CAPTAIN JUDY HELMEY
"Kicking Fish Tail Since 1956"
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA 31410
912 897 4921 912 897 3460 FAX
August 27, 2001
With the heat the inshore fishing has been a little slow, but according to my records from last year this is normal. So therefore as soon as the water temperature starts to drop, the fish will start to bite. I have had several reports of large Spottail bass being caught in the sounds and off of the beach. You best bait is going to be finger mullet, cut mullet fillet, or just dead shrimp. The shark bite has been incredible in the sound areas. Your best bet for getting these fish to bite is to use fresh fish for bait. The fresher the better. It's apparent that a shark can smell out a fresh dead fish better than a long time dead one. There is a rule of thumb when it comes to shark fishing. Big bait usually attracts the larger shark. So you decide how long you want to play your catch!
The tarpon are on wide open in Wassaw Sound. They have been ripping through the schools of menhaden on the incoming tide. It's quite a site to see.
One of my favorite sayings is "Try stepping outside of the box", which means in my case it's time to make a bait presentation change. Our offshore artificial and hard bottom areas are full of bait at this time of the year, which means too much food for the big bottom feeders to choose from. We have been using our standard two-hook rig, which has either 2/0 hooks or 4/0 hooks. We generally load the hooks up with squid and cut fish. Our rigs have been working fine, but we have been catching a lot of small bottom fish. The smaller fish are the less experience feeders, so they jump first at anything that pops up. This doesn't give the larger fish a chance to even get a look at the bait, much less sample a taste. Our bottom areas are certainly a target rich environment with first come, first bite situation. Believe me a smart large fish takes its time getting to the hook. This is where my step outside of the box routine needs to be put into to effect, which is to use live bait on the bottom only. I changed all of my bottom rigs to a single 7/0 or 6/0 hooks. These hooks are strong enough to handle most all sizes of bottom fish as long as the drag is set properly. There is plenty of live bait at the artificial reefs that we pass on the way to the Savannah Snapper Banks. However, I have found large schools of bait pods in about 45 feet of water schooling in the rips that are formed by the current changes. The sea birds are the best helpers to aid you in spotting these fish populated areas. Look for the birds hovering and diving over these areas. Get your bait rigs out with the small gold hooks and fill your live well up. These rips are holding cigar minnows, menhaden, Atlantic moonfish, juvenile scup, and Spanish minnows. I usually try to catch at least 200 of these fish before I make my way to 100 feet of water. Most of these fish that I have mentioned with the exception of the scup don't have air bladders. This is good because they can survive a drop to 110 feet of water without experiencing the fish bends. Believe the livelier the bait, the better.
Once you have the right bait the rest is simple. Go to your favorite ledge, hook up a live one, and drop it down. You should be ready for direct action, because the larger bottom fish are going to act fast. Be ready to set the hook. You might have to experiment on hook location a few times to get the right location down. Start with the hook placed through the lips of the baitfish. If you continue to lose bait quickly, try moving the hook behind the dorsal fin. This location will give you a 50/50 shot at a hookup. The fish will either take the bait from the head or the tail; which gives you the extra seconds needed to warn you that it's time to set the hook. This is a two part fishing day. Make sure you plan on having as much fun catching the bait as you do the fish, because any way you look at it, it's fishing!
There are lots of king mackerel holding from Savannah River to the artificial reefs, and the naval towers. However, these have also been on the picky feeding side. A couple of days in a row last week they would only hit rigged ballyhoo and drone spoons, then their appetite changed to live bait only. Who knows what they might want next week? If you plan on targeting these fish take your artificial, natural, and live bait along. One of these is bound to work sometime during their daily feeding frenzy!
No news is good news especially when it comes to top water fishing. There is a great big bottom bite at this time of the year. You will need to stop off at the Savannah Snapper banks and pick up some live bait. I am not talking about cigar minnows or Spanish sardines. The best bait for these big bottom dwellers is rock bass, sand perch or ruby red lips. These baits attract the larger grouper and snapper. The best depth is 150 to 200 feet. You might want to take along your electric reels!
LITTLE MISS JUDY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
As you all already know my father was an avid fisherman. He loved it, lived it, and caught it all, especially when he wanted too! He loved cobia fishing. It was his passion. This was due to the fact that this fish didn't always readily take the hook. You had to have a lot of different moves up your sleeve to get a hook up. Now as all of us fishermen know sometimes no matter what you do the fish just will not bite. Well, my father got sick of this routine. So he decided to take matters into his own hands. Some of my father's old fishing buddies got together and came up with a serious plan. Among his fishing buddies were Uncle Arthur Lee and George Gorman, all of whom lived close by. You aren't going to believe this one!
They all agreed that getting the cobia to the boat wasn't usually a problem. This is due to the fact that they are very curious fish, but when they aren't hungry you are out of luck. I have watched them on more that one occasion swim in a circular motion around and around my boat. Only stopping to look at what I might have thrown in their direction. My father had to come up with an idea that would work when these fish wanted to play cowboys and Indians. The plan was simple; first he would need someone that could shoot a bow and arrow. This would fall into the hands of George, which by the way was pretty good with a bow. Now he would need a two-part arrow that you could attach a line to. He called it a "break away arrow." My Uncle Arthur Lee could design and build anything so this was his job. My uncle took the standard arrow design, which was a wooden stick with a sharp tip attached and went from there. Daddy wanted the stick part to break away a soon as it hit the fish. He also requested the arrowhead to stay anchored. This was a simple request for my uncle he simply made this by welding points and parts together. He made an arrowhead that would self-anchor and it also had an eye to attach the line to. All of Daddy's requests had been fulfilled!
The line that we used during the fifties was mostly a nylon type that was very strong and light. It was sort of like spider wire, but not as streamline. He had already picked that special rod and reel that he was going to used. I remember it being big, at least to me. It was a 6/0 reel that was on a wooden butt rod and it had lots of nylon line on it.
The three of them and of course me was off on a fishing adventure. It was evident this was happening by the look in my father's eyes. We had live bait, which consisted of live prawn shrimp. At that time this was the bait of choice for cobia. My father always took along his artificial lures as a back up. The lure that he used was the famous "Cisco Kid." (That's another story in itself.) This being our special trip we brought along the bow and arrow just in case those rascals decided not to bite.
Shortly after we arrived it happened. We found the fish, brought them to the boat, and they started their circular no bite routine. The fishermen quickly tied the line from the rod/reel to the special arrowhead. Mr. Gorman grabbed his bow and went into to action. This fish circled and he took aim and let it rip! The arrowhead went through the fish's head and the stick part of the arrow broke away. I was standing by the gunwale and saw the whole thing. I couldn't believe my six-year-old eyes. As the fish started running and right before the line tighten the wind somehow blew the nylon line around by neck. Everyone froze while I was still watching the fish. You know it's funny how things happen. Without any tension the line broke before it tighten. Everyone seemed to be so relieved that the line had broken, but I couldn't understand why!
Sea You Later,