North Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)

The long weekend is just ahead of us and the weather looks pretty darn good.  We may have to dodge a few pop-up thunderstorms, which are really needed to boost stream flows and reduce water temperatures, but they should not be deal-breakers.  While they might muddy our favorite bass rivers, remaining streams have smaller watersheds and will clear to fishable conditions within a day or so.  Stay connected to USGS river flow gauges and your favorite local tackle shops for current conditions on your targeted waters.  Except for our larger trout waters, which are warming with these air temps in the 80’s, most other fishing opportunities should still be very good. On major reservoirs, fish early or after dark to avoid all other boaters and water skiers enjoying their aquatic playtime, too.   Above all, be safe on the water!

We have an extensive weekend menu to choose from, so take a peek and make a plan.

Heavy Trout StockingDNR and USFWS trout stocking trucks have covered a lot of miles this week to prepare for the hefty weekend crowds. Remember, the DNR list of trout-stocked waters is here. And if your agility isn’t what it used to be, try one of these spots.

To avoid the large crowds at our most popular streams, stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson suggests these lesser known and lighter stocked locales: lower Warwoman, Timpson on USFS land, Wildcat in the gorge below the campgrounds, Winfield Scott and Rock Creek lakes from a canoe or float tube, Upper Soapstone on USFS land, Panther a half mile below 441, upper Toccoa on USFS land, Holcomb below Overflow Road, West Fork Chattooga at 3Forks (take a buddy for safety) Hooch below the USFS head of river campground, Chattooga a mile below Burrells Ford, and Cooper Creek in the Scenic Area.

Trout Tailwaters ‘Heating Up’ – Another Hooch trophy

Toccoa Trip report – Saw your weekly report and the zero dark thirty fishing.  I went out on the Toccoa Tailwater last night (May 14) for the first time in a couple months because of constant flows to get the lake level down. They generated 5-6 pm. I got to water at 7, which was about 15-30 minutes too soon for lowest flows at my place. Nymphing was surprisingly non-productive, so I thought if I was going to not catch fish I might as well be not catching fish on dries. I went back to the Polaris and got the three weight pre-rigged with stimulator, parachute sulphur, and baetis emerger and started the dry fly fishing earlier than I had planned. Well, the fish cooperated from the get-go.  Not sure if it was the switch to dries or if they were just starting to eat. I got a few nice standard stocker sized fish and missed some too. All were on emerger and sulphur. Then a surprising swoosh just before it got dark brought me a nice 20 inch female rainbow… very silver in color with a little rouge on her cheek. Luckily she hit the stimmie, because the 5x and 6x tippet to the droppers would have been a major challenge.  A couple casts after release another swoosh, turn and departure of the fish with my bottom two flies. Bigger than the sister?  I like to think so as I walk back to my Polaris in the dark.

Water temp was 45 degrees when I got in. I was very happy to see that, even though I am relatively close to the dam and the water level had just receded from generation. There were quite a few bugs: caddis, midges, and toward dark mayfly duns size 16-18 or so. Too dark to ID. – Ralph A.

Lake Lanier catfish stringer.

Lake Lanier catfish stringer.

Lake Lanier

Lake Allatoona

Ken’s Lake Reports (updated on Fridays)

Striper Sprinkling Continues – Stocking continues in a “day in the life” of our Fisheries staff, as striped bass are being stocked in reservoirs across the state. Earlier this week, fisheries biologist Patrick O’Rouke, technician Chris Looney and technician Greg Abercrombie stocked 75,000 one-inch striper fingerlings from McDuffie Hatchery into Lake Lanier. These efforts will continue over the next week as striped bass are harvested at McDuffie, Richmond Hill, and Bowens Mill hatcheries and transported for stocking at Lanier and other lakes across the state.

River Ramblings

  • GON Forum
  • Fly Fishing Shoal Bass (video)
  • Dredger waded some Hooch bedrock last night and coaxed four shoal bass to hand with a four inch watermelon worm, Texas-rigged behind a 1/8 ounce bullet on 6 lb test. They were a blast on the ultralight at sunset.
  • Need a boat?

