St Simons Island Fishing Report 3/7/15

Sunday, January 25, 2015

St Simons Island Fishing Report 1/25/2015

Fishing Report SE Georgia (Golden Isles) January 25

Fishing some of the biggest tide swings on the Eastern Seaboard can be tricky, especially if you throw in the dose of wind and rain that we’ve had. Despite freshwater run-off dirtying the water, the bite has been pretty good. While many of our summer resident targets such as tarpon, triple tail, cobia, and sharks have headed south we still are harboring a healthy population of redfish, trout, sheepshead and sea bass. It takes a little “tide timing”, but when you can get the conditions in your favor, the fish have been cooperating. The low tide stages have produced best for trout and redfish while the sea bass and sheepshead aren’t nearly as tide driven.

Inshore, trout have settled deep and as the water drains from the marsh during the last 2 hours of the fall, and during the first couple ours of flood, the fish feed aggressively. Anglers have been fishing in depths between 6 and 16 feet with good success. Live shrimp floated with an adjustable cork, to within 3 inches of the bottom has been an effective tactic as well as slow trolling plastics. While trolling is not for everybody, it is an effective way to locate and catch speckled trout. Some of the better catches have come on artificial baits, and usually this time of year I go exclusively with sinking plugs and plastics. On a recent trip we landed 25 trout and 8 red fish alternating 3” D.O.A. ¼ ounce shrimp and Mirrolure 52 M’s. The plastics must be worked slow, making sure to work the bait with the current. When fishing the D.O.A. shrimp, it’s important to let the bait sink to the bottom and stay in contact with the bait as often the bite is very subtle. The trout seemed to prefer plugs with orange or chartreuse, and one of my favorite shrimp patterns for anytime of the year is clear with red flake. When the water becomes clearer we’ll mix the D.O.A. colors up with Near Clear, Watermelon Halo, and Holographic Glitter.

Red fish here in the Golden Isles will stack up in small shell lined creeks during mid-day low tides. As the sun warms up the dark exposed mud, the reds will become active. Much like the trout, the last of the outgoing tide and first of the rise are prime time. But unlike the trout, the redfish will reside in mere inches of water. Generally stealth and long cast are required. Presenting the bait stealthy is equally important, so we generally will throw soft plastic jerk baits. The CAL jerk baits in the 4” size are our “go to” baits as they make a soft entry and have a great gliding action when twitched. Depending on wind and distance needed we’ll throw them on weighted or weightless extra wide gap worm hooks. While I don’t think the reds are as picky on color, I always keep Melon Back, Root Beer Gold Glitter, and Watermelon Seed in the arsenal.

One of the more challenging, but widely available species are the sheepshead, but the rewards have been great, as many fish are in the 5 to 8 lb. class. While these fine eating fish will eat on all tide stages we’ve noticed the saltier incoming tides have produced best. Sheepshead love crustaceans, shellfish meat and shrimp, but it’s hard to beat fiddler crabs. Just about any barnacle covered structure will work. We generally concentrate on bridge and dock pilings but jetty rocks, fallen timber and sea walls have all been holding good fish as well. The trick is to fish them vertically with as little weight as possible and a good stout short shank live bait hook in a 1/0 to 3/0 size. Many shore bound anglers have been scoring well off the bridges and piers. While I have felt pretty good catching the sheepies in the 4-6 lb. size,  one of the St Simon Island Pier regulars gave me a call earlier this week and had weighed 3 sheepshead just over 10 lbs. and a couple right at 8 lbs.

When the winds have laid down, the near shore wrecks have been holding sea bass and bull red fish. Typically on days when the current is not to strong an anchor can be deployed. On days when heavy current is encountered, drifting is best. Both red fish and sea bass are very eager to bite on the wrecks. Just about any live or dead bait will work, as will plastics pegged to 2-3 ounce jig heads or slab spoons in the same weight. Earlier this month we chased working birds over wrecks in 40 ft. and pitched metal jigs with great success. On that day we totaled 15 reds that averaged between 18-25 lbs. The sea bass are very, very thick and catches of over a hundred in a few hours are not uncommon.

We have a string of mid-day low tides coming up and some favorable tide heights coming off the last new moon, so I am expecting a good report next week…

Capt. Tim Cutting

St Simons Island, Ga.

912 230 1814




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wild and Wooly Winter Targets: Sheepshead!

Here in the Golden Isles the poor sheepshead certainly doesn't share the same notoriety as speckled trout, redfish or tarpon, but it probably should. They are hard fighters, quite abundant in numbers and size, and are excellent table fare.  Many local sheepshead aficionados have aptly named this finned adversary "the convict fish", and for good reason. Not only do the seven black vertical stripes on this spiny finned fish resemble that of an inmates, the sheepshead's uncanny ability to steal your bait rivals that of any common jailbird.

Although sheepshead can be caught year round, late fall, winter, and early spring yields more numbers and size than any other time of the year. While it is entirely possible to catch one of these light biting fish on an artificial lure, the vast majority are caught on live or dead bait. Fiddler crabs are the overall most popular bait, but live shrimp, dead shrimp, other crab or crab parts, oysters, clams, mussels, barnacles and other crustaceans, mollusk, or bi-valve meat will work. Often anglers will bring a variety and see what works best on any given day.

The sheepshead's lairs are plenty, but in general, any barnacled covered structure will work. Bridge pilings, dock pilings, and jetty rocks are three of the most common places to find these fish but they do reside quite heavily on other structures as well. Fallen timber, wrecks, sea walls, oyster beds, channel markers and many other submerged debris all will hold sheepshead. Oddly enough, sheepshead will reside at many different depths and salinity. Sheepshead can be found in brackwish waters turned nearly fresh and out 10-15 miles offshore, and everywhere in between. In late winter and early spring there is usually a fairly good number of big spawning size fish in the 5-12 pound range on the near shore wrecks in 30-60 feet of water.

There are many types of tackle variations that will work on sheepshead. One of the most popular rigs is the simple fish finder or Carolina rig. Many sheepshead anglers will limit the length of the leader to 4-8 inches. I prefer a short shank live bait hook such as a Gamakatsu St#18413 Live Bait hook in the 3/0 size. You will find many hooks that will work, so use what works best for you. At times I will go to a jig head that employs the same style of hook. I typically start off with a 1/2 weight but will go lighter or heavier depending on the conditions.

A vertical presentation is the key to sheepshead fishing. Fishing straight up and down as close to the structure as possible is by far the best way to feel the bite and increase your odds of landing these fish. That's not to say that a bait that is cast, or even a bait presented with a float (which is gaining popularity), won't catch them, because they will. Over the years I've tried them all and the vertical drop has worked better for me.

The last and crucial bit of information is the"bite" and how to feel it. This is a combination of patience, technique, tackle and shear "luck". Hopefully you are "lucky" enough to feel the bite before your bait is swiped. I highly suggest using at least 20 lb. braided line and fluorocarbon leader of at least the same strength, and even heavier if you are getting repeatedly broken off. (Even the seasoned sheepy slayers lose a few to structure). Now that we have our bait, tackle and location (and drags tightened!) drop straight down until you feel your weight hit bottom. At this point lift your bait 4-8 inches and be patient. At times you may want to come up a little further or even allow the sinker to remain on the bottom, maintaining a tight line. The bite may come as a peck or two, an added bit of resistance, or even a good thump. Set the hook immediately with a very short and sharp snap. I typically don't give the sheepshead any wiggle room once hooked I reel pretty fast to get the fish up. Have a net ready and dip quickly as this fish has formidable teeth that will separate you from your trophy!

For more information or to book a sheepshead trip, feel free to email me at

By Tim Cutting