By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Ponds, the Altamaha River, and saltwater are all producing some great catches. The crappie bite is getting fired up for the fall and winter. Last quarter moon is Oct. 15. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the recent cooler weather is just what the doctor ordered to fire off the crappie bite. Minnows and jigs fooled some slabs this week. Shellcracker and bream were caught on the bottom in the deeper holes by those using worms. Dannett from Altamaha Park said big flatheads were caught on limb lines baited with goldfish. Crappie were eating minnows. Worms and crickets fooled redbreasts and bream. She said that mullet are jumping all over the river (they are migrating out to the ocean over the next couple of months) and some even jumped in boats. On Saturday, a bass club held a tournament out of the landing and had one of the best weigh-ins of the year. The river level was 1.9 feet and falling (74 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.4 feet and falling (73 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 7.
Satilla River – The river is still swollen, but you can catch a bunch of catfish, a few panfish, and bass at the current level. On Sunday evening some anglers fishing the bank from the Waycross portion of the river caught catfish by fishing worms and shrimp on the bottom. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the catfish bite has been great, with whiskerfish eating anything put in front of them. Pink worms, shrimp and rooster livers were the best rod and reel baits, while cut shiners worked well on limb lines. He reported that bream were caught in good numbers on black/yellow Satilla Spins, crickets, and worms. Crappie were eating both minnows and jigs. Michael expects the fishing to be good this weekend behind the mid-week full moon. The river level at the Waycross gage was 7.2 feet and falling (71 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 6.6 feet and rising (72 degrees) on Oct. 7.
St. Marys River – The river is still high, and it would be hard to even get to a boat ramp at the current level. Wait another week or so. When the river drops back a few feet, the catfish bite should be excellent. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 11.3 feet and falling on Oct. 7.
Okefenokee Swamp – I did not receive any reports from the swamp this week, but the flier bite should still be going strong. They will eat up a pink or yellow sally pitched on a bream buster. After cold fronts, try a small balsa float, but during warm spells (like forecasted for later this week) leave the float off.
Local Ponds – An angler spider-rigged an area lake with minnows on Thursday evening and caught 25 nice crappie and a few bass up to 3 pounds. His biggest slab was just under 2 pounds. On Friday morning, a couple of anglers caught (many were released) over 100 crappie. One was spider-rigging minnows and the other trolled 2-inch Assassin Curly Shads, curly-tailed grubs, and Magnum Satilla Spins. The best plastic color was popsicle, while a lavender shad Magnum Satilla Spin worked best. Michael Winge said that local ponds produced great crappie fishing after the recent cool snap. Most ate minnows. The bream fishing was still strong, and most ate crickets or worms. Some nice bass were reported by anglers fishing live shiners.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the bull reds are what he has been chasing the most, and he’s been finding them about everywhere around the sounds. Inshore trout fishing has been improving, but he expects it to slack a little this weekend with the bigger tides. Around Crooked River, trout fishing picked up, with most anglers catching 10 to 15 trout per trip. New Penny and electric chicken Assassin Sea Shads worked well for Waycross anglers. Neil Aldridge boated 14 trout and lots of “trash fish” this weekend out of Crooked River State Park. His best color Sea Shad was pearl-chartreuse tail, but he caught a few on new penny. He fished his Sea Shad under an Equalizer Float. Michael Winge reported that late last week when the wind laid down, trout, reds, flounder, whiting, and black drum were caught in the Brunswick area. On Friday, an angler reported catching over 100 trout on new penny Bass Assassin Sea Shads. He said the fish were not on the bank but were in the middle of the river that he was fishing. He had 16 keepers, and the rest were short. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that it is redfish by day and redfish by night (under the lights) from the pier. The size has ranged from 12 to 48 inches, and cut bait has been the best. On Monday morning a 45-incher was landed and released. Trout, flounder, whiting, and black drum were also caught. Cast-netters are catching limits of shrimp.
Best Bet – If the weather is too rough for saltwater, crappie fishing at a local pond or lake is a great option. Flinging crickets or small spinnerbaits on the Altamaha will also fool a good mess of panfish. If weather allows, giant redfish are catchable from the piers or in the sounds. Trout fishing is picking up, but the big tides this weekend will probably have the bite condensed to a few hours around the mid-day high tides while the water is the clearest.