By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
It’s the time of year when it seems those who aren’t in the woods are too busy to go fishing, even though most of the bites are awesome. If you can make time to go, you should, whether you go to saltwater or freshwater. The river bite has been off the chain this week. Full moon is Nov. 17. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – I took my son, Timothy, to the lower river on Monday, and we tried to shoot some squirrels on one of the WMA’s down there. He was not able to sit still long enough to see any squirrels, but the bluegills and bass cooperated for the hour we fished. We caught three small bass on a red-white Satilla Spin and nailed an 18-incher on a crankbait at the mouth of a slough. Then, we tied up to some willow limbs and caught a half-dozen giant bluegill on 1/16 oz. black-yellow Satilla Spins and another nice half-dozen fish on red wiggler worms. We kept eight = to filet for fish tacos, the smallest was 9 inches. Our biggest was a 1-pounder over 10 inches long.
A Waycross angler bass fished out of Altamaha Park this week and caught 40 bass, mostly on red worms fished on a springlock shaky head. Some other anglers reported catching bass on spinnerbaits in the lower river this week. With the lack of cold weather (other than the one day this week), the mullet should still be catchable. I saw them jumping in the lower river on Monday. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that in the Jesup area anglers caught catfish, bass, bluegill and crappie in good numbers. The river level was 2.8 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 3.3 feet and rising slightly at the Doctortown gage on Nov. 12.
Satilla River – I floated in my canoe down to the Blackshear Bridge with Justin Bythwood this week, and we whacked them. We ended up catching (not keeping) 103 fish for the day, with 71 of them nice redbreasts, and the balance bluegills, spotted sunfish (stumpknockers), crappie and bass. We caught about 80 of the fish on either a 1/16 oz. crawfish or black-yellow Satilla Spin. The crawfish lure had a little over half of those fish. The other 20-plus fish ate various prototype color combinations of Satilla Spins. In the morning, the fish were jumping all over the tiny spinnerbaits, but in the afternoon the bite slowed, and you had to put it right in the heavy cover to get bites. The river is too low for a motorboat in most places, but it was perfect for a canoe. Even in the small, shallow-drafting craft, we had to get out and drag a dozen times or more. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that most any species you want to target is biting. Bass are hitting Rattling Rogues fished on the surface. He reported that redbreasts were eating beetlespins, Satilla Spins, crickets and worms. Crappie ate both minnows and jigs. Catfish were fooled with shrimp or rooster livers. The river level on at the Waycross gage was 4.7 feet and rising and at the Atkinson gage was 3.7 feet and falling on Nov. 12.
St. Marys River – Anglers reported catching catfish, redbreasts and bream. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.2 feet and falling on Nov. 12.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle reported that lots of bream and crappie were caught from area ponds over the weekend. The bluegills were primarily eating crickets, but some were fooled with worms. Minnows were most effective on the crappie. The best report I heard was a group of two anglers who caught just over 50 fish. A few catfish were reported on chicken livers and worms, while some bass ate shiners fished under a float. The shiner bite for bass is just getting started.
Okefenokee Swamp – Surprisingly, not many folks have been fishing the swamp, according to reports from both sides. Staff said that the few anglers they heard from caught lots of fliers, mostly on yellow and pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. Some catfish and bowfin were also caught by anglers bottom fishing with shrimp and worms.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Ed Zmarzly of Waycross officially moved from the “Redfish Prince” to the “Redfish King” this Friday by landing five bull redfish from the St. Simons Pier. Cut mullet fished on a bottom rig fooled them. The fish didn’t play on Monday in the same area, as he didn’t catch any fish that day. It’s all about being there when the fish move through. The strong winds over the weekend kept many anglers away from the coast, but I talked with an angler fishing from the bank in the Brunswick area who caught two nice redfish and a near 8-pound sheepshead on Saturday. That big fish was on the last cast and last bait of the day right at dark. Anglers fishing out of Crooked River reported some good trout catches this week, but I did not get details of what they were fishing with. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said bull redfish were still being caught from the pier over the weekend. An angler caught nine sheepshead from 13 to 15 inches off the pier using mussels for bait. A few trout and sharks are still around. Blue crabs are back in big numbers.
Best Bet: Wednesday’s short cold snap should not do much to hamper the bite because of the quick warm-up afterward. Expect the river bites for bluegills, redbreasts and stumpknockers to continue the torrid pace with water temps still in the 60s at the time of writing this. After two or three warm days, the Okefenokee would be a great destination, as the fliers will be gobbling up Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. The trout bite should be awesome if we can ever get a period of stable high pressure with fishable winds. Tide heights should be fishable from now until early December.