(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Saltwater (seatrout), the Okefenokee (fliers and bowfin), and ponds (crappie) have been producing great and are the bites to key on over the holiday weekend. Last quarter moon is December 3rd. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – Donna at Altamaha Park said that the crappie bite was still ok if you got back in the oxbow lakes, but the river is high. You need to know the good high water spots to be successful – don’t just come and hope to find some. The upper river is still too high for effective fishing, but it is falling back out after the big slug of water from the upper basin. Channel and white catfish catches in the Darien area have slowed but are the best bet on the river. Put a piece of shrimp on the bottom for whiskerfish in the lower river. The river level was 12.9 feet and falling (58 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.7 feet and steady (64 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on November 24th.
Satilla River – The river is fishable for the holiday weekend, and I hope to give it a try this weekend. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the bite was slow this week except for some catfish. He expects the bite to improve as the water continues to fall. The river level on November 24th at the Waycross gage was 7.6 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.0 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – Some big bream were caught with crickets and pink worms over the weekend. Crappie were also caught on minnows and jigs. The catfish bite is still as good as it gets. Shrimp and rooster livers fished on the bottom worked best. The river level at the MacClenny gage on November 24th was 2.6 feet and steady.
Okefenokee Swamp – I took my daughter Ellie and her friend Elisabeth to the refuge (Folkston entrance) on Saturday. We had a blast checking out the exhibits for Pioneer Day and then fished for a couple of hours in the boat before the off-water time of 4pm. We started by flinging Dura-Spins for big fish and were quickly rewarded. We boated 3 nice pickerel to 17 inches, 8 bowfin up to 5 pounds, and a gar as long as my arm. The disappointing thing was that I lost the biggest pickerel (jackfish) that I’ve had hooked in a couple of decades. The whopper was in the 28-29 inch class and jumped and spit the Dura-Spin back at me. Our best color of spinner was the new red/white/yellow version. After about an hour we switched to pitching sallies for fliers. We got very few bites without a float, so all 3 of us switched to using a small balsa float, and we all started catching fish. The most fun was the last 15 minutes when nice fliers were inhaling the fly on every pitch. Some came to the surface to eat it. Most of the fliers were 7-8 inches but our biggest was just shy of 9 inches. The best sally color was pink, and second best was yellow. When the smoke cleared, we had caught 43 fliers. Elisabeth caught her first flier and bowfin on the trip. An active bite is a great way to be introduced to fishing in the swamp! Check out Craig James’ article about warmouth fishing on the swamp in the November issue of Georgia Outdoor News.
Local Ponds – Chad Lee fished an area farm pond on Friday evening and caught 3 bass from 2 to 8 1/2 pounds. They crushed a ribbit frog fished through duckweed. On Saturday he caught 11 bass from 1 to 3 pounds on Rat-L-Traps and ZOOM Ultra-vibe Worms. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, the bass bite has picked up around the full moon for those free-lining shiners. Minnows and jigs produced some good crappie catches, as well.
Dodge County Public Fishing Area – An angler fishing on Thursday whacked the bass. He threw crankbaits around offshore structure and schools of shad to fool 45 bass. Plastic worms and jigs will also work if you cannot get them to chase a crankbait.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – A trio of Waycross anglers fished the Crooked River area on Saturday and caught 30 trout. They had 17 that were keepers. Voodoo shrimp fished under Cajun Thunder Floats did most of their damage, but they did catch a couple on topwaters. The water temperature was still 74 degrees where they fished!!! Michael Winge reported that Waycross angler Raymond West fished out of Blythe Island Regional Park on Monday by himself and loaded the boat. He caught 44 keeper whiting, threw back 14 small ones, and caught and released 9 undersized trout. He only fished 2 hours. What a teaser for the upcoming holiday weekend! Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the blue crabs have been thick under the pier. Trout were caught on both live shrimp and jigs. Sheepshead were around in good numbers and were eating fiddler crabs. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: Trout fishing has to be my recommendation this weekend if the weather cooperates. Temperatures are supposed to be good, but the winds are the issue this time of year. Make sure to check the marine forecast closely before you plan a trip. Crappie should be biting well on warm afternoons. Expect them to eat your minnows or jigs best late in the afternoon as the sun dips below the trees. Swamp fishing should be excellent on warm afternoons. Pitch sallies under a float for fliers and cast Dura-Spins or other spinners and minnow plugs for both jackfish and mudfish.
