May 2023 Fishing Report Coastal Georgia

Scott OwensGeorgia Fishing Reports

May 2023 Fishing Report Coastal Georgia

Coastal Georgia tarpon fishing

Somehow May has come and gone but every day that passes means another day to look forward too.  Right now I’m plucking away at the keyboard dreaming of hot, calm days.  There is one certain fish that I can’t get off my mind.  You guessed it… Tarpon!  There have already been a few fish caught both on Fly and Spin and it’s shaping up to be a great year.  Right now we have a stalled out low pressure sitting over St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, and Sea Island here in Coastal Georgia and it’s not suppose to move out until early next week.

It’s definitely muddying up our schedules.  Knowing that the system is here for a few more days had me thinking… Maybe it’s a good time to straighten up my tackle and get a few loose ends tied up.  Then I remembered that my boats at the marina and all my gear is too.  It’s not that far of a drive but I can’t seem to muster up the drive to get out in this weather.

Lucky You

Well let’s talk tackle and first let’s go over what we use for rods and reels. Tarpon can require a small warehouse of equipment depending on where and how you are fishing for them.  If you do a lot of bait fishing for tarpon you will generally need heavier gear than if you are throwing plugs and artificial lures.  The reason is when you are bait fishing you are generally anchored up. Unless you are coming off anchor with every fish you will want the stopping power of a larger setup.  We fish 7’6″ medium heavy spinning rods paired with Shimano Saragosa 10,000 reels spooled with 50 or 65lb braid.  If you prefer convenient equipment we use the same 7’6″ style rods just in conventional paired with a Seigler LGN paired with 65LB braid.

When it comes to leaders we do believe lighter is better to a degree.  Tarpon have incredible eyesight but can also chew through light leaders with ease. While the old days of using 125lb mono will still produce a bite I guarantee you downsizing that leader will produce more.  We use high grade fluorocarbon by Scientific Anglers either 60 or 80 pound depending on water quality.  This size should be effective and has a high abrasion resistance.  We use 6ft of leader connected to a number 6/0 -8/0 Gamakatsu Octopus offset circle hook.  The hook size depends 100 percent on the size of the bait we are using which most of the time are menhaden.

Artificial Lure setups

For throwing soft plastics and hard Baits I almost exclusively use St. Croix Avid Inshore 10-2-LB 7’6″ spinning rods.  I pair them with a 6000 Shimano Saragosa SW spinning reels spooled with Powerpro Slick 40LB. We downsize these setups so you are able to cast light lures with pin point accuracy.  I’m also always either on the push pole or trolling motor and able to play the fish easier all while keeping fight times to no more than 30 min.  We are generally fishing 5-6ft of 40lb mono with 12 inches of 60 or 80lb Scientific Anglers fluorocarbon bite tippet.  Lures depending on conditions but we throw everything from D.O.A. soft plastics too MirrOlure hard Baits.  What we throw and the color depends totally on conditions.

Fly Tackle

As the old saying goes bigger is better and in this case I agree.  G-loomis 12wt NRX fly rod paired with a Seigler XBF Fly reel is my go too.  The Tarpon here are large averaging most years in the 80-140 range. Fish over 150 pounds are not uncommon and the last thing anyone wants is for one of these toads topple off into a channel with 2-4 knots of current and water 20-50ft deep but it happens.  For this reason I always like my clients to fish 12wt setups.  It’s like towing a load.  Sure an F150 is rated to tow something like 12,000 pound but it’s still got to stop it in a hurry if something goes south and I know Id rather be in a F250 or F350 in that situation. Same goes for fly fishing here.  Sure a 10 or 11 weight will get it done most of the time. But, do you want to take the chance of loosing a fish of a lifetime over it?  I don’t.

As for leaders and fly’s.  Everyone has their preference and on that I’ll just say I go either direction. I fish IGFA class leader as do I fish straight 40 to 60.  I leave that most of the time up to the client and fly’s are like lures and the conditions but I will say black and purple seem to get it done.

The fishery

We have a very unique tarpon fishery here in coastal Georgia.  There is only one place I have ever fished that has a similar eco system.  See on any given day you could be fishing for tarpon in a small creek, open bay, river, or in the ocean. That’s just to name a couple examples.  Georgia has 5 major fresh water rivers dumping into the ocean in just under 100 miles of coast line. Georgia may have a short coast line compared to it’s neighboring states but that 100 miles makes up 1/3 of the salt marsh on the east coast.   I mean we have creeks for creek and waterways that go 30 miles inland.  What’s all that mean you ask yourself? Let’s get to that.

Those rivers dump large amounts of nutrient rich freshwater into our brackish coastal waterways and I say brackish because most of the time it is.  Shrimp, crabs, mullet, glass minnow, and menhaden all thrive here and create a buffet for hungry tarpon.  It’s not an easy place to fish but when it’s on it’s on.

Sharks can be a complete nuisance if you are bait fishing for Tarpon as they inhabit the same nutrient rich water and feed on the protein packed Menhaden and mullet too.  Beware if you drop a bait to the bottom you better hold on because there are huge sting rays here that will make the toughest of men through in the towel.

All in all Coastal Georgia offers tarpon fishing to any type tarpon angler weather you are looking to sight fish them with a fly, throw lures and soft plastics to them or chunk the net and feed them live bait I assure you it won’t disappoint.


Until the next rainy day in from of the computer

Capt. Scott

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