Fishing: A Cumberland Island Pastime

Winter days on the island force you to move activities that might normally be in the water to a warmer place – above water. One of the best winter activities is fishing. Not only is it idyllic, tranquil, and downright perfect, but it’s also the best season to catch a whole lot of fish.

The devil is in the details…

Now, in order to properly fish on the island, you have to learn from those who have been doing it for years. Trust me, I’ve been at it for 29 years and still need all the help I can get from my dad and his ever-expanding island knowledge. If you want to stay close to Greyfield, fishing from the dock is the place to go. The river in front of Greyfield is part of the Intracoastal Waterway and provides a perfect habitat for a variety of fish. The most commonly caught fish are trout and redfish, along with some sheepshead here and there. During the fall, winter, and spring months (when you may not be so keen to get in the surf), this is the spot to be and you’ll have a heck of a time spending an early morning or afternoon on the dock.

When it comes to the different types of fish we catch, that’s the fun part. One of our personal favorites is sheepshead. Sheepshead is an underutilized and slightly unknown fish, but they are local to our waters and are delicious! They are found amongst the rocks and pilings by the dock, and are typically caught by using fiddler crabs as bait. This is opposite of how you’d go about fishing for a trout or redfish which are caught on the surface. Sheepshead are, despite common belief, edible! We even (at times when we catch enough) put them on our menu at Greyfield – the best local catch which our guests thoroughly enjoy!

Outside of sheepshead, trout and redfish are our two other common catches. Fishing for trout and redfish is typically done using either shrimp or something called a “jig” (a lead-headed artificial lure) and is always on the surface of the water.The fishing possibilities are endless!

When the weather is milder, and we’re not so scared of a few splashes, we will load up the kayaks and head out for some fishing in the nooks and crannies of the river. For those staying with us, Greyfield also has kayaks at the dock which can provide wonderful opportunities for fly fishing (or just your average rod and reel!). There’s nothing quite as wonderful as sitting in a beautiful creek, in a kayak, amongst the magnificent peace and quiet. It’s truly a great way to spend a few hours…

In the summer, there is no doubt that the place to be is on the beach. You can catch a breeze, hop in the water, explore the beach, and best of all, get some surf-casting in! Fishing along the beach can be great in the summertime – typically June through most of October. On the island, we use cut mullet or shrimp for bait. The catch on the beach is reds and trout but can also include puppy drum and whiting.

As you can see, we’re huge advocates of exploring the beautiful land and taking advantage of the natural surroundings. Taking your lunch and spending some time at any of these spots, with a fishing rod, of course, is highly encouraged. We think it’s one of the best ways to spend some of your time on the island. – Mitty Ferguson & Hadley Ferguson

Mitty Ferguson is owner & operator of Greyfield and Hadley is his daughter, who grew up on the island and currently resides in Boston (spending every vacation possible at home, fishing with her dad).

Seasonal Changes and Warmer Weather on Cumberland Island

It is quite an exciting time to be a naturalist on Cumberland Island. From April to May, many seasonal changes have already been observed on the island. The Hooded Mergansers and other winter migratory birds have departed, and in turn, our spring and summer migratory birds have begun to arrive – including the Painted Bunting.

With summer quickly approaching (bringing along with it the warmer temperatures), we have even noticed changes in our flora. Our Sparkleberry Trees bloomed during April, and now our Southern Magnolias are starting to bloom. These seasonal changes could not have occurred at a better time, as we celebrated a handful of naturalist events throughout the month of April here at Greyfield Inn. April played host to Arbor Day, Jupiter being at opposition to the Earth (closest in its orbit for the year), Earth Day, and the birthday of famed coastal and American naturalist, William Bartram.

These seasonal changes also bring warmer water temperatures, which act as the catalyst to begin the sea turtle nesting season. Cumberland Island, with its protected seashore, plays a vital role in the sea turtle nesting season. At the time of writing this blog post, Cumberland Island has two documented nests for the 2017 season! With the discovery of these nests, the island has been host to the first sea turtle nests in Georgia for four years in a row. Just in the last three and a half seasons, Cumberland’s shore has produced over 1,800 nests. Each year, Cumberland Island accounts for 25-30% of the statewide nesting total. The protection and monitoring of these nests are vital to the sea turtle conservation efforts. With the nesting season lasting from May through October, we ask guests and visitors to be aware of the Loggerhead Sea Turtles nesting between the dunes and high tide line. It’s an exciting time with the nesting season beginning, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources anticipates the nest number to be above average for 2017.

As May continues into June, we anticipate seeing more Loggerhead Sea Turtles as well as more seasonal changes. Some of the seasonal changes we are anticipating are the Saw Palmettos blooming and an increase in Fireflies on the island. Overall, the temperatures may be getting warmer, but with all the changes going on, it’s a great time to visit Cumberland Island and Greyfield Inn if you’ve never experienced these changes from spring to summer. As naturalists for Greyfield Inn, we will do our best to highlight these seasonal changes on our tours and hope you experience all the island has to offer.

– Alex Furness and Christina Nelson, Greyfield Inn Naturalists