Reel Time on the road: Fishing the South Georgia coast

While on a recent trip to St. Marys and Cumberland Island, Ga., I had the great pleasure of being introduced to the area’s fishing by Captain David Edens from nearby St. Simon’s Island. I found Edens while researching the area. Edens is a fellow FFI fly casting instructor and gave me some invaluable information on fishing the South Georgia coast.

When he asked me if I wanted to fish a day I jumped at the chance. St. Simons is about an hour north of St. Marys and I got an early pre-dawn start to meet him at his dock just before daybreak. After a few wrong turns in the marina, I found him ready to go on his Maverick 18-foot HPX flats boat. We left the dock as the first hint of light colored the eastern horizon and ran to a shallow flat on the west side of Jekyll Island. As the sun brightened the sky we looked for wakes and movement on the flat. After a few minutes, Edens decided to move to another location hoping to take advantage of a fast falling tide.

Dave Edens
Captain David Edens hold a nice South Georgia coast redfish. -Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Moving further to the west up the Turtle River, we took a right hand turn into a feeder creek to a spot that had all the right ingredients for the redfish we were after. The tide was nearing low, and there was a lot of action around the mud flats, oyster beds and spartina grass that lined the shore. I always like to give a guide time on the bow, so I mounted the poling platform, and Edens coached me on how to work the area.

It didn’t take long for us to encounter pushes where redfish were chasing shrimp and small mullet. Stripping about 50 feet of line from his 8-weight rod Edens mounted the bow and began making casts to the feeding reds. It didn’t take long for him to set the hook on a nice red that made a 20-foot run for the deep channel before spitting the fly. A few casts later and he was hooked up again, this time to a 6-pound red that stayed buttoned and put up a nice fight before it was landed, photographed and released. We were able to catch and release several more reds before the tide went slack and the action slowed.

Judging by the smile on Edens’ face, I was glad to have been able to pole the boat while he got a chance to fish.

Guides that put anglers on fish day in and day out don’t often get a chance to experience the pointy end of the boat. I for one like to give them the chance while admittedly enjoying the vantage point from the poling platform.

The action died on the change of tide, and Edens took me on a trip to the oceanside of Cumberland Island to try and locate tarpon that invade these waters each year in August. Large schools of menhaden, known locally as pogies, stage off the coast and attract tarpon, big Jacks, sharks and even redfish. We weren’t able to find the fish that morning but Edens showed me a lot of beautiful water including Christmas Creek on the northern end of Cumberland Island. While we didn’t find any tarpon that morning, just getting a tour of the area with a veteran guide was a treat. We finished the morning with lunch at a marina on the east side of Jekyll Island.

With the information I gleaned from my trip with Edens, I spent my last morning fishing the oceanside of Cumberland Island on the south end. It was a terrific morning, and I saw lots of fish, but as the old saying goes, “Seeing ain’t catching.” There were sharks cruising the surf line after baitfish, and I got a number of shots but no takes. Still, it was a thrill and the wild horses that provided a backdrop on the island’s beach was a plus!

Later in the morning, the action increased as tarpon and sharks blasted through the menhaden schools that lined the beach. Once again, I wasn’t able to hook up, but the sight of the fish erupting on the surface was unforgettable. It reminded me of chasing little tunny on the Gulf beaches. You see action everywhere in your field of view while finding it hard to be at the right place at the right time.

When I asked a local angler what his experience was, he related that he too had the same experience. Still, the sight of the tarpon blasting schools of bait and the sharks in the surf have St. Marys and Cumberland Island high on my list of places to revisit. Captain David Edens can be reached by calling 912-289-1061 or via his excellent website at www.flycastcharters.com.