Small Lakes

Late spring is a great time of the year to hit our small lakes, either from the bank or from a canoe or kayak. See the attached lake list.  Go toss some garden worms for bream or catfish, or even stocked trout in Rock Creek Lake, Black Rock, Vogel, Nancytown, or Winfield Scott.  Learn how to flyfish by subtracting moving water and rhododendron complications from your maiden trips.  Tie a nymph dropper on 4 pound test line two feet behind your bream popper, and toss this popper/dropper combo toward submerged trees or boat docks.  Even young kids can give this technique a shot.  It’s a numbers game with beginners, so find a school of small, competitive bream and be the “hero ” to the newbie.

Prime Destination

School’s Out Soon – What to Do?

Don’t despair, there are KFE’s around the corner!  Plan your north Georgia day trips to coincide with one of the many kids fishing events during National Fishing and Boating Week, the first full week of June –

“Goldfish” and Gravel Mounds – It’s that time of the year for calls to our north Georgia offices.  What are they?  Chub nests with other species, like the colored-up yellowfin shiners, looking for a easy ride on a silt-free spawning substrate. All aquatic critters, game and nongame, are important components to our aquatic ecosystems.

Attagirl Ann! Your White County conservation ranger’s recent award.

Unanticipated Copter Ride – Again, your county rangers in action

More Gorge News Special Guests

Aim for Success – Reminder, here’s your chance:

May we all enjoy the  long weekend and pay tribute to our vets on Monday. Tight lines and flag salutes to everyone.

South Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologists Bert Deener, Rob Weller and regional Fisheries staff)

Wyatt Crews with a crappie caught on May 15.

Wyatt Crews with a crappie caught on May 15.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the shellcracker fishing is wide open. Worms worked best for them. Redbreasts were caught off the back sides of sandbars. Some big bream were caught by those fishing crickets around treetops and other cover along the bank. Goldfish fooled channel and flathead catfish. Bass fishing has been great, with plenty of 3 to 5-pounders reported. A few mullet were caught from the river above Jesup. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that the shellcracker bite is on fire, with some caught last weekend approaching a pound. Most anglers brought in 30 to 40 fish. Blue, channel, and flathead catfish were caught in good numbers, as well. The river level was 4.3 feet and falling (83 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.9 feet and falling (77 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 19.

Flint River – The water in the Flint is beginning to clear from the recent rains so fishing for shoal bass and bream should be picking up. Both top water and jig fishing for shoal bass around shallow and deep shoals should be productive. Try pitching crickets or a beetle spin near shoreline cover for bluegill and redbreast. Redbreast are typically found in the swifter areas and the bluegill will be located in calmer pockets of water. Try searching for bedding bream in 2-3 feet of water with low current. Fishing for channel catfish continues to be good with several reports of fish from 3 to 5 pounds being caught on limb lines.

Water levels:

Okefenokee Swamp – Last week, Colin Meeks and his friends Kenny and Morris Smith caught a total of 200 fish from the west side. They had 150 catfish, 25 warmouth, and 25 fliers, along with countless mudfish. They were using crawfish and cut fliers for bait. The flier bite is wide open! I took my family to the east side on Friday evening, and we caught 38 fliers in just over an hour of fishing. All of them ate Okefenokee Swamp Sallies, with yellow being the overall best color. We caught some on pink as the sun got lower on the horizon, but yellow worked the entire time. Michael Winge said that reports from the Folkston entrance were slower than last week because of hot daytime temperatures. Early morning produced the best catches. Warmouth and fliers made up most of the reports. On the west side (Fargo entrance) warmouth were eating crickets and worms. Tons of catfish were caught on worms. Yellow sallies produced most of the fliers.

