St Simons Island Fishing Report 3/7/15

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fishing with Kids 101

A grumpy old Captain once told me there was fishing and “fishing with kids”.  He wasn’t adverse to small children in that classic W.C. Fields way, but nevertheless, a tad short on patience towards the little people. Let’s face it, doing anything with your children, grandchildren or anyone’s children for that matter, presents moments (perhaps even hours), when it takes everything you got, not to get a little…let’s say frazzled. Compound that with a day on the water where you are “pot committed” with pretty much no Happy Meal or Play Station to turn to, and things can go sideways in a hurry.
Before we get carried away, first, realize that these are kids we are talking about. Even those pole breaking, bait eating, button pushing, foot stomping, “I wanna go home” kids. I have also been with kids who never want to go home or quit fishing; the “one more cast” kinda kid (I was that kid, and maybe the foot stomper too). But let’s address the kids that aren’t quite so enamored with a long day on the water pitching jigs all day. While we grownups are obviously out there to do some damage and sore lip our finned adversary, it’s important to put the little people first…even if it means sacrificing a shot at a monster, a limit of fine eating filets, or the “targeted species”.
Step one in establishing the “grin”, and developing a life time angler is the target species. Or should I say eliminating the target species. The fish you are now after is the not so elusive “whateverbitis”. The whateverbitis inhabits every place a fish lives in any part of the world. Depending on your locale, this could be a whiting, shiner, sucker, catfish, toadfish, gar, croaker, spot, pinfish, skate, sting ray, or, whatever bites. A child’s first fishing trips should be about them catching something…anything! Many of us anglers would call them trash fish, but to the child starting his angling endeavors these are giant blue marlin and the start of a lifelong passion for fishing. By targeting some of these easier to catch species it is very possible that children can experience the whole thrill of dropping the bait back, feeling the bite, and reeling in the fish! If you are hiring a guide for you and your children, it’s often wise to let the guide know that you just want to catch fish for the kids...of any kind. This may be the fish you had in mind, or it maybe “whaterbitis”. Remember, this needs to be for the kids.
Another important part of your child’s fishing trip should consist of other activities and options. Food and drink go a long way here. Bring some of those junk foods the kids like. While I am not suggesting changing your kids eating habits to sugary snacks and drinks, this is a special occasion, and a special snack or two will go a long way. Establishing a ritual of sorts, like a certain breakfast or dinner stop on the way to, or from fishing, is a great way to bond and make the day on the water one to remember and look forward to.

Finally, when a fish is caught, show your child all the nuances of the fish. There may be fish with scales, fish with smooth skin, teeth, no teeth, etc. Do not force your child to hold the fish if he does not want to.  Sometimes I give a child a towel to hold a fish. Some fish may be small enough that a kid can hold the line or pole and let the fish “dangle”. Be careful that the fish is not harmed in anyway, and let the child be part of a successful live release. It is important to stress the fact that fish need to be released healthy. If you are catching fish to eat, explain how they are managed as far as limits and size. Although this may be a hard pill to swallow, some children will not last very long on the water, so plan your trip accordingly, giving yourself the option of leaving earlier than you planned. This may even mean just planning a short trip at first. If you take care to make your kids’ first days on the water fun ones, you will have a fishing partner for life. And remember, fishing may not be for everyone (God forbid!), so support your children in all healthy endeavors they may want to pursue.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

St Simons Island Fishing Report March 2014...So Far

March weather has been fairly predictable...all over the it should be this time of year. Water temperatures have ranged from the mid 50's upwards to 64 degrees. Water clarity has run the gamut as well, from crystal clear and salty, to downright sweet (fresh) and dirty. It's been a pretty solid spring for redfish, both large and small. Bull reds have been roaming the near shore wrecks from 5 miles on out to 20. Inshore, the low tide bite has been nothing short of spectacular, with many double digit days. We've had days of 30 trout and days where could barely muster up a half dozen. Most of the trout we have been catching are of legal size and very healthy. This spring's run of sheepshead has been very strong both inshore and near shore, with a healthy dose of black drum thrown in the mix. As of today's writing, those tasty whiting have finally shown up!

