By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Just when the rivers were getting right….another 2 to 3 inches of rain fell over southeast Georgia. The swamp bite has remained on fire, pond fishing is excellent, and saltwater fishing has been good for whiting. The first annual Mattie’s Mission Bass Tournament on Saturday was a success. Twenty five teams brought bass to Ware County Farm Bureau to weigh in their catch. Jesse and Peyton Ivey had the biggest limit (23.42 pounds), which included a 7.56-pound big fish. Wesley Wilson and Bill Smith finished second (21.44 pounds), while Sammy Story and Will Steed placed third (15.58 pounds). But, the real winners were the families that will be helped. Over $2,500 was raised to help the fight against childhood cancer! The New Moon is May 28th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the river was almost perfect and folks were catching a bunch of fish on Saturday, but the level has begun to rise…again. Redbreasts, bream, crappie, and catfish were caught over the weekend. Catfishing has remained good during the rising water, but that is about it. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported that anglers fishing from the dock with minnows were catching bluegills. That is not a typical presentation, but it worked for them. Over the weekend, a flathead catfish over 50 pounds was caught on goldfish. 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. The river level was 11.4 feet and rising (72 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.2 feet and rising (72 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 20.
Satilla River – The bite was excellent before last Thursday’s rains. It slacked off some in the muddy, cooler water, but folks have still caught some fish. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that some big redbreasts were caught above Millwood on crickets, Satilla Spins, beetle spins, and Spin Dandys. A few big bream have been mixed in the catch. The catfish bite has been excellent on the rising river this weekend. Worms, shrimp, and rooster livers produced the most. Bass were caught with ZOOM and Culprit worms. The river level at the Waycross gage was 12.4 feet and cresting (69 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.9 feet and rising (72 degrees) on May 20.
St. Marys River – The river is still producing some bream on crickets in the feeder creeks. Catfish bit shrimp and pink worms well this week. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 9.8 feet and falling on May 20.
Local Ponds – Ponds will again be the focus this week with the high rivers. The good news is that the bass, bream, and catfish are cooperating. Michael Winge reported that bream were caught by anglers fishing shoreline vegetation with topwater flies and crickets. Fishing crickets about 8 to 10 inches below a float was key. Bass ate buzzbaits early and frogs fished through thick vegetation once the sun came up. Wacky-rigged worms will produce well once the sun gets up, also. My favorite is a Bass Assassin Fat Job Worm, and my most productive colors lately have been waterboy and black-red flake.
Okefenokee Swamp – A couple of Homerville anglers fished the east side of the swamp (Folkston entrance) over the weekend and pitched #8 yellow sallies without a float. They whacked well over 100 fliers and kept about 50. They tried crickets to no avail before discovering that the fish wanted the yellow fly. They pitched the offering on a bream buster. Warmouth should be biting crayfish dabbled around cypress stumps, but I have not heard of folks succeeding at it yet. I have noticed plenty of folks getting crayfish from ditches lately, though. The bugs were not bad a week ago….like NONE, so enjoy the swamp before they take over during the next month. I typically give it to the yellow flies in June, but I haven’t even seen one during the last two trips!
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Waycross anglers reported relatively slow saltwater fishing, except for whiting from the beach and piers. Gould’s Inlet produced some decent flounder and trout catches. The Back River Bridge produced a few big trout for anglers drifting live shrimp. Ed and Tom Zmarzly have been wearing out the sharks and a few bull redfish from the St. Simons Pier. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the whiting fishing has been fantastic. Almost everyone is catching a good mess of them. Flounder are beginning to be caught, and quite a few sharks are landed each evening. Keeper-sized blue crabs are around, and folks have reported a few “big daddys” mixed in the catch. Check the marine forecast.
Best Bet – Pond and swamp fishing are your best bets for numbers of fish during the holiday weekend. In ponds, throw topwaters and worms for bass. In the swamp, pitch yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies for fliers, dabble crayfish around cypress stumps for warmouth, and cast in-line spinners for pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish). If you decide to fish saltwater, whiting fishing will be your best bet. Fish small pieces of shrimp on a bottom rig to catch them. At the time of writing this, the marine forecast is great, so you should be able to do what you want to in a boat. It is about time to fish for trout on the Cumberland Beach, and that is what I would do if the marine forecast allows. The rivers are fishable, but catfish will be the deal. If I were going catfishing this weekend, I would head to the St. Marys River and put shrimp and pink worms on the bottom. If you want to catch some bream, try to find clean water in a tributary to the St. Marys River and cast Satilla Spins and beetle spins, or pitch crickets.