By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
This warming trend is just what those of us with cabin fever needed! Ponds and lakes are on fire right now, especially for crappie and bass. Last quarter moon is Feb. 22. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The flush of water from upcountry has arrived, and you should only consider fishing in the lower river where the water velocity is lower. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said the crappie bite has slowed with the rising river, but the commercial shad fishermen have been doing pretty well. Dannet at Altamaha Park said crappie, bream and catfish bit this week. An angler reported a mixed bag of 46 bluegill and catfish. Catfish and bream ate pink worms, while crappie were mostly caught with minnows. The mouths of sloughs and creeks produced best. The river level was 14.1 feet and rising (almost 7 feet higher than last week!) at the Baxley gage, and 11.2 feet and rising (51 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Feb. 18.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that a few catfish and crappie were caught this week. The cats ate shiners and shrimp fished on limb lines and trot lines. A few anglers fooled crappie in the backs of oxbow lakes. The river has crested at around 10 feet at the Highway 158 Bridge. The river level at the Waycross gage was 11.6 feet and rising (52 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 9.9 feet and rising (54 degrees) on Feb. 18.
St. Marys River – The St. Marys river is not in bad shape, and the catfishing should be pretty good during the upcoming warm weekend. Put shrimp or worms on the bottom for the best chance at success. This past week, anglers reported catching crappie with minnows in slackwater areas. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 7.1 feet and falling on Feb. 18.
Local Ponds – Several high schoolers held their own tournament on a Waycross pond on Monday during their day off of school, and they caught a bunch of bass. The winning team had 11 bass up to about 3 pounds, mostly caught on minnow plugs (green back/silver belly and black back/gold). An angler from Waycross and another from Valdosta fished a Tifton area pond on Tuesday, and they had a couple nice crappie by swimming a curly-tailed grub (Tennessee shad color) and several bass up to 4 pounds on swimming worms. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that lots of big crappie were reported this week from area ponds. Both minnows and jigs fooled them. During the cold snap, folks were fishing jigs in deeper holes for the best results. By the end of this week, expect fish to move to shallow cover.
Okefenokee Swamp – This weekend’s warming trend should fire off the flier bite again. Pitch sallies under a small balsa float to weed edges. The big females should push to the cuts adjoining prairies by late in the week. Expect to catch some of the biggest fliers of the year during the next couple of weeks. Based on reports, yellow and pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies have produced the best so far this winter.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Sheepshead and some whiting were caught on Sunday after the previous windy day in the Brunswick area. Even in the cold weather this past week, trout and reds were caught by those fishing around bridge pilings in the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) said that croakers and whiting were still biting at the pier. A few trout were also caught with shrimp during the last week of cold weather.
Best Bet – Crappie or bass fishing should be excellent late in the week and through the weekend. The swamp flier bite should also be fantastic. The big female fliers will be shallow and eating sallies over the next few weeks.