St Simons Island Fishing Report 3/7/15

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sight Fishing Coastal Georgia's Winter Redfish

Winter is here on the Georgia coast, and that means sight fishing for Redfish.  Redfish on St Simons Island and other flats throughout the south enjoy the warmth and close company of each other this time of year, as the schools get quite large and very spooky.  Although the Redfish’s metabolism slows down tremendously during the winter, they will still eat--especially on warmer, sunny winter days.  Here on the Georgia coast, midday lows, seem to be the prime opportunity.
Here are a few places and situations we like to look for in searching for winter Reds.  One of the most reliable places to look is in the back of smaller tributaries.  Approach the back of these smaller systems very slowly, whether poling or using your electric motor.  Often you will actually see the Redfish.  Other times you may see their wakes.  There are times when the water will just “raise up” or have a small disturbance.  Chances are, any movement in shallow water will be Reds, as there is very little bait around.  The minute you see, suspect or approach an area that has Redfish, anchor or power pole down and be quiet.  Even if you spook the school, they likely won’t travel far this time of year, and very often will return to the spot you found them on.  Try not to be tempted to continually push these fish.
Now that you are stationary, choose your bait and make your presentations as quietly as possible.  The lure or bait will need only very subtle movement, if any.  The Reds that are hungry will find your offering.  Scented plastics really shine in these situations (See Redfish Secrets, Part II).
Along the Georgia coast, another common place to find Redfish is on those expansive mud flats you may have seen at low tide or actually run aground on in the bigger creek and river systems.   The bigger a mud flat, the better.  You may have to run the trolling motor, pole or drift a long way before finding fish.  Again, look for fish, wakes, disturbances or—if the water is especially clear—you may see muds.  As in the creeks, stop immediately and make many slow presentations, changing it up often to find what they like.  There will be situations where the Redfish may not eat.  This happens.  The main thing to remember is to move slowly, and be stealthy.  It will pay off.
Tip of the blog:  For sight fishing, don’t skimp on sunglasses.  I like Costa del Mars, but there are many good polarized sunglasses on the market.  We prefer amber, vermillion or copper colored lenses.  If at all possible, keep the sun at your back.  Lastly, as odd as this may sound, rig one pole with a half ounce sinker only.  This rig will allow you to make a longer “search cast”.  When you lose the fish, or suspect them to be in a spot but can’t see them, throw the sinker- rigged line to that area to “bump” the fish.  It will bump them, but is usually subtle enough not to spook or blow them out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grilled Black Sea Bass

How easy is that?  

2 pounds black sea bass fillets
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
lemon pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
3 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat grill for high heat. In a small bowl stir together garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and sea salt. Sprinkle seasonings on fillets. In a small saucepan over med heat melt the butter with the garlic and parsley. Set aside. Lightly oil grill. Grill fish for 6 minutes, then turn and drizzle with butter. Continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes, or until fish is done. Drizzle black sea bass fillets with olive oil before serving. Serves 6.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Best Redfish Lures--Part II

