(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)
The superb spring fishing continued last week and might hold out just a bit longer as north Georgia air and water temperatures soon rise beyond optimal levels. Topwater bassing was very good, with some stripers mixed in. Evening trouting was off the charts for crusty vets who knew to stay late enough to fling in the dark. And Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Valley Authority, its state and federal wildlife agency partners, and its stakeholders (including Carl Riggs of Georgia TU and Jan Hackett of the Fannin County C of C) gave Southeastern trouters something really big to cheer about this week. Here we go:
Great Trout News! – North Georgia trout fans, especially all of you Toccoa Tailwater aficionados, can rejoice. See the bottom of this note and this website.
Stocker Best Bets – Trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson advises stocker fans to aim for the Toccoa and Lanier tailwaters, Hooch in Helen, Middle Broad, Warwoman, West Fork Chattooga, Dicks, Cooper, and Georgia’s Delayed Harvest streams, whose “delay” is now over and whose harvest begins today.
Trout – Awesome Dark-Thirty’s! – A sleep-deprived Dredger reports that last week was simply awesome. Three out of four of his dark-30 trout trips were memorable, while the last trip to Chattooga DH was slow because of warming water and fewer bugs. He shared some trip reports, which follow.
As some of our larger, lower elevation streams warm toward 70 degrees, their action is waning. However, the upstream reaches are still on fire. Follow the dark-30 dry fly action uphill (in elevation) over the next week or so. Don’t forget your thermometer and at least two flashlights. And watch out for those olive and white helicopters!
Chattooga DH (5/8/15) – Hiked in and wet a line at 7. #14 Cahill duns started dancing around 7:30. #18 Cahill hatch at 8. Trout species hat trick by 8:30. Added bonus of two redeyes along the way. Last two trout on the swing thru the darkness at 9 p.m. Fairies lit the walk out. Cold drink, stars, and bluegrass back at the car at 9:30.
Not a bad ending to a work day!
Chatooga DH (5/9/15) – By the way, cahills back out from about 7:30 to 9. Switch turned on at 8. Fish preferred the 14’s over the smaller versions. Hares ear soft hackle worked while sun was still up. Had to work the fish. Some ate on the dead drift, while many others were chummed up with the skitter. True for both dries and wets. Fish were lined up in main flows, ready to intercept the evening drift of nymphs. Scattered stoneflies flew by, too, but I kept the same beaten Friday Cahill on my line til its hackle-shedding demise on the last fish of the evening. May it rest in peace after bringing two dozen in for a fondle.
Fairies lit the way out again, while the owl somewhere in the wildlife opening conversed while I shucked my waders in the parking lot and gazed up into a crystal clear, star-filled sky. Not quite Wyoming, but darn close and much more convenient. Hope this puts some folks on fish.
Chattooga DH (5/11/15) – Dark30 slow as our trio found 69 degree water and fewer cahills a-flyin’. Some thin, half-hearted rainbows and a brown still slowly rose to inhale the cahills. At least the fairies came out again at the upstream end of the SC opening and entertained first-timer Kathy (Mrs. Guru). It might be time to start heading upstream.
Lake Allatoona (full, clear, upper 70s) – “Bass fishing is good. The shad spawn is more prevalent now and is it more locations on the lake. Soft plastic jerk baits, Rooster Tails, poppers and even jerk baits are working great in the morning. I have found schools of fish on serval rock banks and P gravel shorelines. This bot only last for a few hours and once it goes away fish move out just a little bit and can be called on jig heads, Carolina rig and crank baits. The top water bottle is still really good and will only continue to get better for the rest of the month. Water temperatures are little slower to rise this year and I believe that the Shad bone will actually last a little longer than normal.” – Matt Driver, www.proanglerradio.com
“Lines side fishing is good. The bite up the river has returned and there are some very good numbers of hybrids being caught up the Etowah River. These fish are feeding best on live shad fished on the bottom. The main lake bite is also very good. My clients have caught very good numbers aboard our boats this week fishing main lake creek mouths as far north as Little River and as far south as Clark’s Creek. Our best bite has been on thread fin shad fished on down lines and free lines. Main lake points and humps are also holding some decent schools of hybrids. Trolling has been very good for me this week. We are pulling umbrella rigs 50 to 70 feet behind the boat and have had as many as 5 fish at a time. The trolling bite is really starting to heat up and will only get better as we enter summer. The overall bite is really good. We still have plenty of openings aboard our boats.” – Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service
Lake Hartwell (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good. If the wind blows a little all day, the fishing seems to be a little better. There were large waves of bass bedding and some are done and some are not. Bass are still staging up on the points leading into the creeks and coves. The bass are on the shallow flats and on rocky points. Have the Alabama rig ready and fish it on the small points in the backs of the creek and run it real shallow. Use the small Zoom Flukes on 3/16 lead heads and be sure the baits are pearl colors. Use the number 8 Husky Jerk in the glass minnow on the points and the olive green X Rap up in the shallows.
