By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
With a lot of folks heading to the woods this time of year, the fishing pressure drops, but the catching does not! In fact, with the cooling water temperatures, many species that are lethargic during the dog-days of summer bite better. Panfishing on the rivers has remained excellent this week, and it should stay great until serious cold fronts cool the water temps. Saltwater picked up this week with the clearer water. Full Moon is Oct. 18. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The numbers of bream caught this week were still excellent, but the average size decreased a bit. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is doing our annual fall scaled fish sampling, and staff has been electrofishing record numbers of panfish from each of the 10 stations being sampled. The mullet bite picked up over the last two weeks, with folks catching them from the traditional sandbars on red wiggler worms. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the crappie bite has fired off. Most anglers are picking them up on minnows, but jigs have produced too, as long as you fish them deep. Bream and redbreasts were caught in big numbers in the Jesup stretch of the river again this week. Crickets and worms did the damage. The catfish bite was so-so this week. The river level was 3.1 feet and steady at the Baxley gage, and 4.3 feet and rising at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 15.
Satilla River – The redbreast bite has remained great over the last week, but a lower percentage of fish have been the “rooster” redbreasts folks have been whacking over the last month. The upper river is at levels perfect for canoeing, while you can still poke your way around in a motorboat on the middle and lower river (plan on dragging in some places, though). The Satilla tributaries have been producing some great catches, as well. Brentz and Alex McGhin of Blackshear fished a tributary of the Satilla and caught several dozen huge redbreasts on crickets and Satilla Spins (yellow with a gold blade). They used their canoe to fish from. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crappie, bream, redbreasts, and bass were caught in good numbers this week. The crappie bite has picked up significantly for those fishing minnows around cover in deep holes. Bream were reportedly caught with crickets, while redbreasts were fooled mainly with beetlespins and Spin Dandy spinnerbaits. Some bream and redbreasts were also reported by those fishing pink worms on the bottom on the back side of sandbars (at the edge of the dropoff). That bite will improve as water temperatures drop. The bass reported to the store staff were mostly caught on shiners. Catfish were absent from the report, but with the warm weather, I am sure you can still catch them by fishing shrimp on the bottom. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.1 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 4.0 feet and falling on Oct. 15.
Local Ponds – An angler reported catching some bass up to 11 pounds on live shiners late last week. He caught them from vegetation in less than 2 feet of water. Michael Winge reported big bream being caught on crickets and worms and crappie on minnows in Waycross area ponds. Keep moving this time of year until you find the crappie, then stay in that area. As the crappie shake off the summer doldrums, they move a lot, requiring you to keep moving to stay with them.
Okefenokee Swamp – The budget wrangling in Washington is over, for now, and the fishing should be awesome. The water is dropping, pulling the fish out of the prairies and concentrating them into the deeper areas. Pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies is the way to catch everything, but it is especially effective on fliers. Yellow was the best color before the closure, but pink was also catching some fish. Expect the swamp fishing to bust wide open within the month.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The clearer water this past week produced some excellent fall fishing. Ed Zmarzly and Justin Bythwood surf-fished at Jekyll Island over the weekend and caught 2 bull redfish up to 40 inches, a couple stingrays, and some other big fish that broke them off. Mullet was their bait of choice. On Monday, Brentz and Alex McGhin and Greg Nelms fished at Crooked River and caught trout and redfish. They had 10 keeper trout and at least that many throwbacks. Greg also caught a keeper redfish. As is typical when the water is this warm, the fish were scattered. They picked up a couple here and a couple there. All of their fish fell for an Assassin Sea Shad suspended underneath an Equalizer or Cajun Thunder Float, and electric chicken was their most productive Sea Shad color. Gould’s Inlet produced good flounder and trout catches this week. Some big trout and redfish were caught from the Back River and McKay River bridges. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that with the clearer water it was flounder, flounder, and more flounder this week on the pier. Mudminnows were the ticket to get bites from the flatties. Cut bait produced quite a few bull redfish in the evenings. A few trout, some big croakers, and whiting also were caught from the pier. You can check the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: This weekend is going to be big tides again, so fishing cut bait for redfish at the jetties and inlets is going to be your best bet. You can catch trout around the high tide, but it will be a short bite, and then it will likely get tough to catch them as the water starts ripping back out. By the middle of next week, expect the trout bite to pick up. The river redbreast and bluegill bites should remain excellent on both the Altamaha and Satilla rivers. With water temperatures hovering in the mid to upper 70’s, the fish should actively chase Satilla Spin or Spin Dandy spinnerbaits and beetlespins, or you can pitch crickets to score. Crappie in local ponds is another good option if you do not want to fish rivers. Slowly pulling minnows under floats will likely be the best way to find them.