Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report January 2018

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “By the time the month of January rolls around, the inshore fish that are migrating have left and the ones that are staying have gone into hibernation mode. Spotted seatrout during this time are normally wintering in deep holes in the rivers or sounds. The best way to catch seatrout when in the hibernation mode is to use small saltwater or freshwater jigs with curly tails on 4- to 6-lb. test main line. As far as main line, I like monofilament because of the extra-stretch cushion it adds. Those who prefer braided main line, it will work. However, you need to make sure the drag set matches the main line used. Seatrout have soft mouths, and a hook can easily be pulled free. The best freshwater jigs that I have found that really work are Jiffy Jigs. I like to use 1/16- and 1/24-oz. jig heads with an assorted colors of Curly Tails and Super Grubs. I suggest purchasing an assortment of color combinations. The secret when using any kind of soft bait in cold water is that it should be smaller and worked slower than usual. The best method when fishing a deep hole is to cast in the deepest part, let your lure hit the bottom, wait, reel a few times, wait and repeat. Then I suggest casting the lure to the sides of the hole so as to work this area. The secret to getting solid hits during cold-water times is to work your lure as slow as you can while still keeping it near or right on the bottom. To get a trout’s attention during hibernation mode, you almost have to hit them right on the on the head with the lure. The inshore redfish bite can be very good, but you got to know the rules. During cold-water times, the redfish senses are better tuned, meaning they can see and hear better. This fish stays in high-alert mode because of their two main predators, the dolphin (porpoise) and the fishermen. They definitely fear the dolphins more than man. Dolphins are very diligent in knowing where to wait and how long to get a quick meal. Where you have dolphins staging, you most likely have redfish schooling to the inshore. The best artificial baits are going to be flukes and paddletails rigged weedless or not. Use golden bream and ice colors. If you happen to have some sort of fishing sauce, don’t be afraid to lay a bead of it in the fluke’s grove. This awful-smelling stuff to us is great call for the fish. Fresh frozen pawn shrimp pieces and mullet steaks will also work. Adding and dipping your bait, whether it is real or not, is going to only entice the bite. When you do get a bite, give them time to eat.”

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The artificial reefs located in less than 50 feet of water are holding the winter migration of sheepshead. These fish are going to be staging on the wrecks that offer the most vertical feeding opportunity. Before heading out, make sure you know the coordinates for the wrecks that you are going to fish. To get coordinates, go to http://coastalgadnr.org/ArtificialReef. The best baits for sheepshead is going to be anything wrapped in a shell, such as purple-back fiddlers, black-back fiddlers, barnacles, green mussels, oysters and shrimp. It is best to anchor over the wreck, drop Carolina-style rigs to the bottom, and then reel up about 1 foot off the bottom. Once you have either had a bite or caught a sheepshead, I suggest staying where you are. Sheepshead bites can come in flurries and then stop completely. I suggest when the bite stops, not to relocate but to re-situate your bait. Then I suggest waiting until the school makes its way back around to the wreck area that you are fishing over. Trophy redfish migrate to the offshore water during the cold-water times. They can be found schooling near the beachfronts, around offshore sandbars and on the artificial reefs. These fish are normally schooling and feeding on something that they have corralled. I have caught them on 4-oz. single tube diamond jigs. My favorite color tube is red or green. Check them out at to www.jandh.com/products/j-and-h-tackle-diamond-jigs.html. Another great proven lure is the bucktail jig by www.nutsandboltsfishing.com/collections/whoopass-tackle-company. I have a tackle box full of these different color and sizes of this jig. These jigs can get just about any offshore bite going. You can add Cobia Candy trailers or real pieces of bait. The best color jig/hair combination for them has been blue/white, but there are other color combos to choose from. For those fishermen who prefer using real bait, I suggest squid and shrimp laced on to 4/0 J or circle hooks fished directly on the bottom. Please remember that redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released. During this time, some of this trophy redfish being caught have been up to 45 inches.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom fishing is always very good, especially when you bait your hooks with plain old cut squid. If using live bait, I suggest lip hooking sand perch, rock bass, juvenile vermilion and tomtates. Please remember grouper season is closed and will not open until May 1, 2018. The naval towers located at the Banks sometimes hold the interest of African pompano during these cold-water times. Try the following towers: R7, M2R6, R2, R3 and R8. Those coordinates are at http://coastalgadnr.org/ArtificialReef. Once arriving to the towers, I suggest watching the center of the tower area for any fins. African pompano are known for circling inside the tower legs. I believe that this is them being in their ambush mode. A few passes using surface baits close to the outside legs of the tower will let you know if these fish are hungry or not. Some of the best presentations have been either rigging baits under some sort of traditional adjustable cork, blue-water popping cork or basic freelining and letting it just swim naturally. We normally try all sorts of methods until we find something that gets their attention. Don’t get discouraged if these fish might seem uninterested one second and spot on the next. Although this is not a fish that we normally catch in this area, this is the time we see them. The best bait is going to be the lively ones, such as a tomtate, menhaden, horny belly or lookdown. If think the live bait is going to fit in its mouth, use it. Matching this hatch is critical when targeting this fish.”

Blue water fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “When we get good weather, that’s when we’ll make the blue-water run. Trolling for wahoo, king mackerel and blackfin tuna can offer one heck of a catching affair. Mahi mahi are few and far between during this time, but hook-ups are still possible. Finding a well-defined edge at the Stream during this time of the year can be done, but there is not that many large fish or schools of bait lining it. Your best bet is to know the coordinates of all ledges, holes and live-bottoms areas where you intend on fishing. When departing Savannah, I suggest always heading to the South Ledge (3106.416/7955.300) area. This ledge has always held the interest of topwater fish, as well as bait during this time of the year. Best rigged baits are going to be chin-weighted dink ballyhoo pulled naked and medium/large ballyhoo on black or black/red Ilanders. I suggest rigging small dinks baits with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and medium/large ballyhoo with 80- to 100-lb. test wire leader. When it comes to pulling the artificial stuff, I always suggest cedar plugs soaked in menhaden oil and to pull a couple of birds in your trolling spread. I pull No Alibi Dolphin Delights about 5 feet behind by birds. My preferred combination colors are pink/white and blue/white. If your trolling spread doesn’t produce bites, then I suggest dropping to the bottom. Best bait is going to be cut ballyhoo, squid and cut fish. Or I suggest giving deep-water jigging a try. The best news for you is that I have tried all of these suggestions, and they have worked.”

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