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Learn a few tricks, catch lots of fish
Capt. Judy family
The Perry and Sellers family show off the king mackerel, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, grouper, trigger fish and more they caught recently fishing the Savannah Snapper Banks with Capt. Kathy Brown and Capt. Judy Helmey of Miss Judy Charters. Photo provided

Inshore report

During these hot times, this is the month that separates the true fishermen from those that only claim to be. You really have to pull out all of the stops when you want to turn fishing into catching during this month. The old saying, “The early bird catches the worm,” really comes into play during these hot times. It’s best to fish early, because this is one of those months that once the sun gets straight up, the fisherman frying process begins. Red fish, spotted sea trout, flounder, whiting and sharks can be caught just about anywhere while fishing the sounds and beach fronts. The best baits are going to be the lively ones, such as peanut menhaden, shrimp, mud minnows, finger mullet and small yellow tail.

The reason live baits are a good idea is that they do all the work for you. This just means their movement while rigged up gets the fish’s attention. All you have to do is cast rigged bait into a considered strike zone and possibly re-adjust the float’s depth – but that’s only if no hits occur after “the float by” takes place.

A lot of fishermen like float fishing. And since I am a fisherman myself, I can tell you why this is a natural born fact. We all just love to see the sinking of the cork!

Tricks of the trade

It is a known fact that fishermen come up with all kinds of grand ideas when it comes to enticing a fish to take the bait on their hook.

Some live bait requires more waiting time than others, and you might have your own personal formula for knowing when to set that hook. Or you might have figured out the timing for cranking- not-yanking when you set the hook. Believe me, we all do for sure.

Live bait is, by the way, the No. 1 bait that most all fish like. Heck, they like the way it tastes, the way it can’t really swim away very fast, and the way some call in other baits – like shrimp tail flaps do for sure. What’s a shrimp tail flap? When a shrimp wants to flee fast from a spot, they slap their mid-section with the fan of their tail. The noise made attracts other shrimp and other fish, too.

Once a spotted sea trout has grabbed your bait I suggest waiting at least 3 seconds before cranking-not-yanking.

Catching bait, or catching dinner

The best news about these baits is most of them can be caught by you. There is more good news – it’s also a good time to catch your own bait and you might just have enough left over for supper. The secret to casting and catching shrimp, which could also turn into an afternoon shrimp cocktail, is a simple one. I suggest working the grass line as the shrimp first come out on the falling tide and when they start heading back to the safety of the marsh on the rising tide. I also suggest making sure that the grass line that you are working has a mud bottom and not oyster rakes. However, last month proved to us inshore fishermen that live shrimp was hard to purchase, as well as hard to catch. The shrimp just are just not being found in the creeks where we normally catch them. So our captains have been depending on live mud minnows and finger mullet as their go-to baits. Peanut menhaden is also another go-to live bait that works great at this time of the year.

However, menhaden is not as hardy as the finger mullet and mud minnow. Since July was a bad shrimp-catching month, we are hoping that August will be better. Don’t waste all of your fish day trying to catch a darn shrimp, give it a few tries, and move on.

Changing preferences

It has come to our attention that the spotted sea trout that have moved to the beachfronts prefer finger mullet over shrimp. In past years, it has been the exact opposite.

So I suggest when targeting spotted sea trout, whether inshore in the creeks, river or sound, or on beachfronts, that you bring live shrimp, mud minnows and finger mullet. This seems to be the favorite bait for this fish. But you might have to try all three before you unlock the biting code.

I am always talking about using live shrimp as bait and all of the advantages that come along with it. As I mentioned many times over, all fish like the taste of a shrimp and in some cases it doesn’t even have to be alive to get their attention.

Our inshore captains have come to one conclusion when it comes to the ways of live shrimp. It seems that the shrimp you catch in your cast net are much hardier and will live longer in your live well, especially during these hot water times.

Live shrimp that are caught while using a dragging net don’t live as long. It has come to our attention that most of these shrimp do not make it back to their full moving potential, especially after the shock of being caught this way. So you end up with a lot of fresh dead/almost live shrimp.

And by the way, these over-the-top hot water conditions are also a big killing factor. I have always said the hardier the bait the better the fish bite.

There is also another plus when casting your net to catch you own live shrimp, and I call it “bycatch bait opportunity!”

While casting for shrimp, you will also catch some great juvenile bait fish. Your bi-catch can be anything from a mullet to a pin fish to a menhaden to many other small bait fish. I suggest throwing these right into your live well with the shrimp.

The absolute best way to rig up your by-catch is to lip-hook it. And you can present it under a popping cork or a traditional adjusted float. All baits from live shrimp to small fish work great when placed on the bottom with a Carolina-style rig. If you don’t want to hold your rod, I suggest using a small circle hook, which will almost ensure a more solid hookup. When using a Carolina rig, I suggest casting your bait into to place, letting it sit at least 2-3 minutes, then raise your rod, reel about five turns, let it sit, wait and repeat.

I suggest whatever you do that you bring a dip net to what is most likely flounder catching rodeo. It is a known fact that most flounder are lost at the boat while trying to lift them into the boat without using the aid of a dip net. The only good thing about losing a fish at the boat is that it is easier to say “it was a big one for sure!”

Artificial reefs report

Trolling for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and barracuda is very good during this time. The best trolling lures for Spanish mackerel are going to be the ever-popular 0 and 00 Clarke spoons. Or any sort of pitching lure that once on the retrieve looks and acts like a glass minnow or juvenile squid.

The best trolling spoons for king mackerel are 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inch Drone spoons. As far as the best color, I have always preferred old school silver (stainless steel). That is only because that was the only color they used to have. So if you want to pull a colored Drone, I suggest black, chartreuse, red or royal blue (with or without flash bling).

When it comes to getting that prefect barracuda bite, it can happen while trolling for Spanish and king mackerel. However, this toothy monster will also attack at and hit trolled surgical tubes.

We like using Sea Striker cuda tube CT-12 (12-inch) surgical tube with 2/0 heavy duty saltwater treble and CT-14 (14-inch) rigged with two hooks. And once you see how these tube lures are put together, you then can purchase 6 feet package SST6-(color) or 24 feet bulk pack SSTB-color and build your own.

This is the way us charter boat captains go. The tubes come in green, red, pink and yellow. And the best news is you could catch just about any kind of mid-column to surface swimming fish with this crazy acting tube lure.

Offshore report

The bottom bite at the Savannah Snapper Banks is good during this time. However, to catch big fish you have to use the right big bait. Larger fish, such as grouper, red snapper, cubera snapper, amberjack and cobia, want live bait. The best live baits are menhaden, sand perch, rock bass, scup, pin fish and ruby red lips.

It’s best to make sure that your live well circulation pump is working properly and that the filter is clean. You want your bait lively and not shocked. When a fish is shocked, it basically does look stressed and has a white milky appearance.

I suggest lip-hooking any of these bait with a 13/0 circle hook rigged up on a Carolina-style rig. As far as weight, I always use a 3- to 8-ounce egg weight and an 8- to 30foot 80/100-pound test monofilament leader.

I suggest sending this rig to the bottom, which anchors the line on the bottom. This type of rig, also sometimes referred as a “Carolina-style rig,” allows the bait to seemingly swim free, putting it right in the strike zone of a big fish. As far as where to put your bait, well, at this point it’s all about location, location, location!

Know the rules

Of course before heading out, I always suggest taking a look at //

If you are fishing offshore, whether at the artificial reefs or all the way out to the blue waters of the stream, you should have a copy of these rules and regulations on your boat. And you also need to know that state and federal regulations are not always the same – make sure you know the difference.

Thanks for reading!

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

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