North Georgia

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

Lake Lanier catfish

Target some catfish this holiday weekend, like this one caught on Lake Lanier.

July 4th is here, so it’s time for all north Georgia anglers to launch into “full summer mode” with our angling techniques and targets. The controlling factors for our success is, first and foremost, water temperature, and secondly, reduced sunlight. For trout, we’ll head way up high in elevation or tuck in behind a really big dam (Buford or Blue Ridge) that has stored up winter water. We fish early, when the water is coldest, or at least hit the shade. Summer sport fish don’t like a high sun that paints a bulls-eye on their backs for predators like ospreys, herons, otters, and bigger fish. Instead of running away from summer showers, seasoned trouters run toward them to catch the cool, muddy water and the earthworm hatch. In fact, take a look at last year’s advice on warm weather “hatches” and give some of these tips a try again this summer. Remember to use heavier line when those trophies can’t see your line in the muddy water, and you’ll increase your odds of landing that trout of a lifetime. You’ll also play and land them quicker, which is good for summer fish health.

Better yet, we’ll turn away from trout for a little while! Try switching species and have a blast this summer. Here are some examples: river bass, river bream, carp, gar, summer stripers, pond catfish, bream, and bass.

Chattahoochee gar

Gar caught on a fly in the Chattahoochee.

River anglers must work around muddy water created by these heavy summer showers. Water clarity really seems to control the bass and bream bite. Watch the USGS streamflow gauges and call local shops for the latest intel on water clarity. Muddy rivers are basically shut down, except for catfish, but turbid waters, where visibility is a foot or two, can still fish well when anglers cast toward the shady shallows. Landon and the Guru have had some very successful prospecting for upper Hooch shoal bass in between these storms by employing the shady shallows technique. Guru reported seven bass to 16 inches Tuesday night on a chartreuse Boogle Bug popper. Dredger tossed a chartreuse Clouser into a turbid Hooch last week and connected with nine shoals to 16 inches. (Secret weapon was finn chartreuse raccoon)

Many seasoned trouters now switch targets completely and aim for these bass and bream, and even some other summer trophies like carp and gar. Dredger tossed a gar fly into the Hooch on Sunday evening and found a nice trophy that pulled hard and jumped a couple times. A three foot fish going airborne is a sight to behold! Grab a seven or eight weight rod and try tossing these miniature wet mops at the next school of gar you spot on the lake or up the river. If it pulls, it’s fun, right?

Savvy river anglers will also locate summer thermal refuges for migrating reservoir stripers and toss some big lures or baits (where legal) at dawn or dusk.

Small lake anglers should aim for mornings and evenings, and hit either the shady shallows or some deep structure. Overhanging limbs are bug factories, and some nice bream and bass will move under them early and late in the day to pick off the hapless bugs that plop onto the water surface. Kids, zebco’s, and crickets are a summer recipe for success. Some forked sticks, nightcrawlers or chicken livers, and an evening campfire might be another great way of enjoying a weekend night. The catfish fillets will be an added bonus as you make summer vacation memories with your family and friends. Try a Forest Service or state park lake near you soon.

Coldwater die-hards can still get a great trout fix. The Hooch and Blue Ridge tailwaters are still stocked and the water is cold. Some good reports continue from those two locales.

If it rains and the tribs muddy up the mainstream, head upstream and get close to the dam to discover clear water. Bluelines will fish great for small, wild fish as long as mountain anglers don their camo, grab a short rod, and employ their best stealth techniques. Stocker anglers have a bunch of streams to choose from, as DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stock nearly all of the waters on our master trout stocking list for July 4th holiday crowds.

Some helpful summer trouting hints include: fishing upstream reaches where the water is colder at high elevation, fishing the mouths of cold tributaries (especially in small, spring-stocked lakes that are now heating up) fishing the first couple hours after dawn, and downsizing baits, hooks, and line diameter to fool picky fish in low, clear water. One-third of a nightcrawler on a size 10 or 12 hook, attached to some four pound test fluoro with no split shot, is hard to beat. If they spook when you wade and fish upstream like you normally do, try slipping in quietly way above them, flip open the bail, and feed your bait or fly downstream to that prime debris jam. Big hoppers will high-grade your catch, as the smaller fish won’t be able to choke down a big hopper.

