When you talk about saltwater fishing in Glynn County, you are talking about the Golden Isles. Jekyll, St. Simons, Sea and Little St. Simons islands make up this chain of barrier islands that protect some of the finest estuary salt marsh on the planet, and some of the best fishing to be found along the east coast of the United States. Georgia has long been touted for the excellent condition of the 100 miles or so of shoreline and salt marsh, and compared with other areas, the fishing there is almost untouched. Glynn County sits right in the middle of this fantastic fishing.
My grandson James and I along with a good friend, Jim Pierce, of Middleburg, Fla., made a trip late in June to locate some hot spots for July in and around Glynn County. This is summer, and the weather is hot, very hot. That doesn’t necessarily turn the fish off, but it sure can turn the fishermen off. To stay cool, we fished the morning hours for a couple of days and really had some good fishing.
While there are numerous marinas and boat ramps in Glynn County, we decided to launch at the public ramp located on the east side of the St. Simons Island Bridge. To get there, just head across the causeway and turn into Golden Isle Marina. Take an immediate right turn and the small, paved road will take you back west to the boat ramp. It is a good ramp that lets you head directly into the McKay River. Many bait shops in the Brunswick, St. Simons and Jekyll area offer artificial, dead and live bait. You will need to call ahead if you plan to use live shrimp. They are sometimes scarce at this time of year and are sometimes imported from Florida. At this writing, a quart of shrimp is selling for an average of $22.
We used both live shrimp and artificials on this trip, and the results were almost equal for each bait. So, if I were planning a trip, I would look strongly at using artificial lures.
The Glynn County area offers fishing for almost any kind of angler. Those that are shorebound can catch sharks, whiting, croakers and even flounder from the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier. This pier is located on the north end of Jekyll and juts into the St. Simons sound.
Here you really want to concentrate on bottom fishing, and stay with dead, peeled shrimp. When the cur- rent is running on an outgoing or incoming tide, you need to get that bait out to the edge of the color break that will show in the current. That’s where the deeper water is, and that’s where the whiting and croaker will be running. You can also fish from the bank in and around the pier, using the same tactics.
The St. Simons Island public pier is undergoing a rehabilitation project that began on June 13 and was scheduled to last two weeks. Access to the pier may be restricted, so check with Glynn County Parks and Recreation if you plan to head there.
For the boater, we made several stops at various tide stages to locate some inshore, sound and “beachfront” fish. Here is where and how we fished each area.
• Area No. 1 on the map: N 31° 8.660 W81° 24.298 — Our first stop was the mouth of Kings Creek on the southwest end of St. Simons Island. This creek meanders a short way into the golf course. You can get into the creek, but we found the best fishing was at the mouth. The tide was outgoing and water was coming out of the
creek. This is not a big marsh creek, so the water does not flow quickly, but it does flow enough to keep fish at the mouth looking for a quick meal.
We caught several small seatrout here. I was throwing a jig head with my favorite electric-chicken-colored grub tail. James, my grandson, and Jim, my buddy, were fishing live shrimp under a Thunder Chicken float rig. I worked the jig at a medium pace, just off the bottom. Jim and James allowed their floats, rigged with a 2-foot leader, to make their way out of the creek. They would cast far up into the creek and then retrieve line as the float came out.
My jig head was a 1/2-oz. head with a 3/0 hook. Their float rigs had a 2/0 Kahle hooks on a 2-foot leader. We hooked the small live shrimp just behind the horns, taking care not to pierce the black spot (the brain of the shrimp). The small hook is not easily seen by the fish, and it allows the shrimp to swim freely under the float. Often the shrimp would be jumping out of the water around the float, a sure sign that a predator fish was after it!
We released all the trout, but had we wanted to keep some, the limit is 15 fish per person, and they must be longer than 13 inches.
• Area No. 2: N 31° 04.981 – W81° 22.217 — From here we wanted to catch the early morning bite off the beach at Jekyll Island. We headed through the sound to the northeast side of the island in about 8 to 10 feet of water. Then we began idling around the area looking at the surface. It took several minutes to spot what we were looking for as Jim readied his live shrimp. He was still using his float rig, this time with a leader only 8 inches long under the float. I was ready to throw a plain hook with a live shrimp on another Kahle hook.
We spotted the fish coming at us on top of the water. Tripletail. These curious fish have always been in this area of Georgia, but only in recent years has anyone really pursued them. They are black in color with the anal and caudal fins so long it almost looks like they have three tails — hence the name!
