Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report July 2018

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “During the month of July, inshore fishing can be steady. For those inshore fishermen who just want to catch fish, I suggest purchasing or catching some live shrimp. This is the No. 1 bait that all fish like. Your chances for hooking up when baiting up with live shrimp are very good. And the bottom line is that all fish like to eat shrimp, because it’s easy for them to catch. 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, 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 for sure. The mud minnows, especially during these lean live shrimp times, 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 McDonald burger in the trap the muds just can’t turn away. Now what hits these improvised baits? The larger versions of spotted sea trout, flounder and redfish. The secret to using these baits is that you have to give the larger fish time to eat. 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. 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 the 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. When fishing naked, all you do is 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 its own way. When it comes to using peanut menhaden, finger mullet or mud minnows, I suggest lip hooking them. Another hooking method is placing the hook right behind the dorsal fin. It’s a known fact that all baits once laced on a hook will 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 is very good during this time of the year. 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. 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. Best baits to use when shark fishing is just about anything you got on hand. I have caught them on shrimp, cut fish, whole live and whole dead fish. My No. 1 bait is a fish steak, which is any whole fish cut up like a loaf of bread. Since sharks are free to roam any depth of the water column, fish different depths. A shark’s keen scent of smell is unbelievable. Even the smallest drop of blood or the smallest scent from bait such as a fish steak can be detected from long distances. For those fishermen fishing inshore or nearshore, I suggest picking up a copy of 2018 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. This booklet is full of information that fishermen need when it comes to fish identification, explanation of rules/regulations and some really interesting helpful reading facts. For those who are reaching for the catching stars, I suggest checking out the current Georgia saltwater gamefish records and deciding which one you want to personally break.” Capt. David Newlin reports, “Over the last few weeks, the coastal waters have come back to life. March, April and May were the worst fishing I have seen in years. Everybody was blaming the cold winter for the strange fishing. Around the end of May, things started looking a lot better. The shrimp started showing up, and we started catching trout in good numbers again. Over the last weeks, we have caught a lot of trout, everything from 6 inchers to some real good 20-inch-plus trout. July should see some good trout catching. The trout should be out in the sounds and on the beach fronts. A live shrimp under a cork should work real good. During the hotter summer fishing, I catch a lot of trout while fishing a live shrimp on a light bottom rig. Put a 1/2-oz. egg sinker in front of a swivel with a 20-inch fluorocarbon leader and a long shank No. 2 hook. In some places, the bottom rig will catch a lot of trout. Early in the morning, some big trout can be caught on topwater lures. Usually the best topwater fishing is before 8 a.m. Try a red-and-white Zara Spook retrieved with a fast walk-the-dog retrieve. The redfish bite has been good, with everything from 10- to 36-inch fish. My best big redfish have been caught in the grass on high tide. A good number of slot limit are being caught. Watch for the big redfish chasing bait early and late in the day. We have a huge crop of young redfish that will start being legal fish in August. Fishing with barbless hooks will help release the small redfish unharmed, and you will catch as many fish as you do with regular hooks. Several days lately I have caught 75 plus redfish. Flounder, black drum, whiting and croaker have been helping to add some fish to the cooler. Flounder have been in all the usual places. I have been catching a lot around low tide. The black drum have been good when fishing around heavy cover in several places. A lot of 5- to 10-lb. fish have been showing up, along with a lot of smaller drum. The whiting bite continues to be good out in the sounds. A piece of shrimp on the bottom in 10 feet of water has been working for me. A lot of croaker seem to be all over Ossabaw sound. A small piece of shrimp will catch croaker non-stop in some places. They are small but great eating.”

Nearshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “We have got more big blacktip sharks than I have seen in years. Several days we have caught black tips until all my fishermen were exhausted. This is the best big fish fishing you can find in the Southeast. The sharks should be with us all summer. The best fishing has been 2 to 5 miles offshore. Put a piece of fresh fish about 4 feet behind a noisy popping cork, and work it hard. A lot of sharks will be around the shrimp boats when they are a few miles offshore. Maintain a safe distance from a working shrimp boat. Make sure you know the regulations before killing a shark.”

Offshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Offshore I have been catching some huge black sea bass and red snapper on the bottom. A good number of barracuda, kings and cobia have been around the artificial reefs. During the week, you can catch a lot of fish on most of the popular reefs. On the weekends, too many boats can make the fishing tough. July weather will be hot, and the fishing should be, too.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Our beachfronts and artificial reefs are holding some pretty interesting topwater catching opportunities. If you can see a fish in July, you can catch them. Topwater fish, such as Spanish/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 of these fish’s biting attentions is to cast right into the school of fish. The best thing that I can suggest is that you 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 good job of imitating the real thing. Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of different kinds of spoons on the tackle shelves, but the Clark spoon with the red ball is proven by fish many times over. When targeting the larger fish, such as king mackerel and barracuda, 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 fresh dead or live Spanish mackerel. The secret when using a fresh dead Spanish mackerel is to pick the fish that looks the shiniest. We got a cobia season! So if you catch one, you can keep it. 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 with a plastic eel or worm. Hands down the best jig for this catching job is at www.nutsandboltsfishing.com/collections/lures-baits/products/whoopass-bucktail-jig-3-pack-blueback. Thread on a www.nutsandboltsfishing.com/collections/lures-baits/products/cobia-candy-eels. If you happen to have some live bait in your livewell, anything from shrimp to small fish, that works like a charm on the old cobia. It’s this fish’s delight to look it over before sucking it down. The secret to unlocking this bite is to give them time to eat. Before going offshore, always check the latest regulations at http://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Those fishermen in your boat or mine 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 yahoo wahoo! And there is a good reason, too. When the waters west of the stream reach the same temperatures, blue water fish go into the traveling mode. They make way to the west, which means it is not unusual to catch them at the Savannah Snapper Banks. Heck, not only there, but they also could be at any of the artificial reefs. Just know that catching options at the 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, and take a look see. I suggest if you are fishing offshore, whether at the artificial reefs or all the way out to the blue waters of the stream, that you should have a copy of these rules and regulations on your boat. The main closer at this time is genuine red snapper, which is closed to harvest and possession. However, there is some noise that we might have a few weekends opened in August for genuine red snapper. At this time there are no confirmed open dates.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “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. Best high speed lures are http://ballyhood.com/high_speed_lures.htm. If dragging lures and baits doesn’t work, I 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.  And how do you catch them? 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. As far as great bottom 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 at www.basspro.com/shop/en/williamson-lures-benthos-speed-jig. I like using 80 pound 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 don’t get hooked up I suggest doing 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 depth worked.”

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