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Winter Blackfish Are Hot at Tybee by Bill Vanderford

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Though weather can be a problem anywhere in the winter months, I had to come to the Savannah, Georgia area during that period to learn from the best charter captain on the eastern seaboard, Capt. Judy Helmey, about catching and eating black sea bass or blackfish as they are known locally. Having chased these tasty little fish for more than 50 years, Capt. Judy is an expert at locating and boating them.

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When the water is really cold, the blackfish tend to congregate tightly around structures that are not too far out in the Atlantic Ocean. The water around these places is generally 40 to 60 feet deep and most of these wrecks are no more than 12 to 18 miles off Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah River.

To be successful, it's important to either anchor directly over, or drop a buoy marker directly over the wreck and allow the boat to drift back-and-forth over it. The preferred bait is usually squid or cut fish, but black sea bass will literally eat anything. Using a double hooked bottom rig, blackfish are often caught two at a time.

Even the legal-sized blackfish (13 inches) rarely exceed 3 pounds, but it's possible to catch enough to feed a large group of hungry people in a very short period. Most coastal anglers agree that the black sea bass is one of the tastiest fish that they catch, and they have a unique personal history.

“Here is what I have always been taught about this fish,” stated Capt. Judy. “The blackfish is born as a female and later turns into a male. The hump on the male’s back is called a ‘stress hump’. According to my father, the female deposits so many eggs that the males get stressed from trying to fertilize all of them.”

From my point of view, that sounds like a good condition for any male to have, but it is an interesting phenomenon. Nevertheless, a blackfish trip to Savannah with Capt. Judy Helmey or one of her guides at this time of year can be fantastic! Just combine the frantic excitement of catching that many fish in a short time with a vision of the great culinary experience that follows, and it will cure even the most avid fisherman of cabin fever!

For more information or to book a great winter fishing trip, call Capt. Judy at

912-897-4921 or go to her website at:

Also, it’s time to sign up for Capt. Judy’s 2014 inshore & offshore fishing schools!

Mini clinics are taught by Captains with many years of fishing experiences!

Our newly revised inshore handout material is going to be considered “priceless!”

Four Inshore Schools

In the classroom

February 8, 2014 Saturday in class room

February 15, 2014 Saturday in class room

Cost: $90.00 each person

Place: Tubby’s Tank House 2909 River Drive, Thunderbolt, Georgia 31404

8:00 AM till 2:00 PM

Continental breakfast and lunch included

In the boats on the water

February 9, 2014 Sunday learning trips on the boats

February 16, 2014 Sunday learning trips on the boats

Cost: $125.00 each person

Place: Miss Judy Charters 124 Palmetto Drive Savannah, Georgia 31410

8:00 AM till 12 Noon

Snacks and drinks provided by Captain Judy

Four Offshore schools

In the boats on the water

March 1, 2014 Saturday 8:00 AM till 12:00 Noon

1:00 PM till 5:00 PM

March 2, 2014 Sunday 8:00 AM till 12:00 Noon

1:00 PM till 5:00 PM

Cost: $125.00 person

Place: Miss Judy Charters 124 Palmetto Drive Savannah, Georgia 31410

Snacks and drinks provided by Captain Judy