(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
I hope all of you have a chance to wet a line over the holidays with your families and friends.
Chattooga’s Healing Waters – I recently headed to the Chattooga DH with good friends Bill and Grace Egan, who had just returned from India where they train guides and fly fish for brown trout in the Himalayas of North India. They are in a transition as they are moving back to California after 12 years of living abroad, and part of the reason why they were coming home was to care for Bill’s aging father. Only two days after they returned home last week, Bill’s father passed away, but he did so after spending some great time with Bill and Grace and their three nearly-grown children.
Even though they’ve fished all over the world, their favorite spot on the planet is the Chattooga River. Those of you who have spent time there understand. We spent this past Friday there together, and enjoyed a lot of laughs, some high water, a few chunky fish, and Bill and Grace were even able to both mourn their recent loss and celebrate the life of Bill’s dad through telling stories about him on the drive and on the water. A few tears fell, which added ever-so-slightly to the river’s flow, but they were the tears of good memories of a great man who lived a full life; sweet tears, and not the tears of pain or regret.
At the start of the day, the water was too high to allow a river crossing in most spots. So we hiked in on the Georgia-side road and hiked downstream a bit before working our way back upriver. Bill quickly landed four rainbows and two browns on egg patterns dredged deep in the slowest water he could find. Grace also landed one nice rainbow. In the meantime, I landed two chunky rainbows – one 12” and the other 14” – working a seam between a sandy bank and a deep-green run. Later in the day I added another chunky rainbow, a nice male brook trout, and a standard-sized brown trout that came up for a big foam hopper dry fly that I was really just using as an indicator for the lightning bug nymph I had dropped off of it.
Interestingly enough, the other four fish I landed that day all took one of several variations of the good-ole woolly bugger that I had tied off of about a six-inch tag end of a surgeons knot, which was a few feet above what would normally be my main fly. I had learned this technique the evening before at the Rabun TU meeting in a great presentation on rigging leaders by Steve Hudson. Two of the fish hit the fly when I had a butt section that was tapered down to 20-pound test! That’s what the bugger was tied on to, and they still smashed it!
As a trio we only landed 14 fish all day, and all of those were worked for as we casted multi-fly rigs with plenty of split shot and big indicators to effectively work the high, turbid water. So while the catching wasn’t as active as we had hoped, it was still a great day in a special place with some good friends.
More Chattooga DH Fans – Trouter23 and Dredger waded carefully along the sides of a high (Clayton gauge=2.3), clear river on Saturday afternoon and had a ball with chunky rainbows to 13 inches. A couple of browns added a little spice to their haul. The fish were in any good flood refuge with a little depth and cover: bedrock ledges, side eddies, and deep pools. They smashed “legs and eggs” and olive buggers all afternoon long in the 49 degree water. The key to this trip was arriving late (at lunchtime), once the water warmed a bit and the flow dropped a little more, and then getting the flies down via long leaders and weight, if necessary (bb shot or tungsten head flies). They each did their own thing: Dredger had his steelhead bobber on,
while T23 used his fluorescent Euro rig. And each caught more than enough good’uns throughout the day. The fish switch turned off around 430PM as the sun fell behind the ridge and the water temperature reversed course. A hearty supper at a warm Clayton locale ended one fine day of trouting on the high and mighty Chattooga.
Hot flies for inquiring DH neophytes:
Holiday Spices – In anticipation of heavy fishing pressure associated with the upcoming holiday, WRD Fisheries Section employees in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will stock the delayed harvest trout streams, Vogel State Park and the Lanier Tailwaters. The stockings during the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving will distribute 10,000 trout in North Georgia. The timing of these stockings will hopefully lead to higher catch rates and happy holiday anglers!