One of the keys to our success has been to lighten up our presentations. We have reduced hook sizes, jig head weights, leaders and the weights under our float rigs. We have lost a few rigs, but gained a few more bites. In some cases our leaders have been as light as 6-8 lb. fluorocarbon, and seldom throw any jigs over 3/16 ounces and have even dropped down to a 1/16 in many cases. We are using "loud" colors on our plastics, including but not limited to glow, purple, silver glitter patterns, bubblegum and even yellow. (For those that know me, it's hard to get me off "natural" hues, but whatever works!) While knots can often lead to lengthy discussions, I am still a big fan of loop knots. I have found that live bait suspended under a cork, with a loop knot, gives the bait a lot more freedom to move.

It won't be long before the water temperatures hit that magic 68 degrees and red fish will move up on the grass flats, triple tail will start floating in our sounds, flounder will cover the bottom, and those speckled trout will go on their spring/spawn feed, hitting everything that moves! And for those wanting to wrestle some aggressive sharks, one of America's best shark grounds is about to come alive!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

St Simons Island Fishing Report 2/20-2/27/14

It’s about windows. Heck, it’s always about those windows of opportunity. Here on St Simons Island, those inshore fishing windows can often disappear due to some pretty wild tide fluctuations. When the moon dictates that we are going to move 8 or 9 feet of water in a 6 hour period, we are going to get heavy current, and as a result, dirty water. On the other hand, when the tides mellow out, the fishing can be off the chart. In the winter, give me some daytime low tides, some clean water, and the window opens wide! That is exactly what happened this last week here on the Island. Trout, red fish, black drum, whiting, and sheepshead all fired off this past week. I have had calls from all over the Georgia Coast with some outstanding reports. We fished 6 out of the last 7 days, and even yesterday in the  pouring rain, the bite continued. Speckled trout were caught in water depths averaging 6-14 ft. on soft plastics and live shrimp, red fish were a tad more finicky and fresh live shrimp worked best. I usually snap the tail off the shrimp and impale them on a jig head. The trick here is to run the point of the hook into the shrimp where you have removed the tail and thread it all the way to the jig head. This will not only emit more scent, it will be head forward for a streamlined cast and when you give it a small twitch, look exactly like a fleeing shrimp. The whiting and black drum seem to like their shrimp peeled and headed. Seriously! I also run the hook through the entire shrimp body for these two fish. Sheepshead will eat a shrimp, but fiddler crabs seem to be their favorite.

 Now I sit here a little melancholy as the tides get big on the new moon, and my mid-day low tides disappear. But wait a minute, I think it was a wise Fisherman who said when one door shuts, another one opens up! If this wise Man will let the wind lay down, there lies some of the fishiest structures a mere 6 -9 miles off our beach. Excuse me while I rig for some sea bass, flounder, summer trout, mackerel and bull reds! Stay tuned as we crawl through the next window, or door, or ocean floor here in the GoldenIsles