Capt. Spud Woodward (now Director for DNR Marine Fisheries) targets these fish each spring and summer, and while July is at the end of the season, there are still some very large fish to be had. He explains their strange behavior as a part of a mating ritual combined with a feeding method.
Tripletail fish will float on their side right at or just under the surface of the water. They almost appear to be dead as they the current. The idea that Spud has is that they try to provide some kind of shade for passing baitfish, and as soon as the baitfish get under them, they turn and eat!
The short leader under the float and the freelined shrimp make targeting these fish quite easy. Getting them to bite is an entirely different story. Sometimes you can get every fish you spot to eat your bait — sometimes they all turn and ignore your offering.
As we eased around, I maneuvered the boat to be broadside to the floating tripletail, but far enough away that we didn’t spook it. Jim cast well beyond and ahead of it and slowly reeled the bait back so that it would be right in its projected path. It takes some skill and some luck, and several casts to get it right. The idea is for the fish to float right to your bait. If you have done it right, that fish will turn and eat your shrimp.
Fly-rod angling for these fish has become popular in the last few years as well. A shrimp imitation or small min- now imitation will work, but the cast has to be absolutely perfect. Fly line slapping the water spooks them quite easily.
We managed one fish before the wind started kicking up the water. You need a day of calm wind and relatively calm seas to accomplish this kind of fishing. The tide needs to be moving –— either direction — and the moon
needs to be either half full and waxing or half full and waning for the best results.
During July you can find one or more tripletail around almost every marker in the Brunswick shipping channel. Just head out the sound and approach each buoy very slowly. Look for a dark shape or object under the surface on the down-current side of the buoy. Tripletail will place their nose almost right on a buoy line or side of a buoy.
If the fish sinks when you approach, back off and wait. Then cast a freelined live shrimp or very light shrimp-imitation jig to the buoy. More times than not, that tripletail will take your bait.
These fish can get big. The Georgia state record is just over 38 pounds. Catches more than 20 pounds are common, and Spud firmly believes that a record fish is there off of Jekyll. The limit is five fish per person, and they must be longer than 18 inches.
• Area No. 3:N 31° 09.035 – W 81° 26.124 — By now the tide had changed and started coming in. We headed for the point of an island just inside the St. Simons Sound. As the tide was moving in, Jim again used a float rig with a 2-foot leader while James and I chunked my favorite jig.
We drifted the edge of the point, about 40 yards off the shell bar. When we got pretty far upstream of the point, I would crank the engine and move us back to drift again. We caught several more seatrout on both the jig and the Thunder Chicken and also managed two small sharks.
This area is great on an incoming tide as long as the water is clean. If the wind has been blowing and the water is churned, the fish will not be here. Because the tides run about an hour later each day, we took day two to look for some tailing redfish along the rivers and creeks in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Spud had been on some reds the day before in the McKay River, and we went there on the last half of the outgoing tide to look for them. The area we fished is a long stretch of fairly straight grass and mud bank between ICW Markers 239A and 239 (Area No. 4) The tides are significant in this area, often dropping more than 7 feet from high to low.
We eased along with the trolling motor looking for the redfish, but only found a flounder chasing a small school of mullet. I tossed my jig over and ahead of the flounder, and he ate it almost immediately.
Be careful fishing jigs for flounder. They tend to grab the tail of the jig and swim with it for a few seconds before getting the whole thing in their mouths. When you get the tap that signifies a hit, you need to delay setting the hook for 5 or 10 seconds. It is hard to do because you can feel the fish on the line, but trust me, a quick hook set will leave you with half of a grub on your jig head.
Flounder must be 12 inches long, total length, and anglers can keep 15 of them per day. The ICW is loaded with flounder right now.
We only scratched the surface, as the saying goes, when it comes to fishing coastal Glynn County. Myriad creeks, bars and rivers cover the entire coast, all protected by the barrier islands. It has to be an awfully bad day that prevents even small boaters from accessing some of the best fishing along the Atlantic coast.
Boaters need to be particularly careful regarding tides. If you are new to the coast and trying this great fishing for the first time, you absolutely need a chart. NOAA Chart 11506 covers each area we discussed in detail. Pay attention to water depths and tides, or you can, and trust me you will, be stranded for several hours. Take it from some- one who has experienced sitting on a mud flat waiting for the water to rise again.
If you would like more information or have questions regarding Glynn County’s fantastic fishing, you can call the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) office in Brunswick at (912) 264-7218, or visit the Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division website.