(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)
While we’ve all had to work around the wind and rain, fishing has still been pretty good during those times when the weather and water have allowed us to wet a line or run a sampling boat. Coldwater species are still very cooperative, while some of the warmwater specialists, like catfish and carp, have begun to stir. Small impoundment fishing is especially good right now, as I just weighed in a 1.5-pound male bluegill for a Hall County pond angler. Trout stocking is in full swing, and my tips below might help new anglers to enjoy Georgia’s mountain trout streams and experience some quick success.
North Georgia fisheries staffers are busy with spring reservoir sampling, trout stocking, and the start of our warmwater fish stockings into reservoirs. This week saw deliveries of hybrid striped bass and walleye from DNR hatcheries south of us into several lakes including Rocky Mountain PFA, Hartwell and Lanier (see walleye video, below). Our busiest season of the year will continue until June, which means more “fresh” fish reports heading your way in the weeks to come. Enjoy these reports from anglers, biologists and technicians. There is a lot to choose from, so take your pick for a weekend target!
Timely Bassing Tip – From Georgia’s own Tom Mann, Jr.
Allatoona Hybrids – GON Forum
Chatuge and Nottely – The Gainesville Fisheries crew was up on Lake Chatuge and Lake Nottely this week for annual electrofishing. Temperatures at both lakes were in the mid-sixties. Largemouths have mostly spawned already, though there are still a few fat females here or there. Spots are probably half and half; still a good number left to spawn. Chatuge in particular gave up some really nice bass. Riprap or rock banks tended to hold the biggest fish.
While these lakes aren’t really known for their crappie fishing, Nottely can be pretty good for them. The crappie have yet to come shallow to spawn yet. It looks like these cold snaps we’ve experienced over the past month may be delaying them a little. Many counties in North Georgia lost a lot of trees in this past winter’s ice storm. Take advantage of this when targeting spawning crappie. In a lake that has lots of newly-fallen pines, the crappie may have moved from your marked spots to trees that still have needles on them. The needles provide extra habitat complexity that crappie love to use. – Patrick O’Rouke, Fisheries Biologist
Catfish Heating Up – GON Forum
Golden Trophies – Last weekend, Evan Cartabiano, the SC state chair, and I tried hosting a 2-state social function for carp anglers, at Brickyard Ponds in Augusta. Our hope was to have some fun fishing, and maybe introduce some new folks to the sport of carp angling. As info, Brickyard Ponds has 22 ponds on about 2000 acres. The pond we fished seemed to be full of small-to-average sized carp (all we caught were less than 10 pounds). There are reports of some much larger ones in other ponds.
Unfortunately, with all the rain last weekend, attendance was extremely limited, so we were essentially “washed out”. However, Evan and I did enjoy catching quite a few carp on Friday (between showers). I’m attaching some photos for you — feel free to use them in your blog as you wish. This is just a small sample of the photos I took, but I doubt that you want or need any more. Note: the small boy is Evan’s 2-1/2 year-old son, holding one of the fish I caught. The other photos are all of Evan (the last one is him trying to fight two carp that hit at the same time). – Barry S., Lawrenceville, Ga.
Prime Stocker Time – This is the best time of the year for new trout anglers to give this sport a try. Grab a short (5 foot) rod, a small reel filled with 4-pound test line, a pack of size “B” removable split shot, and two dozen size 10 baitholder hooks.
For bait, it’s hard to beat one-third of a nightcrawler threaded onto that hook, or a small sphere of Powerbait that’s just big enough to hide the hook. Dress in an olive drab shirt and hat so you blend in with the vegetation, and start driving north.
Pick one of the many heavily stocked mountain trout streams, park at a bridge crossing, walk the road 200 yards downstream, wade in, and fish back up to your vehicle. While fishing, toss two short casts into every small pocket behind boulders, under submerged logs, and beneath the rhododendron branches, and cover a lot of ground. If your bait isn’t assaulted in two casts, move upstream a few feet and hit the next pocket of slower, deeper (dark green) water. Add/subtract the number of split shot on your line, about a foot above the bait, so that your offering “ticks” along the bottom on its downstream drift back to you. New flyrodders can practice the same technique and just substitute an egg fly or san juan worm as the bait of choice. The real key is using enough weight, and adjusting its amount as necessary, to ensure your offering is occasionally bouncing along the bottom.
