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Capt. Judy: Shrimp, minnows good bait for inshore fishing
Capt. Judy fishing

Inshore report

Inshore fishermen get to go into the spotted sea trout, red fish, flounder, sheepshead, black drum, shark, Spanish mackerel and cobia watching and catching mode!

This would be the month to bring out the cast net and catch your own bait. Inshore fisherman can leave the dock without bait because peanut menhaden, finger mullet and mud minnows are available, as well as plentiful.

As far as live shrimp, as the water temp warms this population gets stronger. Fishermen as of last month had limited options in the purchasing and catching of live shrimp. I suggest always checking with the local baits shops to see if they have been carrying live shrimp. If so, then most likely you can catch some with the old cast net.

The best way to be prepared in the event you can’t purchase or catch any live shrimp is to have on board artificial shrimp patterns and assorted color screw tails. These styles of artificial baits work great when rigged on jigs, cast into place and retrieved slowly.

It seems when it comes to working artificial bait all fishermen, including myself, have a signature pattern move that they prefer to use.

Mine goes like this: I cast into place and let my bait fall seemingly natural through the water column. Once it hits the bottom, I wait a few seconds, reel a few turns, wait, twitch it a bit, and then slowly retrieve.

What does twitching do? It causes a small, but noticeable mud storm. This in turn brings on the attention of fish. When something dead/fake or alive moves near the bottom it produces one heck of a calling trail. All of these live baits will work under traditional adjustable floats or popping corks, Carolina style rigs or fishing just plain naked! For those fishermen that want to use artificial lures please pick up an assortment of different colors of Strike King soft jerk baits.

One of our, as well as the fish’s, old time favorite is baby bass. However, this bait comes in many grand two tone colors. Let your personal color chart be your guide.

These baits work rigged weed less on 3/0 worm hooks or threaded on to 1/8 ounce red, black, or white jig heads. Cast them out, let them fall, and normally these lures never make it to the bottom before “strikes happen!”

Berkley Gulp Alive is great soft artificial bait that comes in many forms. These baits will work rigged on jig heads or under corks. It works whether it is in its original shape or not.

After this bait is destroyed, I have taken the left over parts, sliced the pieces up, dropped them back in the sauce to marinate, and used them while bottom fishing. In this case the secret is really in the sauce.

Shark fishing

During this month, the inshore shark populations are plentiful, which means they are hungry. For those fishermen that want lots of pulling sport, I suggest light tackle shark fishing.

The best bait during this time is blue fish fillets/chunks or whiting steaks. It’s best to use these baits the same day that they are caught. However, if you aren’t that lucky then use what you have. Fresh cut fish such as this offers a smell that sharks are drawn to. It’s called “the shark’s dinner bell.”

Whole fresh, just-caught whiting also make a great shark bait. When using this bait, I suggest scaling and also cutting the tail off. The removal of the scales helps you get a more solid hook up, especially when a softer bite is delivered. With the tail removed fresh scents are delivered at intervals, which keeps a scattered smell around your bait.

My father used to always say, “The larger the bait the bigger the bite.” In this case it’s true – the bigger piece of bait used normally does attract a much larger shark bite. All I have to say now is make sure you have plenty of line and a fisherman or two strong enough to reel them in. We are now offering inshore and offshore shark fishing trips!

Mackerel fishing

June is mackerel catching time. For Spanish mackerel all you need is a small 0 or 00 Clark spoon to get this catching job done. The spoons worked great being pulled 10 feet behind 2-ounce trolling sinkers or small planers.

And if you find yourself surrounded by surface holding Spanish mackerel, you can stop and pitch your most favorite small size lure – just about anything will work as long as it is shiny and matches the hatch.

The king mackerel bite will get hot and heavy. The best artificial bait is the ever-popular Drone spoon pulled at around 5 to 7 knots behind deep running planers. I like using at least 30 feet of leader between the Drone spoon and the planer.

Use live bait on Duster skirt rigs with stinger hooks in tow. The best live baits are going to be the nervous baits, Spanish sardines, cigar minnows or any small shiny bait that can move up/down quickly in the water column.

King mackerel like bling, so give them the shine that they want.

