By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Pond fishing and saltwater have been awesome this week. Bass in ponds and whiting in the ocean have been the top bites. The Okefenokee should be good once the water level stabilizes again. Forget the rivers this week due to flooding, but when they finally come back down it will be awesome fishing! The last quarter moon is April 22. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Forget it this weekend! The big rains are making their way down the river. The annual Wayne County Catfish Tournament will be held May 3-4 out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. First place will pay $10,000 (NOT a misprint)! For more information, visit the website www.waynecountycatfishtournament.com. A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club was recently announced for June 14. First place is a guaranteed $500. The tournament will also be based out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. The winner will be determined based on the weight of their biggest 10 panfish (bluegill, warmouth, redbreasts and shellcrackers are the species to be weighed). The entry fee is a modest $20 per angler, and children under 16 years of age can compete free of charge with a paying adult. For more information, contact the Wayne County Board of Tourism at 912-427-3233. The river level was 13.9 feet and rising (66 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.2 feet and rising (66 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 15.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said the deluge put off the fishing, except for a few folks who caught catfish on limb lines in the upper river. Give it a couple weeks for the river to get back down in the banks. For more detailed information about fishing the Satilla River, check out my article in the April issue of Georgia Outdoor News. The Satilla Riverkeeper recently announced they will sponsor a fishing tournament on the Satilla River on Saturday, May 10. The river should be fishable by then, unless we continue to get significant rains. Look for more information about the tournament in the weeks to come. The river level at the Waycross gage was 15.4 feet and falling (67 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 15.7 feet and rising (68 degrees) on April 15.
Local Ponds – Bass fishing has been awesome according to most accounts. On Monday, Warren Budd of Newnan fished a Cochran area lake with a friend and caught 76 bass on Satilla Spins and Flashy Jigheads rigged with 2-inch Assassin Curly Shads (crystal shad was the best color). The pair was targeting smaller bass for a fish fry and had a blast with ultralight tackle. An angler fishing a wacky-rigged (watermelonseed) Senko worm landed and released a 9-pound bass on Monday morning. Monday evening, James Woolsey of Perry fished a Eastman pond with Flashy Swimbait Heads and Keitech swimbaits and caught 24 bass up to 4 pounds. The fish were chowing ahead of the front, and swimbait color did not matter. The bluegill bite picked up over the weekend ahead of the front. Anglers reported catching most of them on crickets rigged under a float. Michael Winge reported anglers catching crappie on minnows and bream on crickets and worms. Some nice bass were caught with bubblegum ZOOM Trick Worms (rigged unweighted) and also moccassin and red shad Culprit worms (Texas-rigged). Catfish anglers caught them on pink worms over the weekend. Anglers fishing spillways below ponds in the Homerville area reported catching big stringers of warmouth this week. I saw the impressive photos!
Laura Walker State Park Lake – Staff reported some very good catches of mostly bluegills and bass over the last week. The lake was closed to boats due to the big rains last week, but reopened Saturday. Bass were fooled with plastic worms and topwaters. Some anglers fishing on the bottom reported catching some nice catfish, a bunch of bream, and a big warmouth on Monday.
Okefenokee Swamp – The best reports this week came from the east side (Folkston entrance). Some big bream were caught with beetle spins. Fliers were also eating yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies fished under a float. Anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom caught catfish. The warmouth bite should fire off any day for those dabbling crawfish around the old cypress stumps on the west side. Anglers fishing all of the tributaries flowing into the swamp on all sides have reported catching lots of catfish and warmouth. Just find some flowing water, pitch a bait in (crickets under a float or worms or shrimp on the bottom), and hold on.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite is on fire on days when the winds allow you to fish. Dead shrimp fished on the bottom has been the ticket. Anglers fishing the Jekyll Island Pier have reported catching 50-60 whiting per day. Some sheepshead and a few big black drum were caught at the St. Marys Jetties. Some red drum (redfish) were also mixed in the catch. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said it has been whiting, whiting, and more whiting from the pier. On Saturday night, two big redfish were caught and released from the pier. The biggest was a 43-incher. On Sunday, two giant black drum were landed. One was 40 pounds and the other was 65 pounds! A few flounder and trout were also caught.
Best Bet – The wind forecast is iffy right now for the weekend, so check it late in the week before planning a trip to the brine. If it’s fishable, the whiting bite will be hard to beat in saltwater. Bass and bluegill fishing will be excellent this weekend in ponds. With the cooler mornings late in the week, expect the afternoon bite to be better. Bass coming off the spawn have been chasing down lures, so expect swimbaits and spinnerbaits to work well. Use plastic worms or lizards if the fish won’t chase your lures down. Wacky rigged worms should start fooling them for the next couple of months.