Lake Lanier (full, mostly clear, some pollen, mid 70s)
“The spotted bass fishing on Lanier remains very good. There are many options out there right now. There are still plenty of spots on bed and still a few more to come. A 1/8 ounce Davis Shaky head with a 4 inch worm fished on a GLoomis NRX 822 Shaky Head Rod with Seaguar 8 pound test fluorocarbon is a great way to catch these fish. Work the Shaky Head slowly and look for the bites to be light, which makes a rod like the 822 so important. A fluke is great tool to locate these fish. A spot on the bed will almost always rise up to at least look at a fluke if not eat it. Work the fluke slowly and give the bait plenty of time to fall on a slack line. Watch your fluke and your line for indications of a bite. If they don’t eat the fluke and only swing at it, follow with the worm for a sure bite. A Senko is a good bet on these fish as well. Look for spot beds on hard clay banks and points with sandy areas being strong as well. Look for the prespawn females to be on steeper rocky points near these spawning areas. The same baits will work, but others will catch the prespawners as well. The herring spawn is going now and offers some great early morning action. A spinnerbait, a wake bait, and a swim bait have all been good on the rocky and shallow sandy areas where the herring generally spawn. The floating Spro BBZ1 Swim bait is a great choice as well. Top water, like poppers and walkers are starting to work on these fish also. After the sun gets up, move out deeper with your offerings and hit the brush for some top water action as well.” – Jimbo Mathley
“Striper fishing remains good as the water temperatures continue to rise. The water temperature increased 10 degrees in a little over a week and the Stripers are in post spawn. Despite the water temperature change the pattern has not changed as the shallow water bite in the creeks on points, flats and reef markers continues. Un weighted free lines set 50 to 70 feet behind the boat with Herring is your best bet early. As the sun gets high, weight your lines and move to deeper water. Also set out a couple of down rods while you are pulling free lines. Keep your eye on your Lowrance depth finder and set your down lines based on water depth. The top water bite is picking up and you can catch both Spotted Bass and Stripers in the same area. It is always a good idea to keep someone on the front deck casting a Red Fin, Chug Bug, Spook or a buck tail jig while you are pulling bait. The umbrella rig bite is working when pulled at 70 to 80 feet behind the boat and speed at 3.0 MPH. Target a 30 to 40 foot bottom when pulling the Umbrella rig early and move to deeper water as the sun get high in the sky. Look for the Stripers to begin moving towards the mouth of the creeks and onto the main lake points this coming week. The down rod bite has been slow but will improve as the water continues to warm. There are fish in the creeks and the river channel lake wide. The south end of the Lake is starting to pick up with reports of fish being caught in Flowery Branch, Big Creek and Two Mile Creek. The water temperature is in the low to mid 70’s during the day on the South end of the lake and the high 70’s on the North end. The water is stained in the creeks and clear on the main lake. The lake is at full pool.” – Captain Ken West and Captain Mike Maddalena
“Crappie fishing patterns continue to hold, remaining good to excellent around docks with structure and on submerged brush piles from the middle to the backs of creeks. If you have favorite crappie fishing spots, they should be producing well now. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of fishermen fishing this time of year, so if you don’t catch fish quickly, move on, as that spot may have just been fished. Jig colors still do not matter. For the night fishermen, this is the time of the year to consider fishing under bridges, using Hydra glow lights with crappie minnows. Six Mile Bridge, Wahoo Creek Bridge, and Clarks’ Bridge are our favorites. All 3 are in deep water, within sight of boat ramps, and are holding fish. For those that like bluegill fishing, they are still on bed and biting well. The smaller fish are aggressive, though, and are getting to the bait before the larger fish that are still on bed. Crickets are the best bait for bluegill. Take advantage of the month of May. This is one of our favorite times to fish! Stay safe on the water, wear your lifejacket!” – Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club
Our “On the Water” Schools are Rods, Reels and Lures for Bass, SONAR and we have a Striper schools. Learn how to use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology. Call 770 889 2654 or see the details on our web site for more info and dates.
