During the heat of the summer, it sometimes seems impossible to find a trout in the shallow waters of the inshore marsh. High water temperatures tend to drive the fish deep, and a long, hot day on the water can be tough and often fishless. Tripp Lang, of St. Marys, has an option for you that just might solve the problem as we face our last month of summer doldrums on the Georgia coast.
Tripp has been fishing the waters around St. Marys most of his life. His father was a guide, and early in his life Tripp learned the ropes by helping out on trips. Tripp got his captain’s license in 2002 and shortly after that began running trips on his own boat. Tripp spends most of his year in the inshore estuaries of the St. Marys river system chasing trout, redfish and the myriad of other species that inhabit the salt marshes. But this time of year, he modifies his approach and heads out the mouth of the river and around the north side of the 3-mile-long jetty off the southern tip of Cumberland Island.
I had the pleasure of fishing with Tripp and his cousin John-Paul Lentz in early August.
“This time of year, trout school up outside of the jetties near the surf,” said Tripp. “On good days the schools are pretty large, and you can have almost continuous action once you locate them.”
Tripp’s preferred approach is to fish an incoming tide early in the day.
“I like to start at about mid tide and fish the incoming water,” said Tripp. “The trout move in closer to the beach as the tide comes in and hang out in currents along the rocks.”
We started at a location about 100 yards beyond the breakers and about 50 feet out from the jetties. Tripp kept his trolling motor in the water and set it to maintain our position. We didn’t get any action right at first, so after 30 minutes, we changed position. It didn’t take long to connect at that spot, and we soon had a few trout in the boat. As the tide advanced, Tripp would move in a few yards and follow it to try and stay at a reasonably constant depth, all the while looking for likely areas in the rocks.
While some anglers use artificial baits, Tripp prefers to fish with live shrimp under a float. He looks for areas with current near the rocks, particularly where the breakers slip through gaps in the jetties.
“The trout hold in those runs and attack bait that is swept through,” said Tripp. “It is important to let the rig drift through the area in a natural way.”
Any drag on the line can change the action on the bait and limit strikes. Manage your line drift to keep out big loops that can cause drag and also make it tough to get a good hookset when you get a strike. Make casts toward the shore, parallel to the jetties, about 30 feet out, and let the current draw the bait toward the rocks and current flow through the openings.
Tripp starts with the bait just off the bottom and moves up if he doesn’t get any action. It is important to keep lively shrimp on the rig, since trout can be picky. Make sure you maintain a drag-free drift, so the bait is presented in as natural a way as possible.
If you don’t get strikes in pretty short order, make a change in position. The trout can be holding in pods anywhere along the jetties.
“When you get a strike, don’t jerk right away,” said Tripp. “There will almost always be at least some bow in the line, and even with a long rod you likely won’t get a good hookset. Reel up the slack in the line quickly, and then set the hook. The couple of seconds that action takes generally gives the fish time to take the bait fully, so you can make a good connection.”
Medium- to light-action spinning gear is the choice for Tripp. He likes 7-foot rods or longer because they help in managing the line and keeping the slack under control. Penn open-faced spinning reels, like the Battle 3000 or the Fierce, are good choices, and the reels are spooled with 30-lb. test braided line.
“I like the braid because it floats and doesn’t stretch,” said Tripp. “It is hard to manage submerged line in current, so the braid works much better than monofilament.”
In water less than 10 feet deep, he uses a Betts popping cork with a 1/2-oz. sinker. The rig is completed with an 18-inch fluorocarbon leader of 15-lb. test and a 1/0 Eagle Claw kahle hook. The leader is intentionally lighter than the main line to prevent losing the entire rig in the rocks.
“When you hang up, and you will often if you are fishing close enough to the jetties, the leader will usually break first, and you’ll only lose the hook,” said Tripp.
This tip will save you time and money.
When fishing areas 10 feet deep or deeper, Tripp changes the rig to a typical trout cigar cork with a 1 1/4-oz. sinker. Additionally, in swift water conditions, he’ll move up to a 10-inch float with a 2-oz. sinker. The depth of the bait is managed with a slip knot on the main line that can be adjusted as required.
If you prefer to try artificial lures, Tripp says that a 1/4-oz. lead-head jig tipped with a screw-tail grub is very popular. White is one of the most productive colors. Make long casts toward the rocks, let the jig sink a couple of feet, and bring it back with a slow, steady retrieve.
Tripp said this pattern is effective through the summer and well into September. As an added bonus, there is far more than trout available for the taking. We were on the water for about three hours on the incoming tide and boated trout, black drum, redfish, whiting, jack crevalle and ladyfish. We even had about a 4-foot shark on for a few seconds before he broke us off in the rocks.
We caught several nice trout in the 19- to 22-inch range on our outing, and Tripp said that trout of 25 inches or longer are not uncommon.
By noon, it was really beginning to get hot, so we packed up to leave. Tripp said that mornings are the best time to fish. The late afternoon can be productive if the tide is right, but from daylight to about 11 is by far the best time of the day.
This action in the surf will slow down pretty drastically when the water cools. By October, it will most likely be over, but Tripp said he just moves to the river side of the jetties.
“The rocks hold fish pretty much all year long,” said Tripp.
Again, work the areas where current flows through gaps in the jetty, and float a shrimp through. There is a wide variety of species that will hold along the rocks. One of the exciting things is you never know what you might catch.
To book a guided fishing outing with Tripp, call him at (912) 674-1085.