Reservoir anglers now have to dredge deep for most of their targets. Thermoclines are setting up and a lot of species are aiming for the depths providing their preferred combos of water temperature and dissolved oxygen. The guide reports in Ken’s weekly bulletin (below) do a great job of describing trends for deepwater prospecting, with a little bit of topwater tossed in too. Fish early to avoid the majority of recreational boaters that share our public lakes; most sleep in a bit and therefore give you a chance to fish those magic dawn hours.

If we pick our times, places, and techniques carefully, there will be some fishing fireworks on our horizon. Enjoy the weekend. May a bulldogging shoal bass or tailwalking gar make you glad you woke up early, slathered on the bug repellant and sunscreen, and said, “let’s Go Fish Georgia.”

Central Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)

Clarks Hill Lake (clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  Bass are relating to deep water and are coming up to feed during the major feeding times.  During the mid-day feeding period there is some surface activity.  Use the Pop R and the Rico in shad and take an olive green Shad Rap and work it with short jerks all the way back to the boat.  Some of these bass will break the surface in twenty to forty feet of water so don’t be afraid to cast off the other side of the boat into deeper water.  Locating a long narrow run-out point on your map will be a good place to start fishing the first thing in the morning.  Also continue to fish those stump rolls in twelve to twenty feet of water with big spinner baits, Rapala DT14, jigs or Carolina rigs.  Getting the crank baits down and letting them bounce off any structure will usually trigger a strike.


Jackson Lake (down 1.9 feet, clear, 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  Fish deep structure in or near the main lake or seek cooler water up the rivers. Target main lake points the bluffs any hump at 12 to 15 feet with brush, bridge pilings and docks.  Put to use shaky 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.  We may see more Mayfly hatches resulting in shallow fishing opportunities.  Bream move up on the insects and big bass move up on the bream.  The hatches are off and on, but the possibility exists that we will see some more hatches.  When the hatch concentrates, it is a prime opportunity to catch quality fish in shallow warm water.  Many baits may catch them, but top-water fishing with a Rico or Pop R can be hard to beat.  Also try swimming a green jig.  Look up the rivers, late in the afternoon for possible hatches.  Good fish can bite at night on the lights.

Marben PFA – Largemouth Bass: July is the time of year when bass are moving into deep water and typically stay there most of the day.   However, anglers willing to test the waters in early morning or right before sunset might be surprised with a bass being caught in the shallows.  Anglers have been most successful with shaky head lures and top water baits in early morning and late evening.

Bream: Bream are the most popular fish targeted this time of year.  The best thing about bream is that this fish will hit a variety of bait.  Right now, meal worms are proving the most successful bait.  However, there have also been reports of anglers using micro lures to catch hand-sized bream.  Most of the bream caught have been in six to eight feet of water.

Catfish: When the other fish begin to slow, anglers will often turn their attention to catfish at Marben PFA.  Catfish are reported being caught throughout the day.  Based on angler reports, Bennett is the current “hot” lake.  Anglers are most successful using worms.  A handy shade tree seems to be important too!

Crappie: Crappie fishing is just slow during mid-day but tends to pick up as late evening approaches.  Anglers using live minnows and yellow jigs are the most successful.  Try fishing cover approximately 8-10 feet.

  • Remember early morning and late evenings are the best times at Marben PFA.
  • Temperatures are extremely hot at Marben PFA.  Sunscreen and plenty of water are highly encouraged. Don’t forget the picnic lunch!!

Additional Information:

McDuffie PFA – 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.  In Jones bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert.  The lake with most potential is Willow for quality and quantity.  Willow Lake has big bass but fishermen must be prepared or risk being broken off in the underwater structure.  The bass have begun feeding on shad early in the mornings and late evenings in Willow and Breambuster.  Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month.  Rodbender is open for the next 14 days but will close at sunset on the 15th. This lake has been setup for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass.   June is usually an excellent top-water bait month with soft baits falling in the number two spot.

Bream:  Good – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Willow, Clubhouse and Jones for good catches.   The Bream should be on bed during this full moon and 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. Our local fly fishermen are catching aggressive bream on artificial nymphs, flies and bugs near shore and structure.