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

March Fishing Report for St Simons Island, Georgia

In both fresh and saltwater the word transition gets thrown around quite often. If there ever was a transitional pattern, March is certainly a month with a lot going on. Depending on how soon or late the water starts warming and forage starts to arrive, will determine where to concentrate your efforts. Our local year round population of redfish, sheepshead, speckled trout, whiting and sea bass will all be biting very well…somewhere. Migratory species such as cobia, triple tail and sharks should start to trickle in towards the latter part of the month.
One of Georgia’s most sought after species; the speckled trout will certainly be one of the most transitional fish this month. If the water temperature stays below 58 degrees, continue to concentrate your efforts in 6-18 feet of water. The periods around either side of low tide as the water slows should be prime feeding time. Smaller profile soft plastics like the D.O.A C.A.L curl tail, sinking hard baits, and live shrimp drifted on an adjustable float rig should all produce. If possible, down size your baits and work them very slow, on or very near the bottom. Limit your search to smaller creeks, rivers and tributaries that hold deep water. The sounds, ICW, and open water will just not offer the comfort for trout yet. If we have a substantial warming trend, trout will move out to more open water and begin to feed shallow, especially at the higher tide stages. Trout tend to have a westerly movement on our coast in the cooler months, so don’t be afraid to try drops closer to the I-95 corridor. The further reaches of the St. Mary’s, Satilla, Little Satilla, White Oak, Turtle and Altamaha systems will all hold good numbers of trout this time of year. Many savvy anglers catch redfish, sheepshead and striped bass in these areas too.
March is typically a month when the larger sheepshead show up both inshore and nearshore. There will be a lot of fish exceeding the 8 lb. range brought to the scales this time of year. On the nearshore wrecks, try to avoid days or tide stages during the day when the current is ripping, or moving fast. Many anglers get frustrated on the wrecks trying to fight thru black sea bass and oversized red fish, which is not a bad problem to have on some days. The best strategy to locate the sheepshead is to move around until you find a piece of structure that is holding them. The wrecks are made up of different levels of relief and material, and often sheepshead will isolate in small areas. Once you find a spot holding these striped bandits, mark it and guard it with your life. You should be able to record two or three spots per trip. You may be surprised at what you will find on these smaller pieces of structure as trophy sized summer trout, flounder, cobia and trigger fish will also separate themselves from the hordes of sea bass.
Red fish, as always will seek shallow water. Typically during the cooler months, reds will feed pretty hard during low tide in the back of creeks and mudflats. As the water warms, and bait such as mullet, small crabs, blue crabs, mud minnows, and shrimp become more active, you may find red fish feeding at the top of the tide, over mudflats. I particularly like mudflats that have a lot of shell and sparse grass. Take your time, and work slowly and quietly along these areas and you may even be able to see redfish cruising or even crashing baits. Once you spot activity, you can usually anchor the boat quietly, and fish that area. The schools should not be broken up yet, so if there is one, there should be quite a few more.
For those close enough to fish the jetties at the mouth of the St. Mary’s this month, the fishing should be some of the best of the year. Over slot and slot redfish, sheepshead, whiting, black drum, and sea trout will all show up at this rocky fish magnet. In fact, black drum in the 20-80 lb. are quite common. Favorite baits for black and red drum are blue crabs. Simply pop the top off the crab and remove the legs. The joints where the legs were removed make a great place for hook placement. You can pin either half or a quarter of the crab on the hook, and send it to the bottom, anywhere in the vicinity of the rocks.

Finally, March usually signals the beginning of the whiting run. Usually the deeper holes in front of the King and Prince on St Simons Island will be one of the first places the whiting show up. A good rule of thumb is 14-20 ft. in depth. If the beaches are rough, check the same depth in the rivers and sounds.

By Tim Cutting

Thursday, February 13, 2014

St Simons Island Fishing Report 2/12/14

We took advantage of a few weather and tide windows these last 3 days (2/9-2/11) and managed a very good, fair, and good. Sunday started off a bit cold but warmed up nice and the reds fired up during the outgoing. We sat on a school of slot reds and hooked 18, before sliding a little further up where we saw 5 big fish. Michelle fired a cast and immediately hooked up. We also had another red with NO spots. We finished Sunday fishing deep on the incoming and managed 8 trout...Michelle with the biggun'...again. Monday, in perfect weather, I ran south and fished creeks off the ICW and struggled a bit. I managed one over slot red and one in the slot along with 5 decent specs and a coupla' shorts, all on Mirrolures and grubs. Tuesday I had a short window to fish around low outgoing and ran into some nice trout! The fish were finicky and I switched back and forth between a 3" grub and D.O.A shrimp. Barely twitching the baits was the only way I could get 'em to eat. I ended up with 14 that I worked my tail off for--all but 2 were over 15", including 1 right at 20"...and a suicidal drum. I think that is great news for the coming warmer months! We released all but yesterday’s fish; Mom said her freezer was empty!

By Tim Cutting

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Eight Great Artificial Baits for Conquering the Coast

For most anglers, saltwater and fresh alike, the process of picking favorite lures would create a virtual encyclopedia of choices. Although I’ve thrown about everything made, I always end up with a few “go to” baits. The following list is not so much a gear review, as what works for me. I’ve thrown these baits from Virginia to the Keys on the East Coast, and from the Keys to Texas on the Gulf. Many of these manufactures have supported me in the past and continue to do so today, and a big thanks goes out to those folks. Some of these manufacturers I’ve never met or spoken to, but kudos are in order for making a great product. In alphabetical order, here are the lures that STAY in my box.

1)    Aqua Dream Spoons  Captain Mike Hakala has tweaked a flats favorite into one of the most popular Red Fish spoons on the market today. This bait is great for sight fishing as well as a long casting search bait. Just reel, and hold on.

