Info Provided by: Jeff Durniak, GA DNR North Georgia Region Fisheries Supervisor and North Georgia Region Fisheries staff
Happy new year! While cold air temperatures and precipitation of various forms will make this a challenging season, there are still some great “winter windows” of opportunity ahead for north Georgia anglers. If you’ve resolved to fish a little more in 2015, don’t wait for the fair weather of spring to honor your resolution. Watch 5-day weather forecasts and USGS river gauges and find these great winter windows lying just ahead of you. Here are some holiday reports to kick off your new angling year in style.
DH Goodies – “Just before the holidays, Georgia WRD employees distributed 6,700 presents (trout) into four Delayed Harvest streams (Amicalola Creek, Morgan Falls Tailwaters, Smith Creek, and the Toccoa River). The Chattooga River was stocked by South Carolina. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided 500 high quality brook trout, to this stocking. The Chattooga River, Smith Creek and the Toccoa River offer an excellent opportunity to complete the trout grand slam (landing a brook, brown, and rainbow in one day). For directions and more information on Delayed Harvest trout fishing opportunities, visit http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout.” –John Lee Thomson, Trout Stocking Coordinator
Chattooga New Year – Dredger and new fishing buddy “TFO” hit the Chattooga DH before yesterday evening’s two big games and had a fine time. The water was low (1.6 on the Clayton gauge), clear, and cold (41F at 11AM), and the fish took a while to thaw out and pay attention to their bottom-bouncing flies. Best bets were Oreck eggs and small pheasant tails. Last week’s hot fly, the pat’s rubberlegs, was shunned yesterday. They saw a few afternoon rises and caught 3 browns swinging #18 black soft hackles as the afternoon shadows fell at 4PM.
Last fish was fondled at 4:45. TFO celebrated his first brookie catch, while Dredger found a good brown that sucked in the egg fly in the “ford riffle” on the upstream end of the DH section. Tip: hit the upper ends of pools, right where the riffles spill in. And get down to the bottom quickly!
More Winter Trouting Tips – In a continuing effort to assist the new winter trouters among us (who fish too shallow), I offer these time-tested tips.
Toccoa Tailwater Trophy – Have all of you seen this monster fish yet? Congrats Joe!
The Georgia Artist – Bamboo fly rods
Winter Walleye Q&A – “How is the walleye fishing for January and February in north Georgia? Where would you suggest fishing and what type fishing (trolling, etc.) and baits?” –Sam
“Sam, not many people that I know are brave enough to fish for walleye in the dead of winter. During the coldest months of the year, walleye will sluggishly take advantage of opportunities to feed on blueback herring. On the smaller mountain lakes, the greatest concentration of bluebacks is close to the dam where they can absorb the warmth that radiates off the concrete. Hopefully, walleye will be suspended underneath the herring at depths greater than 25-feet. I suggest vertically jigging near the dam or downlining a blueback herring to catch suspended fish. My second suggestion would be to SLOWLY drag nightcrawlers on the bottom along points or other structure located near the dam. Walleye densities are highest in Lake Yonah and Lake Tugalo but I’ve also heard of a few folks having success with vertical jigs on Lake Lanier around the Clarks Bridge area at this time of year. By late-February, walleye move into the headwaters to begin their spawning migration. The deeper holes upstream of Lula Bridge on the Chattahoochee River (Lake Lanier) are always the first place to find walleye in late-February. Trolling a shad rap (crayfish or blueback patterns) on the bottom or dragging a nightcrawler on the bottom are your best bets. I hope these tips help.” –Anthony Rabern, Fisheries Biologist
Allatoona Report – GON Forum
Lanier Stripers –
Henry’s Podcast– Stripers On the Fly
Lanier Winter Bass –
Try New Methods of fishing in the New Year! Fishing report for Jan. 2-10, 2015 (Report by Eric Aldrich)
Water Conditions: As 2015 begins Lake Lanier’s water level is up slightly at 1068.1 or 2.9 feet below full pool of 1071. Water surface temperatures continue to hover close to 50 degrees. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and clear to stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river @ 770-945-1466.
Bass: Bass fishing has slowed a little up shallow but the deeper bite has been steady. The up and down weather patterns and temperatures have made for some variable catch rates for anglers that rely on relatively shallow fishing but the deeper bite has remained pretty steady.
There has been a fair shallow bite in the morning in the backs of the coves and ditches from 10 to 25 feet deep. Deep diving crank baits, straight tail worms on a shaky head or underspins rigged with a 5 inch Big Bites Cane Thumper have all been working before the sun gets up in that ditches close to banks. Make sure to fish close to the bottom from either 5 to 25 feet deep or try positioning your boat or fish from the banks and cast out deep and retrieve your lures from deep to shallow.
As the sun starts to move up in the skies the small window of shallow fishing goes away so it’s time to work out deeper. Fishing deep intimidates a lot of anglers and it does take some homework to find the right areas. The main thing to look for are significant depth changes near timber lines. Today’s Side Imaging technology coupled with a quality GPS and Mapping Chip will cut down on the time it takes to find these off shore honey holes. You can also explore a regular quality paper map, like an Atlantic Mapping Chart before hitting the water. There are also a couple of Companies who researched, charted and photographed the lake several years during the record droughts and low lake levels that are offered for sale. The one I use is called LanierMapped.com and it has hours of video and indexes that help to reduce your on lake lime to find the best areas.
