By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The river bite has remained great, saltwater has been excellent, and the crappie bite is in full swing. New Moon is Nov. 3. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – We finished our annual fall scaled fish sampling, and found that this year’s bluegill and largemouth bass populations were the largest ever sampled in the 27 years they have been sampling the river. The redbreast sunfish population was the 4th highest ever collected. Wow….what high water all summer can do! The crappie bite is on fire in the lower river. Minnows have produced the best catches out of Altamaha Park this week. In that area, the shellcrackers are back in the shallows. Worms are fooling them. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the crappie bite was great this week, including some really big fish. Minnows worked best. The river level was 2.7 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 3.6 feet and rising at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 29.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie bite took top honors this week. It appears that the high water conditions that produced an awesome redbreast population also benefitted the crappie. Minnows and jigs worked equally well. Some redbreasts were caught during the cold snap by anglers pitching crickets and fishing worms on the bottom. Catfish continued to bite well for those fishing pink worms on the bottom. Anglers wading the upper sections of the river and its tributaries reported catching some nice redbreasts and bream by pitching crickets under a float. The river level on Oct. 29 at the Waycross gage was 4.6 feet and falling and at the Atkinson gage was 3.5 feet and falling.
Local Ponds – The crappie bite fired up again this week on area lakes. Minnows produced some real slabs this week. Several ponds produced some of the biggest crappie they have given up in years. The topwater bass bite slowed lately, but bass are actively eating plastic worms, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits.
Okefenokee Swamp – The swamp entrances are all open, and the anglers have started fishing again on the west side but have been slow to return on the east side. Staff at SC Foster State Park reported lots of anglers fishing from the bank in the boat basin and fishing from boats. They caught catfish and some giant bowfin in the boat basin this week. Shrimp and worms on the bottom caught most of the catfish. Boat anglers caught fliers and warmouth. Crickets and crayfish fooled most of the warmouth (crayfish were best if you could get them). Fliers were duped most effectively with yellow sallies. This week’s warmer weather will really spur the flier bite. Expect the afternoons to be off the chain. Remember, beginning Nov. 1, the off-water time moves earlier (it will line up with the best time for catching fliers). Check the entrance you plan to fish to learn the off-water time.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Some friends of mine fished the bars around the St. Simons Sound on Saturday and caught some giant redfish. They caught them on cut mullet fished on the bottom. Expect the bull reds to be in all of the inlets for several more weeks. I received several trout reports from Crooked River and the Brunswick area. None were fantastic, but they were all solid catches. Most folks caught from 20 to 30 trout and brought home about a dozen keepers. A couple folks fished Assassin Sea Shads, and electric chicken was again the best color reported. One group caught their trout on rainbow trout colored Sea Shads. Most anglers fished live shrimp under floats. The best sheepshead report I received was from an angler who caught 40 convict-fish in the Brunswick area. A couple other groups caught a dozen or so sheepshead in the Brunswick area. Fiddler crabs are the bait of choice for the finicky feeders. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the trout bite off the pier has been great, with many in the 18 to 20-inch range. The best bite has been on the incoming tide. Bull whiting were also caught in good numbers on dead shrimp this weekend. .
Best Bet: Crappie fishing is hard to beat right now. With the big tides coming by the weekend in saltwater, crappie will be the best option. The flier bite has picked up, also, so give the Okefenokee Swamp consideration. Drifting minnows will likely be the best presentation for pond crappie, while pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies will likely be the best way to catch fliers.