Channel Catfish:  Good – Best ponds have been Breambuster, Beaverlodge, Bridge, Willow and Jones.  Catfish are still feeding as they prepare to spawn and water has reached above 80 degrees.  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.   Smaller stripers will keep anglers busy in Bridge Lake as fishermen fish for catfish and bream on the bottom using worms and chicken liver.  The stripers have not begun feeding on the shad near the surface.

Additional Information:

Lake Oconee (full, stained up rivers, light stain on main lake, 87-92 degrees) – Bass fishing is fair.  A buzz-bait fished on the sea walls and rip rap at first light is still a good way to start your day.  Next move to the boat docks in water from 5ft. to 10 ft. deep and work a shaky head under these docks.  If Georgia Power starts pulling water move to the bridge rip raps with a crank bait or spinner bait and work the down-lake side of the bridge.  Some fish are starting to show up on the humps on the south end of the lake and in Richland Creek.  A Carolina rigged worm fished on these humps will draw a strike.  You can also use a large crank bait and work the down lake side of the humps.

Crappie fishing is good.  The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves.  They have moved into the timber and you can find them with your Lowrance in the top of the trees.  When you find them drop a live minnow into the school and start catching.

“Striper fishing is good.  There is a good top-water bite for the first two hours of day light.  Use a popping cork or an inline spinner.  When the top-water stops use your umbrella rigs on the main lake points and humps to pick up the larger fish.” – Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service

Lake Russell (clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  Now it is time to head offshore as the fish go to the usual summer pattern.  Top water Chug Bugs are still working early off the points and in the mouth of the larger coves.  Fish the upper end around Pickens Creek and look for some schooling fish.  In the very back of Pickens Creek and at the bridge at Sanders Ferry there are all spots.  Use the flukes and the 85 Sammy and anything in shad patterns.  Beaver Dam Creek from the mouth to about midway back is still producing nice bass.  Early in the morning start off with the top water Chug Bugs and alternate with suspending Shad Raps in the natural shad color.  One substitute for the RS Shad Rap will be the no. 5 jointed Shad Rap.  Either one is producing but make sure you throw the natural shad color.  Work the islands and all the points at the mouth of Beaver Dam and even up the Savannah under the RR Bridge for about a mile.  No need to travel any further than a couple of miles from the 72 ramp for some good fishing.  Later in the day use the Zoom finesse worms.  Rig them on a 3/16 ounce bullet weight Texas rig.

Lake Sinclair (full, stained up river, main lakeclear, 91 degrees) – “Bass fishing is fair.  The warm weather and increased boat traffic from the holiday weekend made things a little tough.  The best pattern right now is fishing deeper docks, brush piles, and offshore structure. Focus on water depths of 14 to 18 feet each day to be most successful.  A Buckeye spot remover shaky head with a black Zoom trick worm has worked really well this week.  Skip this shaky head under the docks or drag it slowly through deep brush piles.  Long points or brush covered humps that drop in the river channel have been productive as well.  A Spro Little John DD crankbait and a Buckeye football jig will produce fish on these offshore locations.  A top-water bait can still produce early and late or when you have low light conditions.  This bite can be incredible when the mayflies hatch. A great lure choice for top water would be a buzz-bait or a Spro Bronzeye frog.  As always on Lake Sinclair, the bite gets better when Georgia Power is generating current.” – Matt Henry, Sinclair Marina

West Point Lake (full, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is good.  Fish are really spread out in two groups.  The top-water bite is on fire first thing in the morning on points and lay downs.  Buzz baits, Spooks, and Pop R’s are producing when cast very close to cover and then slowly worked back to the boat.  There are a few May fly’s left going up the river that are producing some better fish early in the day as well.   Pitch jigs close to over-hanging limbs with bream present.  These fish have been highly pressured so work the bait slowly.  The strike zone will be in the first five feet of the over-hanging limbs.  Once the sun is high focus on docks and lay-downs near the mouth of pockets with a green pumpkin Z-Man floating worm.  The Z-Man floating worm will stand up on a 1/8 or 3/16 ounce shaky head so do not be afraid to let this bait soak to catch larger fish.  The best points and lay-downs are from the 109 bridge north going up the river.  During generation periods use deep diving crank baits on humps and road beds.  You can load the boat quick with some really heavy weights during these periods of generation.