Participate! – Georgia DNR wants to “aim for success” and is asking for your input regarding the concept of a license fee restructure. Take the time to read this information and take part in this public process, including a two-minute survey to start things off. Maybe I’ll see you at one of the June public meetings, too. – www.georgiawildlife.com/aimforsuccess
Good luck this week. It looks like some much-needed rain is on the way. That should be good for water temperatures and flows, and maybe even reset the clock for a few days on our excellent spring fishing season. Give our mountain lakes a try as the lowland reservoirs start to heat up. http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Reservoirs
Have fun as this topwater season draws to a close, and remember your opportunities to participate in fish and wildlife management topics. Aren’t we glad that Carl and Jan did?
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff)
Big Lazer PFA (down 4 inches, 30 inches of visibility, 72 degrees) – Largemouth bass: Fair – Bass fishing is improving as more fish creep up into shallower water to feed on newly spawned bream. The cool spring rains seem to be over but water temperatures are still below average. These conditions can cause bass feeding patterns to be unpredictable. However, a few anglers have reported catching a few bass on plastic worms and lizards as well as rooster tails. Also, this month bait fish become more available: try fishing for bass with minnow-type lures that mimic shad and bream.
Crappie: Poor – The cool rains and lower than average water temperatures have made targeting crappie difficult all spring. Plus, this time of year crappie tend to spread out over the whole lake and hold at different depths, which makes crappie fishing even more challenging. Crappie should be a little shallower than they were earlier in the spring; try starting around 10 feet and work your way up. As usual, jigs and live minnows are still your best bet for crappie.
Bream: Fair – Bream fishing is improving. As bream start spawning, they will aggressively guard their beds, which improve your chances at catching several for the table. Crickets and worms are good bait for spawning bream. Also, small grub like plastic jigs can work well this time of year; try black, white, and yellow colors. However, make sure the hooks are small because bream have small mouths.
Channel catfish: Good – Several catfish are being caught off the dam. Also, catfish are being caught on worms and livers in deeper spots over much of the lake.
In general, May and June temperatures at Big Lazer are heating up and so is the fishing. Also of note, the Talbotton Chamber of Commerce is having their annual Kids Fishing Event at Big Lazer on June, 6th. So, make plans to bring out your kids for a morning of fun and catching catfish.
Additional information at http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/BigLazer
Clarks Hill Lake (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is very good. The bass are chasing schooling bait fish and the top water bite is really good. Bass will be heavy on the beds by the end of next week and others are hanging around the grassy areas. The weather is expected to continue to improve and get a little warmer as the week goes on. Fish the white spinner-baits and the soft and hard jerk baits. Zoom pearl Super Flukes are working but take some of these same baits in baby bass as well. All are working along with worms and plastic lizards. The key will be to finding the right patch of grass and the right piece of structure. Good baits to take along this week include plastic worms and jigs.
Jackson Lake (down 2.1 feet, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good. A bright crawfish red or brown Rat L Trap or a big jig and pig can draw strikes. Look for the clearer waters down lake. Float a large green u tail worm on and over any shallow wood after mid-day. The bass are tight under the docks and any wood in the water and use a large 10 inch Culprit green shad worm in the cover. For the river bass, head into the cuts and creeks that have any clearing waters. Spinner baits and large red shad Culprit worms will work or grass beds later in the day. The Rat L Traps in the bleeding shiner or red crawfish will work for the bass. Spinner baits and flat sided bright crank baits will work after the sun warms shallows in the backs of the creeks. The Flat A Bomber in Gable green or lime as well as orange colors has been fair. Use this bait in the mouths of the creeks right off the river.
McDuffie PFA (21-42 inches of visibility, 82 degrees) – Largemouth Bass: Good – Hot ponds have been Willow, and Clubhouse. Willow is still giving up keeper bass and many larger bass are being released by our fishermen. Bass in 3 to 9 pound range are being caught near shore, around submerged timber and underwater humps near deep water. In Jones bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert. The lakes with most 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 should be feeding on baitfish to replenish their bodies. Recent electrofishing sampling showed several quality bass make Breambuster home so keep fishing. As the water temperature continues to rise the bass fishing should steadily improve because fish metabolism increases with water temperature and the need for food also increases. Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month. Rodbender is open now but will close at sunset on the 15th; 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. Two (2) keeper Bass were caught in Clubhouse this morning by an area fishermen. 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 usually an excellent top-water bait month but remember to try spinner baits as well.