John Lee Thomson
Trout Stocking Coordinator, Fisheries
Wildlife Resources Division
Hooch Helper Thanks – Buford Hatchery manager Pat Markey and Gainesville Fisheries Tech Chris Looney want to thank the SEVENTY-FIVE volunteers who came out yesterday (11/24) and assisted with stocking the Hooch DH at Whitewater Park (NPS Palisades East Unit). The high flows should spread the fish out well. Hopefully tailwater flows and turbidity will subside in time for some good weekend fishing. Check on flows before you go, and maybe have a small stream Plan B ready in case the river is still raging Yoohoo.
Arrowhead Bassin’ Report – Dredger,
We cancelled our mountain trout trip last weekend due to high water and the desire to sleep in for once. I ended up going up to Lake Arrowhead to help my Uncle fix his dock. After work was complete, I wound up fishing off the boat at the dock for a few hours. I lost an absolute monster who took my Senko on the sink. Never had a bass jerk and run with my line like that before. He went deep and under the boat and then popped my 10LB test. I ended up with one lone bass in the 2-3# range on wacky rigged Pumpkin Senko. There are some absolute giants up there! I’ve personally seen a school of 5-6 8-10# bass on a few different occasions working baitfish while making s-turns from shallow to deep!
I have an open pass up there so if you ever want to take the Kayak up there to chase some “green fish”, let me know!
– Ron “BigBrowns” Wilson
Shallow Nighttime Stripers – Have been getting out afternoons after work. Fishing from bank on the upper end of Lanier but have been seeing sporadic topwater at last light and after dark. Fish are keying in on 3 inch shad and hitting hard. Lots of fun on a fly rod, just have to pay your dues and scout to find out where!
(Ed note: he who now is gainfully employed!!!!)
Carters – FYI – Spotted bass fishing is “phenomenal” at Carters Lake, according to guide Louie Bartenfield. Attached is a 4 pounder stuffed into a “3-pounder’s” body. Louie sez:
“Spotted bass: jerk baits early on points. Drop shots and jigging spoons later in the day. Live bait fished 25-30 ft. down will tempt both spotted bass and stripers right now.” https://www.facebook.com/Carters-Lake-Guide-Service-170317873014004/
Senior Fisheries Biologist
GA Wildlife Resources Division
Toona White Fish Intel – Looking for some Allatoona “white fish” action this Thanksgiving Holiday?
Survey data this week found hybrid striped bass and striped bass holding in the clear water from Allatoona Dam upstream to the Galt’s Ferry Boat Ramp. Fishing down or free-lined live shad around schooling baitfish should entice lineside bites in this segment of the lake. The survey data also detected a good year class of young stripers in the 1.5-3.0 pound size range. These up-start stripers are mixed in with the hybrids.
White bass are again abundant in Allatoona. Those looking to downsize for these “mini-linesides” should target the narrow Harbortown Marina to Kellogg Creek area of the lake. For the south side angler, decent white bass concentrations were also found from Allatoona Pass (Iron Hill) south towards Glade Marina.
Allatoona surface water temperatures are running around 55F. The “mudline” starts to stain the water around Victoria Marina and intensifies as you head upstream towards Little River and the Etowah River flats. Lineside numbers were low in these stained waters, so focus your efforts where water visibility is good.
– WRD biologist James Hakala
New Fulton County Outdoors Column – http://newslink.northfulton.com/stories/Rivers-Lakes-Trout-Fishing-and-Fun,85068
In fact, Steve just “hatched” a brand new program called, “The Line on Leaders.” If your fishing club needs a program speaker, give Steve a holler!
December 12 Shrimp Party – http://tucohutta.org/current-newsletter/
Ten Dollar Stocking Stuffer – Yes, Virginia, you can stuff a Yellowstone fishing vacation into a Christmas stocking!
Good luck. Sleep off the turkey and then cast a bomber into the Lanier shallows after dark. Check your drag first to ensure you have holiday cheers instead of tears. And remember to set your parking brake, too (link courtesy of midcurrent.com):
Happy Thanksgiving from the WRD fish folks.