By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Nathanael Johnson of Blackshear caught his first flier in the Okefenokee Swamp on Saturday morning before the boat was launched.

Nathanael Johnson of Blackshear caught his first flier in the Okefenokee Swamp on Saturday morning before the boat was launched.

It’s on in the rivers! The reports from the rivers have been awesome this week! Saltwater and ponds have produced good reports also, but not as good as the rivers. If you like river fishing, now is the time to get out there! I will be conducting Teen Bass Fishing Excursions during the Outdoor Adventure Day/J.A.K.E.S. Day at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton on Sept. 28. If you have a teen (ages 12-16) who wants to learn to bass fish, have them sign up for the free, 1-hour slots that morning. We will be fishing from a boat in a pond that has a good population of bass. I will teach how to use various lures for bass. Call 912-285-6094 for more information or to sign up. Full moon is Sept. 19. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River–  It’s on! An angler bass fishing on the lower Altamaha on Monday reported that he caught 13 keeper bass and several throwbacks, mainly on crankbaits. He said the fish were very fat and sassy! He returned Tuesday evening and caught three fat bass in a short time. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that the panfishing has been excellent. Big bream and shellcrackers are being caught in the oxbows by those using worms. Channel catfish and flatheads were caught in good numbers, but the bream catches outshined them. An angler fishing Tuesday said that they went after crappie in the oxbows, but could not keep the giant bluegills off their minnows. He changed to a jig, hoping to avoid the bluegills, and still caught three big bream on them. That day they never caught a crappie because they couldn’t get their presentation past the bream! The river level was 4.0 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 6.4 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 17.

Satilla River – It’s on! A pair of Waycross anglers fished out of the 158 Bridge area on Friday afternoon and caught over a dozen nice redbreasts on Satilla Spins. The best color was black/yellow, but they also caught a couple on red/white. They said that the water was clear, and the current was not too swift. The fish were positioned in current breaks near the bank. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the Satilla reports have been the best in years. All species were being reported, but the redbreast catches took top billing. He said that some giant redbreasts were reported, and they were hitting anything thrown at them from crickets to beetlespins. Catfish were being caught “by the buckets” on shrimp and rooster livers. One angler reported trying to catch redbreasts with white Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, but all he could catch were crappie. Sounds like a good problem to have! The river level on Sept. 17 at the Waycross gage was 6.7 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 7.2 feet and falling.

St. Marys River – It’s on! The upper river produced some great catches this week. Lots of redbreasts were caught on crickets and pink worms, but many of the bigger fish were fooled with small spinnerbaits and topwater flies. Catfish catches were good, also, and most were fooled by anglers using shrimp and worms on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.1 feet and falling on Sept. 17.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported local anglers catching nice bream with crickets. Memphis George said that the bream were hitting crickets like they were going out of style. He said that he was catching more than he wanted to clean. Bass were eating topwater plugs early and late in the day.

Okefenokee Swamp – I took my son Timothy and Ron and Nathanael Johnson to the east side on Saturday morning. Nathanael caught his first flier on his own before we even launched the boat. I was showing the boys how to fish a sally, and we landed four right off the boat ramp. We caught 14 fliers and a bowfin (mudfish) in just a little bit of fishing (we mostly did a lot of riding). All our fish ate pink or orange Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. If you want to target pickerel (jackfish), throw an in-line spinner and reel it back fast. If that doesn’t elicit a strike, throw a minnow plug and dance it on the surface.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) –  Justin Bythwood and Ed Zmarzly paddled their kayaks around the Brunswick area on Sunday evening and caught seven trout (four keepers – biggest was 19 inches), two ladyfish, and a gafftop sailcat. Their fish ate topwater plugs and Sea Shads suspended underneath Equalizer Floats. In the Brunswick area, the flounder are reportedly still thick. I received a report of a 14-pound flounder being caught around Jekyll Island. I didn’t see the fish or a photo of it, so I cannot confirm the catch. A Waycross angler reported his group catching more than 30 flounder over the weekend. On the Jekyll Pier, big bull whiting were caught over the weekend. An angler caught over a dozen flounder (most were 2-4 pounds, but he had three over 5 pounds, and the biggest TWO were 7 pounds) on my flashy jigheads and white curly-tail grubs. Cast-netters did well again this week for shrimp, and the size is increasing. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that lots of 16 to 20-inch flounder have been hitting the pier. Bull reds, trout, Spanish mackerel, bull whiting, and spadefish were also mixed in the catches this week. On Monday, and angler caught a 6-pound trout from the pier.

Best Bet: It’s River Time! Everything is coming together to indicate that this weekend should be awesome on the rivers. The levels are getting right on the Satilla, St. Marys, and Altamaha. The upper rivers are best right now, but that will slowly move downstream as the week progresses. The moon is full, which many would argue provides better fishing. It really doesn’t matter whether you pitch crickets or fish artificials, you are going to catch panfish! The best artificial reports have come from those using Satilla Spins, beetlespins, and topwater flies.