2)    Bomber Long A (B15A)  One of my favorite lures for big trout, this lure also catches plenty of redfish and one of my biggest flounder to date. I like both the suspending and floating model. Jerk, jerk, pause, repeat. Vary the length pauses.

3)    D.O.A. ¼ ounce Shrimp  Shrimp imitating baits are everywhere. Some are no longer made and some are still in the developing stage waiting to hit a website or tackle store near you. I have never found one as effective as one of the originals. Mark Nichols, owner and creator, has put a lot of time in producing a perfectly formed and weighted product. While there are many ways to work this bait, perhaps one of the best is suspended about 24-28” under a popping cork. Whether drifting a flat in the shallows of the Gulf, throwing to covered grass and shell in bigger tidal zones on the east coast, or working open bays, this rig catches fish. Although many fishing guides and tournament anglers keep this rig in their arsenal, this rig is perfect for the novice angler and kids alike. Make a long cast, pop it a few times, give a two to three second pause. And if there are fish around the cork will disappear. I often refer to this set-up as “the deadliest rig in the marsh”.

4)    Mirrolure Slow Sinking Twitch Baits  Mirrolure has been on the saltwater plugging scene catching trophies since the beginning. Those slow to medium sinking plugs like the old reliable 52 and some of the newer Mirrodine series are just plain deadly on big trout as well as other saltwater species. The retrieve often varies from angler to angler and I’ve seen them catch fish in a variety of presentations. I generally slow roll, or sweep this bait with a mix of small twitches. Sometimes one twitch, sometimes just plain walking the dog.  Throw a pause in there somewhere and wait for that strike.

5)    Rapala Saltwater Skitterwalk (size 11)  With so many walk-the-dog lures on the market, and half of them hanging on my wall in much need of hook replacement, I’ll go with the Skitterwalk. Great profile, nice sound, and easy to walk. Don’t set the hook until you feel the fish.

6)    Sea Striker Gotcha 4” Curl Tail Grub  Probably a little sentimental value involved in this choice because it was one of the first plastics I used.  Although I have pegged nearly every soft plastic to a jig head over the years, I always go back to the standard, durable, great action, Gotcha curly tail grub.

7)    Stinky Fingers Twitchin’ Shad Often called soft plastic jerk baits or flukes (after the popular Zoom Super Fluke) these baits have become extremely popular on the saltwater marsh scene. Soft plastic jerks are one of my favorite baits to throw and believe me I have thrown as many as my wallet will let me. The Stinky Fingers Shad is a different animal. These baits are integrated with a sponge core that allows the Twitchin’ Shad to absorb the powerful scent oil that the bait is packed with. I am not sure if it is the overall weight, the horizontal glide, the material, the sponge core or the scent, but this bait catches fish. Generally these baits are rigged weedless on weighted or unweighted Extra Wide Gap worm hooks. A favorite bait on the many redfish tournament trails for fishing grass flats, these baits excel everywhere for all species. The natural fish profile of these baits has made them an excellent choice on a jighead as well, allowing the angler to cast further or fish deeper.

8)    Storm Chug Bug . The standard 3 ¼” Chug Bug is the size I prefer but have seen the smaller 2 ½ and the larger 4 3/8 inch models catch plenty of fish. This lure is also a great lure for beginners. Simply make a long cast, give it enough pop to make the cupped face gurgle, splash, or “chug”. Pause and repeat. The cadence is not as important as the pause. Again, with a top water plug, don’t set the hook until you feel the fish on. After the bow-up, “reel til you feel”). If the fish misses, keep the retrieve the same, and many times the fish will return.

I did not mention color on purpose because everyone has their favorites, and the above lures come in array of colors…so go with what you know! If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at You can also find more blogs, tips, and fishing reports at .

