By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Scout Carter (right) of Blackshear caught his first chain pickerel (jackfish) while fishing on the St. Johns River

Scout Carter (right) of Blackshear caught his first chain pickerel (jackfish) while fishing on the St. Johns River

It seems unreal to be writing 2014 already! I hope you had a fun and safe New Year’s Day! I’ve been amazed that more folks did not incorporate fishing into their holiday plans. I guess I’m one of the few fishing “addicts.” By the time you read this, the mercury is going to drop pretty significantly. For the few who went over the holidays, the fishing has been good, with many quality fish reported. The crappie bite has been the most consistent. First quarter moon is January 6th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – There is a big slug of water coming down from both tributary rivers (Oconee and Ocmulgee) after a couple decent rains, and the river should stay in the floodplain for at least the first few weeks of January because of these rains. The crappie bite has been the only thing going lately. In the Altamaha Park area on Saturday, a group of Waycross anglers reported catching 22 nice crappie on minnows. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that in the Jesup area, the crappie bite in the oxbows was the best option. The river level was 10.0 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 8.9 feet and rising at the Doctortown gage on Dec. 31.

Satilla River –  Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie bite was the best bite on the river. On Saturday, a group of anglers reported catching 14 big crappie on minnows while fishing the Millwood area. Other anglers reported catching crappie in the Hwy 158 portion of the river on Saturday. The river level at the Waycross gage was 9.3 feet and rising and at the Atkinson gage was 7.7 feet and rising on Dec. 31.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that the crappie bite was strong over the weekend in Waycross area ponds. Minnows and jigs both produced. He said that crickets fooled some bream, also.

Okefenokee Swamp – I beat the bushes for a swamp report, but apparently nobody was fishing there over the holidays. There is plenty of water, and the flier population is large, so expect to catch plenty if you go. Warm afternoons will spur a good flier bite. Fish sallies underneath a float for the best action. For pickerel (jackfish), throw in-line spinners or minnow plugs.

Paradise Public Fishing Area (near Tifton)– The exciting change on the area is that live fish will be allowed for use as bait beginning Jan. 1. Grab a bucket of crappie minnows and head to the area for the excellent crappie fishing. Many of the lakes have crappie in them, and that has been the most consistent bite over the last month. Lake Patrick has been the most productive for area anglers. Before live minnows were legal, trolling tubes under a float or curly-tailed grubs without floats produced the best. Chartreuse and shad hues typically provide the best results. Bass fishing has been steady on the area. Fish plastic worms rigged on shaky heads for numbers of smaller bass, while banging crankbaits around points and offshore structure gives you a great shot at wintertime lunkers. Lake Paradise provides a higher than usual chance at a giant bass, but remember to bring your camera, as the lake is catch-and-release only.  Bass may be kept on all of the other lakes open on the area.  For license requirements and other information, visit

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that whiting, sheepshead, and redfish were caught from the pier this week. Whiting were caught in good numbers by those fishing shrimp on the bottom. Barnacles fooled the sheepshead, and redfish were caught with shrimp fished on the bottom. Trish said that some decent catches of trout and flounder were made in the Village Creek area. You can check the marine forecast at

My fishing predictions for 2014 are:

  • The Altamaha and Satilla river panfishing will be awesome again this spring. With the rivers in the floodplain at the time of writing this, I expect survival and growth to be excellent. If the river gets to fishable levels at the right time, it will be off the chain this spring.
  • The Okefenokee Swamp fishing will be the best it has been in years. The flier population is huge, and the fishing will be truly unbelievable when the water pulls back off the prairies and into the canals. I believe you can catch (not keep) over 500 fliers in a day when the conditions are right (and doing that is one of my goals this year).
  • Somebody will catch a 15-pound bass from Lake Paradise on Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton. That lake has some whoppers, and it is just a matter of time before someone catches a mammoth bass from the lake.