By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The rivers are getting in decent shape, and the fishing is picking up. Swamp and saltwater fishing has been outstanding. Check out several tournaments and family events listed below. The full oon is May 14. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Chris and Jennifer Swenson of Jesup were the big winners in the Wayne County Catfish Tournament held on Saturday and Sunday out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. They won overall 1st place ($10,000) with a total of 61.06 pounds plus overall big fish and women’s category big fish (Jennifer’s 31.86-pound flathead won those two categories). Great job under some tough fishing conditions! 2nd place was Tiff Thompson’s team with 42.42 pounds. 3rd was Albert Bennett’s team with 31.92 pounds. Cody Bennett won the kids’ category with a 17.12-pound flathead. For more results and photos, visit the website www.waynecountycatfishtournament.com. Several panfish anglers reported to me that they were catching some nice redbreasts and bluegills up in the floodplain and in eddies behind trees by pitching crickets. The best photo I saw was a dozen nice redbreasts caught at the end of last week. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that anglers caught redbreasts on the down-river side of sandbars in about 5 feet of water. An angler fishing on Monday caught over a dozen of the biggest redbreasts he has caught in years by using crickets and this sandbar pattern. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported anglers catching redbreasts, crappie, and catfish. Bream were eating crickets fished in the eddy on the downstream side of trees. Blue catfish ate worms, rooster livers, and shrimp in the deep holes. Flatheads bit goldfish best. On Saturday, an angler reported catching 41 keeper redbreasts with crickets fished from the dock at the landing. A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will be held on June 14th. 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. Barring additional rains, it should be awesome fishing in another week. The river level was 9.8 feet and falling (71 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.0 feet and falling (69 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 6.
Satilla River – This Saturday, May 10, is the first annual Satilla Riverkeeper fishing tournament. The river is going to be a little high but will be fishable by Saturday. Last week’s rains were enough to keep the river level about the same for an additional few days, but at least it will not be flooding again from those rains. For more information visit www.satillariverkeeper.org. I am predicting that the tournament will be won by someone fishing one of the many tributaries of the Satilla. I received several reports this week from anglers catching lots of redbreasts and bluegills in the tributaries to the Satilla with beetlespins and crickets. “Trout Magnet” caught several dozen silver dollar-sized fliers from his favorite spot in Big Creek on his namesake little jig. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the upper river redbreasts are getting feisty. He said that they are killing crickets and Satilla Spins with a vengeance. The catfish bite has been great, with limb and trotliners catching fish on rooster livers and shrimp. Bass have been biting during the falling river, with topwaters (such as Pop-R’s and buzzbaits) producing the most strikes. Get your fishing gear ready – it’s about to bust wide open. The river level at the Waycross gage was 11.6 feet and falling (68 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 11.8 feet and falling (71 degrees) on May 6.
St. Marys River – Catfish, bream, and redbreasts were caught this week in good numbers. The upper river will be excellent for redbreasts shortly as the level continues to fall. Catfishing will be good this weekend all up and down the river. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 8.7 feet and falling on May 6.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported that the bream fishing was best this week. Crickets fooled some giants from beds and also shoreline cover and vegetation. Catfish were fooled with pink worms fished on the bottom. Black Trick Worms and Finesse Worms fooled quality bass this week.
Okefenokee Swamp – Warmouth, catfish, and fliers were reported from the east (Folkston) side this week. From the west (Fargo) side, anglers reported catching bream, catfish, and even a few bass. The oxygen was low in the Sill canal near SC Foster State Park after several cloudy days last week, and a few warmouth, pickerel, and bass died from the naturally-caused oxygen sag. The oxygen rebounded with the recent sunny conditions, but if you fish the Sill area, concentrate your effort from the first spillway outward. Lots of catfish were caught by anglers fishing on the bottom with worms and shrimp near both spillways. Okefenokee Swamp Sallies in yellow and pink produced the best flier catches. All of the creeks crossing Swamp Road (south of Waycross) produced good catches of catfish again this week. That bite will likely slow this week as the flows decrease and folks catch the fish in the pools by the bridge crossings.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite has turned on again after last week’s super-windy conditions. Dead shrimp and squid produced the best catches. A few trout caught with live shrimp were reported from Crooked River. The tackle shop in the parking lot by the state park ramp is now open. The 3rd annual Family Fun Day and C’Mos Kids saltwater tournament will be held this Saturday (May 10th). For more information about the events and tournament check out www.cmoskids.org or call the State Park at 912-882-5256. Lots of tripletail were caught in the rivers in the Brunswick area this week. In the creeks around St. Simons Island, trout and redfishing was strong, and a few flounder were mixed in the catches. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the bull whiting were caught by the truckloads. They might be slightly exaggerating, but the bite was strong. The average angler caught from 25 to 30 whiting. Dead shrimp were the ticket. Lots of small sharks are around, and a few trout and flounder were also caught. On Saturday night, a 28 and 47-inch redfish were caught on cut bait. On Sunday, a 25-pound black drum came over the rails. It ate dead shrimp fished on bottom.
Best Bet – You will have a blast this Saturday fishing the Satilla River Fishing Tournament hosted by the Satilla Riverkeeper or the Family Fun Day at Crooked River State Park hosted by C’Mo’s Kids. Both events will be top-notch family activities. River fishing is not quite right, but the fishing is picking up. Ponds and saltwater should be on fire this weekend. Whiting fishing all along the coast should be great this weekend. Take your pick, and you can hardly go wrong by fishing for about anything this weekend.