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fishing the Tides...Winter Trout

When I first started fishing the tidal marshes I used to plan trips around low tide. I felt more confident that as the marsh drained I could find multiple spots where bait and fish were concentrated. Over the years I learned (and am STILL learning) to fish all stages of the tides. But when winter comes, I find myself reverting back to the periods around low tide. The concentration theory still exist, but water temperature and speed play more of a factor for me. I am looking for long winding creeks and rivers that have protection. Protection in the form of steep bluffs, trees, bulkheads, docks and anywhere that significantly protects these smaller, deeper tributaries. These areas will be a few degrees warmer, and that makes a big difference. When we have midday lows a couple of things happen. First, the last portion of the tide is slower, and of course shallower. This lower volume of water warms considerably more than open water. Trout are already in a stage of lower metabolism, so this little spike in temperature and the slower moving water are what I consider "prime feeding time". (This doesn't mean that right now with the temperature outside 42 degrees, wind 15-20 mph, and the marsh flooding that somebody is not rounding out a limit) The tide height on these midday low tides can definitely lengthen or shorten this feeding period. If we have a slow moving tide in the 6 ft. range, the fish may bite from mid to low and back to mid, for a 6 hour window. If we have tides where 8 foot of water has to move, the current may not slow down until the last hour out and first hour in, creating only a 2 hour window. Once a trout is found, work this area hard. The trout typically school very tight this time of year. Realize though, because of slowed metabolic rates, they won't spend a lot of energy chasing bait, and the ones that ate yesterday may not have to eat today. Concentrating on the fish that are hungry today requires slowing down your baits. Trout like moving baits, but this time of year they generally like SLOW moving baits. I will use a bigger float rig with more weight or a jig and plastic. I'll start fairly close to the bank and work down to the deepest part of the creek. With the jig, I will literally crawl the bait, or use tiny hops, often pausing a few seconds between moving the plastic.

Next time, I'll try to touch on the not so prime times  and higher water winter tactics. (aka, "the land of a thousand cast") ...for now, I am fishing midday lows if I can...

by Tim Cutting

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fishing the Tides

I am working on a series of blogs that will concentrate on a sort of how, when, why, and where to fish in relation to tides. You guys already know most of this, but whatta ya think?

Coastal fishermen throughout the United States are familiar with the influence that tides have on a successful day of fishing. On the Georgia Coast, anglers are exposed to the biggest tides on the East Coast south of Maine. The contour of the Georgia Coast creates a funnel effect that pushes an extreme amount of water into the marshes resulting in tides that can often exceed eight feet. This often can be overwhelming to anglers and boaters alike. Hopefully I can provide a little insight into understanding the tides and its influence on fishing.

It is important to have a working knowledge of the tide tables and how they are affected, particularly by the moon. In the simplest terms there is a tide change approximately 4 times in a 24 hour day. Each tide phase is actually closer to 6 hours and 12.5 minutes. The moon takes about 24 hours and 50 minutes to circle the earth, so the tides are 50 minutes later each day. This pattern will not change, which is why tides are very predictable. (If it is low tide on Monday at 7:00 a.m., it will be low tide on Tues. at 7:50 a.m.)

More importantly is understanding the influence moon phase has on tide height. The moon takes approximately 30 days to circle the earth. During these 30 days, starting with the new moon (moon not visible), will start filling up, or “waxing”. It will go to half visible (1st quarter) to full, (full moon), to last quarter (half visible) and back to new. Each phase takes about 7 days, giving us the 30 day moon phase. While most of this is common knowledge, the key here is to know how each day of the moon phase affects the tides.

Here in the Golden Isles the average tide height is about 6.5 feet. When the moon is directly between the earth and sun (new moon), or directly behind the earth (full moon), the tides are the highest and lowest of the month. This can often mean instead of moving 6.5 feet of water between high and low tide; we may now be moving as much as 9 or 10 feet of water during that 6 hour period. When those large amounts of water are moving in and out, (low to high, high to low), the current becomes much stronger, and the water becomes very turbid. Lack of water clarity can make fishing just plain tough! Conversely, around the 1st and last quarter, the tides will rise and fall at a much slower rate. These two tide stages on the new and full moon are called spring tides and the slower moving tides of the first and last quarter moon phase are called neap tides. There will be two spring tides and two neap tides every month. Naturally, during the slower moving tides, the water will be much cleaner. Fishing the Georgia Coast can be challenging with these wide fluctuations of tides and water conditions and in the next article I’ll actually talk about fishing and what helps me on all 30 days of the moon phase. While we all know you won’t know unless you go, you don’t always have the luxury of picking when you can go.

by Tim Cutting