St. Simons Island Fishing

Georgia Fishing? Read before you go fishing again!

Scott OwensCaptain's Journal

Georgia Fishing

When guiding Georgia fishing trips I get asked quite often why are we fishing here? There’s no one real answer, but many instead. As a guide I spend roughly 275 days a year on the water. These days can be sunny and with near perfect conditions, or they can be days that it’s cloudy and the wind is blowing 20mph.  On top of that it could be blowing any direction like the north, south, east, west, or hell a combination of any of these. As all of you know, meteorologists are finicky and at best are like a pocket thief on the streets of New York. In this blog we’re going to talk about a few different things including:

  • Tides
  • Picking the right shoreline
  • Water quality and wind direction
  • Sunny versus cloudy
  • And a few other things in between

If you are coming to the coast of Georgia and you’re a do-it-yourself type of guy, here are a few things to look for

Tides are the single most important thing here in Coastal Georgia!

Because of Coastal Georgia’s geographical location, tides can range anywhere from around 6 feet and top out at over 9 feet.  Some of you can’t even fathom those kinds of tide swings. Around new and full moons also known as Spring tides, and during certain times of the year, Coastal Georgia’s tides can range from -1.2 to -1.5 feet below sea level, with highs at 8.9 . to 9.2 feet above sea level. These tides move from high to low in one six hour tide cycle with 4 tides most days, 2 highs and 2 lows.  Lets talk about tides and what they really mean to you as a boater and fisherman.

Lets start by talking about how to read a tide chart.  Then study it, as a matter of fact live by it because here getting stuck can mean eight hours sitting on mudflat stranded in the hot sun or the cold of winter.

As a guide I fish every stage of the tide cycle and overtime have learned what works, where, and when, but most importantly what we look for is clean water. Because of these tide swings, our water with just a little wind can become churned up and extremely dirty. If you encounter these situations try to find shorelines that the wind is not blowing up against that create a lee.  Keep in mind sometimes the further up the creek you go the cleaner the water will get but, this is not always the case, and remember the backs of creeks can also mean shallow water.

What Tides are best?

When planning a trip whether guided or solo, look at a tide chart, but keep in mind a good guide knows how to fish almost any tide. In Coastal Georgia you should look for smaller tides in the 6.5 to 7.5 foot range. Lows are very important as well’ and you want a small low tide on the positive side. If you see a negative (- #) keep in mind that the water around low tide in most areas will become dirty as smaller feeder creek that normally hold water dump the last of their water out which is normally no more than a stream of mud.  OK are you confused yet?  I hope not. Here is a breakdown and explanation of a smaller tide and a “spring tide.

Large tide

Date          Low            High            Low             High

Wed         04:43 AM    10:39 AM    5:08 PM         10:57 PM

12                 -1.2 ft             7.9 ft         -1.5 ft                 8.9 ft

Small Tide

Date           High            Low             High             Low

Wed         01:43 AM     08:23 AM      2:23 PM        08:47 PM

21                  7.2 ft             0.4 ft             6.4 ft                0.0 ft

Ok, to summarize things when looking at a tide chart, look for tides somewhere below 7.5 feet with low tides that don’t have a negative symbol ( – ) next to them.  These tides are best for general inshore fishing whether you are looking to throw artificial lures or live bait and will provide you with the best water quality and experience. 

Picking the right shore line to fish.

Another thing to figure out is where to start.  You have picked the right tides and now you are  here.  In Coastal Georgia there is so much salt marsh that the state makes up 1/3 of the salt marsh in the U.S. which is a lot.  This can be a little confusing because at times of high water almost all the oysters and structure are covered.  During this time as I guide, I look for clean water, current, rips, and feeder creeks.  Work shore lines with small feeder creeks on them with popping corks and live shrimp or soft plastics, and if you see birds diving pay extra attention.  If the water is coming in, look at the mouths of small creeks for current seams or rips.  These funnel small bait and shrimp into these creeks and predators like trout, redfish, and more will feed here.  If the tide is falling, look for the same, rips and current seems. 

Try fishing creek mouths as water falls and don’t spend too much time on one spot. If you are not catching fish move on.

Lower parts of the tide around low tide expose all the goodies.  Around these times pay special attention to where oysters are, and look for contour changes in the bottom.  At or around low tide, fish sometimes become more concentrated, and if you find them be ready for a fast bite.  At low water I prefer to fish artificial lures and if I’m in an area I know there are fish I will spend time working the area thoroughly. I fish a Strike King Glass Minnow (paddle tail) and a 1/4 ounce jig head (Click here to see one) most often as redfish, trout, and flounder will all bite them.  These soft plastics allow me to work higher in the water column by using a faster retrieve, or down on the bottom by slowing down the retrieve, and again after you work an area with no success move on.  Don’t look at an area and think there has to be fish there because it looks so good, it almost all looks the same on the surface.  If you are an early riser or late evening fisherman and love to plug fish, topwater action from March to October can be awesome on calm mornings.  Look for flooded grass at high tide and banks littered with oysters and deeper drop offs at low water. Calm conditions are best so pay special attention to the wind and pick a shore line that is on the lee of the wind.  If all this sounds good and you want to see some great videos click HERE

Water Quality and wind direction.

