By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Andy Taylor caught and released this beautiful redfish from a nearshore reef while fishing out of Hickory Bluff Fishing Club.

Andy Taylor caught and released this beautiful redfish from a nearshore reef while fishing out of Hickory Bluff Fishing Club.

Freshwater fishing was great this week, and saltwater was good at times. The rivers are still way high with the recent rains, but it will be awesome when they come back down. The east side of the Okefenokee is on fire right now with the warmer temperatures. The full moon is March 16. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said catfish provided the only bite this week, and it was still slow. Channel cats were caught on shiners, and flatheads ate bream and goldfish. Dannet at Altamaha Park said the fishing has been slow in the high water overall, but on Tuesday a group caught 15 crappie on minnows. Quite a few channel cats were caught in the Champney River by anglers fishing pink worms on the bottom. The river level was 11.2 feet and falling (57 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.2 feet and rising (56 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 11.

Satilla River  – The river is out in the floodplain after the inch-plus of rain last week. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said anglers still reported catching some crappie, mostly on minnows, even with the high water. Trot line anglers caught catfish on rooster livers and shrimp. Shiners produced some big catfish on limb lines. Nice bream were reported by anglers fishing red wigglers and pink worms on the bottom. When the river level at Waycross gets below 9 feet, I expect the fishing to bust wide open because the populations of pretty much all species of panfish are very high with the high water we’ve had over the last year. The river level at the Waycross gage was 12.0 feet and rising (56 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 10.9 feet and rising (59 degrees) on March 11.

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 10.1 feet and falling on March 11.

Local Ponds – The bass bite was awesome this week in ponds, as big females were ready to move shallow. Kenny McClain from Maryland fished with Herb Deener on a Brunswick area pond on Friday. Each caught their personal best bass. Herb started the day off with a 6-pound lunker that ate a junebug straight-tail worm fished on a shaky head. Kenny’s 5-pound, 13-ounce bass ate a Texas-rigged Assassin Fat Job Worm (waterboy color). The total catch for the day was 34 bass, even on the nasty, drizzly, frigid-cold day. All of their bass ate plastic worms in green pumpkin, junebug, or waterboy colors. Teddy Elrod of Brunswick fished an area pond on Tuesday and whacked some monsters. He and his partners’ three best bass weighed 11.3, 8.6, and 8.1 pounds. WOW!!! They caught a total of 70 bass. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said some nice bream were caught this week on crickets. The crappie bite remained strong, with a few slabs reported. An angler reported catching a 6-pound bass on a pink ZOOM Trick Worm.

Okefenokee Swamp – The fliers  have continued to eat it up on the swamp. On Saturday I took my uncle and aunt (Kenny and Debbie McClain) to Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo, and the water temperature was much lower than I expected. The water temperature started out at 46 degrees, about as low as you will ever see in the swamp. As expected, the fish were lethargic. I pitched a black-white curly-tail grub and bounced it on the bottom to score a few fish. Debbie put it on us with a pink prototype swamp jig suspended under a float near the bottom (being near bottom was key to getting bites). As the sun warmed the water to 50 degrees in the afternoon, the bite picked up, and we started catching them on the traditional pink #10 and yellow #10 Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. However, they had to be suspended under a float and have a small split shot to keep them down. We ended up with 24 fliers (to 7 inches) and bluegill that ate a yellow #10 sally while walking around the boat basin after taking the boat out. On Tuesday afternoon, I took Jesse Eason to the east side, and we roped the fliers, although most were small. We caught 110 fliers (kept 10 of them) in four hours. Early in the afternoon they wanted pink #10 sallies underneath a float. As the afternoon progressed, they ate yellow #10 sallies without a float best. Most of our fish were caught in the main canals and not in the backs of the cuts or prairies. Our biggest fish was just shy of 8 inches, and it ate Jesse’s pink sally. We cast inline spinners for jackfish and mudfish, but we could not fool any before switching back to sallies. It was a great, warm afternoon with lots of wildlife to see and lots of cooperative fish. Both sides of the swamp should produce good catches this weekend with the warmer weather forecasted after the mid-week cool down.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Andy Taylor and his sister and brother-in-law caught some nice redfish at near-shore reefs this week using Penn 5000 reels. That is a fun fight on the light tackle! The whiting bite was inconsistent this week. It was off for bank anglers reporting from St. Simons, as folks I talked to only caught a half-dozen per trip from the sand. The Jekyll Island Pier produced some good whiting catches for Waycross anglers soaking dead shrimp on the bottom. Whiting started biting at the King and Prince this week on days you could get out there. Sheepshead were again 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 continued this week from the pier. The average catch was 30 to 40 fish. Most of the fish ate dead shrimp fished on the bottom.

Best Bet – If winds allow, the whiting bite should be great for boat anglers. If winds are high, whiting from the pier is a good option. In freshwater, simply take your pick. Bass will be bedding this weekend, crappie are still biting, and bluegill are just starting. The Okefenokee is a great destination on warm afternoons, as the flier are eating sallies.