By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
I hope that each of you had a Happy Thanksgiving! Our family had a non-traditional meal – grilled mahi-mahi. This week’s cold weather has slowed the bite some, but it will fire back off when the weather stabilizes over the weekend. Saltwater has been tough to fish because of daily gale force winds! New Moon is Dec. 3. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – My major professor from the University of Georgia, Dr. Mike VanDenAvyle, came to visit and fish with me late last week. Due to high winds, we avoided the brine and fished the lower Altamaha on Thursday. We flung black-yellow Satilla Spins all day and whacked the panfish – 70 in all. We had 36 bluegills up to a pound (no huge ones, but some good 10 1/2-inchers). We had over a dozen of each species of redbreasts (to 9 inches), bass (to 3-pounds) and spotted sunfish (stumpknockers – to 8 inches). Mike threw the 1/16-oz. version, while I stayed with the 1/8-oz. version. Almost all of our fish were around willow trees, and very few were on blow-down trees. Willows near deep water held the bigger bluegills. We made a day of it, and even threw out a salt block and tried to coax mullet to bite (to no avail). The water temps were 56-59 degrees on my electronics. Some anglers bass fishing the lower river on Saturday used plastic worms and crankbaits and caught 22 bass, with their biggest weighing in at 2 1/2 pounds. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that in the Jesup area, the crappie bite has been “crazy.” Minnows worked the best. Some catfish were caught on Saturday along with some big bream (on crickets). 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. 26.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crappie and bass were caught early in the week before the rains. On Monday, an angler fishing from the bank near the Blackshear Bridge caught 10 slab crappie on minnows. Bass hit topwater plugs fished around blow-down trees. Expect the cold to slow that bite, but jig-n-pigs, crankbaits and plastic worms should still fool them. The river level on at the Waycross gage was 6.3 feet and rising and at the Atkinson gage was 3.6 feet and rising on Nov. 26.
St. Marys River – A few crappie were caught on minnows this week. Bream and catfish were still biting worms pretty well. The river level on was 2.6 feet and rising at the MacClenny gage on Nov. 26.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that in Waycross area ponds crappie have been eating minnows well. Green and white mini-jigs fished under a float also caught quite a few. Some bass were caught with shiners, while crickets still fooled bream on warm afternoons before the cold front. After this cold front, afternoons are probably going to be the best times to fish.
Okefenokee Swamp – Before Mike VanDenAvyle left town, we fished the east side for three hours on Friday morning and caught 109 fliers (we only kept about 25 of them) and a warmouth. All of them bit pink or orange Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. It was a little strange that the pink was the best under a float for the first hour, but orange fished without a float was (by far) the best presentation the second hour (both of those times it was extremely cloudy). When the sun popped out for the last hour, the bite slowed, but the pink fly under the float was again the ticket. We fished both the #8 and #10 versions. Most of the fish were 4 to 6 inches, but we had a couple 8-inchers. The flier bite on the west side has remained excellent, with yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies producing best.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – This wind is getting ridiculous! I’ve just about lost interest in saltwater this fall because the winds have so rarely been favorable when I could break free (and the river fishing has been so awesome!). Brentz and Alex McGhin headed to Crooked River on Saturday and had a good day. They flung Assassin Sea Shads suspended under Cajun Thunder Floats and landed 17 trout (6 keepers to 15 inches) and a giant 29-inch redfish. That beast was a hoot on light tackle! Their best Sea Shad color was chicken-on-a-chain. Another Waycross angler reported catching 36 trout on jigs on Saturday out of Crooked River. A group of anglers had a bunch of trout and redfish by swimming jigs at the St. Marys Jetties on Saturday. Bull whiting were caught on the beach when weather allowed boats to get to them. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that trout and sheepshead provided the most action this week, and most were caught on Saturday. Some stone crabs were caught this week, and lots of blue crabs were caught in the Brunswick area.