By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
It seems we are having a repeat of last summer. The rivers get about right, then wham – a storm comes through. My rain gage at the house overflowed Tuesday morning, and it measures up to about 5 1/2 inches. Because the rains were heavy and basin-wide, all of our rivers are going to go way back into the floodplains by the time you read this. The Satilla will probably not be fishable until late April at the earliest. Additionally, the north Georgia water will likely not work its way through the Altamaha system until May. When it finally comes back down it will be awesome! Pond fishing, the Okefenokee, and saltwater should continue to be very good. Whiting fishing has been excellent this week. The full moon is April 15. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Before the river jumped up, the catfish bite was pretty good. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that some anglers caught a few flatheads on Saturday. Most of the better catches were channel cats and blue cats. They mostly ate chicken livers, shrimp, and worms fished on the bottom. Dannet at Altamaha Park said good numbers of channel and blue catfish were caught on Saturday. The river level was 10.9 feet and rising sharply (66 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.1 feet and rising (65 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 8.
Satilla River – The good redbreast and bluegill catches started in the extreme upper reaches, but came to a screeching halt with the rise in water levels early in the week. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said quite a few bass were caught by anglers fishing topwater plugs and plastic worms before the rains. One angler was using a red shad Culprit worm to land a 5-pound bucketmouth. He released it after weighing it. For more detailed information about fishing the Satilla River, check out my article in the April issue of Georgia Outdoor News. The river level at the Waycross gage was 13.7 feet and rising sharply (65 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 10.6 feet and rising (67 degrees) on April 8.
Suwannee River – Before the heavy rains, the bullhead catches were ridiculous. A Homerville angler reported catching 40-60 catfish in less than an hour during the couple trips he made lately. The river level on at the Fargo gage was 11.5 feet and rising (68 degrees) on April 8.
Local Ponds – Scout Carter and a friend fished a Blackshear pond on Saturday evening and broke off two big bass (they estimated at over 5 pounds each) with an ultralight rig. They were using a Bass Assassin 2-inch Curly Shad on a jighead to fool fish. Small lures are the way to go when the bass first leave the beds, as they are usually in a funk for a week or so and will not eat much. Michael Winge reported anglers catching lots of crappie on minnows from area ponds over the weekend. Bream were caught on crickets and this will improve with the fish pushing to spawn during the upcoming full moon. An angler reported catching bass from their beds with a frog colored Heddon Torpedo. Anglers fishing spillways below ponds in the Homerville area reported catching stringers of nice warmouth, mostly on crickets.
Okefenokee Swamp – The fast rising water after the early week rains will likely put the bite off for about a week as the fish push back into flooded areas. It should pick up next week when things stabilize. You should be able to catch catfish at any of the entrances by putting shrimp on the bottom. The fliers should still be catchable, but not in as big of numbers as recently because they are spread out over the prairies. Even so, pitching an Okefenokee Swamp Sally with a bream buster will fool a couple dozen fliers per trip. Anglers fishing all of the tributaries between Manor and Homerville reported catching lots of catfish and warmouth in any running water.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite has been excellent. An Alma angler fished out of Blythe Island Park on Thursday and brought home 13 nice whiting and a bunch of assorted bottom fish. They ate shrimp fished on the bottom. The most impressive part was that he accomplished this catch from backwaters due to howling winds that day. On days when anglers could get out to the sound, dead shrimp fished on the bottom produced all the whiting they wanted to clean. A Waycross angler reported catching some nice trout, sheepshead and black drum from the creeks behind St Simons over the weekend. In Gould’s Inlet, anglers have started catching the big flounder. An angler fishing from the Jekyll Pier reported catching 71 whiting using dead shrimp. From the beaches, the whiting bite has remained strong. One day the fish were small, the next they were as big of bull whiting as you could catch. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier anglers caught lots of whiting, some black sea bass, and a fair number of sharks. Bluefish have been stealing baits, but anglers have not been hooking many of them. On Tuesday, an angler caught a 22-inch flounder on a piece of dead shrimp. Wyatt Crews and a group of Waycross/Blackshear friends on spring break fished the pier over the weekend and caught several dozen bull whiting on dead shrimp fished on Stealth Rigs. Blue crabs have started showing up under the pier. You can check the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet – The whiting fishing has been excellent and should remain so this week. Put a piece of dead shrimp on the bottom and you can’t help but catch the ubiquitous, tasty fish. Bass and bluegill fishing will be hard to beat this weekend in area ponds. Look for bass to eat topwaters in the shallows early in the day, and then fish plastic worms around shoreline cover after the sun comes up. Bluegills should move shallow in anticipation of the full moon this weekend. They should eat worms and crickets fished under a float or artificials fished near shoreline cover and vegetation.