By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The fishing in the rivers this week has been nothing short of spectacular. I’ve even been hearing phrases such as “this is the best fishing in 40 years.” Don’t miss this awesome bite. The last quarter moon is Sept. 27. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Catches were excellent this week. A pair of anglers from Waycross fished the lower river out of Altamaha Park from Friday through Sunday and caught two coolers full of hand-sized and bigger bream. They said they threw back HUNDREDS of smaller fish! If this sounds too good to be true, consider that they went through 1,400 crickets during the weekend. They also caught four flathead catfish (the biggest of which was 55 pounds), a big 40-pound blue catfish and a 5-pound bass. If that wasn’t enough, they also caught 20 crappie. What a weekend! Fisheries staff from DNR was finally able to complete their standardized catfish sampling on the river this week. One of the veteran biologists reported that the channel catfish population was the largest he’s seen in his nearly 20 years of sampling the river. Many of the fish were in the 1-4 pound range. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle could not top the Altamaha Park report, but she concurred that pretty much all the fish are biting, and that the bream fishing especially excelled. The river level was 3.9 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 5.5 feet and barely rising at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 24.
Satilla River – Awesome is the only way to describe the fishing. The middle river heated up this week. Jamie Hodge and a friend went to the Atkinson portion of the Satilla on Monday in the rain and managed 42 fish. Their cooler of fish was caught on crickets and worms. They had some huge bluegills, some big redbreasts and some nice channel catfish. Anglers fishing in the Atkinson area caught limits of nice bass this week on topwater plugs. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the fishing in the Satilla is as good as it gets. Redbreasts, catfish, bream, and bass were caught in great numbers this week. Redbreasts ate crickets worms, beetlespins, Satilla Spins or just about anything thrown at them. Channel catfish ate rooster livers, shrimp and worms fished on the bottom. Bream were caught on crickets, while bass ate shiners, according to reports received at the store. From those reports, a Waycross angler fishing at the Blackshear Bridge from the bank caught 18 “titty-bream” on Georgia Giant worms in less than an hour. On Monday, a Waycross angler fishing in the Atkinson area caught a cooler full of huge redbreasts and channel cats. On Sept. 24, the river level at the Waycross gage was 6.4 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 5.4 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – The upper river continued producing great catches of redbreasts and bream again this week. Crickets under a float were the best presentation. The lower river produced some good catches of crappie on minnows, along with good reports of bream. Shrimp fished on the bottom continued to fool catfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.3 feet and rising on Sept. 24.
Local Ponds – The river fishing overshadowed the ponds this week, but Michael Winge said some great bream catches were reported from local ponds. Crickets were the deal. The crappie bite picked up this week with the cooler nights, and minnows did the damage there.
Okefenokee Swamp – An angler fishing with worms on the east side this week fooled some giant fliers, up to 12 ounces – those are monster fliers! They also fooled a 22-inch pickerel (jackfish) on an artificial. On the west side (Fargo), the flier bite has been excellent on Okefenokee Swamp Sallies (yellow was reportedly the best color). The catfish bite has remained good in the swamp and the Suwannee River, and shrimp has remained the most consistent bait.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The main obstacle this weekend was the high tides and high winds. Most anglers stayed home, but some reported catching a few big bull redfish around inlet rocks on the days they got out. The mullet run has started, with mullet of all sizes schooled up and heading south. The tides should moderate by the weekend, but the seas are forecasted to be nasty over the weekend. Cast-netting was hit-and-miss this week in the Crooked River area. Casters had to keep moving until they found the shrimp, but some decent catches were made by those who stuck with it. The shrimp size is still mixed in the deep holes. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said just about everything is biting from the pier. Decent catches of trout, flounder, redfish, whiting, spadefish and sharks were made from the pier this week. Once the water clears with the lower tides, expect Spanish mackerel to join the parade. Gobs of stone crabs are being caught under the pier.
Best Bet: If you plan to go fishing, the rivers are the place to be this weekend. Water temperatures have dipped into the 70’s, which usually spurs the fish to feed with reckless abandon. Winds are forecasted to be very strong on the coast, but you should be able to find protected waters in the rivers. It really doesn’t matter which river you choose, base your approach on the above specific information and you cannot go wrong. The big slugs of flood waters are gone, so you can fish whatever section of the river you prefer.