Bream: Good – Best ponds have been Willow, Clubhouse and Jones in order of best catches. The bream (both bluegill and shell-cracker) were on beds on the tenth (10) and several nice stringers of bream were seen by PFA staff. 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. Patience is the key when fishing for bream on beds. Fishermen should try beetle-spins with slow and fast retrieves while crickets and worms under floats or on the bottom will also 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 still feeding as they prepare to spawn and water has reached 82 degrees. Several large catfish were caught in Jones by two of the PFA’s fishermen. One albino Catfish was caught by a lucky angler. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep areas using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets. Thursday 14th of May, PFA staff saw an exception this, an angler had a channel catfish which struck a yellow spinner bait in Breambuster.
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 have not begun feeding on the shad near the surface. 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, stained up rivers, light stain on main lake, 79-83 degrees) – 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. After the sun gets up switch to boat docks in the same areas. Use a shaky head under the docks and around the dock poles. You can also use a small shallow running crank bait around the same docks. Some bigger fish are showing up on wood structure in the mouths of the Oconee and Appalachia Rivers. Use a dark jig and trailer fished into the wood structure.
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.
“Striper fishing is good. Most of the fish have move to the humps up the lake from the dam 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. Over the past few days the umbrella rig bite has started to heat up. This bite should last for the next month.” – Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service
Lake Russell (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is very good. First thing in the morning bass are on shallow clay banks and any rip rap or rocks all over the lake feeding on the shad that are spawning. A small buzz bait, a small spinner bait or a ¼ ounce Rat L Trap will work all day. If there is any wind, work the windblown banks with a small crank bait, like a ¼ ounce Rat T Trap in the chrome and black or a number 5 Shad Rap in sliver/black colors. After the shad have moved to the deeper water as the sun come up move to points and flats with 5 to 7 foot of water and use a zoom finesse worm or a 5 inch lizard in the watermelon seed color fished on a Carolina rig with a 24 inch leader. There are also some good fish being caught off the summer time points and under water islands around the lake. A Carolina rig fished in these areas will get a lot of fish but most will be small.
Lake Sinclair (full, muddy up river, main lake stained, 79 degrees) – “Bass fishing is great. Early mornings have been best for both numbers and quality. Start the morning with moving baits and cover water. Top water baits, such as a white buzz bait or white popper, have been great around concrete sea walls and wood targets in the Oconee River. A weightless trick worm has also been good up shallow around wood cover, sea walls, and docks in the Oconee River. Later in the morning and throughout the day, try a chartreuse and white Buckeye Lures spinner-bait or a Spro Little John crank bait in these same areas. Continue using these moving baits all day if it remains cloudy. If the sun comes out, start flipping a Texas rigged Zoom baby brush hog in June bug color around logs and docks. When Georgia Power is moving water, run to Crooked Creek Bridge or Little River Bridge and toss Spro Little John crank baits and light Texas rigs to the rip rap banks. Take advantage of the current by fishing the rip rap points and bridge pilings as post spawn fish try to fatten back up after the spawn. 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 and Zoom Super Flukes around the docks.” – Matt Henry, www.sinclairmarina.com
West Point Lake (down 2.3 feet, clear, low 80s) – Bass fishing for both spots and largemouth has been very good. Fish for both on primary and secondary points, coves and pockets in the major creeks. Use the Strike King Redemption 3/8 ounce and Bass Pro buzz baits shallow. On the spinner-baits the double willow blade combination. Slow roll the spinner-bait around any cover on the points and in the coves and pockets. The important thing is to cover a lot of water. Fish shallow using very large baits in bright colors. Spots are still spawning and shallow. The spots are holding on shoal markers, humps, and underwater road beds in 0 to 5 feet of water. Several good baits are a green pumpkin or June bug lizard, rigged Carolina style and trick worms. Top water action is starting using a Bang O Lures, Rapala’s, Pop R’s. The bass will be shallow for at least two weeks and then they will head to the 10 to 12 foot depths on humps and road beds up in the creeks.