Satilla River – The river has fallen like a stone, and it is in good shape about everywhere. It has dropped so quickly that it is float trip time in the extreme upper river. If forecasted mid-week rains materialize, the upper river may be boatable again by the holiday weekend. You can hardly go wrong by fishing the river this weekend. Any species you want to catch should bite with the good fishing conditions. The water has cleared to its “coffee without creamer” appearance in the upper river, and the fish have responded well. The DNR staff continued their standardized sampling at sites along the river this week (they stun the fish with electricity, measure and weigh them, and then release them), and they continued seeing a strong redbreast and bluegill population in their samples. I received many reports of great panfish catches this week, with most catches in the 40 to 50 fish range. Crawfish Satilla Spins were the best lures from the reports I heard. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river fishing is as good as it gets right now. Some anglers reported catching crappie on minnows and jigs, which is unusual to have happen at the same time as the redbreast bite is on fire. Many anglers reported catching limits of redbreasts and bream this week. Worms, crickets, and spinnerbaits were fooling them. On Tuesday, an honorable Waycross angler fishing out of the Hwy 121 area caught 19 redbreasts weighing about a pound apiece on a black/chartreuse 1/32-oz. Beetlespin. Crankbaits fooled some good bass this week. Shrimp and rooster livers produced some nice catfish catches. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.5 feet and falling (77 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.6 feet and falling on May 19.

Lake Seminole – The crappie have lockjaw on the rivers, however, a few are being caught in Spring Creek and in Fishpond Drain. There are plenty of shell crackers and bream on bed and there have been reports of several fine catches and/or limits. The lake is currently low so be on the lookout for stump and hazards.

St. Marys River – The best reports originated from the Traders Hill area of the river this week. Anglers caught redbreasts, bream, bass, warmouth, and channel catfish in big numbers. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.5 feet and falling on May 19.

Lake Walter F. George – According to Rick Sacco with the “Friends of Lake Eufaula,” This year’s redear spawn was a bonanza for anglers. The fish were averaging at least 12oz with some specimens around 1.5 lbs. The Corps added an additional 11,000 grass carp, all on the south end of the lake on April 15. Rick is still seeing plenty of  hydrilla on his sonar so he is hoping the carp don’t eradicate it. The largemouth fishery continues to improve. This past Saturday, the Eufaula bass trail ran 50 boats. The top four weighed in 18 – 19 lbs., which was a little low for that group. There is a lot of tournament pressure and the Corps dropped the water level and pulled fish from the littoral grass. Military Bass had a two day event on Thursday and Friday and FLW is in town this week. Lakepoint has maxed out on room for Saturday tournaments. A lot of clubs are holding Sunday tournaments as a result. Rick expects to see a few double digit fish to show up soon at a weigh-in.

Local Ponds –  The bass bite remained strong this week by all accounts. A couple of Waycross anglers fished a local pond on Saturday morning and caught 14 bass to 2 pounds. They caught them on several versions of plastic worms, topwaters, and swimbaits. They even caught one punching a crayfish through vegetation. Chad Lee had another strong week, catching some quality bass on jigs, buzzbaits, and Pop-R’s. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds big bream were the ticket. Worms and crickets fooled most of them, but artificials are starting to produce some nice pond fish. Bass have been eating shiners and topwater frog baits fished around lily pads and other vegetation.

Best Bet – The Satilla River is the place to be this holiday weekend if you like catching redbreasts. The big roosters will be fooled by anglers pitching crickets and casting spinnerbaits, such as Satilla Spins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, and Beetlespins.  The lower tides should produce a good bite for trout and flounder around inshore oyster mounds and creek mouths. I like casting Assassin Sea Shads suspended under Equalizer or Cajun Thunder Floats, but live shrimp will also catch plenty of trout. Flier fishing in the swamp will be great this weekend as the fish get concentrated in the canals. Pitch yellow or pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies (without a float) around vegetation and wood cover. Pond fishing will produce a great trip for a few hours early in the morning and late in the evening. For bass, throw topwaters, while crickets and spinnerbaits should produce bream.

Coast (Saltwater)

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

Whiting were caught just about everywhere people fished this last week. Croakers and flounder bit, as well. Shrimp produced most of the whiting and croakers, while mudminnows were the ticket for flounder. Inshore, oyster bars produced good catches of trout, redfish, and flounder. On the nearshore reefs, anglers have been hammering quality black sea bass. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that croakers were everywhere around the pier. Bottom fishing with shrimp was key to catching them. Trout, flounder, and whiting were also caught in good numbers. Blue crabs showed up around the pier this week. Monitor the marine forecast.