By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Even with the up and down temperatures, the freshwater fishing has been great this week. Everything from bass, to crappie, to fliers were caught in big numbers (and there were some big ones). The rivers will get right soon if we don’t get too much rain from the unstable weather forecasted at the time of this writing. We will have a waxing moon this week, with a first quarter moon on March 8. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Still too high and swift in the upper river. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said the bite was still slow this week. A few folks reported catching crappie and channel cats in the sloughs. Dannet at Altamaha Park said several flatheads were caught over the weekend, and the channel catfish bite was good down-river near Two Way Fish Camp. The river level was 11.3 feet and falling (54 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.6 feet and falling (56 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 4.
Satilla River – The river is still high, but the warmer temperatures over the weekend had folks fishing, and they caught a few even with the high water. The most unusual catch of the week (and probably the year…maybe decade) was a hickory shad that slammed Mr. Howell’s minnow plug. American shad are not that uncommon, but this is the first hickory shad that I have seen in the Satilla. He said it looked and acted like a tarpon, and with their aerial acrobatics, I imagine it did resemble the “silver king.” Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said lots of crappie were reported from the Millwood section of the river, and they ate minnows. Catfish were caught on limb lines and trot lines. Rooster livers and shrimp were productive on the lines. He said several bass were caught with buzzbaits and black worms over the weekend, and I received a report of folks catching some on Rogue jerkbaits. The river level at the Waycross gage was 10.6 feet and falling (57 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 10.3 feet and falling (59 degrees) on March 4.
St. Marys River – The catfish bite was tops this week, with shrimp and worms producing most of the fish. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 8.2 feet and falling on March 4.
Local Ponds – Jacob Henderson caught a 6-pound bass this week from an area pond using a swimbait. An angler fishing a Swainsboro area pond caught his second 9-pound bass in two weekends. He fooled this weekend’s 9-pound, 7-ounce monster with a Flashy Swimbait Head and a ZOOM Super Fluke. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that the crappie bite in area ponds has been on fire. Minnows, Jiffy Jigs, and TN Shad curly-tails have all been hot this week. Some bream started biting crickets and pink worms in the warmer weather, and some catfish were fooled with shrimp. The bass bite has heated up for those fishing shiners and buzzbaits.
Okefenokee Swamp – The flier bite has been outstanding during warm afternoons. I took Julius Conner, Angelo Miles, and Timothy Deener between church services last Sunday, and we caught 37 fliers in just two hours on the water. Most were small (under 6 inches), but we had a few in the 7-8 inch range. We started with pink, orange, and yellow sallies, but the fish started off only wanting orange. Angelo had the hot hand with his orange sally, catching about nine of the first 10 fish. But the bite picked up, and everyone got in on the action with all three colors. The best presentation, by far, was the fly suspended 24 inches under a small balsa float, but a tiny split-shot gave it the right drop to entice bites. That rig accounted for about 30 of our 37 fish. We ran into Jerome and Brad Inman there on the east side, and they ended up with about 50 fliers by pitching orange sallies and red wiggler worms. The big females have not moved up shallow yet, but expect that during the next warm spell. I learned of an angler who fished the west side (Fargo) last weekend and caught a 4-pound bass, and the angler beside him landed a 6-pounder. They fooled them with black plastic worms. Michael Winge reported anglers catching fliers on the east side using yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. The angler also reported catching some warmouth on the sallies. Michael expects the warmouth bite to be excellent in late March and early April.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite has cranked up for Waycross anglers fishing the Brunswick area. Dead shrimp fished on the bottom has been the key. Trout and some red drum were caught over the weekend by anglers fishing live shrimp around shell mounds and mud flats that were warmed in the afternoon sun. Some sheepshead were caught under bridges and around pilings in the St. Simons area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting bite was hot this week from the pier, even on the cooler days. Dead shrimp fished on bottom produced about all the fish anglers wanted to clean.
Best Bet – With the warm weather forecasted this weekend, the flier bite on the Okefenokee will be hard to beat as far as numbers go. I expect the best presentation to be sallies fished underneath a small balsa float. Try orange, pink, and yellow and stay with whichever color the fish are biting the best. I like #8 sallies first thing in the morning and then I switch to a #10 if the fish get finicky during the brightest part of the day. When you dial it in, you can catch them one after another. Bass fishing should be excellent over the next couple of weeks as the big females move shallow. Throw topwaters on warm mornings and flukes, lizards, and plastic worms once the sun gets overhead. The whiting bite should be excellent again this weekend, if the nice weather forecasted materializes. Watch the marine forecast late in the week before deciding on that option.