You’ll catch many of those trout first stocked at the bridge, but washed downstream into the pocket water by spring’s high streamflows. Repeat for a few bridge crossings until you limit out at eight for the frying pan.
DNR Trout Stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson provided these weekend best bets: Hooch at Buford Dam and Helen, Rock, Holly, Panther, Cooper, Wildcat, Tallulah, Broad, and Dockery Lake.
Trout- Finding the Seams – Here’s a great video from Ryan that might help new trouters to read pocket water and cast to the most productive spots.
Tex’s Blueline Report – The sunny skies and warm weather made it a great day to get out and explore some new water. While the fishing seemed to be a little off and slower than normal according to local know-it-all “College Boy”, the adventure aspect was definitely there! It was a beautiful day bushwhacking, climbing waterfalls and even accidentally taking a brief swim. 7 or 8 native Brookies were caught with many more escaping including two good sized ones around eight inches. Most were caught on a 16 pheasant tail dropper while the ones on top came up to a size 14 stimulator. For my first blue lining adventure I considered it a success and will be looking forward to the next one!
Caddis and Cahill Time – North Georgia fly anglers who glance in the rearview mirror can get a great idea of what to expect around the next corner. Remember to stay late enough for the action at dusk.
We hope you have a chance to take advantage of the great weekend weather forecast. Buy a $20 rod/reel outfit, dig a few worms, and wet a line in a local pond or a mountain trout stream this weekend. You’ll enjoy your hydrotherapy!
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff)
Clarks Hill (full, stained, water temp. 70s) –Bass fishing is good and the fish will be on the beds in ten days. Anglers will be fishing bedding bass. Bass can still be caught on Super Flukes, X Raps and shallow running Shad Raps in and around grassy flats. The grass mats will be submerged, so look for the dark shadows along the bottom or drag a jig or Carolina Rig through an area to find the type and color of the grass. Small flats that run near a deep ditch or River channel are the best places to catch your limit this week. Be sure to try the Scrounger with a Super Fluke as the trailer. Trick worms can also work. – Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.
Flat Creek PFA (down 1 foot 11 inches, 39 inches of visibility, water surface temp. 71 degrees) – The fish at Flat Creek have been off and on (weather dependent). Prior to prevalent storms moving through the area, the fishing has been great, however the high barometric pressure days following the storm have left many anglers disappointed. The month of May’s full moon is expected to be one of the very best times to fish for bream in Flat Creek as they should be on their beds and very aggressive. Fishing for Catfish is also expected to improve as we transition into warmer days and the water temperature continues to rise.
Bass: Success – Watermelon Zoom Trick Worms, Watermelon Zoom Centipede worms, fished shallow (2-3’) and silver spoons, and lipless crank baits fished in 6-8 foot of water.
Bream: Success – Worms (Red Wigglers, Glow worms, and Pinks) on a Carolina rig.
Channel Catfish: Success – Worms fished on a Carolina Rig.
Crappie: Success – Red &Black Hal-Flies (5’ of water), Chartreuse glow-in-the-dark jigs by Carolina Hookers fished with a glow-in-the-dark Rat Finkee jig head (#6 & #8) fished in 8 foot of water. These combinations have yielded 1-2 pound Crappie.
Additional information at http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/FlatCreek
Jackson Lake (1.2 feet over full pool, stained, water temp. low 70s) – Bass fishing is fair. The water is clear with some stain in the rivers after heavy rains. We are also on the full moon and this means the fish feed at night. Fish deep structure in or near the main lake, or seek cooler water up the rivers. Target points, bluffs, hump’s 12 feet to 15 feet deep in brush, bridge pilings, and deep docks. Put to use shakey heads, heavy compact jigs, and deep running crank baits through the day. Hot weather has many fish hunkered down in deep water, suspended, or roaming with shad in open water. Early in the day, throw a Rico or other top water bait on the deep sea walls or at open water opportunities. – Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.
