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Capt. Judy: Live bait is best option when fishing hot water
Capt. Judy fishing

Inshore bait situation

If you can purchase live bait, I suggest doing so. If you can’t find it or don’t want to chase it on land, I suggest bringing along your cast net because you are going to need it.

Using live bait during these hot water times is going to make a difference in regards to a fish bite or not. During this time, your range of fish to catch is larger than normal and they are moving just like the bait they are following.

If you are planning on catching your own bait, I suggest keeping all shrimp, finger mullet, small yellow tail, peanut menhaden or mud minnows that you happen to catch. All of this bait will work rigged up just plain naked, meaning no float or sinker used. They will also work under popping cork, traditional adjustable floats, and rigged using Carolina style rigs.

Grand Savannah Slam

Trout, red fish and flounder are most sought after inshore fish. If you catch all three in one day, it’s better known as the Grand Savannah Slam! All three of these fish love to eat live shrimp and this is the bait that will trigger one kind of a serious hit.

Now while fishing for the Fad Three, you might encounter others such as blue fish, black drum, lady fish and sheepshead. These fish are known for moving into areas that are target rich feeding areas. So let’s just say for this article’s sake the smart fish (trout, red fish and flounder) and those other fish (blue fish, black drum, lady fish and sheepshead) can all very much be caught together at the same location.

However, they are not going to feed in the small area and the bait is going to be moving too. So once you find such an area, I suggest before moving on that you fish all around your boat at different depths with different baits. You might be pleasantly surprised. Why? All fish have a pecking order when feeding together in one area – just think about it.

Beachfront report

Here’s a recipe for a blue water/offshore popping cork, which is definitely a sized up/ beefed version of the ones we use for spotted sea trout.

To the bottom of the float I tie on an in-line 1/4 sinker, which adds needed stability for casting far. For a leader I use 100-pound “fluorocarbon leader” line type, which I tie on a 7/0 Kale hook. On some occasions I will add about 8 to 10 inches of 80- to 100-pound test single strand wire between the hook and the leader. This protects the bottom end of the rig.

However, when using a 7/0 Khale hook, the longer shaft normally ends up in the jaw protecting the leader. Most of the time it’s hard for a shark to get a good bite through on the leader. The wire normally ends up between the teeth. But in some cases, if you use a long shaft 7/0 Khale hook, no wire is needed.

With the arrival of the large ocean porgies, things in the catching department have gotten real interesting. The beachfronts are holding the attentions of these bait fish and the larger species know it.

For those fishermen that want to get a chance at catching fish in the 100-pound range, now is the time. The best baits are as your guessed – ocean porgies. As far as what you might catch – well, it could be a 100-pound plus tarpon or a shark with a mouth full of biting teeth.

Where do you fish this float? Once locating a school of bait from the beach or from your boat, cast into or around the occupied area. If a fish is there, and most of the time even if they are not feeding they are watching, your chances are very good for some kind of hit resulting in a big hook up. Don’t forget your dip net, your gaff or your camera.

Tybee Roads

There have been reports of large schools of Spanish mackerel seen in the Savannah Shipping Channel. This is one area that has a lot to offer surface schooling fish, especially during this time.

The river channel is very deep (up to 55 feet in places) and shallows up quick on the edges. In some case as shallow as 10 to 12 feet to the outside of the buoys that line the channel.

Here’s a great trolling scenario for fishermen that want to catch Spanish along with an occasional big king mackerel. Coordinate information taken from Savannah River and Wassaw Sound, chart number 11512 (Please get a chart and always re-check coordinates)::

• I like to troll from red buoy R-12 3201.222 8048.401 to between R-10 and R-12, there is wreck debris 3210.002 8048.001.

• To R-10 3200.477 N 8047.711 W to R-8A 3200.030 N 8047.296 W to R-8 3159.776 N 8047.007 W in the Savannah Shipping Channel, also known as Tybee Roads.

These buoys’ locations on most occasions, especially during this time, holds strong schools of bait, which in turn keeps the mackerel interested. I suggest small to medium Clark spoon when targeting Spanish mackerel. You can either troll them deep or on the surface.

Clark Spoons

This is definitely “old school stuff,” meaning the Clark Spoon has been used and proven time after time. There is something to be said about that little red ball. Say what you want, but it plays a big factor in most cases of whether or not you get a bite.

This lure imitates the baitfish that Spanish mackerel can’t resist. Once they see it, they got to eat it. The package that it comes wrapped in offers up some interesting “how to” information, and I have been using this lure for years and years.

Yes, it does work just about any way you pull it. I do have one thing to add – adding a wire leader to this spoon holds back its ability to move like the bait fish that it’s imitating. Yes, you might lose more lures, but if you add wire you will get less action. It’s up with you!

Signature trolling Tybee Roads

I normally troll back and forth from deep to shallow. I am always looking for bait pods on the surface and holding on the drop offs. Another sign to look for is “feeding gulls.”

