Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report July 2017

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Summer has hit full force on the coast. Late June saw good fishing for a whole lot of fish. Trout, tripletail, flounder, redfish and sharks have been biting. The best news is the crop of this year’s redfish is really strong. It is one of the biggest crops of redfish I have ever seen. They are everywhere in Ossabaw Sound. The young redfish usually turn 14 inches around the middle of August, but this year they seem to be a lot larger than most years and may be 14 inches by late July or early August. We have been catching a good number of slot-limit fish from 20 to 23 inches with some big fish around 30 inches. During July, look for big fish early and late in the day all over the shallow flats, especially the ones with a lot of ragged oyster shells. If the small redfish are thick, smash the barbs off your hooks to make releasing them easier. Trout will get scattered out during July. Look for seatrout in the sounds and out on the beaches. On the beaches, look for any structure, drop-offs, tide rips or where any inlets or run-outs on the beaches empty into the ocean. July is a great topwater month on trout. Try throwing a topwater MirrOlure early in the morning. Last week I caught some really big trout on top. The first two hours after daylight are usually the best. On cloudy days, it will work all day. Topwater trout fishing is quality, not quantity, so three or four fish is a good morning. The usual live-shrimp rigs will catch trout all month. I will fish a lot with small live mullet during July and August when the small fish start taking your shrimp real bad. Bring a small mesh cast net to catch your mullet. Over the next two months, watch closely for trout feeding on the surface, chasing everything from shrimp to menhaden. If you see surface activity, fish it immediately. Flounder fishing has been great. I have had a lot of day with six to eight flounder mixed in with other fish. Most of my flounder have been caught on live shrimp and small mullet. I have been catching flounder on spinnerbaits fished real slow close to the bottom. Try a green one with a gold blade with a Gulp! Swimming Mullet or a fillet of mullet on the hook. Keep it moving, or the oyster shell will cut it off if it hits the bottom. Look for flounder on banks with a lot of white oyster shells on them. Black drum have been biting good. Try fishing a dead shrimp on the bottom around docks and bluffs 15 to 20 feet deep that have a lot of structure in the water. I have caught a good number of 5- to 10-lb. drum over the last few weeks. This should get better over the next few weeks. The big news in July is always tarpon fishing. Around the first week of July, the big migratory tarpon should invade the coastal waters. Look for them on big tide rips in the sounds and offshore around the end of the channels a couple miles out. On calm days, if you don’t see tarpon in a few minutes, keep moving until you can see fish. The usual live mullet or menhaden on a float rig and on the bottom will usually work. I have shark fished a couple of days and caught a lot of sharks, including a couple big sand tigers and black tips. Try around the mouths of the sounds in 10 to 25 feet of water with a piece of fresh fish on the bottom and hang on. Read regulations closely before killing a shark. July should be a good month for catching eating fish and big fish.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “July inshore fishing can be steady. I suggest purchasing or catching some live shrimp. This is the No. 1 bait that all fish like. Last month proved to most of us inshore fishermen that live shrimp was hard to come by. Brown shrimp in the Turner Creek and Wilmington River areas just didn’t grow big enough fast enough to be caught in a net or used on a hook. Hopefully the month of July will offer better baiting-up options. So if you can’t purchase live shrimp, you just might be able to get some by throwing the cast net now. Now, if you can’t buy or catch live shrimp, you will have to go into the improvising mode, which mean use what’s available. During this time the creeks are full of peanut menhaden. They can stay pretty healthy if you don’t try to keep too many alive in your well at once. In the backs of creeks there are schools of finger mullet, which are the perfect size.  The mud minnows—especially during these times for live shrimp—have really saved us. This bait can be caught using a minnow trap baited with bacon, cat food or saltines. I have one captain who swears that if you put a small McDonalds burger in the trap, the muds just can’t turn away. These improvised baits will catch the larger versions of spotted seatrout, flounder and redfish. When it comes to fishing with live shrimp, finger mullet, peanut menhaden or mud minnows, there are several good presentations. There is the traditional adjustable float, which comes in all sizes from super large to mini sizes. Another good presentation is the ever popular popping cork, which when popped makes a sound just like a fleeing live shrimp. The only down side to using this float is your length of leader used restricts you to depth of water fished. The leader shouldn’t be longer than 4 feet and can’t be shorter than 12 inches. I suggest using this float when fishing in depths from 2 to 6 feet of water. Then there is ‘fishing naked!’ Just tie on a short leader to your main line, and then tie on a small Kahle hook. Then I suggest placing the hook under the shrimp’s horn located on top of the head and letting the shrimp make way its own way. When it comes to using peanut menhaden, finger mullet or mud minnows, I suggest lip hooking them. It’s a known fact that all baits once laced on a hook try to go where they feel safe, and it’s also a known fact that larger fish have already figured the bait’s game of hide and seek out. Shark fishing, better known as catching, has been great. Lots of sharks are being landed while fishing in the sounds, off the beach fronts, around surfacing schooling baits and while fishing all points east. Since it is my opinion that it is shark mating season time, it seems that they are a little more lively, offering a longer and stronger fight. As far as the tackle, it really doesn’t matter whether or not you are light-tackle fishing with smaller baits or heavy-tackle fishing with larger baits, your chances of having a great fish fight is very good. I have caught them on shrimp, cut fish, whole live and whole dead fish. My No. 1 bait used is what I call a fish steak. What is a fish steak? It is any size whole fish cut up like a loaf of bread. Since sharks are free to roam any depth of the water column, fishing from the bottom to the surface are great areas to present your preferred bait. For those fishermen fishing inshore or nearshore, I suggest picking up a copy of 2017 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. This booklet is full of information fishermen need when it comes to fish identification, explanation of rules and regulations, and some really interesting helpful reading facts. Or, go to http://coastalgadnr.org/fb/rf/regs for all the current regulations.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Our beachfronts and artificial reefs are holding some pretty interesting topwater catching opportunities! I call the month of July the, ‘If you can see the fish, you can catch them month!’ Topwater fish such as Spanish and king mackerel, barracuda, little tunny, jack crevalle and cobia have arrived. All fish will hit anything, from a small trolled lure to a spoon being pulled slowly behind your boat. Another way to get one is to cast right into the school of fish. Match the size of bait you use to the fish’s mouth that you are targeting. For Spanish mackerel, little tunny and jack crevalle, their favorite meal is glass minnows and juvenile squid. Small silver spoons sizes 0 and 00 made by Clark are the best to use and do a darn good job of imitating the real thing. When targeting the larger fish such as king mackerel and barracuda, then I suggest using a larger spoon. The best spoon for this job is a 3 1/2-inch Drone. And if you really want to get a barracuda’s attention, try using a dead or live Spanish mackerel. The secret when using a fresh dead Spanish mackerel is to pick the fish that looks the shiniest. Although the 2017 cobia season is closed, you still have the option to catch and release. When targeting cobia, which is the fish that looks like a shark or a large catfish in the water, I suggest using a 6- to 8-inch diving plug or a hair-jig-tipped plastic eel-worm. If you happen to have some live bait in your livewell, anything from shrimp to small fish works like a charm on the old cobia. It’s this fish’s delight to look it over before sucking it down. The secret is to give them time to eat. At the Savannah Snapper Banks in July, there are blue-water fish in green water. Anglers who make their way to this live bottom area, which is located about 30 miles off Georgia’s coast, could find themselves catching anything from  billfish to a wahoo. When the waters west of the Gulf Stream reach the same temperatures, some of the blue-water fish go into the traveling mode. They head west, which means it is not unusual to catch them at the Savannah Snapper Banks. Heck, not only there, but you might even also catch blue-water fish at any of the artificial reefs. Just know that catching options at the Snapper Banks are great this time of the year, because you could catch anything from grouper to red snapper to cobia to amberjack to all kinds of bottom fish. Before heading out I always suggest giving http://safmc.net/ a look. There are a few closures, such as genuine red snapper and cobia, which are closed to harvest and possession. I suggest if you are fishing offshore, whether it at the artificial reefs or all the way out to the blue waters of the Gulf Stream, that you should have a copy of these rules and regulations on your boat.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Blue-water fishermen used to say, ‘When the month of July rolls around the “blue-water bite slows!’ However, things have changed. Georgia fishermen have a blue water bite year-round. When going to the blue water during the month of July, I suggest high-speed trolling starting at about 50 feet of water and pulling this lure or lures until you pull the throttles back. The best high-speed lures are http://ballyhood.com/high_speed_lures.htm. I also suggest giving bottom fishing a try. The fish that feed deep down under are bigger and better than you think during this time. As far as best bottom live bait, I suggest menhaden, sand perch, ruby red lips, vermilion snapper, pinfish or blue runners. Actually any hardy live bait will work. You can catch your own with a sabiki rig, which they just can’t seem to pass up. As far as the menhaden, I suggest breaking out the old cast net. For a great bottom-fishing bait, I suggest cutting a belly strip from one of those just-caught topwater fish in your cooler. If you don’t want to use bait, there is always jigging, which is very effective in deeper water. I suggest a 5-oz. Benthos jig on braided line. I like using 80-lb. test braided line. I suggest adding a line to line leader of about 4 feet of 60- to 80-lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon. This jig is made for high-speed vertical jigging. Best way to work this jig is to drop to the bottom, and if you are not hooked up, do this—reel your jig about 10 feet up off the bottom, and work it vertically at that depth. If you don’t have any luck, drop back to the bottom, and repeat changing the depth you’re working.”

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