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 been good for the few who ventured out this week. Wind and big tides ruled the week, but those who went to saltwater did very well, especially considering the conditions. First quarter moon is Nov.10. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the catfish tournament they sponsored over the weekend was a big success. The five-fish aggregate weight category took 141 pounds to win. Big fish weighed in at 55 pounds. She said the crappie, bluegill, and bass bites were on fire. On Friday, some anglers fishing the lower river caught a dozen bass up to 3-pounds throwing shad-colored crankbaits. The river level was 2.7 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 3.8 feet and rising at the Doctortown gage on Nov. 5.
Satilla River – Justin Bythwood walked the riverbank on Friday evening and caught a potpourri of fish. He had about a dozen fish of seven different species while fishing a crawfish-colored Satilla Spin. He said the key was to work the lure right on the edge of heavy cover to get them to inhale it. He had a ¾-pound bluegill and some nice hand-sized redbreasts in the mix. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said some quality redbreasts were caught over the weekend on red-white Satilla Spins and Spin Dandy spinnerbaits. Catfish were caught on shiners, and some crappie ate both minnows and jigs. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.9 feet and steady and at the Atkinson gage was 3.9 feet and rising on Nov. 5. The Little Satilla rose almost four feet after the weekend rains, so the lower river will probably jump a little bit for the next week before falling back out.
St. Marys River – The catfish bite has been fair. Some redbreasts and bream were caught over the weekend on crickets.
Local Ponds – With the windy weather in saltwater, several anglers mentioned staying close to home in area ponds. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle reported bream, catfish, bass and crappie biting over the weekend. Bream ate crickets and catfish and bass were caught on free-lined shiners. Some big crappie were caught again this week on minnows.
Okefenokee Swamp – I took my son Timothy, along with friends John and Blake Kilpatrick from Albany, to the Folkston entrance on Saturday afternoon. The flier bite was on. We boated 41 hand-sized fliers in about half an hour at the first stop (orange Okefenokee Swamp Sallies were the ticket). The boys were ready to do something different, so we went for a boat ride and left the fliers biting. We watched gators and poked around, fishing a little bit, and ended up with 63 fliers. We saw another group from Douglas who whacked them on pink sallies. Funny how confidence is very important, as we caught only about a dozen on pink, but they did very well with the color. We also caught a few on yellow, but orange was the color of the day for us. The water level was excellent for getting around well, but we stayed in the canal. Staff at SC Foster State Park reported anglers catching from 15 to 25 keeper fliers per trip, and a few warmouth were caught during each trip, as well. Catfish were caught in decent numbers by both bank and boat anglers fishing worms and shrimp on the bottom.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The wind and big tides were the story this week, as the wind blew out 3 or 4 days. Surprisingly, folks who went during the muddy water this weekend did well, even with the mud. I fished with Jamie Storey out of Crooked River this week, and we managed 24 seatrout and a bluefish. Most were on Sea Shads suspended underneath Equalizer Floats, but we caught some around low tide by swimming Sea Shads along the bottom without the float. The fish were scattered, and we didn’t really get into any schools. Our biggest was 17 inches, and we had 11 keepers. Jamie also fished out of Crooked River this week with another friend, and they caught about the same numbers as our trip. They used live shrimp a little, and some mangrove snapper and other species were mixed in with their catch. They managed about a dozen keeper trout that day and had a 23-inch gator! Goldfish, Calcasieu brew, and chicken-on-a-chain produced their artificial-caught trout. A group of Waycross anglers fished from the bank for sheepshead on Saturday in the Brunswick area and caught 11 sheepshead (to 3 1/2 pounds), a keeper redfish, and an assortment of other species using fiddler crabs and shrimp as bait. The shrimping (cast-netting) is improving, with the cooler weather pushing the mudbugs into the deeper holes in the rivers. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that before the nor’easter set in on Saturday, an angler fishing from the pier caught 14 trout with the biggest right at 20 inches long. Flounder were caught in decent numbers. On Friday night some big redfish from 46 to 48 inches were caught. A group fishing Sunday evening caught 3 redfish and a huge stingray. Bonito intended for giant sharks fooled one of the redfish, while cut bait fooled the rest. After a short hiatus, blue crabs showed up in good numbers again and were caught under the pier.
Best Bet: On the few days you can get out in saltwater due to wind, the seatrout and redfish should eat it up. Try Calcasieu brew and electric chicken Assassin Sea Shads underneath Equalizer Floats if the water is murky and goldfish and Texas roach if it is clear. The Okefenokee has fired back up with the cooler weather and dropping water. Target fliers with Okefenokee Swamp Sallies (pink or orange worked best this week).