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Sheepshead Haul

Posted on January 22, 2020 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (18302)
As old man winter settles down upon us here on the beautiful Georgia coast, the attuned anglers attention turns to sheepshead. Also known as convict fish on account of their black and white striped torso, sheepshead are a true coastal Georgia delicacy and a challenging fish to catch. Blessed with flaky meat and the will to put up a good fight, sheepshead fishing in Georgia is exceptional in the winter months. Sheepshead are equipped with eerily human teeth and spend their time searching for bivalves and fiddler crabs to eat. They use their large teeth to crack open their prey. Sheepshead can grow in size up to 30 inches. Along the coast here in St Marys around Cumberland Island, catches of large sheepshead in the 10 pound range are not uncommon. Sheepshead inhabit waters around docks, bridge pilings, and jetties. Anywhere they can find a good population of barnacles and small crabs and bivalves you'll find sheepshead. And in winter their numbers will be good due to grouping in preparation for the late winter spawn. St Marys, Georgia is an ideal fishing location for sheepshead due to the St Marys jetties which extend off the coast of Cumberland Island for nearly a mile into the ocean. The jetties are long line of large stones stacked on top of each other. They form a barrier between Cumberland Island and Amelia island and the St Marys River. The St Marys jetties help prevent beach erosion and protect the coastline from the brutal currents and tides of the open ocean. There is a north and a south jetty. Truly a marvel of engineering especially in light of the fact that they are over 100 years old. The tops of the rocks that protrude above the water are like the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Beneath the water the rocks sit stacked on top of each other and the base widens as it goes deeper into the ocean. Ideal fish and crustacean habitat. The fishing at the St Marys jetties is legendary. In addition to the jetties, there is a sprawling web of inlets and estuaries on the Georgia coast. In fact a third of the existing marsh on the east coast of the United States lies in coastal Georgia. These estuaries and marshes provide the ideal nursery grounds for sheepshead as they begin their spawn in late winter and early spring. The frigid water is no deterrent to them, making sheepshead an ideal target fish during the colder months of the year. Fiddler crabs are the bait of choice. Georgia marshes are loaded with these diminutive crustaceans. They burrow deep in the pluff mud, coming out at low tide to feed. Male fiddler crabs are distinguished by their lone large claw, appearing like a fiddle. Sheepshead can be tricky to catch. True to their convict name, they are bonafide master bait stealers. Owing it to their teeth, they grab a dangling fiddler ever so gently, squeezing the shell to get the meat. Once they have gotten the meat they will spit the shell and hook back out. They do not grab and run like most fish. Sheepshead will sit in place, grinding on the bait like an old man sitting on the couch with a bag of Doritos. The trick is to know what to feel for as you fish. Using a short leader can help. Our guide service can teach you exactly what to feel for when you are fishing for sheepshead. Once you get the hang of it you will be loading the boat with these tasty fish. After a long and productive day on the water you will have built up quite an appetite. When you get your catch to shore, it is time to eat. Sit back and relax and enjoy the mild coastal Georgia wintertime weather. Take in some sights and sounds. Enjoy the peace and quiet of downtown St Marys, Georgia. Below are a couple of recipe links for your sheepshead haul. Dig in and happy fishing.

Georgia isn't just peaches and football

Posted on November 27, 2019 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (5203)

