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Black Sea Bass will Eat Anything that Fits in Mouth

Captain Judy Helmey
Captain Judy Helmey

The black sea bass population is busting at the seams. These fish can be caught while fishing near shoreside artificial reefs and live bottom areas. The current South Atlantic regulations are as follows: Black sea bass have to be 12 inches tail length to keep and carry a bag limit of 5 per person. However, I always suggest checking for any new regulations before heading out. The best site to do so is at safmc.net.

The best bait to use is small pieces of squid or cut fish. This is great bait to fish with directly on the bottom. When deciding where to fish I suggest heading out to the near shore artificial reefs. The best places to look on the reefs are the low relief areas. This means concrete boxes/pipe, pallet balls, rubble, and tires. Black sea bass will school over and around wrecks, because these areas do offer some sort of vertical feeding. However, during the month of June, large fish with sharp teeth like barracuda and king mackerel also school in the upper water column around these areas. Black sea bass are aware of this and most likely will stay far, far away. So therefore I always suggest fishing the much lower relief structure areas.

Believe it or not, but a black sea bass will eat just about anything that will fit into their mouth. We have caught them with chicken bones hanging out their mouth and discarded gum stuck in their gills (by the way, the chartreuse colored gum is preferred most by this fish). Apparently the discarded fried chicken drumsticks our customers were eating didn’t go unnoticed by the hungry black sea bass.

The best news that I can tell you is that bottom fishing for black sea bass is lots of fun and on most occasions a very short boat ride to the fish. If you like to eat fish, the black sea bass is very good no matter how you cook it. I always tell my customers the following about sea bass…10 fish are the makings for 20 fish sandwiches. However, for those that just like “fish and chips” I say 10 fish makes for 40 chunks…no matter how you cut it that’s a whole lot of good fish!

Savannah Inshore Slam: Red fish, spotted sea trout, and flounder
The most sought after inshore fish in this area are red fish, spotted sea trout, and flounder, which are known as the Savannah Inshore Slam. During this time targeting these fish – no matter whether the tide is coming in or going out – is an option. As long as the tide is moving these fish are biting. This information brings to light the need for the fishermen to follow my world famous “pecking order!”

I suggest finding a spot in the sound where you have some sort of live oyster rakes with a slough, which all will be covered as the tide floods. This boils down to fishing the tide from the start of the incoming till about one hour before the tide is high. Since we have a tide every six hours, this means you get to fish a full five hours, which in my book is a big YAHOO!

When the tide is coming in on a big flat or an oyster rake, the current pushes in the bait and the fish follows. The first fish to arrive at the base of the oyster rake is the stingray. At this point you need to fish your cork on the leading water edge to the oyster reef. Keep your bait on the bottom. In other words, let the bait drag the bottom. The second fish to arrive is going to be the flounder. You still need to fish near or on the bottom using your traditional float rig or drop shot rig. The third fish to arrive is going to be the spot tail bass. This fish’s intentions are made clear by all of the turbulence that this full-bodied fish makes. The fourth fish will be the spotted sea trout, which will be staging on the deep side of the oyster bed. You need to fish toward the middle of the channel bed and keep your bait deep. You can either work with artificial or live bait. Normally, trout are most hungry during this stage. The main desires of all fish when the tide is on the rise are the push to get to the “target rich environment,” which is the live oyster bed. It’s your mission, should you decide to take it, to fish it to your utmost ability!

Offshore trolling and strolling for big fishcatching possibilities
All top-water fish are on the move, meaning when they move they have to eat. So I suggest when you are moving from one fishing spot to another to put some sort of bait out and drag it. I also suggest that if you don’t want to do any sort of bottom fishing that you make your fish day a trolling one. The art of trolling is so simple – all you have to do is keep the boat moving while dragging some sort of bait allowing fish bites to happen.

Best baits to pull are those lures that come ready to tie on to the end of your line. I have listed some of the lures that you can pull for your best chances for a hook up. About the only thing that I can suggest is that you try to match the hatch of those fish that you are targeting. This basically means if you happen to see fish such as Spanish mackerel – a medium size top-water fish – schooling and jumping out of the water I suggest pulling some sort of small spoon as bait. After all, this is the size bait that they are feeding on. Best spoons to pull in this case is Clark Spoons numbers 00RBMS and/or 00RBMS, which definitely work being pulled 10 feet behind 2-ounce trolling sinkers. As far as for larger top-water fish, the tackle shelves are full of lures from 4 to 8 inches long, which work great when pulled at around 5 knots.

I always tell fishermen that the secret to catching fish is to fish where the fish are!

Thanks for reading and hope to catch you next month! 
–Captain Judy

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