By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Saltwater fishing produced the best reports this week. In freshwater, the Altamaha River was tops. The Outdoor Adventure/J.A.K.E.S. Day will be held at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton on Sept. 27. I will be conducting free bass fishing trips to teach teens how to target bass. Each person will fish for an hour from a boat and will learn how to cast artificial lures for largemouth bass. Pre-registration is required. To sign up a teen (ages 12-16), or for more information about the event, call the Waycross Fisheries Office at (912) 285-6094. First quarter moon is Sept. 2. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that some big flatheads were caught this week. From late evening through dark was the best period to catch them. On Saturday night, a couple was fishing with goldfish on the back side of a sandbar and caught a 45-pounder. Redbreasts were biting crickets fished in the mouths of sloughs. Warmouth were caught in good numbers on worms fished on the bottom. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that limb line anglers caught a bunch of flatheads by baiting their hooks with goldfish. The crappie bite was still strong for those fishing minnows in the deeper oxbow lakes. Bream and redbreasts were caught in good numbers on crickets. The river level was 2.0 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.3 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 26.
Satilla River – I crossed the river on Highway 158 on Tuesday, and it is low. The best approach is to float or wade the river during the holiday weekend. Expect to drag if you float it. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crickets and worms were catching redbreasts and bream for those wading the upper river. Bubblegum ZOOM Trick Worms fooled some bass this week. Fish the worm unweighted, and throw it right into a blowdown tree and work it back out slowly. I imagine that you could get a reflex strike from a big bass by throwing a buzzbait early or late. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.2 feet and falling (82 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.1 feet and falling (84 degrees) on Aug. 26.
St. Marys River – Bream, redbreasts, and lots of catfish were caught this week. The panfish were caught with crickets, while shrimp, worms, and rooster livers duped the catfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.6 feet and rising on Aug. 26.
Local Ponds – Warren Budd fished a blackwater pond this past weekend and whacked almost 40 bluegills on crawfish Satilla Spins. He managed two over a pound, and one of them weighed 1-pound, 12-ounces (his second of the year that was that weight). Michael Winge said bream have been bedding around the new moon, and the bite has been steady. Crickets and worms fooled them around beds. Memphis George went to a Waycross area pond on Sunday and caught a bucket full of “grown” bream on crickets. Channel catfish have been biting worms, shrimp, and rooster livers fished on the bottom. Fire tiger-colored Rapala minnows fished around shoreline cover produced some nice bass.
Okefenokee Swamp – The torrid warmouth bite on the west side slowed a little this week, but some nice ones were still caught. The bowfin (mudfish) bite was good on both sides of the swamp. While most would argue that they are not very good eating, they are a blast to catch. If you want to learn some tricks for catching bowfin, check out my article in the August issue of Georgia Outdoor News. I would imagine that the flier bite is excellent, but I did not receive any specific reports this week. As the water drops and concentrates the fliers in the canals, the catch rates can approach the silly range! Pitch yellow, pink, or orange sallies on a bream buster and hold on.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the tarpon bite was still going strong, but the hurricane currently spinning offshore (and the winds and waves associated with it) will probably put the bite off a couple of days. Finding them once the blow is over is going to be the key. Inshore fishing has been strong for trout, but most fish are small. Right now, his charters are catching about four throwbacks for every keeper. Cricket Mobley of Altamaha Trading Company out of Two-Way Fish Camp got on a bunch of tripletail this weekend. On Saturday, two anglers caught 15 tripletail. They kept three and threw back a dozen (five of those were keeper-sized!). Two of the fish they kept were 19 and 14 pounds. Ed Zmarzly and Scott Hamlin fished the St. Marys Jetties and Cumberland Island Beach on Saturday and Sunday and whacked the sharks and jumped a tarpon. They were using pogies free-lined around pogy pods and Sea Shads fished on Jetty Jigs. Flounder were caught at Gould’s Inlet by those fishing mudminnows and finger mullet. Trout were caught in good numbers from Village Creek. Sheepshead were caught under the bridges around the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier, flounder and trout were the best bites. On Saturday, an angler caught a limit of flatties over 18” on mudminnows. Some Spanish mackerel were still around, along with whiting and croakers. Shrimping from the pier has started picking up. Most “mudbugs” were medium-sized. A few blue crabs and stone crabs were caught from the pier.
Best Bet – For the holiday weekend, there are several good options. In saltwater it will be hard to make a bad choice, as Hurricane Cristobal should be out of the picture. Whether fishing for flounder from the St. Simons Pier, sheepshead under a bridge, trout at Crooked River, or tarpon at the St. Marys Jetties, you should have success. The marine forecast for the weekend is good at this time, but check it closer to the weekend in case it changes. The Altamaha River and ponds are your best bets in freshwater. Bluegill and catfishing should be great options on the big river. In ponds, fish early and late for bluegills, catfish or bass.