By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
I will be giving a seminar on fishing in the Okefenokee Swamp this Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the South Georgia Outdoor Expo in Douglas, Ga. The water level on the rivers was getting right, before the deluge this past weekend. Forget fishing the rivers this week, except the St. Marys. Rains were widespread across all basins, and it will be a couple weeks before the other rivers get back down. Saltwater, ponds, and the swamp are the places to be. Last quarter moon is Aug. 28. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The significant rains came, and came, and came in the Altamaha basin, and it looks as if there will be no mullet bite (or sandbars) for this season. A 50-pound flathead catfish was caught on a bush hook Friday night out of Altamaha Park. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported some good catches before the rains this week. Anglers were catching crappie and big bream in the backwaters. But, the river has jumped way up and out of the banks with this week’s rains. For safety reasons, I don’t recommend trying it until the river comes back down within the banks. The river level was 14.0 feet (record high for the date) and rising at the Baxley gage, and 10.7 feet and rising at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 20.
Satilla River – The rains all across the basin have jumped the river back up into the floodplain again. It’s too swift to fish safely, so don’t try it. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said the bite was excellent before weekend rains. Anglers were catching big redbreasts on beetlespins (white-red dot) and orange froggy spins. Crickets were also catching redbreasts and bream. An angler reported catching catfish on worms from the Telmore area of the river. Bass were caught on topwater plugs in the Highway 121 Bridge portion of the river. The river was not even right yet, and the bite was excellent for several species. When it gets right later this fall, it is going to be a HOOT! The only safe way to fish the river right now is if you can access it from the bank, and your best bet is to fish for catfish with the rising river. The river level on Aug. 20 at the Waycross gage was 14.9 feet and rising and was 12.3 feet and rising at the Atkinson gage.
St. Marys River – The St. Marys is the only river safe to access right now, even though it is also rising. Your best bet will be putting chicken livers, shrimp or worms on the bottom for catfish. Before the river started rising last weekend, anglers were catching redbreasts and bream on crickets. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 6.3 feet and rising on Aug. 20.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported local anglers catching bream on crickets and bass on shiners from local ponds. If you can safely access the spillway below your favorite pond, you can likely catch some nice fish while the water is flowing hard after evening thunderstorms. Fish are attracted to the flow and often linger in the plunge pool below ponds and lakes.
Okefenokee Swamp – Fliers were caught from all entrances, but the heat and rising water kept the numbers down more than usual for this time of year. With the fast-rising water, the fish spread out, and it’s hard to find a concentration. Keep moving until you find them, and camp in that area. Pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies with a bream buster pole is the way to fool fliers. Warmouth will eat a crayfish dabbled around cypress knees. Catfish (and mudfish) will eat shrimp fished on the bottom. Once the water starts receding, the bite is going to fire off! To learn all the details of fishing the swamp, check out my free seminar on fishing the Okefenokee this Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the South Georgia Outdoor Expo in Douglas.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – A pair of Waycross anglers kayaked around the Brunswick area Sunday evening and sight-fished for redfish. They saw a couple dozen big reds and landed a 26-incher. Andy Gowen has been doing well for big redfish and tarpon all week in the St. Marys area. Bull redfish have been eating cut bait at the jetties, while inshore fish have been biting spinnerbaits and topwaters. His biggest tarpon was a 185-pounder this week. Waycross area anglers did well in the Brunswick area this week before the big tides. Most of them caught trout and redfish on the outgoing tide where small creeks drain out into the Intracoastal Waterway. The flounder bite was also good in the clearer water before the big tides. Most were caught with finger mullet or mudminnows. My favorite artificials for flounder are space guppy and pink diamond sea shads worked along the bottom at the mouth of small creeks on the second half of the outgoing tide. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said lots of big croakers were caught from the pier on Tuesday. Seatrout caught from the pier were mostly in the 15 to 18-inch range. Flounder and Spanish mackerel were caught in fair numbers this week, also.
Best Bet: With the heat and high water, it is a great weekend to check out the South Georgia Outdoor Expo in Douglas. The event will be held from 1-7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23 and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. If you want to get out on the water, your favorite pond is the place to be. Go early with buzzbaits and other topwaters for bass. As the sun gets up, work a green pumpkin or watermelon-red flake plastic worm slowly along the bottom for lethargic bass. If you like saltwater, fish mud flats during the early morning low tide this weekend for redfish. Lots of redfish were caught all along the coast this weekend. Artificial shrimp on jigheads and sea shads on spinnerbaits are great tools to fool spottails. My best color for redfish so far this year has been Texas roach.