For those fishermen that want to have a go at striped bass, AKA rockfish, February is a great month. In our area the Savannah River and Ogeechee River are the two places that seem to hold the interest of these strong pulling fish. The best rockfish bait are live shrimp, finger mullet, and threadfin herring. Artificial bait that work for redfish include 3-ounce lead head with hair jigs rigged with 4-inch plastic worms or paddle tails. I suggest using Cobia Candy jigs, made by the Whoop Ass Tackle Company. The striped bass loves windy, rainy, and cold water conditions. So if you are this kind of a fisherman, this is the fish for you!
Inshore fishing in February can be very good for redfish, but you need to keep in mind that the water is a lot clearer, so the fish will be a bit more skittish, so keep as quiet as possible. The best fishing days will be the sunny days when low tide hits at about midday. Pick areas in the sounds where sloughs flow onto bars or flats and that have at least 6 inches of water at mean low tide. I like to fish the bottom of the low tide stage until the water floods the grass. That way, the water under your boat also gets deeper, avoiding the chance that you’ll spend the day “high and dry” on a sand bar. I use chunked pawn shrimp and whole mullet cut in pieces like a loaf of bread when fishing redfish. I always suggest cutting the bait first before heading out and then leaving it in the sun to dry a little bit, sealing some of that flavor until the bait hits the water. When using natural baits all you need is 12 to 15 inches of 15 to 20 pound test fluorocarbon leader tied to a small extra sharp circle hook. Cast into the area, let the bait fall to the bottom, and wait for a hit. For those fishermen that prefer pitching artificial bait during the cold water bite, I suggest Berkley Jerk baits or Strike King “soft bait” flukes rigged on ¼ ounce jig heads.
Although February is considered our coldest month, there are still plenty of big offshore trophy redfish to be had — 27 to 45 inches or bigger. Start by fishing the near-shore Georgia Artificial Reefs, located in up to 50 feet of water. Since most artificial reefs are no longer marked with yellow reef buoys, I suggest researching coordinates specifically where you’ll want to anchor, over the barge or pallet balls. For up to date information on Georgia Artificial reefs go to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources page on artificial reefs: http://www.coastalgadnr.org/node/2089
While heading to your destination, keep an eye out for any formed rip tides, or “rips” that also hold interest for seabirds. Quite often a school of large redfish will find plenty to feed on in a formed rip. A rip is two different currents being pushed together making what I call a wall. Small bait and other creatures get held up here or migrate to areas such as these. As far as best artificial baits there are two types that have always worked for me, the first being Causeway Diamond jigs with red or green small tube lures or any jigs without the tube. Once you have located the school, pitch your jig, let it free fall, and you should get a solid hit before it hits the bottom. When more than one fisherman is jigging I suggest waiting a few seconds before throwing out the second jig. Your hooked up redfish will most likely be followed by the entire school of fish. I have always called this the “Redfish tag.” Cut up any old mullet or menhaden that you might have and have it ready to throw right into the school of redfish to keep them near the surface for an extra second. but as soon as the chunks start to sink the fish will disappear with them. When that happens drop over another jig and letting it fall directly to the bottom. If you are lucky enough to penetrate the feeding school, believe me that jig will not make it to the bottom!
Please remember all redfish caught in federal waters are protected and have to be released as soon as possible!
To learn more about how to catch inshore and offshore fish, give me a call at 912-897-4921. I’m holding classes for inshore fishing February 8, 9, 15, and 16, 2014 and March 1 and 2, 2014 for offshore fishing. Some classes for both inshore and offshore fishing will be held out on the water.