The fishing for Redfish on St Simons Island can be outstanding.  This can be said for every state from North Carolina to Louisiana.  The Redfish has become one of the most sought out game fish in the Southeast, known for their willingness to attack many different artificial and live baits as well as their ability to put up an amazing fight.  The dilemma here is that this is no secret, and has beckoned millions of new anglers, tournament fishermen and guides all over the country to seek the Redfish.   Redfish are becoming more wary of the anglers pressuring them and the many types of bait thrown their way.  Our last blog talked about our favorite lures for power fishing, which are great tools for searching for Redfish.  This article will concentrate on getting those finicky bruisers to eat once you have found them. 
In my opinion, soft plastics may possibly be the new #1 bait for fooling Redfish.  There are virtually millions of shapes and color combinations of plastics, and I’m quite sure that on any given day, any of them will work.  To keep it simple, we’ll just key on a few all time favorites, their rigging, presentation and best scenarios for use. 
 Soft plastic jerk baits are one of our favorites for fishing grass and structure.  These can be rigged a few different ways.  One of the most popular ways is to use a 5/0 extra wide gap (EWG) worm hook.  I like the larger worm hook because it gives it a little added weight and casting distance.  This lure can excel whether you have found a school of Redfish deep in the grass, around oysters or on an open mud flat.  The jerk bait makes virtually no sound when entering the water and pulled or twitched into the fish.  Typically, I work this lure pretty slow with a short twitch, a pause, and begin again.  As with virtually all lures, you may have to experiment with the cadence.  I have also seen this lure worked very fast by tournament professionals in South Florida.  The thought here is twofold in that the lure looks like a fleeing bait fish and the Red does not get a close look at it.  This can be an advantage in clear water.  Rigging options include inserting a piece of bead chain for eyes, a nail inserted for weight, glass rattles for sound and many different weighted worm hooks to customize your presentation. 
Paddle tails, plunger tails, the old Cocahoe Minnow and many other soft plastic swimbaits are all in the same category.  These great minnow imitating baits put out a nice rhythmic vibration when reeled.  This can be a major factor when fishing in stained water, grass and any area where visibility is hampered.  One thing we have found out over the last few years is that this bait also triggers strikes just by “killing it” (stopping), or dead sticking it.  Although this lure traditionally has been pegged on a jig head, it too (like the soft plastic jerk baits) excels when rigged weedless.  We typically downsize the EWG to a 2/0 or a 3/0 to match the smaller profile of the paddle tail.  You’ve probably heard me say before that I like to work the bait slow, but about three years ago--fishing with an Alabama Redfish angler--I got my hat handed to me on this bait.  I was doing my typical slow, one inch hops while Alabama Alan was literally burning his paddle tail.  The Redfish went absolutely ballistic, as you could see them wake across 20-30’ of water to hammer his bait at that speed.  This doesn’t work all the time, but it has saved many a fishing trip for me.   
A soft plastic that has lost its luster over the years is the basic curly tail grub.  I still rely on this lure heavily.  I always pin it to a jig head and work tiny, slow, one inch hops.  Typically, I use as light a jig head as I can get away with, and still be able to feel the bottom.  Once again though, I was proved wrong by a fishing partner that uses nothing but 3/8 oz jigs, and swears by them.  He maintains the argument that it is louder, falls quicker, creates a bulkier profile and stirs up more mud.  On that day, he was right. 
Assuming that we have all found our school of Redfish, here’s a few things that work for us.  Naturally, position yourself as far away from the fish as possible, while still confident you can reach your target.  We usually try to determine which way the fish are facing, and make our presentations well in front of them.  Sometimes this requires casting past them, and pulling it in front of their face, or if they are on the move waiting until they get to your presentation before working it.   On days when they are finicky, we usually keep changing it up until they do eat.  Yesterday was a perfect example, as we poled through literally hundreds of Redfish.  Our first cast with a new penny color yielded a good 27 incher.  We threw at probably 30 more fish with different colors with no results.  Finally, red and white jig heads with a white paddle tail did the trick.  That is the beauty of finesse fishing with soft plastics—you can readily change profiles, presentations, weights and colors, and eventually you’ll find what they want.  Presentation is important, and we have found our winter fish have been more cooperative by twitching the bait once or twice and letting it sit. 
I know we’ve made an obvious omission by leaving out Gulp.  This product works very well, and I think most of you are familiar with it.  We typically dead stick or work this bait very slowly.  Along with scented baits, artificial spray attractants have made huge progress on the saltwater side over the last few years.  We don’t use the spray attractants, but we’ve heard they work well, and picked up a bottle of ProCure—just in case.  I’ve also heard that Gulp makes a crab scented spray that is working well.
Tip of the blog:  Please note that we are not sponsored by any lure manufacturer, so this listing is purely our preferences:
1.       Jerk baits: Zoom Superflukes
2.       Paddle tails: CAL  minnows (DOA); Blurp Sea Shad; Fishbites paddle tail
3.       Curly tails: Gotcha Curltail Grubs
4.       Jig Heads:  Slayer Inc.
5.       Worm Hooks: Gamakatsu EWG Monster Worm Hook, 5/0

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Redfish Court-Bouillon

Holy Mackeral, check this out!  Mmmmm!

A classic New Orleans dish! Redfish, in a simple, delicious, almost creamy tomato style sauce! Simple and superb!!! For a thicker sauce, drain the stewed tomatoes, or cut back on the amount."Redfish, in a simple, delicious, almost creamy tomato style sauce! Simple and superb!!! For a thicker sauce, drain the stewed tomatoes, or cut back on the amount."

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 (16 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 pounds red snapper fillets

Redfish Court-Bouillon
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mix together the olive oil and flour in a saucepan over medium heat to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes or until dark. This may take longer.
2. Add the onion, garlic, and celery to the roux, and cook until softened. Stir in stewed tomatoes, and season with salt, pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and bay leaf. Mix until well blended and heated through. Lay fish fillets in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the sauce over the fish.
3. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until fish is easily pierced with a fork. While cooking, baste occasionally with the sauce. Remove bay leaf, and serve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Redfish Lures--Part I

As most of you already know, Redfish are not picky and will eat just about any live or artificial bait. In this article we'll concentrate on power fishing. These tactics work well for both blind fishing and for enticing a bite once you've found a school. The beauty of power fishing is that it is very simple, in most cases. Most of the lures discussed can be classified as dummy lures, but make no mistake-there are several nuances you can experiment with that will improve your catch ratio.

