By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
River fishing has still been great this week, but it’s tough getting around in motorboats in the uppermost reaches of the Satilla. I’ll be conducting a seminar on fishing the Satilla River, Okefenokee Swamp and other local waters on Friday evening, Oct. 25, from 5-6 p.m. at Laura Walker State Park. The seminar is free, but parking fees apply. First quarter moon is Oct. 11. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The bream fishing has remained phenomenal this week. I heard a report of a group of anglers that limited out on huge bluegills in just a few hours at Altamaha Park. Crickets have been the most consistent, but folks have caught quite a few big fish on artificials (beetlespins) too. The river is perfect for fishing, as well as getting around without getting stuck on sandbars. Altamaha Park had their annual work day this past weekend, and the park looks better than it has in years. Several volunteers from Waycross worked hard and fished hard on Saturday. They caught some big bream and limited out on crappie. Some of their slabs were over 12 inches. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that nearly everything was biting in the Jesup area, but the crappie bite really picked up this week. Fishing minnows in the backwaters was the way to go. With the cooler nights in the coming weeks, expect that bite to really fire up. The river level was 3.3 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 5.0 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 8.
Satilla River – I think the river level dropped a couple inches simply from the volume of ish that anglers removed this week! The DNR creel clerk weighed a 1-pound, 1-ounce. redbreast from the 301 area of the Satilla on Saturday. Brentz and Alex McGhin of Blackshear took advantage of their school’s fall break to fish at the FFA Camp Landing and whacked the redbreasts and a few bream. They caught about 40 fish on white-red Satilla Spins, and kept a dozen of the biggest ones (pushing a pound). I spoke with another angler fishing the upper river with beetlespins on Friday, and he caught dozens of fish and had 6 that were at or over 10 inches, and pushing a pound. He is in the process of submitting the biggest fish to GON as a Satilla River record redbreast. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that anglers pitching beetlespins and Satilla Spins were catching huge redbreasts. Those using crickets and worms caught big numbers of smaller fish. Anglers walking the bank in the Jamestown area caught some nice fish with crickets and worms and even had a few big fish. Crappie were caught in good numbers by anglers fishing deeper holes with minnows, and a few anglers reported getting into some good schools of them. Lots of catfish were caught up and down the river by those fishing shrimp on the bottom. I did not receive any bass reports, other than a few smaller bass being caught by redbreast anglers. The river level on at the Waycross gage was 5.4 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 4.5 feet and falling on Oct.8.
St. Marys River – Reports I received were that bream and redbreasts were hitting crickets and worms. Catfish were caught in big numbers by anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom. In the upper river, worms also worked well for whiskerfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 3.1 feet and falling on Oct. 8.
Local Ponds – Wyatt Crews and Kevin Rittenhouse fished a Waycross pond on Tuesday and caught about a dozen bass on topwater frogs. During the day, the bass ate them in the open water, but in the evening, they ambushed them through the lily pads. Most of their bass were 2-3 pounds, but one they lost one at the side of the boat that was in the 6-8 pound range. Michael Winge reported big bream being caught on crickets and crappie on minnows in Waycross area ponds. His reports were that bass were being caught on frog-colored topwaters. Lake Ware is firing up, as it produced some good catches of bream and crappie this week.
Okefenokee Swamp – 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, 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 in the swamp. The park staff are however taking guided float trips on the Suwannee River outside of the refuge, so check with the park for more information. Check the Okefenokee Adventures or Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge websites for current information. As soon as the refuge opens to boats again, the fliers should be eating it up with the dropping water!
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – With the muddier water and growing tides around the new moon, the saltwater bite slowed compared to last week. Even so, Ed Zmarzly (“the Redfish Prince”), was able to catch 2 big bull redfish from the St. Simons Pier on cut bait over the weekend. One had about a hundred spots! Congratulations, Ed! I fished with Brantley and Rayanna Wester out of Brunswick this week. Brantley spanked a 30-inch redfish on a Calcasieu brew Assassin Sea Shad skewered on a 1/4-oz. Flashy Jigheads and suspended beneath an Equalizer Float. We tagged and released the behemoth. We also caught a half-dozen trout by hitting oyster mounds around high tide, and we caught about 15 mangrove snapper on shrimp anywhere there was hard structure. The trout bite slowed significantly (like to nothing!) once the tide got ripping and the water muddied. Whiting were caught off the beach. A few tripletail were caught around buoys in the Brunswick area, and flounder and sheepshead were caught at Gould’s Inlet. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the bull redfish parade continued on the outgoing tide this weekend. The other bites have been slow with the big tides this week, though. A few flounder and trout were caught over the weekend.
Best Bet: The river redbreast bite should continue to shine, as should the Altamaha bluegill bite. Some folks believe that the growing moon will also improve the fishing over the next week. The water temperatures are climbing back into the upper 70’s with warm afternoon temps, which will keep the fish active. Trout fishing in the inshore waters will pick up late in the week with the lower tides and the fact that the huge slugs of water from the rivers are now gone. Expect live shrimp and artificials to produce well from now through Christmas. If you want to fish Waycross ponds, expect the crappie to start feeding well with the cooler nights.