No matter which fish you are targeting, large or small, please remember you are in the shipping channel! Stay clear of the ships and know that they can’t get outside of the buoys. This is your safe harbor. Just keep in mind when a ship is passing to steer towards the outside buoy line.

If you happen to get a big mackerel hooked and it runs to the middle of the channel and a ship is coming, they are going to “sound the horns,” which means steer clear. In other words, the ship can’t maneuver as you can, so move away.

If you are targeting king mackerel only, you are going to need to pull out different tackle such as skirt, short shank live bait hooks and stinger trebles in tow. The best baits are going to be menhaden, blue runner, pinfish and ribbon fish. Troll them slow and give them time to eat.

Here’s what I think about a small fish versus a large fish: A small fish is going to hit bait that it can handle. If the bait is too big, why bother. A big fish is going to eat what it wants when it wants. So it’s up to you whether or not to beef up your tackle.

This is one of those cases where “match the hatch” is for good reasoning. However, if the big boy comes by, you want to be able to control it enough to get it to the boat. Big fish such as king mackerel hit hard, cutting just about everything in their path.

Believe it or not: How to catch saltwaterturned- freshwater mullet

While cruising through my writings in regards to mullet, I ran across this “Freshies Report” that I published in August 2007 (Boy how time flies). I re-read through it and only changed a few things. In my book this story shared some really good information for catching mullet. But then I thought, heck, you don’t even have to want to go catch a mullet to read this one. It is pretty darn interesting for sure, if you think a mullet is an interesting fish like I do!

In 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with Kenneth Eady and his son McKay Bloodworth. Then we all saw at the same time a school of mullet jumping. This sight prompted us to start talking about this particular subject of “fresh water fishing for mega mullet.”

I will get this out of the way up front – they had pictures of 3-pound mullet! Heck, the picture weighed 1.5 pounds. Now read on to find out how to get your chances at catching one of these mega mullets.

Firstly, you need to make a run to your local feed and seed store. You are going to need to purchase a large salt block, and I suggest from what I was told a large bag of laying pellets for chicken or pig food pellets. Whatever you decide to use it needs to be sinkable. They called it “mash.” At any rate, your feed and seed dealer will know what you are talking about, because normally they keep a lot of this sort of mash/ pellets in stock.

The purchasing isn’t over with yet. For your main fishing line it’s best to use 6-pound test monofilament line. For hooks, they suggest #6 thin tinned hooks, which work the best. You will need to some split shot, also known as “B B” shot weights. As least that’s what I called them.

You are also going to need some small 2-inch banana floats with pegs. Some fishermen prefer the yellow floats to any other color. However, Kenneth and McKay say, “Any old color float will do. It just has to be small.”

Now it time to think about bait. The bait is going to be “red wiggler worms.” However, not any size will do. The best to use are the worms that are around 3 ½ inches in length. I can’t say the tackle store will let you shake the worm boxes to see, but you could ask!

The main thing that you need to know is that the red wiggler worms have to be small. Larger ones just don’t do the job. Length is important because you only use half of a worm per threading of your hook. The secret is once it’s threaded on the hook, you leave about quarter-inch of worm extending out from the hook’s point. The part not threaded moves just enough to get the attention of the fish. The hook’s point is hidden from those big-eyed mullet!

I am assuming at this point that you have salt block, pellet, line, hooks, split shot, floats, and bait, because it’s now time to fish. Kenneth and McKay have shared with us how they fish the Oconee River, which is located in the Milledgeville area.

However, in this sort of situation, find yourself a sand bar and come out to about 4 feet of water. This is just about where you want to place your salt block. The rule of thumb when placing the block is that you don’t want it in the direct current, but just inside.

Mullet, once in freshwater, seek any sort of salt deposits. All you need to do now is to look for current direction, because down and behind the block is where the fish are going to congregate. In theory, this should be your “strike zone.” In other words, put your bait here.

Your bait needs to be right on the bottom. Your cork needs to be set so that that it partially lies over. The best news is that the suggested corks are easy enough to change depth. It might take a few times to get your bait right.

According to what I am told, you don’t want your bait right on the bottom and you don’t want high up either. Just like in the fairy tale, you want it at just the right height. Mullet are basically bottom feeders. They pick up and wash out things that roll around on the bottom.

These areas are inundated with moss, which eventually ends up settling close or right on the bottom. The mullet cruise along the bottom, sifting through the moss that rolls around like prairie tumbleweed on the desert. (Now imagine the mullet are wearing cowboy hats, carrying side shooters, and wearing boots with spurs!) The fish’s take when the current isn’t moving too fast is “slow to go!” When you have a stronger flow like that in the Savannah River, the bite is going to be stronger and fiercer. As far as those pellets that you purchased that you didn’t feed to the pigs or chickens, I suggest dispersing a few handfuls at a time. When the bite slows, grab yourself another hand full and shower it out. And this is all I have to say about this!

Thanks for reading!

Capt. Judy Helmey can be reached at 912-897-4921 and

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