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