By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Wow, what a difference a week can make. The Satilla River has overshadowed everything else this week. The upper river should be great this weekend, and the middle river should pick up too. The first quarter moon is June 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – I received a couple reports of good bluegills caught from the river. It’s not on fire, but should pick up significantly by the weekend with the falling water. Black/yellow Satilla Spins worked well for those I talked to. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported the river has started falling and the catch has picked up, and should continue to improve through the weekend. Bream and catfish were the most consistent bites for those fishing out of Jaycees Landing. Some redbreasts were also caught on the back sides of sandbars. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported that anglers caught bream, shellcrackers, and catfish over the weekend. Shellcrackers were caught on pink worms, while bream ate crickets, worms, and Spin Dandy and Satilla Spin spinnerbaits. Catfish were fooled with worms and shrimp. One angler reported catching 35 bream on a Satilla Spin (the fish don’t care which river the bait was designed for…). The timing looks like it is going to be perfect for a new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club to be held 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 8.2 feet and falling (79 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.5 feet and falling (76 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 27.
Satilla River – It has been great fishing over the last week on the upper river, and the river is not even “right” yet. Last week’s slug of water is heading downstream, and the water has a “coffee with cream look” to it. I took Wyatt Crews of Waycross on Monday morning out of the Blackshear Bridge Landing, and we had a really slow bite for the first couple hours, only picking up a few small bass and spotted sunfish (stumpknockers) on red/white Satilla Spins. But, from 10 to 11 a.m. the bite fired off, and we caught a dozen redbreasts. Six of them were “roosters” over 9 inches with blood red bellies. They were gorgeous fish. Black/yellow was our best color, but we caught some on black/chartreuse. We could not get them to eat crawfish, but that is not surprising in the murky water. As it clears, that will be a go-to color. Wyatt Crews and Scout Carter fished out of the same landing on Tuesday evening for an hour and a half and caught 10 whopper redbreasts and bluegills. Scout caught his first redbreast on that trip. Their best color was black/yellow. The 1/8-oz version has been working best for us because we can get it down much better in the swift current than the 1/16oz model. That will probably reverse as the river level approaches 5 feet at the Waycross gage and the current slows down. A couple of Waycross anglers fished several days over the weekend in the Hwy 158 area and caught several dozen redbreasts on Saturday and about a dozen the other days. Black/yellow Satilla Spins worked best for them. I received several other reports of folks catching 10 to 50 redbreasts and bluegills per trip (depending upon how long folks fished). The consensus this week (from the reports I received) are that the black/yellow was the deal in the heavily stained water. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that he got reports of anglers catching limits of redbreasts in the Jamestown area of the Satilla. Satilla Spins were tops, but crickets, beetlespins, and Spin Dandys caught them, also. Last Friday, two Waycross anglers caught one of the biggest stringers (size-wise) of redbreasts that they said they have ever caught. They were using beetlespins. Anglers fishing worms on the bottom caught catfish, bream, and catfish. Bass were reported by anglers fishing ZOOM Flukes and plastic worms. Early in the week, anglers did really well on the Satilla tributaries, such as the Alabaha and Little Satilla rivers. They will be at paddle-only levels by the time you read this, unless some thunderstorms camp over the headwaters of those tributaries. The river level at the Waycross gage was 8.1 feet and falling (75 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 9.3 feet and falling slowly (77 degrees) on May 27.
St. Marys River – The redbreasts, bream, and catfish bites are good. Catfish bit shrimp and pink worms, while the bream and redbreasts were mostly fooled with crickets and beetlespins. The river level on at the MacClenny gage was 6.0 feet and falling on May 27.
Local Ponds – The most impressive catch I heard of this week was made by Warren Budd of Newnan. He was fishing a friend’s pond on Saturday with a black/chartreuse Satilla Spin and caught a 1-lb., 12-oz. bluegill. He also had several big fish pull off and break off. He had a spectacular day of panfishing. The excellent pond fishing was overshadowed by river fishing this week. Michael Winge reported that bedding bream were fooled by anglers fishing crickets and worms around the beds. Bass ate shiners and topwater plugs fished around shoreline vegetation.
Okefenokee Swamp – The flier bite has been excellent for those who went. I did not receive any reports of 100 fish catches, but most reports were 30 to 60 fliers per trip. If you fish hard and keep pitching sallies until you find the fish and then stay with them, a limit is not hard to come by. Yellow and pink have been the two best colors so far this spring. Expect horseflies to attack your vehicle as you approach the ramp, but they are not usually bad on the water (at least on the east side). The yellow fly numbers will increase over the next few weeks, but are not bad right now.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The tripletail bite has been very good off of Jekyll Island. Most folks are seeing a couple dozen fish and are getting a shot at about 10. One angler I talked with boated a dozen on a trip last week, with one measuring 26 inches. Sight-fishing tripletail is a hoot! The trout bite has been slow in the Crooked River area. The top trip I heard of was about a dozen trout. The beach trout bite should be picking up any day, but I have not heard any good reports yet. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that lots of whiting are still being caught from the pier. The catches have been ranging from 15 to 25 fish with 10 inches about the average size. On Tuesday an angler using live shrimp caught 3 trout that were each 18 inches. Sharks and a few flounder are around. A creel of 11 keeper flounder was reported last weekend. Gotcha Plugs fooled a few Spanish mackerel.
Best Bet – The Satilla River is going to be tops this week. The population of giant “rooster” redbreasts is as large as it has been in decades. The river levels should be perfect for relatively clear water and enough of it to get around decently in a small johnboat by this weekend. The upper river above the Highway 121 Bridge should be tops. In the Highway 158 Bridge section, it will likely be getting low enough that paddle-crafts are the way to get around. Black/yellow Satilla Spins in the 1/8-oz. size have produced the best catches this week, but expect the 1/16-oz. size and crawfish colors to play a bigger role in the better catches this week as the water drops and clears.