By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
I hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday weekend! Thanks to all who attended my seminar about fishing the Okefenokee during the South Georgia Outdoor Expo in Douglas. The expo went great, and lots of good information and products were exchanged. The water levels on the Satilla and Altamaha rivers are at record highs for the date at the four gage locations I typically track. Forget about fishing the rivers again this week. Saltwater fishing has been excellent, as have ponds and the Okfenokee. New Moon is Sept. 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Forget it! The river level was 16.1 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 12.0 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 27. Both readings were record highs for the date.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that a few anglers fished backwater sloughs with bush hooks and caught some catfish this week (I think they had a death wish). The redbreast fishing will be great this fall when the river goes down, but fish elsewhere for now. The river level at the Waycross gage was 15.4 feet and falling on Aug. 27, and at the Atkinson gage was 16.3 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – The St. Marys has started falling back out, and the tidal portion is still fishable for catfish, although it is high. Anglers reported catching catfish on limb lines around Temple Landing. Some anglers reported catching redbreast and bream on crickets. Your best bet is bottom fishing with chicken livers, shrimp, or worms for catfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 10.8 feet (came up 4 feet this week) and falling on Aug. 27.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported local anglers doing very well for bream. They caught them on crickets and topwater flies. Bass fishing was good for those fishing plastic lizards and worms, as well as topwater frogs across vegetation. Some anglers reported making good catches of crappie with minnows early in the morning. I noticed there is still significant flow coming through many ponds. If you can safely access a spillway, you can likely still catch some nice fish in the plunge pool.
Okefenokee Swamp – The water is still very high, but it is stabilizing after a couple days without rain. I expect the flier bite to pick up by the holiday weekend, unless we get more rain (however, rain is not in the forecast). Keep moving around until you find them, and camp in that area. As we discussed in my seminar this past weekend, pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies with a bream buster pole is the way to fool fliers. Early in the morning, you can probably get them to chase a sally without a float, as they will likely be a little more active in low light conditions. Once the sun gets up, I would suggest using a small balsa float to allow the fly to sink deeper, since the water is deeper than usual. Warmouth will eat a crayfish dabbled around cypress knees, especially in Billy’s Lake at the Fargo entrance. Catfish (and mudfish) will eat shrimp or cut flier fished on the bottom.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Steve Sammons of Auburn, Alabama and Justin Bythwood of Waycross fished with me Friday out of St. Marys. We fished the jetties and jumped three nice tarpon, all on artificials. We were using stout tarpon-sized tackle, but we got them to eat the same 4-inch sea shads (Texas roach and candy corn) that we use for trout. Two of them spit it, while the third broke us off. During high tide, we fished light rods inshore and landed 22 trout (up to 18 inches) and an undersized redfish on floats and sea shads. Our best colors were Calcasieu brew, Texas roach, and glitterbug. The same day and at the same location, Don Harrison, Ed Zmarzly and James Woolsey almost jumped a tarpon. The fish was coming up to the surface to sky and pulled off just before breaking the surface. That silver king ate cut bait fished on the bottom. They caught a 4-foot shark on the beach. Pogies were scarce for them. Capt. Andy Gowen whacked some big redfish and jumped some tarpon on Tuesday while fishing out of St. Marys. The big fish have been hanging around the jetties. Waycross area anglers reported catching trout and redfish from Brunswick to St. Marys this week. An angler reported catching trout at the St. Marys Jetties on sea shads. He said the brighter colors worked best in the cloudy weather. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the doormat flounder put on the feedbag again this week. On Tuesday, anglers caught two of them that measured 29 inches. Lots of trout were caught under the lights at night (probably on live shrimp, but I didn’t hear on what), and the croaker and whiting bites were good during the day. Some sharks were caught, as well. They didn’t mention blue crabs, but I imagine if you put a basket out, they will find your chicken necks this weekend!
Best Bet: With high rivers, spend your time this holiday weekend at ponds, the swamp, or saltwater. With a mid-day low tide, spend your saltwater time plying mud flats for redfish. There are a lot of them around. Spinnerbaits are a great bet at covering water, and redfish love them. I have done best over the last year with Texas roach and hot chicken sea shads as the bodies. If you know how to chase tarpon, the time is now! In ponds, fish late and early. Apparently, the crappie bite has started with the cooler days this week. Fish at daybreak to fool them, and then switch to bass and bream after the sun comes up. Check the deeper points with worms fished on the bottom to fool some huge bluegills this time of year. For numbers of bluegills, a fly rod and a topwater popper (bug) are a hoot. Be safe this holiday weekend!