After perhaps the warmest spring I can remember, the month of April promises to offer up some of the best inshore saltwater fishing in recent years. Trout, redfish and flounder are moving in early, and now is the time to go catch them.
Whether you prefer to fish the creeks of Savannah, the marsh in St. Marys or anywhere in between, now is the time to hook up the boat and head for the coast.
Jason Lee, of Waycross, agrees that the salt will yield some great catches this month, but you won’t find him fishing it in a boat.
“The first time you hook a big trout or red from a kayak, it will hook you for life. It’s the only way I like to catch them anymore,” said Jason.
I managed to set up a trip in March with Jason so he could share one of his favorite kayak hotspots with readers. The only weekend our schedules would allow was also that of the biggest March full moon I have ever seen. To add to the already huge tidal pull, winds were forecasted up to 20 miles an hour, and a cold front pushed the air temperature down to 40 degrees. To say the conditions were unfavorable would be the understatement of my fishing career.
I met Jason at his house on the morning of our trip, and despite the weather, he was feeling good about our chances to get on some fish.
“The warm weather really brings them in, but we should be able to get on something. This creek rarely lets us down,” said Jason.
After loading my kayak onto his trailer, we drove a few streets over to pick up Jason’s longtime friend Jody Perritt, who was running a little behind. Jody laughingly admitted that he is on time for fishing trips roughly 80 percent of the time.
As the full moon still hung high, we made our way to Jekyll Island. After crossing the bridge onto the island, we hung a left and rode alongside the beach until we arrived at the Clam Creek picnic area. We pulled down next to the pier and unloaded our kayaks and gear, and then Jason parked the truck in the parking lot. After getting everything situated, we elected to launch our kayaks directly off of the rocky bank to the right of the pier.
“We can launch here today with the extremely high tide, but normally you can’t. It’s a good idea to bring a kayak dolly and wheel your kayak across the bridge and launch from the beach. Then you can paddle 20 yards or so under the bridge, and you’re in Clam Creek and ready to start fishing,” said Jason.
After paddling through some choppy waves, we passed under the bridge, and after making it into the creek, we were greeted by water that could be best described as looking like a yoo-hoo drink. As we got ready to fish, we paddled to the side of the creek, and Jason showed me some of his favorite lures for tempting spring fish.
“All sorts of saltwater presentations will work in Clam Creek, but for me, it’s hard to beat a Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet in white or chartreuse and a Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer Jr. in sexy shad or silver shiner. Both have tremendous tail action and can help load a cooler down in a hurry,” said Jason.
He throws both offerings on 1/4-oz. jig heads and uses a variety of retrieves to produce strikes. He swims the jigs, hops them along the bottom like a bass worm and fishes them under a Cajun Thunder cork, depending on what the fish want that day. Jason prefers to work his offerings on medium-action spinning gear and 20-lb. test braided line.
What’s even more important than lure or tackle selection for kayaking the creek is timing. Jason prefers to launch about two hours before high tide and fish his way to the back of the creek.
“You can’t hardly fish against the tide. It will wear you out in a hurry if you try. By timing it right, you can fish it on the way in and on the way out with little effort,” said Jason.
A final important piece of equipment Jason carries is a 6-foot piece of bamboo that fits through one of his scupper holes and works well at holding his kayak in place while he makes repetitive casts to likely areas.
As we worked our way into the creek, bend by bend, it was extremely hard not to just lay the rod down and appreciate Jekyll Island’s sheer beauty. As a bald eagle flew overhead and the wind pushed through the marsh grass, it was easy to see that the fish aren’t the only thing that lure Jason to Clam Creek. However, it didn’t take long for Jody to hook into our first fish of the morning, a 17-inch trout that put up quite a fight in the tidal current before Jody was able to get him in the net. As we continued to fish our way up the creek, Jason was able snag a few more nice keeper trout.
“That’s the thing about this creek, it’s loaded down with fish. We can catch 20 or 25 a day in April when the weather is right. As the water warms, expect some really big gator trout to be in the mix,” said Jason.
It didn’t take me long to see what he meant. A few minutes later, I felt a solid thump on my jig and set the hook into a massive trout that began to pull my kayak across the creek. Just before I could slip my net under the monster, he made a sudden turn and ripped the hook free from his mouth. Despite my missed opportunity, I had a better appreciation for the caliber of fish that the 20-yard-wide creek could produce.
“You can always find some fish in here. In April, expect to catch mostly trout with some reds mixed in. Then as summer lingers on, expect to pick up some flounder throwing jigs on the bottom. And in the fall, the redfish bite can be phenomenal,” said Jason.
As the tide went slack, we staked out our kayaks for a few minutes and enjoyed some snacks and
some laughs. As we saw a few people walking along the shore, Jason said that’s another plus to fishing the creek.
“If you do have any trouble or need to get out of the creek, a walking trail runs alongside it as it winds through the island. It’s not like you have paddled 10 miles to the middle of nowhere,” said Jason.
As the tide began to move again, we started to fish our way back out, stopping and casting at small creek mouths and slack-water spots on the backsides of curves as we went.
“The sharp bends are normally a little deeper and usually hold some fish. If the water wasn’t so dirty today, I would also be throwing a Berkley Gulp! Shrimp under a cork and letting it drift through these deeper turns. It works well, especially when the water clarity is good,” said Jason.
As the tide continued to pull the water and us out of the creek, approximately 2 feet of mud bank was visible.
“Under normal conditions this is prime time to start catching a pile of fish. But with today’s super strong tidal pull, and all the wind and muddy water, it’s just not going to happen,” said Jason.
We decided with less than an inch of visibility, it was time to call it quits for the day, and we began to paddle our way out of the creek with the tide doing most of the work.
As we passed back under the Clam Creek bridge and into the Atlantic, it had been a great day, despite poor conditions and a cooler that was far from being full of fish. As I pulled my kayak up onto the beach, I had a new appreciation for the tiny creek next to the pier, and before we could load the kayaks up to leave, a return trip was already on my mind.
For those who are interested in making a trip to Jekyll Island to give Clam Creek a try this month, keep in mind that there is a campground directly across the street that has both tent and RV sites. Spots fill up quick, so be sure to call the campground at (912) 635-3021 and reserve your spot ahead of time. There is a $6 parking fee to get on to the island, but it is well worth it.
If you decide to bring the whole family on your adventure to Jekyll, there are activities on the island sure to please everyone, including bike paths, horseback riding, historic sites, museums and a host of other things to keep you busy during your stay.
As the spring sunshine brings warmer days, you can bet Clam Creek will fill up with trout. No need to hitch up the boat, just grab your kayak, some camping gear and don’t forget the cornmeal and peanut oil. You’re going to need it!