As you get out on the water, pay attention to the water clarity and quality. Stagnant water with no current is generally a dead zone, and a shoreline that is being beaten to death by waves from wind is hard to fish.  Look for moving, clear water that you can comfortably fish.  If there are swells rolling in on a bank and causing the shore to be muddy or dirty, look for a shore line that is calmer.  I’m not saying these banks don’t hold fish and you wont catch them, but if waves or chop in an area cause you to lose sight of your cork every other second, it’s just harder to fish.  I have watched people for years set the hook every time the cork (bobber for you fresh water guys) dips behind some chop or a swell.  It never goes under just disappears for a second.  All in all we all like to enjoy our time on the water, so find an area that looks fishy and comfortable to fish and start fishing. 

Sunny v/s cloudy

Some people don’t put much stock in either of these but I can tell you with thousand of hours on the water, and a lifetime of fishing, that it’s the difference between night and day to the fish.  Say you are fishing a popping cork with live shrimp and you start out early morning, and you are doing well on trout catching fish using 24 inches of leader and notice the bite slows down around 10am as the sun shines bright on the water.  Ever tried fishing deeper?  Some fish are notorious for moving deeper in the water column to avoid the bright light.  Remember they don’t get sunglasses.  I generally will fish deeper during bright sunny days and use a cork called a Billy Bay Aggravator adjustable popping cork. These floats are like any standard popping cork however the line runs through the cork and it uses a bobber stopper which can be adjusted to whatever depth you desire to fish.  For a video showing how we rig them chick here

Cloudy days I prefer to fish closer to the surface and love to throw topwater plus.  Keep in mind you have to take into account tide, wind, and water quality as we discussed above.  I like most topwater plugs that “walk the dog” like the Strike King Sexy Dawg and Sexy Dawg Jr. obviously whoever designed and named this was a Georgia Bull Dawgs fan!

Georgia Fishing

Capt. Scott’s 3 favorite colors of the Strike King Sexy Shad Jr.

Georgia Fishing

Make sure to push those barbs down on those plugs because they will sometimes eat them deep. Pushing down barbs make trebles much easier to removed. 

A few other fishing tips

Remember fishing is fishing, not catching, and it’s as much about the friendship, family time, learning experience, and fun on the water as it is the bragging board.  Too many people have forgotten how to go enjoy a day of fishing, and just want to go catching.  Guides deal with this all the time.  One of my favorite things to do is to explore new water.  I don’t get to do that as often as I would like thanks to a busy schedule guiding clients up and down the east coast from Georgia to the Florida Keys.  Next time you are out and the fishing is just out of control and you are having the best day of your life, stop and really appreciate it, because as an outdoors man they are all more often not like that.  I look at slower days of fishing as days I get to explore and try new techniques.  I have passed spots over the years and said man I want to look at that, but most of the time I just keep going to the spots I know generally produce.  It’s the days those other spots are not producing that I go look at that spot.  Fish are finicky critters and being cold blooded, they change moods with water temps, not to mention tide changes, light changes, wind changes, and well I could go on and on.  Here are a few things to look at if you are come to the Coast of Georgia to fish.  Don’t feel bad if you struggle the first few times out either.  During my Professional tournament career I watched the “Pro’s” struggle in Georgia and even watched as the tournaments pulled out of the area due to pressure from those same Pro’s.  Next time you run across a Professional angler or TV host ask them if they have fished Georgia in a DIY situation and if so watch their response.  Most will tell you it’s one of the hardest places they ever fished. 

A few tricks to help you find fish and catch them.

  • Buy a Top Spot map available at most outdoor stores and online.  Retailers generally carry their local areas maps. When we travel to new areas and states to fish its the first thing I get and study.
  • Have a good live well and great bait.
  • Learn to hook shrimp so they stay alive on the hook.
  • Don’t fish a dead shrimp under a cork for trout.  Change them out often.
  • Locate a boat ramp close to where you plan to fish.  Coastal Georgia has large bodies of water with little lee’s and with big tides and with a little wind they can get very rough.
  • Georgia requires a saltwater fishing license sold HERE
  • Know fish regulations and don’t keep more than you can eat in a couple meals
  • Release fish you aren’t sure you will eat.  Georgia fish stock have seen better days and we are all responsible for the health and well being of the fish stocks.
  • Be careful and monitor tides.  Remember where there is 7 feet of water at high tide is dry at low tide in most situations.
  • If you find yourself aground DO NOT get out of the boat.  Georgia coast is made up of mostly soft fluff mud and you will more than likely sink up to your waist or further.
  • Use idle speeds around bridges and docks as Georgia has a “NO WAKE” law for bridges, docks, and marinas, Even if they are not marked, you can get a ticket which can ruin a day of fun.
  • Check our fishing reports often for what is going on and tips.  See when we are fishing and for what HERE

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope I shared with you some useful information that you can use to help you successfully fish the inshore waters of coastal Georgia. 

Capt. Scott

For more information or if you would like to inquire about booking a trip with either Captain Scott or Rob please call us at 877-605-3474 or drop us an email  by clicking HERE