Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The redfish and trout fishing has been a little off, but the whiting and sheepshead have been hot. The whiting bite has been just short of incredible. I have had a lot of 4-hour trips with around 100 or more fish. The whiting will bite all summer, but the bite will slow down when the water gets hotter than 75 degrees. Find a sandy bottom in 10 feet of water, and put a piece of shrimp on the bottom. The last of the outgoing tide is usually best. The inshore sheepshead bite will bite all spring and summer. Lately, we have been catching some real good ones in the sound. Fiddler crabs just off the bottom always work. The trout bite is just beginning to get into full swing. Some of the best trout fishing of the year is in May and June. Most of the better fishing will be in the sounds and the larger creeks near the sounds and ocean. A live shrimp under a slip cork is always my best producing rig. If you want to catch a few big trout, try fishing a topwater MirrOlure the first hour after daybreak. The topwater bite is usually over by 8. The topwater bite will be hot some days late in the day about dark. The redfish should be on all the shallow flats next month. Live shrimp or small mullet fished on a cork will work. We have caught a lot of 35- to 48-inch big fish while fishing for whiting. Fillet a small whiting, and put it on the bottom, and the big redfish will find it. The big blacktip sharks are all over the beach fronts. Next month they will start schooling around the shrimp trawlers. Find a shrimp boat taking up its nets, and the blacktips are usually nearby. Almost any fresh fish will work for bait. I like to use a big spinning reel with 80-lb. braid so I can cast the bait. This will last all summer, but you can also occasionally catch a cobia behind the shrimp boats in May. With a few days of good weather, the May fishing should be real good.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This month, the seatrout bite is joined up with the flounder bite, meaning two types of fish for one type of bait. Live shrimp under an adjustable float or popping cork works like a charm. However, if you are wanting to get your bait closer to the bottom, but not right on it, an adjustable cork will do just that. If it’s artificial lures that you are looking to work instead, I suggest Berkley Gulp Alive baits.”
Artificial Reefs: Judy reports, “Best bottom baits are cut squid and fillet of fresh fish. The black sea bass, trigger fish, summer trout, flounder and other bottom biters love the option of a free meal. Any small fish that you catch I suggest lip hooking them on a Carolina style and sending them right back to the bottom. With live bait offering, you could find yourself catching anything from a large king mackerel to a grouper. As far as a topwater bite, the Spanish mackerel should have arrived. You might not see them, but they are here. Best places to troll are going to be over and around structure. For those fishermen who don’t want to troll lures, I suggest pitching spoons or any sort of glass or cigar minnow imitators over and around the structure. If you happen to see a few Spanish jumping, I suggest working the area while pulling small to medium Clark spoons at different depths. During this time, the allusive cobia arrives. This is a fish that sometimes bites and sometimes won’t. You can see them, and they can see you, but sometimes bites don’t happen. So it is best that you try to trigger a bite. Best live baits are juvenile black fish, pinfish, cigar minnows, Spanish sardines, peanut menhaden, live shrimp and eels. These live baits might not work. If the live stuff doesn’t trigger a bite, I suggest being prepared with some sort of artificial bait. My go-to artificial is a green/white or blue/white 3-oz. jig found at www.nutsandboltsfishing.com/collections/whoopass-tackle-company. I have threaded on a white eel or some sort of trailing soft artificial bait. This bait in most cases brings on a hit whether the fish is hungry or not. If a cobia comes to your boat, swims around and won’t take any of your bait offering, I suggest casting the jig out in front of the fish, letting it free fall for about 10 feet and then working it in an upward-downward motion while not reeling in any line. It is a known fact that this action in most cases can get the cobia to strike at the jig. Whatever you do, once in this mode, give the jig time to work. You might not see the cobia, but it will be watching your bait.” For a feature on cobia fishing, turn to page 60.
Savannah Snapper Banks: Judy reports, “May is when grouper season is in the wide open mode. The season for our area (Savannah) is May 1 until Dec. 31. For more up to date fishery regulations, go to http://www.safmc.net. Always check for current regulations, because you would be surprised how much they change. This is the month where gags and scamps (grouper) exercise their right to make a move to feed. I suggest a nervous bait, such as live cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, which are easily caught on just about any type of gold hook sabiki rigs. The secret is to use sabiki bait rigs made with No. 6 to No. 8 size hooks laced with fish skin. Another method for getting a solid grouper bite is by jigging, which has been working quite well for me. As far as best jig colors, those that look like cigar minnows or Spanish sardines have been the catching deal. The secret to jigging for big grouper is to drop to the depth where the fish are holding and then work your jig by raising and dropping your rod. This basically works your jig about 4 to 5 feet up and down at the same depth. As far as topwater fishing at the Banks, anything goes from king mackerel to dolphin. When moving from spot to spot, I try to always pull some sort of a swimming lure, which means just about any will work. A sand-eel is a good choice. They can be found at www.candhlures.com/Sand-Eel.html. When pulling this lure, no bait is needed because it works by itself. And what wants to eat it? Everything! My father always said, ‘If you want to snag them, you got to drag them.’”
Blue water fishing: Judy reports, “The Gulf Stream can certainly offer lots of action during May. Water temperatures to the west of the stream are still cooler. The best ways to find fish is to locate any temperatures breaks. Temperatures can be found at http://sstcharts.com. You can catch dolphin pulling small- to medium-rigged baits right on the surface. For those who don’t want to rig ballyhoo, there is another option. I suggest pulling a Dolphin Delight with artificial squid in tow. Go to www.candhlures.com/dolphin-delight-1-4-oz.html. Once you find a school of dolphin, stop and pitch to them. You can use small jigs with screw tails, squid on a hook, cut ballyhoo on a hook, or you use small live baits. Believe me all will work. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to catching and keeping a school of dolphin’s attention. If they come to the boat with their lights on (colorful attire), they are most likely going to eat. To keep the school’s attention, always leave the last fish hooked up swimming in the water right by your boat until you have landed the one before. Dolphins are very jealous fish and always want whatever their counterparts are eating.”