Marben PFA (water temp 65-plus degrees – Anglers should remember that this temperature will vary as temperatures fluctuate with cool mornings.) – Bass: The bass spawn is mostly over at Marben PFA. Anglers should find bass more aggressive then in early spring. Bass are demonstrating a more consistent feeding behavior. This is the time of year that bass will target a variety of bait. Those wishing to land a “lunker” need to establish feeding patterns because it could vary at each pond. Watching schools of bait fish in early morning or late evening can provide anglers with this pattern. Look for bass feeding in shallow water in mornings and late evenings. Typically, bass can be found around cover in deep water as mid-afternoon approaches.
Bream: Late spring is when anglers are most successful when targeting bream. Water temperatures are right for bream to be the most aggressive. Shellcracker are currently be caught in high numbers. Anglers should target Shepard, Bennett and Dairy Ponds. There are also reports of high numbers of bluegill being caught. Live crickets and worms remain the most popular bait. Fishing structure in shallow areas will provide anglers the best opportunity of filling the stringer. The best thing about bream is these fish are not too picky about habitat and bite through out the day!
Catfish: The catfish bite has remained stable. Cut bait, worms and liver remain the most popular when targeting catfish. Anglers seeking catfish should try fishing the bottom in 5 to 12 feet of water. The most successful catfish anglers will tell anyone, you have to be patient when targeting this fish (and a good shade tree always helps)!
Crappie: The crappie “bite” has peaked but don’t give up on this fish. Anglers should try fishing structure in about 5 to 10 feet of water. Bennett and Fox are the most popular ponds but Shepard also provides an excellent place to catch high numbers. Fishing piers have fish attractors placed around them, so anglers could easily catch a limit without putting a boat in the water. Yellow and purple jigs are the most popular lures, while live minnows remain the most popular. Early mornings and late evenings are the most popular times when targeting crappie.
Marben’s larger lakes (Fox, Bennett, Margery, and Shepard) have fish attractors strategically placed in the lakes. Anglers fishing from a boat should look for the structures to fish. Angler trails are also available, so if you don’t have a boat no need to worry. Most trails will get anglers where they need to be to fill that stringer and with a little work perhaps their own secret fishing hole.
Be patient, but most important HAVE FUN!
Additional Information: http://www.georgiawildlife.com/PFA/CharlieElliott
McDuffie PFA (18-5 inches of visibility, water surface temp. 75) – Largemouth Bass: Fair – due to post spawn rest period. Best ponds have been Willow, and Clubhouse. Willow is still giving up keeper bass and many larger bass are being released my fishermen. Bass in 3 to 9 pound range are being caught near shore, around submerged timber and underwater humps near deep water. In Jones the bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert. The lakes with the more potential are Willow for quality and Clubhouse and Breambuster for quantity. These three lakes have balanced fish populations. Willow Lake has big bass but fishermen must be prepared or risk being broken off in the underwater structure. The bass are in post-spawn mode and should be feeding on new baitfish to replenish their bodies. Recent electrofishing sampling proved several quality bass make Breambuster home so keep fishing. As the water temperature continues to rise the fishing should steadily improve. Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month. Rodbender is open now; the fish are fat in every size and should provide a good battle when hooked. This lake has optimum feeding conditions for the smaller fat “football” fish. Quality bass are still present in Clubhouse and we found them around the structure in the lake during sampling. Bass are still waiting on the shad hatch but other forage species should be available now. Overall, bass in 3 to 7 pound range are being caught near shore, around submerged timber and underwater humps near deep water in all of the lakes. May is a great top-water bait month and as the water warms the bass will rise to attack the top-water baits.
Bream: Good – Best ponds have been Jones, Willow and Clubhouse. The bream (both bluegill and shell-cracker) have let their beds now and moved to deeper water feeding to prepare for the next spawn in May. Bream can be found around structure and aquatic plants with firm sandy bottoms. The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under adjustable floats; using light tackle to make soft casts pass the structure and pulling the bait rig back and stopping the bait will generate many more strikes. May water temperatures should cause the bream to chase beetle-spins with slow or fast retrieves and crickets and worms under floats or on the bottom will work. Our local fly fishermen are catching aggressive bream on artificial nymphs, flies and bugs on top of the water near structure.
Channel Catfish: Good – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Bridge and Jones. Catfish are feeding as they prepare to spawn and water temperatures have reached 75 degrees. Several large catfish were distributed to the PFA lakes from the hatchery stock and were seen in the recent electrofishing sampling on the lakes. Catfish are biting in all lakes. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep areas using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets.
