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Inshore fish are coming out of cold water mode
Capt. Judy fishing

Inshore fishing report

Well, as you know the inshore fish catching has been pretty darn interesting. Why? Well, spotted sea trout, red fish, flounder and whiting seem to be darn hungry. And they are nicely coming out of their slow cold water bite mode.

What does all of this mean? Inshore fishing is pretty darn good, because with water temps over 65 degrees, it means everything is alive. The best bait is always going to be live shrimp, fresh dead shrimp and last year’s frozen burnt smelly shrimp. A fish loves the taste of shrimp, and it seems no matter the stage of smell they love it.

As you know, there are stages of smells of shrimp that some fish prefer over others. For instance, the spotted sea trout loves to kill first and then eat the shrimp. So this fish is as likely to hit a live shrimp as well as an artificial shrimp pattern.

The red fish has been known for eating just about anything as long as it smells shrimpy or crabby. This fish is basically a bottom feeder sporting some really nice crushers, meaning whether it is wrapped in a shell or not the old red fish can handle it.

The flounder, which sees like a rabbit, is cunning as a fox and strikes like a cobra, prefers something alive to trigger its feeding juices.

Now this doesn’t mean fresh, dead or a flowing artificial will not work, because it certainly can.

As far as the old whiting, which sometimes doesn’t get much catching credit from most fishermen, this fish basically loves small pieces of peeled or not shrimp.

The bottom line to all of these ins and outs of baits when it comes to catching fish is they all got to eat sometimes.

Please remember that when you are catching your own shrimp any small live fish that you catch might also make great bait. Small yellow tails, finger mullet, mud minnows, shrimp mammies, squid, etc., make for great baits. All of these baits will work presented under popping corks, fished naked, fished on the bottom or under traditional adjustable floats. What does this mean? Just about any way you would like to fish, you have a grand opportunity for catching them.

Artificial reefs

We fished offshore this past week and had a bonus catching week in artificial reefs in less than 50 feet of water. It seems we could not do a thing wrong when it came to using purple back fiddlers as bait.

All we had to do was to situate/anchor the Miss Judy Too over the structure and then fish the areas that offered the most vertical feeding.

Since most of the areas that we fish were sunken barges, I instructed my customers to fish the edges, or should I say, “I put my customers where they could fish the vertical areas and they caught some really nice fish!” The sheepshead and black drum bite was awesome for sure. However, you had to know when to hold your bait and when to wave them. What does this mean? It is my opinion that sheepshead and black drum are what I call counter clockwise circular feeders. This means that whether they are schooled up or not, they feed on a vertical area and then quickly move on.

However, what I have seen with the aid of fish finder is that they feed a little, then move to the left, feeding a little on the new spot, then move a little more to the left, and then they are no longer on my screen.

The fact of the matter is I can just about tell when my customer is about to get a hit. It is my opinion that when the fish start to show up in the area that you are anchored over, you should drop your bait to the bottom, reel up a few turns, lift your rod, lower your rod and repeat. This is called the “sheepshead wave.”

I suggest start looking or give pulling/pitching with a couple of Clark spoons a try. I think the large Spanish mackerel and little tunny have arrived, but you don’t know until you go.

Artificial Reefs located in more than 50 feet of water Black sea bass are still holding at artificial reefs in more than 50 feet of water and can be found on the wrecks and lower reefs areas.

It is a known fact that the black sea bass is known for feeding in an area, getting exactly what they want and then moving on. And that is why sometimes when trying to locate this fish on the reef there is some looking in your future.

Believe me they are hold up somewhere no matter what, just keep looking. How do you look? Pull up to your intended fishing area, drop down a couple double hook bottom rigs baited with squid, and if you don’t immediately get a hit I suggest moving on to the next spot.

Savannah Snapper Banks

If you are looking for the most different species packed into one area, I suggest fishing the Savannah Snapper Banks.

During this time of the year and with water temps consistently over 68 degrees, bottom and top water fish are very hungry. So give them what they want, which is squid, cut fish, cigar minnows, etc. As far a top water fish, try using small live baits or shinny ballyhoo.

Gulf Stream 

The blue water serious biting season is just around the corner.

I believe that this year’s mahi mahi bite is going to be early. Blue water fishers are already catching some nice black fins and yahoo wahoos, which means the mahi mahi arriving season is just around the corner.

Frozen barracuda river attack

I pulled this trick on some of my fishing buddies many years ago. It was a classic.

We were all booked for a snapper banks trip and the northeast wind was blowing a “strong gale.” Our party showed up and we explained to them the situation. We also told them that shark fishing in the sound was an option, but that this type of bite wasn’t great on a northeast wind either.

They all decided that they still wanted to give it a try. This was due to the fact that they were ready to fish and the beer was already cold. Capt. Ida Knight, who ran and owned the boat Debutramp, was one of the charter boats in the group. We talked and I told her that I knew we probably weren’t going to catch anything, but everyone as a group just wanted to get out for a while. Before we left the fishing party wanted to get up a pot (money) for the biggest fish, which they did. It grew to about $200. I got all of the boats loaded while the fishermen screamed at one another on who was going to catch the biggest fish.

As usual I was going to be the last to load and leave the dock. My group told me that they had to win and it didn’t matter whether we had to fudge a little or not. In other words, cheating was an option!

I stood there with all of this pressure and decided to make a stand. I went up to the freezer, took out one of the largest frozen barracuda and put the fish into the cooler.

Off we went to the not so shark-infested waters of the old shark hole, which is located at the tip of Cabbage Island. It looked like a boat parking lot when I arrive. No one could fish offshore today so every boat from small to large was all anchored at the ever-popular shark hole.

All of our four charter boats were anchored within screaming distance. We were all waiting for that big shark bite that would probably never materialize. After about two hours into the trip my boat decided it was time to put on our show.

Capt. Ali hooked up the big, still-frozen barracuda and slipped it overboard. Luckily, the fish sank so we let it drift out with the current until the reel was almost empty of line. Then we all started screaming that we had a fish on.

The chosen fisherman fought it making his rod bend as if the large fish really was alive and pulling drag. This was due to the fact that the current was really running and the frozen dead fish was actually very heavy.

Once the fisherman got the frozen dead fish to the boat Capt. Ali went into action. She gaffed it a few times purposely missing it, making the frozen fish really look even more alive.

Upon making the fish fight look real good, she finally pulled the frozen fish onboard. Then she grabbed a bat and beat it all along while screaming this and that.

Everyone was screaming, including the other fishermen with great excitement on all of the other boats. It was truly an unbelievable sight to see. All of the other fishermen watching, wishing it was them that got to fight the big fish, and let’s not forget the $200 big fish award.

After this great catch it was clearly time to go home, which we did. Upon arriving, everyone was dropped off, the fish was held up, everyone cheered, took pictures and then handed the angler his $200 big fish award.

Everyone was happy, the trip was over, and we all went home. I played this trick way over 30 years ago.

The other day I was having coffee with my old friend retired Capt. Ida Knight and we got to talking about old fish stories. We talked about our old times and all of the fun that we had chasing and catching fish.

Capt. Ida then said something that I couldn’t believe came out of her mouth. She told me that I was the only one that she ever knew of that actually had caught a barracuda in the Wilmington River.

At first I didn’t know what she was talking about and then it hit me. I never told her the real story about the frozen barracuda.

Here’s a question for you: Do you think the fishermen that were on my boat over 30 years ago ever told the others and returned the $200 big fish award? My answer would be, “I don’t think so!”

Thanks for reading and please be safe!

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

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