By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The dog days have finally set in the past couple weeks (until recently)! Although temperatures are cooling temporarily this weekend, the water temps are pushing 90 degrees in ponds, and saltwater is at mid-summer temperatures. Look for your favorite fish to be entrenched in their summer pattern. Our rivers are returning to fishable levels, but there is rain forecasted at the time of writing this. Ponds and the swamp should be your best bet after the weekend, as full moon tides will muddy saltwater. Full Moon is Aug. 21. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that shellcrackers and bream were caught by anglers fishing worms on the bottom near the mouths of sloughs. Some nice catfish were reported by anglers working bush hooks. Barring significant rains, the mullet bite should pick up over the next couple weeks. The river level on Aug. 13 was 6 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 8.2 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said redbreasts, bream, catfish and bass were reported this week. On Sunday, a pair of anglers fishing above the Blackshear Bridge caught a mixed bag of bream and redbreasts. One of them reported he had never caught as many big fish in his life. They were fishing with crickets until they ran out. Then, they started using little topwater plugs and picked up another 20 big fish. Most of their fish were bigger than “hand-sized”. In the 158 Bridge area of the river, lots of fish were caught on beetlespins, spinnerbaits, topwater flies (bugs), crickets and worms. Bass were fooled with buzzbaits and shiners, while the best catfish catches came on rooster livers. The river level on Aug.13th at the Waycross gage was 8.1 feet and falling and was 10.6 feet and falling at the Atkinson gage .
St. Marys River – The redbreast and bream bites have been good upriver. Most of the best catches were made with crickets, but some fish ate beetlespins. From Trader’s Hill and below, the catfish bite is the deal. Worms and shrimp fished on the bottom produced. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.9 feet and falling on Aug. 13.
Local Ponds – The key to ponds is to fish early in the morning before the sauna begins (although, this weekend is expected to be cooler). Night fishing with big buzzbaits is the way to land the bass of a lifetime during mid-summer. Michael Winge reported that local anglers were catching bream and bass from local ponds. Bream ate worms and crickets, while topwater plugs and shiners accounted for most of the bass reports.
Okefenokee Swamp – Reports were slim on the swamp this week due to the heat. Water temperatures were in the 90s on sunny afternoons. I have done well this time of year with fliers from sunup to mid-morning. The fish usually do not stop biting, but I am usually seeking some air-conditioning by mid-day! Okefenokee Swamp Sallies fished under a float or without a float typically produce summertime fliers. If you want to take it easy, anchor up and fish shrimp on the bottom for catfish.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Roger Shipman of Waycross and his grandson Marshall from Ohio fished the St. Simons Pier on Monday evening. They wacked the spadefish during mid-outgoing tide and then croakers as the tide broke down and then started flooding. Both species ate a combination of squid and shrimp. Marshall caught a small blacktip shark on cut croaker right as they were about to leave. Other anglers on the pier landed a couple dozen 2-foot long sharks (mostly blacktips, Atlantic sharpnose, and hammerheads). The flounder bite was good in the Brunswick and St. Marys areas this past week. Most were caught on either mudminnows or finger mullet. On Monday, a group of anglers reported catching 30 trout in the St. Marys area. Sheepsheads were caught from rocks in the Brunswick area (the biggest I heard of was a 6.5-pounder), while whiting were also caught in the sounds in good numbers. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said flounder and spadefish bites were strong this week. Spadefish ate small pieces of shrimp, while finger mullet fooled most of the flounder. Decent catches of whiting were made on the incoming tide by anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom. Sharks consistently hit the pier each night this week. Blue crabs have been abundant, and a few stone crabs were also caught.
Best Bet: With the heat, fish early in the day, although it looks to be cooler than originally expected this weekend. The rivers are starting to get right, so fling beetlespins or pitch bugs on bream buster poles or fly rods if you want to catch quality redbreasts. If we get heavy rains mid-week, scrap the river trip and head to your favorite pond or the swamp. In ponds, buzzbaits first thing in the morning or at night will give you a shot at a big bass. Fish shoreline cover with crickets or drift offshore points with worms to catch bluegills. In the swamp, pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies for a few hours after daylight is your best option. I would hold off on saltwater starting next week because of the high tides and muddy water around the full moon. Your highest chance at success in saltwater will likely be trout on the beach and tarpon and sharks around pogy pods on the Cumberland Beach (if the weather allows). If you decide to go to the ocean-side of Cumberland, go early before the storms start popping. You definitely don’t want to be 10 miles up the beach when a strong sea breeze kicks up or thunderstorms build in the afternoon.