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 again this week, and that will likely be the case for the next couple of months. In freshwater, the lower Altamaha River produced the best reports. 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 bass fish. 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), call the Waycross Fisheries Office at (912) 285-6094. Full Moon is Sept. 8. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the flathead bite was good over the weekend, and goldfish produced best. Bream and redbreasts were also caught on crickets. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that limb-lines baited with goldfish were producing nice flathead catches. A group of Waycross anglers caught over 300 fish from Saturday morning through Monday morning. Bream, redbreasts, and warmouth made up their creel. Crickets fooled the bream and redbreasts, while worms were the ticket for warmouth. Many of the warmouth were in the 11 to 12-inch range. The river level was 1.8 feet and falling (87 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.4 feet and rising (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 2.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that bream and redbreasts were caught by those wading the upper river this weekend. Crickets and worms fooled most of the fish. In the middle river (Brantley County portion), Satilla Spins were producing nice redbreast catches over the holiday. ZOOM Trick Worms and Horny Toads fooled bass this week. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.3 feet and falling (82 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 2.8 feet and rising (87 degrees) on Sept. 2.
St. Marys River – The holiday weekend saw good bream, redbreasts, and catfish catches. With the flush of fresh water after evening thunderstorms, expect the catfishing to be strong at the mouths of feeder creeks after deluges. Eat supper and then go out the last few hours of daylight after the storms clear. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.3 feet and falling on Sept. 2.
Local Ponds – We lost a trophy bass fishing legend this week. Pat Cullen of Valdosta passed away at age 70. He caught more than 1,300 bass over 10 pounds in his more than 40 years of chasing trophies. Black buzzbaits produced the majority of his catches, while live bait accounted for the balance. He reeled the topwater lures all night long during hot summer nights just like we are experiencing right now. He will be sorely missed by friends and family. Michael Winge said that local ponds produced consistent catches of bream, catfish, and bass. Crickets fooled the bream, rooster livers duped the catfish, and topwaters were the ticket late in the evenings for bass.
Okefenokee Swamp – I am convinced that I am not supposed to fish the swamp for whatever reason. My family and I loaded up and headed to the east side on Monday evening to catch the last few hours of daylight. The clear radar when we left gave way to some questionable clouds when we launched. Then, as we made our way out to our first spot and started pitching sallies, it was clear that there was a storm building… right over us. My son set the hook first and landed a nice flier. Even with the 93-degree water temperatures, the fliers were active. As the rain started, we were able to catch four fliers in about 15 minutes on pink sallies before it was evident that we needed to head in. Waiting an hour in the truck did not improve anything, so we went home. It was a great time anyway, and I believe you could make a phenomenal catch of fliers if the weather will allow you (I’m about to give up after my last two rained out trips…okay, no I’m not). Pink sallies were the best color for us, but we did not have enough time either of the last two trips to evaluate colors.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Will Ricks of Brunswick fished the St. Andrews Sound for tarpon on Friday and went 1 for 3. I fished with Matt Thomas of Covington and Justin Bythwood of Waycross on Friday, and we were targeting tarpon out of St. Marys. We were not successful in landing a silver king, but our consolation prizes were catching and releasing a pair of redfish measuring 42 and 33 inches. Throw in three sharks and a decent trout, and our strings were stretched throughout the day. The big redfish ate a pogy, while the 33-incher ate a Texas roach Sea Shad fished on a 5/8-oz. Jetty Jig. The flounder report from the St. Marys Jetties has been very strong. Mudminnows and finger mullet produced the best catches. A pair of anglers fishing Friday caught 29 flatties by fishing the inside on the incoming tide and the outside during the ebb. They caught fish in both areas. In Hampton River, lots of flounder were caught on mudminnows and finger mullet. Anglers fishing out of Two-Way caught some redfish all the way up to the I-95 Bridge this week. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier, flounder, sheepshead, and trout were the best bites. Most flounder ranged from 15 to 18 inches. The sheepshead bite just turned on over the weekend, and it should be great all winter. Sharks and whiting were occasionally caught. On Tuesday the bluefish bite was strong. Stone crabs were caught in good numbers. Cast-netters made good catches of big shrimp at night under the pier lights.
Best Bet – If the weather will allow, the big bull redfish are chowing in the different sounds. For the next month, the brutes will be eating artificials, live bait, and cut bait fished on or near the bottom. Coming from a bass fishing background, my favorite approach is to skewer a Sea Shad on a Jetty Jig and work it along the bottom. My most productive colors of Sea Shads for redfish in the sounds have been Texas roach, Calcasieu brew, and candy corn. The Okefenokee will be hard to beat over the next few months with all of the fish crowded into the canals.