By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
It was a great week in freshwater last week! Two more Angler Award redbreasts were certified from the Satilla. The upper Satilla has been tough to get around in a boat, and float trips or wading is the way to approach the upper river… or bring along your dragging muscles with your johnboat! Pond fishing has been good for bass, catfish, and panfish. Flounder, sharks, and tarpon are tops in the brine. The first quarter moon is July 12. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that her grandson caught a 2-pound shellcracker on Monday. Congratulations! The big bream and redbreasts were still eating crickets and worms. The channel catfish bite has been very strong for those dunking worms, livers, and shrimp on the back side of sandbars. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the summer crappie bite has started in Barrington Lake. Get there early, as that is usually the best time to get them to take a minnow. Some people graph the big, suspended slabs and put their minnows at that level. The boat traffic slowed the bite somewhat over the weekend, but good catches were made from the back side of sandbars. The artificial bite picked up this week. Satilla Spins in mostly the crawfish color produced the biggest redbreasts and bluegills. The river level was 3.3 feet and falling (88 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 4.9 feet and falling (86 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 8.
Satilla River – The Waycross Fisheries Office certified 2 angler award redbreasts (over 1 pound) this week. Stephen Tyre caught the first one in the upper river with a cricket on Saturday, and Michael Deen caught his on a Satilla Spin from the middle river on Tuesday. Over the holiday weekend, Dane Clements and Tony Harrell whacked a mixed bag of upper river panfish. Most were redbreasts. They caught about 160 fish and kept 88 of them. They threw Satilla Spins in a custom color similar to crawfish. They worked hard to get the boat around. Jay Murray and his son-in-law fished the upper river on Saturday and had to do a lot of dragging. The work was worth it for them, as they caught 75 redbreasts and kept about 25. They caught their fish on crawfish Satilla Spins. Michael Deen and Justin Bythwood fished out of the Atkinson ramp on Tuesday evening after work and ended up catching a mixed bag (about 40 fish) of just about every panfish species in the Satilla using Satilla Spins. Their biggest was a 1-pound, 0.4-ounce female redbreast that inhaled a white Satilla Spin. They also had impressive warmouth, crappie, stumpknockers, and bluegills. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that with the upper river being low, the wading anglers were doing the best. They caught bream, redbreasts, and catfish on the back sides of sandbars in the deeper holes. Anglers fishing the middle and lower river reported some really good catches of warmouth, big redbreasts, and bream. Some of the giant warmouth were caught on 4-inch shad lures! The bass bite has been consistent, but the fish have been on the average size. He expects the bite to be red hot around the full moon this weekend. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.6 feet and falling (81 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.6 feet and falling (88 degrees) on July 8.
St. Marys River – Bream, redbreasts, and catfish were biting well. Worms and crickets have caught the most fish, but topwater flies started producing some big redbreasts this week. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.6 feet and falling on July 8.
Local Ponds – Wyatt Crews and Kuff Thrift fished a Waycross area pond on Tuesday evening and caught several bass to 3 1/2 pounds. They also had a giant bluegill inhale a Hula Popper. Michael Winge said that bream and crappie were reported from Waycross area ponds. Bream were fooled primarily with crickets, while minnows produced the crappie. Bass fishing was consistent early in the morning for those using buzzbaits. During the day, Trick Worms and Ratt-L-Traps produced bass.
Okefenokee Swamp – It is time to head back to the swamp. The bite should be on fire as the water is starting to ease off the prairies and the fish will concentrate in the canals. Pitch yellow, orange, or pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies for fliers. Crayfish fished around cypress stumps will fool warmouth. Minnow plugs and inline spinners are hard to beat for pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish). Don’t forget to get a new Federal Duck Stamp if that is the license you use to access the swamp. The old stamp expired on June 30. Okefenokee Adventures at the Folkston entrance has the new stamps. The post offices should have them in stock soon if they do not already.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that flounder have been consistent around rocks and pilings. He likes an 1/8-oz. jighead with a white Gulp Swimming Mullet. Trout fishing has been fair. The beach bite has been inconsistent this week. Folks slay them one day and catch just a few the next. Small redfish were caught in high numbers this week, primarily on live shrimp. Tarpon are around. TJ recommends always having a rod ready to pitch to tarpon when you see them surface. Don Harrison fished the St. Marys Jetties on Saturday and caught a 30-inch redfish on a Texas roach Assassin Sea Shad. He moved to the beach and caught a few trout and bluefish on goldfish Sea Shads and then came back around and fished inshore, catching a 20-inch redfish on a purple canary Sea Shad. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the flounder were still thick around the pier. Tons of whiting are also being caught on dead shrimp. Redfish, sharks, and croakers were around in fishable numbers.
Best Bet – The Altamaha has been high most of the last year, but it is getting about perfect for panfishing. It was still a little too high according to reports last week, but by this weekend, you should be able to fish Satilla Spins and Beetle Spins under the willow limbs. That is the presentation that produced several fun fishing days for me last fall. The bluegill population is off the charts, so go give them a try. Saltwater fishing has been spotty, but the trout bite on the beach should be good if the winds will allow. Check the marine forecast before putting the trip on your calendar. A forecast of winds with an easterly quadrant is a deal-breaker.