Coastal Georgia is home to world class fishing as well as world class beauty. Get the picture. You’ve set out on a charter fishing trip off the docks at St. Marys, Georgia. Lunch is packed and drinks chill in the cooler. Your captain sets a course near famed Cumberland Island as you relax and enjoy the wee moments of dawn. The sun peaks out over the horizon as you cast your first line out. Your target reads a like a menu at a seafood restaurant. Flounder. Redfish. Sea trout. Tarpon. Shark. Black Drum. With Cumberland Island in the distance you land the first catch of the day. The first of many. A doormat flounder. Good eating. Your mind drifts. Flounder po’ boys or fried flounder with grits... Breaking your daydream a pod of dolphins surface near the boat as they chase bait up into the grass reeds. Their violent splashing as they coral and consume their breakfast reminds you of the wildness which surrounds you. They work as a team, chasing and pushing their prey into the shallow water. A marsh breeze blows salty and clean. A bald eagle sits perched atop a pine tree in the distance. Wild horses graze the marsh and eye you warily. The day has just started and it’s already one for the books. Unbelievably this scenario is a daily occurrence on the natural coast of the Empire State of the South. Georgia’s scenic rivers, marshes, and beaches offer some of the best fishing you’ll ever experience. While the sheer enormity of such a vast area can be overwhelming, hiring a guide who knows the water will make for a successful outing. Georgia has about 100 linear miles of coast, as the crow flies. It stretches from Tybee Island in the north to Cumberland Island in the south. Surprisingly, many people do not realize that Georgia has a coast at all. It’s hidden in plain sight. Just a short hop off I-95. The reasons our fishery is so productive lie in the secrets of our shoreline. Georgia’s ocean line is made up of 15 barrier islands that dot the coast. One by one they literally line the mainland and serve as a buffer from the ocean. Only Tybee Island, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island are accessible by vehicle. As such they are the only portions of our coastline that are marked by high tourism rates. That makes 11 islands that are only accessible via boat. Of the 11, only Sapelo Island and Cumberland Island are accessible by public ferry. The remainder are accessible by private boat only. As a result of their relative inaccessibility, the natural ecosystems of these islands remain largely intact and undisturbed by man. Home to all manner of wildlife, each island is like stepping back in time. Towering live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Huge longleaf pine trees. Giant sand dunes. Glimpse life as it was hundreds of years ago. Alligators are a common sight, as are gopher tortoise and white tail deer. Numerous artesian springs bubble up in unexpected places. Old cemeteries appear out of nowhere. Truly magical. Cumberland Island is famous for wild horses and old mansions. Ossabaw Island is home to the famous Ossabaw Island feral hogs, who were dropped off by Spanish explorers hundreds of years ago and due to the isolated island population have remained genetically pure to their Iberico Spanish heritage. Sapelo is famous for the Gullah/Geechee culture which still can be found there in communities like Hog Hammock. The Gullah, or Geechee as they are also known, are direct descendants of lowcountry African slaves and still carry a language and culture unique to themselves. The barrier islands of Georgia are endlessly fascinating. A lifetime can be spent exploring them. They are marvels of biological diversity. In fact, the barrier islands of Georgia are some of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. No tourists crowding the beaches, no high rise hotels. They lie just off the mainland. Each containing similar ecosystems and mile upon mile of pristine beach. Behind each island lies a treasure trove of undisturbed marsh and estuary. These marshes are marked by pluff mud bottoms and reedy grass swaying in the current. Veritable sweeping prairies of brackish water. Fishing legends are born here. Tidal fluctuations can be drastic and occur a couple times each day, with some areas going completely dry each low tide and flooded each high tide. Within these marshes lie the key to Georgia’s phenomenal fishery. Small tidal creeks spill into larger tidal creeks which spill into tidal rivers which empty into the ocean. These estuaries are the nursery grounds for shrimp, crabs, fish, and oysters. With these waters virtually unspoiled due to the inaccessibility of the barrier islands the waters teem with life. This is why fishing is so great on the Georgia coast. The young fish and crustaceans are the cornerstone of ocean life and also the bottom of the food chain. The ones lucky enough to survive to adulthood ensure a healthy population while the unlucky ones provide predator fish with a food source. This duality is a fact of life for saltwater fish and crustaceans. Georgia is home to a third of the existing marsh left on the entire east coast. As development and pollution has stripped most states of marshland, Georgia has remained undisturbed and pure. The coast of Georgia is fed by 5 main freshwater rivers. The Savannah, the Ogeechee, the Altamaha, the Satilla, and the St. Marys. These major freshwater rivers pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of clean water everyday towards the coast. As the tides push saltwater from the ocean on the beach side of the barrier islands to the back marshes of each island, the mix of fresh and salt creates a perfect environment for baby fish and crustaceans to thrive and grow. After spending their formative years in the marshes, these animals with eventually venture out into deeper water to continue life as adults. They’ll return to the marshes to feed and reproduce and continue the cycle of life. And in the process they’ll provide some excellent Georgia saltwater fishing. Indeed Georgia has a coast and it is a marvel to behold. The saltwater fishing in Georgia is great year round. With each season the catch can vary in species. Plan your trip accordingly and you’ll find success.