By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The upper Satilla River is getting low enough to float, and the middle and lower rivers are still good for getting around in a boat. The bite has been excellent again this week. The Altamaha is getting about perfect for panfishing. Saltwater is steady but not on fire right now. Jimmy Tucker of Statenville caught a new state record bowfin (mudfish) over the weekend from the Suwannee River. The 16-pound, 3-ounce behemoth ate a Mepps Spinner fished on a Zebco 33. It took a little luck to land the monster with 10-lb. test and that setup. Congratulations Jimmy for breaking a 38-year old record! The New Moon is June 27. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The river was getting about perfect before some rains upcountry this week. We will have to wait and see how much the river jumps. The peak bluegill bite will likely be put off another week. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that some big bream and redbreasts were eating crickets and worms with a vengeance. Some flatheads in the 30-40 pound range were caught on goldfish. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that catfish, bream, redbreasts, and big shellcrackers were caught in the tidewater. A few channel cats and flatheads joined the mix. The river level was 3.9 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.4 feet and falling (84 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 24.
Satilla River – I think the river dropped a couple of inches last week simply from the coolers of fish being hauled out. The biggest redbreast I heard of this week was a 1.16-pound rooster caught by David Tucker. He caught it, and several others, by pitching a topwater “bug” (a popper) with a bream buster. The best catch I heard about was from Friday (June 20) when Dane Clements and a friend fished the upper river. They caught their limit and then caught and released over 150 more redbreasts. The best combination for them was a 1/16-oz. crawfish Satilla Spin. They said they caught 95 percent of their fish on that lure. On Friday, Jamie Storey fished the middle river and caught a couple dozen big bluegills and warmouth on 1/8 oz. black/yellow Satilla Spins. Michael Deen and Justin Bythwood fished the Waycross area on Saturday evening and caught a nice mess of redbreasts, bluegill, and crappie. Their best lure was a prototype color Satilla Spin, but they caught some on crawfish, also. On Tuesday morning, Jacob Henderson and Carli Davidson fished the upper river and caught several keeper-sized bass and a big 24-inch pickerel (jackfish). Their fish ate Bang-O-Lures fished on the surface. They also caught a half-dozen nice redbreasts and a few bluegills on 1/16oz. crawfish Satilla Spins. The key for the best catches this week is to get a little bit away from the ramps, since the fishing pressure has been so high this spring. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the redbreast bite is still hot. In the Millwood area of the river, anglers wading and fishing caught some big redbreasts by pitching crickets. In the Brantley County portion of the river, bream and redbreasts were caught with about any bait or lure thrown at them. The catfish bite all over the river has been good for those fishing worms or rooster livers on the bottom. The bass bite was good for those fishing topwaters. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.3 feet and falling (79 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.0 feet and falling (84 degrees) on June 24.
St. Marys River – The bream and redbreast bites were the best. Some catfish were reported by bottom-fishermen. The river level on June 24th at the MacClenny gage was 5.4 feet and rising.
Local Ponds – Pond fishing was excellent this week. Lots of bream, catfish, and bass were reported. On Tuesday morning, Wyatt Crews and Kuff Thrift fished a local pond and caught 5 bass on topwater frogs. Their biggest bass was a 3 1/2-pounder. The most impressive thing to bite their frog was a 40-incher….alligator, that is. The pair also landed 7 big bluegills on red wigglers. Michael Winge said that one angler reported catching a good mess of crappie on Monday by fishing the deepest water in the pond with minnows. Topwater plugs and bass bugs (fished with a fly rod) have been producing some excellent bass in the evenings.
Okefenokee Swamp – I am going to let the yellow flies have the swamp in June. If you want to brave the bugs, the flier bite is great. You can pretty easily catch over 100 fliers per day by pitching sallies.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the water clarity improved this week, and the bite improved along with it. The biggest news is that the tarpon have arrived in big numbers. His charter caught one on Saturday using a 10-inch white Hogy original plastic lure. The beach trout bite was very good early in the week then tapered off moving into the weekend. Live shrimp and gold flake DOA shrimp produced most of their trout. Some big redfish were reported from the St. Marys Jetties. Reds, trout, and tripletail were reported from the Hampton River. Some Waycross anglers caught some trout from the Cumberland Beach over the weekend. Live shrimp produced their fish. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier, flounder, yellowtails, blues, and a few trout were caught. On occasional redfish and shark has also hit the deck. On Tuesday morning a 5-pound flounder was caught on mudminnows as the tide started ebbing. The blue crab catches were spotty this week.
Best Bet – The middle Satilla is going to be hard to beat unless the recent rains jump the river back up. You can still get around well in a boat in the middle river. Saltwater is improving, and should be good, especially for tarpon and trout. With the bigger New Moon tides, the tarpon bite at the St. Marys Jetties should fire off, and the clearest water should be available to trout fishermen fishing the Cumberland beach (if winds allow). Pond fishing is always a great fall-back. Early and late will provide the best bite.