Cumberland Island National Seashore lies just off the coast near St. Marys, Georgia at the Peach State’s border with Florida. This public land on the isle offers 18 miles of unspoiled beaches, along with marshes, tidal creek or river shores. All that waterfront would seem likely to offer good fishing from the shore.
That supposition, however, can be misleading. The beach provides lots of room for surf casting, but has virtually no structure for attracting fish. The gentle incline of the sand also makes the water fairly shallow. About the only fish-holding cover is made up of troughs running parallel to the shore. Bottom line is finding the fish along the beach can be difficult.
The inland side of the island is lined with marshes or heavy vegetation, again offering few places to access fishable water. There is some room for casting near the Dungeness, Sea Camp and Plum Orchard docks.
For hardy anglers willing to do a bit of walking, there are a couple of spots near the south end of Cumberland that provide interesting shore fishing possibilities. Both, however, require an investment in boot leather to reach.
At the very southern tip of the island the jetty on the north side of the St. Marys River stretches a couple of miles out to sea. This line of huge boulders breaks up wind and tidal action, usually providing calmer water on the lee side from the wind and wave action.
Over time the tides have washed out holes along the rocks near shore. As the tide comes in, game fish often follow into these deeper spots in search of forage. Anglers wading out from the beach to water thigh deep are able to cast toward the rocks into water that may be 6 feet or deeper. These holes attract lots of bait fish, while the hard surfaces of the rocks are veritably magnets for shrimp and crabs.
The other option for shore action requires walking south along the beach to the place where the South Point Trail crosses the island to the inland side. That inland area is known as South End Ponds and has some shallow lagoons that fill and drain with the tides.
The hard sand bottom in some areas of the lagoons and around the inlets that connect them to the Cumberland River provide places for wade fishing. Marsh grass stands in the lagoons are likely places to find fish and periods of moving water on changing tides usually are best.
Redfish, seatrout and flounder are the species most likely to be encountered in both these locations.
Anglers with a boat really don’t need this information, but for the rest of us, our only access to Cumberland Island is the National Park Service ferry from the St. Marys waterfront. Due to the time needed for walking to the south end of the island, camping for a few days is the most practical way to access the shore fishing. Sea Camp is the campground nearest to the south end fishing spots.