By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Freshwater fishing has been great this week. The rivers have a new slug of rain at the time of writing this, so we’ll have to see how high they go over the next week. Saltwater reports have been few because of the winds, but those who went had good catches. First quarter moon is November 29th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the crappie bite has been on fire for those fishing both minnows and jigs. Quite a few anglers caught their limits this week. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that crappie were still eating up minnows and grubs. The incoming tide bite has been best, and the key is to fish your offering over treetops and deep holes with the current. The S&G Crew from Waycross fished over the weekend and caught more than 65 slabs between 8 and 12 inches. They fooled them with minnows and white chartreuse Jiffy Jigs. They also had a couple dozen warmouth, redbreasts, and bream. To add to the bounty, they put out limb lines and caught a dozen flathead catfish weighing between 25 and 35 pounds. Needless to say, they were tired of cleaning fish when all was said and done! The river level was 3.2 feet and rising (57 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.5 feet and rising (59 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Nov. 24.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie bite was tops on the river before the rain. Tennessee shad, John Deere Green, and white Jiffy Jigs produced the best catches. Dark colored speed craws and other ultravibe plastics produced some bass. The catfish fishing should pick up this week with the rising river. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.0 feet and rising (60 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.1 feet and rising on Nov. 24.
Okefenokee Swamp – I took my kids Timothy and Ellie along with one of their friends, Noah, into the swamp at the Folkston entrance on Saturday. The water temperature was only 49 degrees when we launched, but the flier bite was excellent. We got lunch at the café and headed out into the swamp to eat it. What a setting for lunch! After eating, we fished for a few minutes before we figured them out. Our first flier came on a glob of worms intended for bowfin (mudfish). After that, we moved into an area with a few fallen tree limbs and put it on the fliers using sallies under a small balsa float (using a weight between the float and the fly worked best). Over the next 2 hours, we caught and released 43 fliers up to 8 1/2 inches. The kids were having so much fun that they weren’t bothered in the least that it was spitting rain just about the whole time (no they don’t have pneumonia…). The fish were picky on Saturday, and orange was the best color (by far), but usually they will eat pink or yellow versions, as well. I was in awe that it had been several days since someone signed in to go fishing at the sign-in sheet at the store. The fishing will be off the chain for the entire winter. The best times are usually warmer afternoons before a front approaches, but I have caught them well in all weather conditions during winter.
Local Ponds – Hubert Crawford and a friend trolled 2-inch Curly Shads around a Baxley area pond on Friday and caught 15 specks to 10 inches. The bite was best late in the afternoon for them. Another angler spider-rigging minnows on the same water body put it on them on the same pond. He boated over 100 crappie on his way to a limit. Surprisingly, when the trolled lure bite was best for Hubert late in the afternoon, the minnows did not work well. If we had it figured out, we’d be millionaires. Chad Lee was at it again this week, as he is every week at Alma area ponds. He caught mainly bass and crappie, but his catch of the week was a bragging-sized 7.6-lb bass he caught with a jig and plastic crawfish trailer on Saturday. The Assassin 2-inch Crappie Dapper Swimbaits have been producing a bunch of crappie and smaller bass for him. Michael Winge said that crappie provided the best reports again this week in Waycross area ponds. Laura Walker State Park Lake is closed to boats, but bank angling is still allowed.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The headline this week was wind and storms! There were very few days this week that folks were even able to access saltwater. Michael Winge reported that Waycross anglers caught trout and reds in the creeks around Brunswick on Texas roach Assassin Sea Shads. Check the December issue of Georgia Outdoor News for an article detailing my approach to fishing artificials for trout. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that sheepshead, big trout, big redfish, and a few big flounder were caught over the weekend from the pier. A few whiting were still around, as well. Trish said that two anglers fishing from a dock in the Brunswick River limited out on big trout ranging from 18 to 20 inches.
Best Bet – The Okefenokee Swamp flier bite was fantastic before the rains, and I don’t believe that we got enough rain to slow that bite down much. Pitch Okefenokee Swamp Sallies around the edges of the vegetation and blow-down trees to catch the panfish. Ponds are another great place to fish over the Thanksgiving holiday. Fish the deep open water and shoreline cover for crappie with minnows and curly-tail jigs. Drag a jig or big Texas-rigged plastic worm for bass. We will have to wait and see what this rain does to the rivers, but I imagine they will go too high to fish for the next week or so. Tides should be back down to the fishable range by the weekend, so saltwater would be a good option if the winds will allow. I pray that everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving! We are truly blessed in this nation, and we often take it for granted.