Here’s what you need to know to catch speckled trout on the Peach State coast.
On the Fly Saltwater
Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
If you consider the entire South Atlantic coast of the U.S., unquestionably the most often targeted fish in saltwater is the spotted seatrout, or speckled trout as it is often called. These fish are plentiful, seemingly always ready for a fight, and quite palatable when eaten fresh.
But once you narrow the question down to just fly casters, the trout seem to fall from grace. Though often caught on flies, they are not regularly targeted. Rather the trout are hooked when we present a fly in search of another species.
Seatrout show up virtually anywhere along the Georgia coast, so we’ll just highlight a few spots that are easily recognized. Starting on the northern end of the coast at the port city of Savannah, the jetties along the north side of the ship channel at the mouth of the Savannah River can be a hotspot. When the top of the tide is moving either in or out, water flowing over the rocks creates eddies that attract the trout. Positioning your boat to run a bait fish imitation through these shoots can be productive.
To the south side of the river along the north shore of Tybee Island the river offers a long stretch of sand and thick oyster bars dropping into deeper water. As the tide falls or rises it is possible to walk along the shore and cast over these shell beds. There also are a few small tidal creeks that empty into the river as well.
Near the middle of the Georgia coast lies the other important port city of Brunswick. This area features the state’s Golden Isles of Jekyll, Sea and St. Simons. The Marshes of Glynn are one landmark feature here that was highlighted in a poem by Sidney Lanier. Another major feature is the Sidney Lanier Bridge spanning the ship channel of the Brunswick River. The south shore of the river around the bridge often has trout lurking at the edge of the marsh grass points during high tides. But, be aware the huge tides on the Georgia coast fall quickly, and you can become grounded for hours in this shallow area if you don’t pay attention to the flow.
At the south end of the coast the colonial seaport and fishing village of St. Marys rests on its namesake river. The town is the jump off point for reaching Cumberland Island. That national seashore isle offers two tidal creeks that produce seatrout. At the northern end Christmas Creek is on the ocean side, separating Cumberland from Little Cumberland Island. At the southern end Beach Creek intrudes into the island from the Cumberland Sound on the shoreward side of the island. Both offer excellent habitat for trout fishing.
Once in these locations, for what should we be looking? There are three location factors that often point to trout drops. Oyster shell beds, mouths of smaller tributary creeks and marsh grass points along the shore or at the ends of islands all are good places to start a search. Over the years I’ve asked a lot of guides how they pick out a shell bed or creek mouth to fish. To paraphrase the answer, it’s the one where the fish are. Schools of trout move around, so there is no guarantee they will be at a certain place. But they are likely to be in one of these type situations, so checking several is often the answer to locating trout.
The other factors to consider when targeting seatrout in Georgia are water conditions. You definitely want to have moving water. That can be on either a rising or falling tide. At the peak of the ebb or flow the fishing is going to slow or completely end.
The other crucial factor in Georgia is finding clear water. With tides that can feature 9-foot swings in the water level, a lot of current is generated, bringing with it a lot of mud out of the marshes. When the water muddies up, the trout leave. Peach State trout fishing often is just a search for clear water. Due to the dark waters on this coast, being able to see 18-inches into the water is considered clear.
Finally, during or just after heavy rains along or just inland of the coast, fresh water entering the estuaries can kill the trout fishing. In these periods you need to target areas closer to the ocean inlets to find salinity levels more suited to the seatrout. Checking out these and similar locations with the right water conditions can lead to some fun and steady action for Peach State seatrout.