Savannah Snapper Banks

This is month that most all offshore fishermen have been waiting for. Just about all the fish you can catch in the ocean will have arrived.

This 2020 catching season so far has not let us down, with fishermen catching lots of cobia around buoys, artificial reefs and Savannah Snapper Banks. The best baits for cobia are eels under beefed up adjustable floats or Carolina style rigs.

Believe it or not, but live prawn shrimp is another old time favorite. Heck, even a fresh dead prawn shrimp threaded onto a hook is a head-turner for the cobia.

To add to this already good catching time grouper, vermilion and black bass catching seasons are open.

As far as baits for grouper, I suggest using live fish on the bottom, such as cigar minnow, Spanish sardines, vermilion snapper or sand perch.

When using small vermillion snapper, sand perch, or rock bass I suggest using a Carolina style rig. The leader used can be as short as 6 feet and as long as 30 feet. When using this style, I suggest a (12/0 to 14/0) circle hook.

This type of rig allows your bait quite a bit of swimming freedom, which brings in the attentions of a larger fish bite.

When using a single or double hook bottom rig, I suggest using live/fresh dead cigar minnows or Spanish sardines. These baits are known for triggering a bite, meaning fish strike quick and strong.

When targeting the larger species of vermilion snapper, I suggest the liveliest cigar minnows, Boston mackerel or Spanish sardines that you can catch. To catch bait, you will need to bring along more than one set of Sabiki gold hook rigs, which works great when dropping over any sort of structure at the artificial reefs.

Please know that when fishing for any fish listed under snapper grouper complex, you must use circle hooks. Visit // for all current federal regulations and details.

Blue water report

This is the time of the year when dolphin, also known as mahi mahi, and wahoo go into the wandering mode. This means you could find yourself catching blue water fish while fishing in green water.

The Savannah Snapper Banks is a great place for these blue water fish to wonder to. Toward the middle of June, those fish that travel and feed near the surface to show us the way.

Mahi look for anything floating that provides any sort of shade, which makes for a great place for small bait fish to school. While these fish are feeding near the surface, the sea birds with their keen eye sight are picking up the leftovers.

The large and mighty wahoo that corners like it is on rails will also make way into the green zone. Normally a large wahoo is accompanied by a yellow bill tropical bird or some sort of fast unusual looking seabird.

If you happen to see a single bird diving fast and then making erratic air moves, it is most likely mimicking the movement down under of a large feeding wahoo. I have caught some nice hundred-pound wahoo while putting this knowledge to work.

All you have to do when you find yourself in this target rich environment is to let the bird that is watching the fish’s movement lead you. I always presented the bait ahead of what I thought was this fish’s intended direction.

During this time of the year I normally keep larger baits, such as red porgy and vermilion snapper in live well. My favorite rig was a beefed up king mackerel rig using a single extra heavy duty hook. It’s best to place the hook as near the tail section, but you want to make sure the bait can still swim somewhat normally.

Wahoo have a great nickname, which is “tail cutter.” It’s this fish’s goal to chop off the tail and then turn back for the spoils. I say, “Why not hook it up on the first pass?” Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but most of the time it did!

The bottom line is it’s time to go fish. Just like old times, we are now once again offering blue water bottom fishing and trolling trips.

Believe it or not: Don’t lick that catfish

We used to catch hundreds of saltwater catfish while bottom fishing in the sound. The fact of the matter is you couldn’t catch many whiting because the catfish would beat them to the bait.

And then one day they disappeared. This happened over 50 years ago, and Daddy said, “A virus killed the saltwater catfish.”

Ocean catfish have a poisonous gland at the base of the spine, which can cause a painful sting. However, if they are handled properly, they can’t sting you.

My father suggested this home remedy for a catfish sting. It was a simple one. All you have to do is to rub the stomach of the catfish directly on the wound. This should take most of the soreness out of the wound.

His second suggestion was not to let the fish sting you again. Once again, don’t try this at home. This material is good for reading only.

Let me add one last thing about the poor misunderstood catfish: No matter what you have heard or read, sniffing or licking a catfish’s belly will not make you see any type of visions or make you high to any degree.

No, I have not tried it; I am just in the know!

Thanks for reading!

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

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