The gold spoon has probably caught more Redfish than all other lures combined. This lure consistently catches Redfish when many others won't.  Any angler can cast this lure a long way on both conventional and spinning gear.  The gold spoon can be worked through the grass and over oysters without fear of getting hung up.  Generally, a slow steady retrieve is all that is needed.  While this lure excels on sunny days, it will work in other conditions as well.  One variation I like is "killing" the lure, or stopping it.  This will cause the lure to helicopter or fall straight down, and often entices an immediate bite.  I like this technique in both emergent and submergent grass.  Typically, I retrieve the lure at a slow to medium pace, and will kill it in those places where the emergent grass is broken up, or where the submergent grass has a sandspot or pot hole.  Be prepared, as the bite of a large Redfish may be just a tick or a tap.  A couple of other techniques that require nothing but speed altercations work well also, such as slow winding your spoon to the point that it does not spin, burning it (fast retrieve), or steady with a couple of intermittent twitches.  You can vertical jig it in deep water, or you can wake it (similar to a buzz bait). There is no wrong way.  I like to use a ball-bearing swivel whenever using a spoon.  Typically, I attach a split ring to the line tie and a swivel to the split ring.  I then tie directly to the swivel.

Another blade lure that works well is the spinner bait.  This may also be classified as a dummy bait, as all that is needed is a nice, medium retrieve.  Spinner baits are one of my go-to baits in emergent grass. One of my prefered techniques is to use spinner baits around docks--I'll throw them at docks as deep as 10'-15', as well as the shallow stuff. I also like to work them around pilings, stumps and any other structure in Redfish territory. This is a great search bait that may lead you to discover new Redfish haunts. Did I say docks?

Crankbaits are no secret in the pursuit of Redfish.  This is one lure that the Redfish seem to absolutely swallow--I don't know how many Mann's -1's I've had to dig out of a redfish's crushers.  Crankbaits are not as user friendly, as they sport two treble hooks that can snag very easily.  One way I avoid snags is to sometimes switch to a bigger bill, or deeper diving crankbait.  When I feel the bait hit shell or structure, I will stop the retrieve and it will usually float off.  In my opinion, this is the secret of the crankbait.  It takes a little practice, but with time you will be able to bump your crankbait slowly along, gently tapping shell or structure.  Usually, the key for me to get a bite is to slow roll this bait maintaining light contact with the bottom.  I have had days where I switch to a fat bodied shallow diving crankbait and use a medium to fast retrieve.  This works best in open water where you have located Redfish, or have a pretty good idea that they are there.  The Redfish will come a long way and absolutely hammer this bait, in many instances. 

Last but not least in this segment are lipless cranks.  This, to me, truly is the epitome of a dummy bait.  Cast and retrieve at medium speed.  That being said, I know quite a few fishermen who alter this method with a yo-yo type retrieve (repeatedly ripping the lure upward and let it fall), or kill it in certain instances-as previously discussed.  One advantage of lipless cranks is that you can fish them at virtually any depth (did I say docks?).  Use this lure similar to any of the many count-down lures you have in your arsenal.  Basically, once your lure hits the water count one second per foot of descent.  If you are in 6' of water, count 5 seconds and begin your retrieve so that you are in or near the bottom (strike zone).  Here is my tip of the blog, since we are on lipless crankbaits--since 90% of Redfishing is done in shallow water, and often in grassy areas, I use a floating lipless crankbait (Bill Lewis Rattletrap-floating model).  This lure will very rarely dive more than 18", remains fairly weedless and makes an awesome search lure as you can cast it a country mile.  Often, if you feel grass or weeds, just give the lure a quick snap and generally it will pull free.  Lipless cranks excel in fishing shallow creeks over oysters as well. Like the crankbait, if you bump shell stop your retrieve-it will float up and begin again. 

This is the time of the year when, throughout the southeast, Redfish are schooled up in large numbers.  Hopefully a few of these lures and techniques will work when they are being less than cooperative. 

Be looking for topwater tips and the latest and greatest finesse baits for Redfish in a future blog.  You won't know if you don't go.....

Capt. Tim Cutting
Coastal Georgia Inshore Charters
St Simons Island, Georgia