Striped Bass: Fair – Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse. A large striper (5 lbs.) was recently seen during electrofishing in Clubhouse near shore and structure. The stripers are waiting on the shad hatch like the largemouth bass. The stripers will actively feed on the shad during early morning and late evening hours. Imitate the threadfin shad and excellent fishing for striped bass is just a cast away. Smaller stripers will keep anglers busy in Bridge Lake as fishermen fish for catfish and bream on the bottom using worms and chicken liver.
Additional Information: http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/McDuffie
Lake Oconee (full, heavy stain up rivers, light stain on main, Lake Richland Creek clear, water temp. 69-71) – Bass fishing is good. The lake is full. The shad spawn is in full swing. At daylight the bass will be close to bank looking for the spawning bait. Use a spinner bait fished along sea walls and rip rap to target these fish. Work the middle of the coves and main lake creeks. Fish boat docks, wood structure, and sea walls. Work your way to the back of the coves and creeks. The lake has water that is muddy to clear. Find the best color bait for the water you are fishing in to help catch more fish. The shad spawn should last for the next week or two.
Striper fishing is good. Some fish are still at the dam, some have move to the humps up the lake and some are still up the rivers. The water quality is good all over the lake so the fish are not in one place. Use your Lowrance to locate the schools on different humps and points. When you find them drop a live shad down to them and they will eat it. Down lines have been the best producers alone with spoons fished into the school you find on the Lowrance. – Striper report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time guide service
Crappie fishing is good. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. They are suspended above the timber. Long lining just over the fish in 6 to 10 ft. of water will draw a strike. If you are fishing muddy water use a dark jig. Stained water use a jig with chartreuse in it.
Lake Russell (clear, water temp. low 70s) – Bass fishing is good. Go up the rivers and fish with the buzz baits and Mann’s Shallow Minus One bright crank baits. Keep a trick worm and a Super Fluke ready for the shallow fish on any wood and on the small points in the creek. Up the river, use a spinnerbait and the Stanley 3/8 ounce all white spinnerbaits will work off the rivers in the pockets and around wood. Try the clear creeks with buzz baits and spinner baits as well as trick worms. Use the Scrounger and a small pearl Fluke trailer on any wood or rocks. – Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.
Lake Sinclair (full, rivers and creeks are stained, lower lake is clear, water temp. 75-80 degrees) –Bass fishing is fair. The bass on are transitioning to the post spawn phase. Numbers of fish can still be caught, but the bigger fish are tougher to find as they recoup from the stressful spawn. The morning bite and evening bite is best, but fish can be caught consistently throughout the day time period. Early in the morning there is still a chance at finding a shad spawn on sea walls, rip rap, or grass beds near the mouth of pockets. A white Buckeye lures spinnerbait and a pearl white Zoom super fluke will catch the active fish feeding on these spawning shad. Mid-day, try fishing a weightless green pumpkin Zoom super fluke or a Yamamoto Senko around the docks to catch numbers of fish. It is not uncommon to catch fifty or sixty fish in a day using this technique this time of the year. There have been a lot of fish on the Little River Bridge rip rap recently that will fall victim to a Spro Little Jon crank bait in cell mate or fire tiger colors depending on water clarity. Fishing parallel to the rip rap will get the most bites as your crank bait will stay in the strike zone the entire time it is in the water. Top water baits have been best during the morning and evening time and will even produce a big bite occasionally during the day time. The bream will start bedding on the next full moon which will ignite the top water bite for the rest of the summer. Fishing around these bream beds with a prop bait will give you a good opportunity at catching some big fish. Numbers of smaller fish can also be caught in the clearer creeks on the lower end of the lake by fishing shaky head worms in green pumpkin color around the docks. – Courtesy of Matt Henry, Sinclair Marina, 478-451-0167
West Point Lake (full, stained, water temp. upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good and the fish are spawning. This has been a week for the soft plastics like a Zoom lizard on a light Carolina rig and the trick worms or creature baits. Work the isolated cover and depressions. These fish are most likely relating to small ditches waiting to pull up for the spawn. A light Carolina Rig can also be effective in these same areas. Fish from Highland Marina to Wehadkee Creek and work pockets and points all day. Also later in the day head up lake and fish north to the 109 bridge. – Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant