By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Fishing in local ponds and the Okefenokee have been best this week. Ocean fishing has been off somewhat. The rivers are still very high, and will likely be higher after the forecasted end of week rains. The first quarter moon is May 7. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – At the time of writing this, the annual Wayne County Catfish Tournament is still on for this weekend. It will be held May 3-4 out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. First place will pay $10,000 (that is not a misprint!). For more information, visit the website www.waynecountycatfishtournament.com. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that anglers pre-fishing for the tournament caught some flathead catfish on live bait. Reports from Altamaha Park were slow. Anglers caught a few catfish (on limb lines) and some redbreasts, but they had to work for them. A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will be held on June 14. First place is a guaranteed $500. The tournament will 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 (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. Check out my article on bream fishing the Altamaha in the May issue of Georgia Outdoor News if you want some details about panfishing the big river. It is going to be awesome when the river drops out. The river level was 13.9 feet and falling fast (69 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.6 feet and falling (68 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 29.
Satilla River – The Satilla Riverkeeper is going to 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. For more information visit www.satillariverkeeper.org. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that catfishermen have been catching some good sized whiskerfish in the upper river on trot lines and bush hooks baited with shrimp and rooster livers. If we do not get the forecasted rains, then the upper river should be fishable for panfish before long. 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 14.0 feet and falling (69 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 15.4 feet and falling (71 degrees) on April 29.
Local Ponds – The bass bite was awesome this week. Vickie Bednar and her friend, Maureen, from Chicago, Illinois caught about 30 bass from a pond in Brunswick. They were fishing in a tournament and came in with 19 pounds (5 biggest bass). Their best lures were Keitech swimbaits fished on Flashy Jigheads and shaky head 3-inch green pumpkin stick worms. Vickie’s husband, Greg and his friend Todd (of Jacksonville, Fl.) won the tournament with 31 pounds (5 bass)! They caught most of their bass on Texas-rigged plastic worms fished on drop-offs for post-spawn bass. Their biggest was a 7-pound., 6-ounce whopper. Michael Winge reported that big bream and lots of catfish were caught from area ponds. Lake Ware has been producing big bluegills for those using crickets. At the spillway, catfish have been stacking up and eating worms fished on the bottom. In other local ponds, bass have been eating buzzbaits and shiners.
Okefenokee Swamp – Wyatt Crews, his uncle, and two friends camped two nights in the Okefenokee on the platforms. They mostly paddled, but fished as time allowed. Wyatt whacked some really nice warmouth (about 30 of them!) on orange number 8 sallies fished under a small balsa float. He tried other colors without a bite but figured them out after switching to orange. They also caught some catfish using worms on the bottom. On the east side (Folkston entrance), lots of fliers and warmouth were reported. Several colors of sallies worked for the fliers, while warmouth ate both sallies and crayfish. You can catch crayfish in many road ditches right now with all the high water. All of the creeks crossing Swamp Road (south of Waycross) produced good catches of catfish.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – A trio of Waycross anglers fished out of Crooked River State Park on Saturday. In the muddy, fresh water, they managed a dozen trout to 19 inches on Assassin Sea Shads underneath Equalizer Floats. All but one were keepers. They also had an oversized redfish hooked for a while before it pulled off. The tackle shop in the parking lot by the state park ramp is now open (more details later). I heard my first report of tripletails being caught off the Jekyll Island beach this week. Two different anglers reported catching a few of them. Live shrimp fished shallow underneath a float fooled the unique fish. The whiting bite was slow for the folks I talked with. Most trips produced fewer than a dozen fish. Both squid and shrimp produced fish. In the Brunswick area, some trout were fooled with electric chicken and new penny Sea Shads. I heard that tarpon are already in Christmas Creek. If I did not know the source, I would be skeptical. “Silver Kings” typically show up in fishable numbers by the end of June. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the whiting bite slowed compared to the last few weeks. Anglers reported good sized fish but not nearly as many. Small black sea bass and sharks were also caught under the pier. A few blue crabs were caught, but all the fresh water has slowed the crabbing.
Best Bet – Ponds and the swamp are my picks for the weekend. Fish topwaters and swimbaits early in the morning for bass, then switch to lures or crickets for bream as the sun gets up. If you want to continue fishing for bass, try a wacky-rigged Bass Assassin Fat Job Worm (waterboy and junebug are two great colors). In the swamp, pitch sallies underneath a float for warmouth and fliers. Minnow plugs and in-line spinners should fool some pickerel (jackfish).