By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Swamp fishing is one of the two best bets for this weekend. Dr. Mike VanDenAvyle of  Athens fished the swamp last month and caught this nice warmouth.

Swamp fishing is one of the two best bets for this weekend. Dr. Mike VanDenAvyle of Athens fished the swamp last month and caught this nice warmouth.

This week, we’ve seen some of the most abysmal fishing reports since the deep freeze we had several years ago. The crappie bite has been about the only thing worth mentioning this week.  However, the high water in rivers and awful fishing conditions right now, should produce some of the best fishing ever in the Satilla and Altamaha rivers this spring. Full moon is Jan. 16. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Forget it – too cold and too high. The Darien area might produce some channel catfish by the weekend warm-up if you just have to fish the Altamaha. The river level was 16.4 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising (45 degree water temperature) at the Baxley gage, and 11.6 feet and rising (49 degree water temperature) at the Doctortown gage on Jan 7.

Satilla River –  Forget it this week! Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said no one is fishing with the high water right now. The river level at the Waycross gage was 12.4 feet and cresting (48 degree water temperature) and at the Atkinson gage was 10.7 feet and rising (47 degree water temperature) on Jan. 7.

Local Ponds – This will be the place where time spent fishing is not wasted. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said anglers reported catching crappie on minnows Saturday afternoon. The best bite was when the sun came out for a short time. By this weekend, the warmer temperatures should produce some nice crappie catches during the afternoons.

Okefenokee Swamp – Still no one reporting from the swamp. I wouldn’t bother until this weekend, when the fliers shake off their disorientation from the frigid conditions. They should eat pretty well (sallies under a float) by Saturday afternoon during the warm up.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said no one has been fishing during the frigid, windy conditions. Before the mid-week arctic blast, anglers caught some sheepshead from the pier.

Best Bet: With the warming trend, the Okefenokee flier and local pond crappie bites are really the only ones even worth considering. The extreme cold will most likely put most of the other bites off for another week. For crappie, drift minnows in the deepest parts of the pond, and expect the better bite to be as the sun peeks below the trees in the late afternoon. For flier, expect the fish to bite best during the last 2 hours of daylight, and work your sally very slowly underneath a small balsa float. Realistically, your best bet is to get the honey-do list done this weekend so you can fish when it warms up!

In case you missed it…

My fishing predictions for 2014:

  • 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.