By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Mike Harrell of Waycross shows a pair of slab crappie that he caught on artificials during the last warm spell.

Mike Harrell of Waycross shows a pair of slab crappie that he caught on artificials during the last warm spell.

The fishing really picked up this week. Pond reports for bass and crappie were the big news. We are on the cusp of some of the best freshwater fishing of the year! Full moon is Feb. 14. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that the crappie bite is improving for those fishing minnows. The best success has been from those fishing around treetops and other cover in the backwaters. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that the crappie, bream and catfish bites all improved this week. The river level was 7.8 feet and falling (52 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.5 feet and rising (54 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Feb. 11.

Satilla River – I received a report from an angler who fished bush hooks in the upper river and caught just shy of a dozen catfish, all over 5 pounds, and some approaching 10 pounds. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crappie, bream, redbreasts, and catfish were reported from the river this week. Good numbers of crappie were caught, and most were fooled with minnows. Anglers also reported catching crappie on black/yellow Satilla Spins. Satilla Spins also accounted for some good bream and redbreast catches this week, but they were caught with the red/white version of the little spinnerbait. Most of the channel cats were caught with rooster livers and shiners. The river level at the Waycross gage was 9.2 feet and falling (56 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 9.1 feet and cresting (56 degrees) on Feb. 11.

Local Ponds – Pond reports fired up this week, especially for bass. On Friday, a Blackshear angler fished a local pond with shiners and caught four bass, a 2-pounder, a 5-pounder, a 9 3/4-pounder, and a 10-pound., 1-ounce trophy. He released the three biggest fish to fight again another day. A pair of high-schoolers fished a local pond on Tuesday after school and caught 15 bass to 4 pounds. The most remarkable thing was that they caught them ALL on buzzbaits and frogs, even in the cool weather. They hung a monster, but it broke their line. That goes to show you that it is often worth experimenting with lures that go “against the grain” for the conditions you are facing. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that ponds were producing some great crappie reports. Lots of crappie, and some big ones were reported from area lakes on both minnows and John Deere green Jiffy Jigs. Some bream and catfish were caught by bottom fishing with pink worms. Lake Ware anglers reported catching big crappie this week on minnows and white jigs.

Okefenokee Swamp – This weekend’s warming trend should fire off the flier bite again. Pitch sallies under a small balsa float to weed edges. On sunny afternoons, throw an in-line spinner to fool pickerel (jackfish).

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Reports were sparse, but folks caught whiting, sheepshead, black drum and trout in the Brunswick and St. Marys areas this week. In Brunswick, the sheepshead bite was on fire for those fishing around bridge pilings, with folks reporting limits of the convict fish. Also in the Brunswick area, redfish and trout were fooled over mud flats on the incoming tide. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the best bites from the pier were croakers and whiting. A few huge blue crabs were caught again this week.

Best Bet – If the forecasted warming trend comes to fruition this weekend and on into next week, take your pick! Flier fishing will be awesome in the swamp, pond fishing for bass and crappie should be fantastic, and even the panfishing in the rivers should be good. The potential glitch is the rain from the mid-week storm moving in at the time of writing this. If we get a lot of rain, scratch the rivers and even the swamp (if we get rains measured in inches instead of fractions of an inch). If that happens, then ponds will be the places to fish this weekend.