By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The Family Fun Day at Crooked River State Park was great last Saturday. Kids had a blast with 3-D archery shooting, the fishing simulator and nature talks. The biggest hits seemed to be the touch tank (which included starfish, sea anemone, flounder, horseshoe crabs and more) set up by Coastal Resources Division and the live 3-foot alligator where the kids could see and touch (of course, its mouth was taped). If you have kids, plan to attend the event next year.
Saltwater fishing has been excellent, and ponds have also produced some good catches this week. Rivers are still too high to safely fish, but should be fishable next week if the rain stays away. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said the river is still very high, and only a few channel and flathead catfish are being caught with bush hooks in the backwaters. The river level was 14.8 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 11.9 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on this past Tuesday evening.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said a few catfish were caught on bush hooks in the backwaters, but the bites are very slow. The bites should start above the Highway 158 Bridge by this weekend if heavy rains hold off t in the Douglas area, but the rest of the river will still be too high this weekend. The river level on Tuesday evening at the Waycross gage was 12.9 feet and falling and was 14.5 feet and falling at the Atkinson gage.
Local Ponds – A couple Pierce County anglers fished a Blackshear area pond over the weekend and caught a pair of 7-pound bass on live bait. They also caught some quality fish on plastic worms.
The catfish bite was great this week in Waycross area ponds according to Michael Winge. Pink worms, shrimp and rooster livers fooled most of them. A few bass were caught on shiners and topwater frog lures fished over vegetation, and some nice bream were reportedly caught with crickets.
The summer crappie pattern is still in full swing. Fish the deepest part of the lake early in the morning and swim a curly-tailed grub or live minnow through suspended schools of fish (you can see them on your depth finder). The bites are often first thing in the morning, but the fish are usually easy to find.
Okefenokee Swamp – My daughter asked me to take her into the swamp this week for a photo shoot, so we loaded our aluminum boat and headed out to the Folkston entrance early Friday morning. We took some great shots in the morning, and even fished a little. We pitched sallies for about half an hour and caught six fliers (five were good, hand-sized fish). Based on how they were biting, I suspect we could have caught around 50 fliers in the morning if we were fishing the whole time. Our fish ate yellow sallies and pink sallies fished underneath a small balsa float. We also caught a bowfin on one of my prototype lures. The fish are going to be extremely numerous and fat once the water starts pulling back off the flats later this summer and fall.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – I believe we’re about a month out from trout fishing inshore like we haven’t seen in a long time. Some Waycross anglers fished out of Crooked River on Saturday, and did well for trout and redfish. They landed 20 trout (12 keepers), with two longer than 20 inches (which were released)! Their redfish measured at 21, 30 and 31 inches. Trout primarily ate plastic sea shad under floats. The trout were caught on various colored shad. The key was to move around and keep casting.
Two of the redfish ate topwaters, while the third ate a sea shad under a float. They even had a 14-inch flounder in the catch and jumped a giant tarpon!
An unnamed, semi-professional Waycross angler fished the St. Marys Jetties with his wife on Friday and caught many trout on plastic sea shads. They caught 24 trout, including 10 keepers. Most were caught against the rocks. It was a good thing his wife was along, as she caught twice as many fish and also had their biggest, a 20-incher.
Capt. Justin Paulk and his crew won the C’Mo’s Kids fishing tournament at Crooked State Park on Saturday. Their team brought two redfish and a trout to the scales. The trio weighed 10.33 pounds.
The flounder bite is still wide open, and some sheepsheads were caught near rocks from Brunswick to St. Marys. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said the flounder are still thick around the pier. A 9-pounder (no, that is not a slip of my finger – it reportedly weighed NINE pounds!) was caught from the pier over the weekend. Trout up to 20 inches were also caught on live shrimp and mud minnows over the weekend.
Croaker were also plentiful over the past week, and a few spadefish were also landed (those little bait-stealers are tough to hook – but a no. 8 or no. 6 hook is the secret for smaller, pier-sized spadefish). Lots of sharks were flopping on the deck of the pier, with the biggest reported catch an estimated 11-foot lemon shark. Stone crabs also showed up this week in big numbers, and the ever-present blue crabs were in good numbers too.