Once you locate timberlines that are in 35 to 60 foot of water then position your boat directly over areas that have bait and drop a jigging spoon to the bottom. Reel up the spoon about 1-3 feet then impart a snap and drop action to make the spoon rise quickly then flutter down to the bottom. Use a bait caster with 15 to 20 pound Sunline Monofilament and use a ½ ounce Hopkins or Flex-It style of spoon. I replace the standard treble hooks with light wire Gamakatsu hooks. These lighter hooks and heavier line allow you to straighten the hooks and retrieve your spoons when the get snagged on the bottom. These jigging spoons mimic dying shad and you can catch one bass after another when you find a school of fish. Sometimes you may not see the actual bass until you start jigging’ but looking for clouds of bait fish will help you to find these bottom hugging bass.
You can also use other lures in these same areas like a drop shot, shaky head worm or jig n’ pig combos too. You can also use these same lures on steep bluff wall banks and stair step them down the drops. Just make sure you fish them VERY slowly!
Stripers: Striper fishing is good. The stripers are biting a few different patterns and if you can keep your options open and fish a full day you should be able to catch a few. On cloudy days the stripers have been swirling up shallower in the creeks up and down lake. Look for feeding gulls and loons and you know you will be around fish. Drag medium sized trout and larger herring on flat and planner boards in the same areas where you witness bird and fish swirling on the surface.
On brighter and sunnier days it can pay to move out deeper towards the mouths of the creeks and midway up in the rivers. Target areas out over deeper timber and watch your fish finders for clouds of bait and also arcs and wavy lines that indicate the larger predator fish. The timber tops are located from 25 to 35 feet below the surface and the stripers are hanging right around those same depths and shallower.
When fishing the deeper water set out 2 or more down lines at 25 feet from the front of the boat rigged with herring or trout and set two flat lines out back with medium trout with no weight or herring with a quarter ounce split shot crimped two feet above the hook to allow the herring to run deeper in the water column. The trout will usually dig down deeper but the herring may need a little help. Move the boat extremely slow or even on a slow wind drift. If the wind is blowing over 5 miles per hour turn the bow into the wind and troll slow enough to barely keep the boat moving, just fast enough to keep the baits behind the boat. The goal is to keep these fish on slack line so they will run deeper. If you see your trout or herring up on the surface that is also OK because stripers will also see them. Odds are that they may already be being chased by stripers so be ready for one of your reels to start screaming drag when a striper hits.
If you are getting strikes on your baits without getting a hook up there are a few things to consider. First, always leave your rod in the rod holder until it bends over and the drag starts to give. Many anglers will pick up a rod that has a “nervous” baitfish. It is better just to leave the rod in the rod holder until a fish hooks up. Secondly, if you get a pull down but the fish does not stay hooked up leave it in place for a minute or longer if you still see your bait moving. Stripers will often strike a live bait or even artificial lure one of more times in an attempt to stun it before coming back and eating it. IF the stripers rips your bait off the hook then reel it up and put a similar sized and type of bait back on and get it back out into the same position. If the striper took it one time there is every chance they may come back again to strike another one. Lastly, keep a SPRO Buck tail or other lure at the ready at all times to cast to fish you see on the surface or to drop to fish you see on your depth finder. Also don’t be afraid to cast an artificial back around the baits being pulled behind the boat as long as you can retrieve them without getting tangled. This can trigger a strike on either the artificial lure or may pull fish up to strike your live bait too.
Trolling umbrella rigs during the day, casting flies to fish swirling on the surface and fishing Bombers and McSticks after dark are all other methods that are working to boat some stripers right now.
Crappie: The crappie reports are almost non-existent but I have continued to see evidence that they are biting. We have caught them on jigging spoons and I have seen some on electronics schooled up in timber and brush down deep. Continue to work a small crappie jig tipped with a minnow on light line around and through the brush piles very slowly. These fish are seeming to hang around timber and brush in the 25 foot range. If you wish to brave the lake at night try fishing lighted deeper boat docks or deeper bridge pilings in the backs of the creeks like Six Mile and Wahoo Creek to name a couple.
Trout: Trout fishing is good below Buford Dam due to recent stockings. Newly stocked trout will bite readily and can be coaxed with spinning tackle on both artificial and live bait (where permitted by law. The creeks and rivers in the North Georgia Mountains are also great places to fish in the winter.
Bank Fishing: As mentioned above there are some bass, stripers and even crappie in the ditches and these fish can also be caught from the banks. Lake banks with deeper water close in are great places to target. Whether it is a ditch, creek or river channel if you can cast a lure out into 25 feet or deeper you are probably in a good area.
Cast a Fish Head Spin or other brand underspin rigged with a Big Bites Cane Stick out as far as you can cast and let it hit bottom. Let the lure sink until it hits bottom. You will be able to tell it hits when the line stops coming off your reel. When it stops engage your reel and retrieve it just fast enough to stay a foot or two off bottom. You can check to make sure you are still close to bottom by stopping occasionally and letting to fall. You can also use a buck tail, deep diving crank bait, Rooster Tail or plastic worm but make sure to fish slowly.
Worth a Look – Read and form your own opinions.
Generations – Sgt. Mike B. is one of our friends here in the Gainesville region office. He’s patrolled Lanier for decades to protect its fish and wildlife resources and to promote the safety of its anglers and boaters. We share in his joy of participating in his son’s recent graduation ceremony. By the way, don’t trout fish behind Mike’s wife, Carmen, on our mountain streams this spring. She’s a vacuum and you’re bound to have a real slow day!
Good luck in 2015. May you resolve to fish a little more and to introduce somebody new to the sport. Fishing fans are advocates of aquatic conservation, and that’s good for all of us. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year. I look forward to hearing YOUR fish stories.