By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The cold snap last weekend dropped the water temperature as much as 10 degrees in some systems, but the bite should rebound with the warming trend late this week. Crappie should be eating it up with the warming trend, and redfish never stopped eating. Trout fishing should be off the chain next week when the water clears again. Full Moon is November 6th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The DNR Fisheries staff completed their standardized electrofishing sampling on the Altamaha over the past week. The upper river had average size panfish that were generally in slightly poor shape (to be expected with the low water we’ve had lately). The case was not the same on the middle to lower river (below Jesup). The numbers of panfish (primarily bluegill and redbreasts) were higher than usual, and the fish were in a little bit better condition (fatter) than the fish upriver. This is likely due to the extensive backwaters in the lower river providing more food. It will be a good fall for panfish, so get out there and cast at them. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the wind over the weekend kept most anglers away. Crappie graced the creels of the few anglers who fished. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that very few folks fished over the windy, cold weekend. A couple of diehard Waycross anglers fished about 6 hours on Saturday and whacked a mixed creel of 60 keeper fish. They caught 45 crappie averaging 10 inches using both minnows and jigs. They had a few bream, warmouth, and catfish, as well. The key was to fish in the wind where the water was white-capping. When they fished the calm areas, they could not get bites. The river level was 1.8 feet and rising (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 2.7 feet and steady (62 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on November 4th.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie bite was tops. Anglers fishing both minnows and jigs reported averaging between 30 and 40 keepers per trip. The lower river was producing good numbers and some real slabs. Some bass were caught by anglers fishing shiners. The river level on November 4th at the Waycross gage was 4.6 feet and falling (68 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.6 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – Before the cold snap, redbreasts and bream were hitting crickets and worms. The catfish bite has been great, even through the cold snap. Reports improved on Tuesday for all species as the water began the warm-up. The river level on November 4th at the MacClenny gage was 3.6 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – Almost nobody fished any of the entrances. When folks go, we will have some really good reports, as November is one of my favorite months for numbers of fliers. I typically start by pitching pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies under a float. If I have several anglers in the boat, I will start each of us with a different color and change to whatever the fish prefer. With the cooler weather, suspending a sally underneath a small balsa float usually produces more strikes, as it keeps it in front of the fish a little longer than fishing it without the float.
Local Ponds – Before the cold front, crappie were chowing. After a few cold days, the bite slowed, but it should pick back up after several warm days heading into the weekend. Chad Lee of Alma and his fishing buddy Joady Johnson had the report of the week from Alma area ponds. On Saturday, they bundled up like Eskimos and caught 40 crappie, some bluegills, a shellcracker, and a 5-pound bass on minnows and crystal shad colored Panfish Assassins. Joady took at least 5 minutes to land the 5-pounder on an ultralight Shakepeare outfit and 4-pound test line. On Sunday morning, Chad caught a 7-pound bass at about 6am on a crawfish colored jig and beaver-style trailer. He ended up with about 10 bass during the morning. Michael Winge said that the bass bite was good in area ponds for those fishing ZOOM U-tail worms and speed craws. Shiners were also producing some decent bass catches. Crappie were caught in good numbers with minnows, Jiffy Jigs, and white Satilla Spins. Laura Walker State Park Lake is drawn down for improvements and is currently closed.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the trout fishing was awesome early in the week. He caught over 100 trout (of course, he released many of them, but very few were under the legal 13” minimum size limit) great this week. They also caught 20 redfish from the slot up to 26 inches. His anglers had some sore arms after that day! The key for him has been to find the finger mullet. When he does, he catches a bunch of fish, and when he fishes places without the mullet, he catches very few. “Nontarget species” have been chowing on live shrimp, so he has been successful keeping them at bay by using finger mullet for bait. His charters have also been using DOA shrimp and minnow imitations to score. Even with the awful weather this past weekend, the bull redfish bit from the St. Simons Pier. Ed Zmarzly and Justin Bythwood caught and released 5 bull redfish and a few other species on Sunday. Apparently, the big redfish running in the channel did not care about the cold front. Trout fishing has been very good in the Crooked River area for those pitching artificials under Cajun Thunder Floats and fishing live shrimp around oyster mounds. Sheephead fishing around treetops has been consistent during the colder weather. Michael Winge reported that Waycross anglers caught lots of trout anywhere they threw shrimp in the Brunswick area. They also caught a bunch on Assassin Sea Shads. Before the cold front, squid and shrimp were producing good whiting catches. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that lots of big blue crabs were caught from the pier by crabbers. They were the most and largest crabs caught from the pier so far this year. On Monday, bluefish were thick under the pier. Gotcha plugs are deadly for bluefish. Trout, reds, flounder, and sharks were also caught from the pier. The shrimping should pick up any day as the bigger shrimp “fall out” of the rivers and into the ocean after the cold weather.
Best Bet – The saltwater fishing has been outstanding during good weather days, but the high tidal fluctuation will likely have the bite turned off with the muddier water this weekend. Even with the big tides, there are so many trout around that you will catch some if you go. The best bet would be crappie in the rivers and lakes. Troll with Assassin Curly Shads or spider-rig with minnows to make some great catches. Bass fishing in ponds should be very good, as well. Pitch jigs or plastic worms to shoreline cover or throw jerkbaits or spinnerbaits to offshore structure to get bites.