By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The recent rains have brought the rivers up some – the St. Marys WAY up. We should have another shot at the rivers (using boats) during the next couple of weeks. Saltwater fishing was tough this week because of the poor weather, but the catches will be strong on days when you can get out. 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. Last quarter moon is Sept.15. 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 still good, and the crappie bite has picked up for those using minnows. With the rising water, expect the catfish bite to be the best during the next week. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that bream have been caught by anglers fishing on the bottom at the mouths of sloughs. Pink worms worked best. The catfish bite was great in the lower river over the weekend with the rising water and full moon. The river level was 2.4 feet and rising (84 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.0 feet and rising (83 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 9.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the rains throughout the basin have brought the river up, and small boats will be able to get around again. Before the rains, plenty of catfish were caught from the deeper holes by those using shrimp and rooster livers. Anglers wading the upper river caught bream and redbreasts on crickets and worms. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.4 feet and falling (79 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.4 feet and falling (82 degrees) on Sept. 9.
St. Marys River – The torrential rains over the weekend shot the river up over 12 feet at the MacClenny gage, and it is still rising at the time of writing this. Fish another river, for now. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 14.8 feet and rising on Sept. 9.
Local Ponds – The cooler weather as of late has put the temperatures in the prime range for almost all pond fishes. Expect the bass to break out of the summertime slump and feed with reckless abandon over the next couple of months. An Assassin Fat Job Worm rigged on an 1/8-oz. Wacky Head will be hard to beat with the water temperatures in the 70s. Try topwaters early and late, and hold on tightly to your rod or they may yank it out of your hands. Michael Winge said that Memphis George caught two 5-gallon buckets of big bream while using crickets in a local, very secret pond in Ware County. Crappie started hitting minnows fished in the deep holes in some of the better crappie ponds around Waycross and Blackshear. They are still in their summertime pattern, but they should spread out some over the next month.
Okefenokee Swamp – With the amount of rain that fell over the swamp, it would be a good idea to wait a week or two before fishing it. Typically, fish spread out when the swamp rises quickly, and they are hard to find. If you go, keep moving until you catch fish and then slow down and fish that area thoroughly.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the redfish inshore were eating it up around the flood tides when you could dodge the storms and winds. Much of his fishing was nixed this week because of one (or both) of those two natural aggravations. He said that he has done best around the bigger tides (new and full moon) for tarpon and bull redfish, so the big tides should not scare you away from fishing for those two species. He said that the bull reds and inshore redfishing should be great over the next month. By the end of September, you should be able to find trout in any likely looking spot (creek mouths, oyster beds, and the like). The mullet run should start soon, and that will fire off the redfish bite in the sounds. He loves September fishing, as inshore will fire off, but the big boys of summer are still around. Flounder were still caught this week at the St. Marys Jetties when the weather would let you get out there. Trout bit well in the Crooked River area for those fishing live shrimp. Oversized bull redfish were caught this week on East Beach. Offshore, the cobia bite was good. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) said that from the pier, flounder fishing was very good. A 5-pounder was caught on Saturday. More 5-pounders were caught on Monday, and 4 and 6-pounders were caught Tuesday. Sheepshead started to bite around the pilings. The whiting bite was fair, and some Spanish mackerel were caught. Stone crabs and shrimp were caught in good numbers.
Best Bet – Catfishing on the Altamaha and Satilla rivers is a good option this weekend. If the weather allows, the trout bite should fire off with the lower tides and clearer water. My favorite location is the saltwater rivers and creeks around Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, but trout will tear it up all along our coast. Check out the mud flats around low tide for redfish if you fish saltwater this weekend.