By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
River fishing has remained phenomenal this week. Without additional rains, the upper reaches will be hard to get around in another week or so. Then it will be canoe time. Don’t miss the outstanding river bite while it’s on! I’ll be conducting a seminar on fishing the Satilla River, Okefenokee Swamp and other local waters this Friday evening, Oct. 4 from 5-6 p.m. at Laura Walker State Park. The seminar is free, but parking fees apply. New Moon is Oct. 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Bream were tearing it up all over the river. I talked with several folks who caught their limit of bluegills. Fish ate both artificials and crickets. The DNR creel clerk confirmed that bream catches have been outstanding. He said a lot of fish weighing over a pound have been caught up and down the river over the last few weeks. He also mentioned many 0.5-2 pound channel catfish were caught this week. Nearly everything else was biting too. The crappie started biting this week for those fishing minnows in the backwaters. Expect that bite to pick up over the next couple weeks. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported everything was biting in the Jesup area, but bream provided the best catches. The river level was 4.2 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 6.3 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 1.
Satilla River – The entire river is firing on all cylinders now. Over the weekend, there were so many anglers that parking at several ramps was full. The middle and lower river sections are close to perfect for redbreast fishing, while you will need to take your time poking around the upper river. Several anglers I spoke with reported catching limits of redbreasts on artificials and crickets. I saw a photo this week of an upper river redbreast that was as big as a baseball cap! Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said everything is biting. He reported that the big redbreasts are tearing up Satilla Spins and Spin Dandy spinnerbaits in black-yellow, white and red-white. Crickets are also fooling their share of redbreasts and bream. Anglers are catching “gobs” of channel catfish, primarily on shrimp and rooster livers. Crappie started biting minnows this week in the deeper holes. Bass were most attracted to topwater plugs. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.7 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 5.1 feet and falling on Oct. 1.
St. Marys River – The entire river produced good reports. The catfish bite is off the charts, with shrimp producing best. Lots of bream were caught by anglers using crickets under a float below Traders Hill, while predominantly redbreasts ate the same in the upper river. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 3.6 feet and falling on Oct. 1.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported good catches of bream and catfish on worms. Bass and crappie bit well early and late in the day. Bass are still eating topwater plugs, while the crappie bit minnows.
Paradise Public Fishing Area (near Tifton) – The Outdoor Adventure Day/J.A.K.E.S. Day on Saturday was another huge success. Approximately 1,200 people (600 kids) attended the event. All seven anglers to whom I taught bass fishing techniques caught a bass, and one of the guys caught his first bass ever! The best lures were Assassin Fat Job worms (black-red flake) fished Texas-rigged with a light weight. Later in the morning, the fish ate a Tennessee shad-colored Keitech Swimbait. A few also inhaled a ZOOM Baby Brush Hog (watermelonseed). Bream were tearing up black-yellow Satilla Spin spinnerbaits. Elsewhere around the area, the crappie bite has started, especially on Lake Patrick. Minnows are currently not allowed, but tube lures (chartreuse hues) are doing the job. Bass ate topwaters early in the morning and swimbaits and plastic worms after the sun got up.
Okefenokee Swamp – The flier and bowfin bites were very good over the last week, especially on the west side (Fargo) until the budget impasse. While the budget wrangling continues in Washington, the refuge waters will be closed (expect to find a locked gate if you visit the Folkston, Kingfisher Landing, or Suwannee Sill entrances). All SC Foster State Park activities are still continuing however, except water activities. You can still use the nature trails, campground, cabins, nature center, and all other land-based facilities, but just cannot go on the water. Check the Okefenokee Adventures or Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge websites for current information.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The bite picked up this week with the lower tides. Waycross anglers reported catching lots of trout near the Jekyll pier. Big flounder were caught in Gould’s Inlet on mudminnows and finger mullet. In the Crooked River area, trout and redfish are swarming around shell mounds in the creeks along the Intracoastal Waterway. Live shrimp have been fooling most of them. The biggest problem in saltwater this week has been finding a day when the wind has not been howling. It was nasty over the weekend. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said big redfish took center stage this week. Lots of mostly-oversized reds were caught each evening from the pier on the outgoing tide. A few big flounder, some trout, and a good number of whiting were also caught from the pier.
Best Bet: Even though the trout and redfish fishing should be good this weekend, the rivers are on fire. If you want to catch rooster redbreasts, go to the Satilla. If giant bluegills are your target, you cannot beat the Altamaha. The weather forecast should continue to have both species biting well throughout the weekend. Keep an eye on the forming storm in the Gulf, as it may affect our weather.