By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The Altamaha River is getting right again, the Satilla is still low, while saltwater and ponds have been consistent. Check out the upcoming Wayne County Grand Slam Tournament the weekend of Aug. 16 (more information below under Altamaha River section). The full moon is Aug. 10. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The slug of water coming down the river was short-lived, and several bites should be great again by the weekend. Expect the mullet bite to fire off now that the river level has come back down. The water should be right for the Wayne County Grand Slam Tournament held Aug. 16-17. They will be paying out $3,000 for the biggest aggregate weight of 3 species. For more information, visit www.waynetourism.com. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that goldfish have been producing some nice Flatheads, while crickets fooled lots of bream and redbreasts. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the flathead bite is “awesome”. Fish weighing in at 30 and 60 pounds were caught this week with goldfish. The mullet bite has been good and is improving each day as the water drops. Warmouth have been caught by the buckets-full. Bream and redbreasts were caught with crickets. Topwater plugs have been fooling bass. The river level was 3.0 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 5.0 feet (it dropped 2 feet this week!) and falling (84 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 5.
Satilla River – I took my own advice and floated the upper Satilla this week with Ron Johnson last week. We caught a bunch of fish but had to drag our canoe over sandbars and around trees a bunch at the 4.2 river level. It was a very tiring but fun day. We caught 81 fish (about 65 were redbreasts) of 6 different species. A half-dozen of the redbreasts were over 10 inches, so there are still some nice ones around. We only kept 6 hand-sized redbreasts, a warmouth, and a crappie and let the rest back to fight again. All of our fish ate Satilla Spins, and the pattern changed throughout the day. Early and late, we caught them on bright colors, while a more dull color like crawfish was best during the middle of the day. The 1/16-oz. version was tops for us. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crickets fooled redbreasts and bream for those who pitched them to shoreline cover and around the edges of sandbars. Catfish and bream bit worms fished on the bottom near deep holes. Topwaters fished near shallow cover fooled bass. The weekend’s surge of water slowed things for a day or two early this week, but the bite is back on. Lots of catfish and warmouth were caught this week from the bridge crossings along Swamp Road. One of the pools at a crossing experienced an oxygen sag and low oxygen fish kill early this week after the Saturday torrential downpour, but the other pools were still producing fish. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.6 feet and falling (81 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.1 feet and falling (87 degrees)on Aug.5 .
St. Marys River – Redbreasts were hitting crickets well this week, while some good catfish catches were made by those fishing shrimp and pink worms on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.9 feet and falling on Aug. 5.
Local Ponds – With school preparations in full swing this week, the reports slacked off. Michael Winge said that bream were chowing on crickets late in the evening. A few anglers reported catching crappie on minnows fished in the deepest part of the pond. Bubblegum ZOOM Trick Worms and topwater frogs duped some nice bass.
Okefenokee Swamp – Flier, warmouth, and catfish were biting great this week. Reports from the west side were best for warmouth and catfish. Fish around stumps with crayfish or sallies for warmouth and on bottom with shrimp for catfish. On the east side, the flier bite is unreal. With the dropping water level, the fliers are pulling back into the canals in huge numbers. Pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies worked best for those who reported. The quality of the fish has improved over the last couple of weeks.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. Andy Gowen of Tail Chaser Charters reported that the redfish bite has been great. He’s been pitching artificials to the St. Marys jetties to catch lots of reds, with some giants mixed in the catch. Trout fishing has been steady for him, but it is about to bust wide open in a month or so. At Hampton River, flounder were caught on mudminnows. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that on the pier about any of the summertime species are being caught. The biggest news is that lots of Spanish mackerel are attacking Gotcha plugs cast from the pier. Spadefish, croakers, whiting, trout, and flounder were also caught in good numbers. On Tuesday, an angler caught 6 big trout (averaging about 17 inches) from the pier.
Best Bet – The Okefenokee will be hard to beat over the next couple of months as fish that grew well on the flooded prairies pull into the canal with the dropping water levels. Pitching pink, yellow, or orange sallies with a telescopic bream pole is the way to go for fliers. You can fish the fly with or without a float and catch the feisty panfish. If fishing a float, make sure to set the hook at the slightest twitch of the float. A flier swims up and inhales the fly but just sits there, so the float doesn’t usually move much. The fish will spit the fly out if you do not set the hook quickly after the take. In saltwater, fish jetties, backwater mud flats, and oyster shell mounds for lots of small redfish. You will not be able to keep many of them (most are either too big or too small right now), but there are lots out there that will stretch your string.