By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The warming trend over the last week fired off the river fishing, before the current mid-week cold nights. Saltwater fishing has also been good, but the days when the wind would allow boats out have been few lately. Last quarter moon is Nov. 25. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – My dad, Herb Deener, and I fished an evening this week on the lower river and whacked panfish. We fished the last two hours before dark and moved between blowdown trees, eddies and creek mouths and managed 30 fish (21 bluegills, 8 redbreasts and a shellcracker). Our biggest bluegill was just over 1.25 pounds and just shy of 11 inches. We had some beautiful redbreasts – all over 7 inches, and our shellcracker was just under a pound. All the fish ate 1/16-oz. black/yellow Satilla Spins, except the shellcracker, which ate worms fished on the bottom. What a fun evening!
The water temps were 59 to 60 degrees. With this week’s cold weather, I expect the fish to be a little more lethargic and require the 1/8-oz. version to get down to them. I talked to a couple guys who were taking off when we were launching, and they caught nine crappie and a couple bluegills while fishing during the middle of the day. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that big crappie were caught in good numbers in the Jesup area this week. Several anglers caught limits. The river level was 2.4 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 3.5 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Nov. 19.
Satilla River – A couple of Waycross anglers slowly poked around in a johnboat in the Waycross area of the river this Sunday and caught 40 fish on Satilla Spins. Many were bluegills in the deeper, slower areas, but when they fished the outside bends with current and cover, they whacked some big redbreasts to 8 inches. They caught all of their fish on Satilla Spins, with crawfish being the dominant color. Several ate black/yellow, also. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river fishing was great again this week. Bream, redbreast, and crappie were reported in the best numbers. Worms and crickets fooled most of the bream and redbreasts. Minnows and John Deere Green jigs have been most productive for crappie. A few bass were reported by anglers fishing shiners. Some catfish were caught by those using worms in the deeper holes. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.1 feet and cresting and at the Atkinson gage was 3.3 feet and falling on Nov. 19.
Local Ponds – Pat Cullen, legendary trophy bass angler from Valdosta, passed another milestone this week. He landed his 1,300th bass over 10 pounds! Wow, what an accomplishment! He’s been chasing trophy bass in the Valdosta area for more than four decades. Brandon and Marion Baker fished the lake at Laura Walker State Park on Sunday and caught some giant warmouth. They were using a Flashy Swimbait head and a Keitech gold flash 3.8-inch swimbait. Brandon also caught a flier on an Okefenokee Swamp Sally.
Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle reported that lots of crappie were caught from area ponds this week. A few of them were giants. The bream bite slowed, but was still decent.
The state parks Reelin’ in the Prizes Fishing Contest ends Dec. 1. For more information, check out their website at http://gastateparks.org/fishingchallenge
Okefenokee Swamp – Not many folks fished on the east side this week. But, the fishing has been great on the west side. Staff reported an angler catching about 50 catfish in the Minnie’s Lake area by fishing shrimp on the bottom. The flier bite on the west side has been excellent, with Okefenokee Swamp Sallies producing the most. Some warmouth were reported from the Sill area, as well.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Wind was the story this week. Very few days allowed anglers to venture out in boats. A couple of Waycross anglers fished hard cover in the Brunswick area on Friday and whacked the sheepshead with fiddler crabs. They caught 23 convict fish, a dozen mangrove snapper and several black drum (up to 4 pounds). Another group of four anglers fished the Brunswick area on Saturday and had about 40 keeper sheepshead. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that sheepshead, trout, whiting and bull reds were caught from the pier this week. Blue crabs are still being caught in big numbers. I know of a person who caught two dozen with cut bait on a rod and reel. You can check the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: With the stable (but windy) weather late this week and into the early weekend, river fishing for redbreasts, bluegill, and shellcrackers should keep up its torrid pace. Expect Satilla Spins to fool them during the heat of the day and worms or crickets to bring them out of cover when they are in a neutral mood. Give it a whirl, as the bite will slow when winter hits. Seatrout fishing should be excellent if the wind will stop. Fling Sea Shads underneath Equalizer or Cajun Thunder Floats and keep moving until you find a school, then stay with them. Of course, live shrimp under a float will also work well on your favorite drop.