be very good for redfish, but you need to keep in mind that the water is a lot clearer, causing the fish to be a bit  more skittish. When in the fishing mode, I suggest keeping as quiet as possible. Pick areas in the sounds where sloughs flow onto bars or flats. Best fishing spots should have at least 6 inches of water at mean low tide. The best days are going to be those that have a midday low tide stage with sunny conditions. I like to fish the bottom of the low-tide stage until the water floods the grass. Another reason why I like to fish low to high tide is the water under your boat gets deeper not shallower. I suggest dead, old last year’s frozen smelly shrimp and/or whole mullet cut in pieces like a loaf of bread. I always suggest cutting the bait first before heading out. The best place to put the bait is out in the air and sun. This dries the bait sealing in the fish juices that rings the dinner bell for a redfish once it is placed back in the water. When using natural baits, all you need is 12 to 15 inches of 15- to 20-lb. test fluorocarbon leader tied to a small extra sharp circle hook. Cast into the area, let the bait fall to the bottom, and wait for a hit. For those fishermen who prefer pitching artificial baits, I suggest Berkley jerkbaits or Strike King flukes rigged on 1/4-oz. jig heads.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The nearshore artificial reefs located in 45 to 50 feet of water are holding the winter migration of large sheepshead. Normally the reefs offering the best vertical structure are the ones that hold the attention of the most sheepshead and black drum. Best bait is going to be the purple or black-back fiddler. I suggest anchoring while situating your boat so that you can fish over and around the wreck. These fish are known for biting furiously and then stopping. Keep fishing and don’t move from this spot. This is a fish that is known for feeding vertically while circling around the wreck at a slow pace, which means the school is going to be making continuous passes. The artificial reefs located in more than 50 feet of water are holding black sea bass. Normally this is a fish that loves to school up in low-relief areas and feed near the bottom. However, during this time large schools of black fish can be found schooling just about every place where there is structure. All structure has potential, but you will most likely find them holding in only a few spots. You are only going to get a few drifts before the bite will thin. If anchored, the bite will be about the same. It seems during cold water these fish are more quickly spooked. Best bait is going to be cut squid and fish. To target the larger black sea bass, I suggest using a fish steak with all fins removed. Although February is considered our coldest month, there is still plenty of big time for offshore trophy redfish action to be had. The best place to start looking is at the nearshore artificial reefs located in up to 50 foot of water.  Here are a few artificial reefs that have been holding some nice fish: SAV, DUA, CAT, KC and KTK. Best places to anchor over are barges or pallet balls. For up to date information. Go to http://coastalgadnr.org/ArtificialReef. While heading to your destination, keep an eye out for any formed rips that are holding any interest from birds. Slow down and look on your fish finder for any large solid marks. These large marks should be the fish that you are looking for. Fish Causeway Diamond jigs with red or green small tube lures or any jigs without the tube and the ever popular jig head made by Whoopass Tackle. Pitch your preferred jig, let it free fall, and you should get a solid hit before it hits the bottom. When more than one fisherman is jigging, I suggest waiting a few seconds before throwing out the second jig. Your hooked-up redfish will most likely be followed by the entire school of fish. To get prepared, I suggest cutting or chunking up any old mullet or menhaden that you might have. You should have this ready to throw right into the school of redfish. This food will keep them near the surface for an extra second, but as soon as the chunks start to sink, the fish will disappear with them. While all this is going on, I suggest pitching another jig and letting it fall directly to the bottom.  If you are lucky enough to penetrate the feeding school, the jig will not make it to the bottom.”

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