(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
The December holidays are nearly here, which means that our target species will be approaching “full winter mode.” Anglers will have to change their tactics to extend their success into the new year. Water temperatures will continue to drive sport fish behavior and should also guide the locations and times of day that anglers choose to focus on. Right now we have a nice string of warm days, which will help everyone’s catch rates as long as this stretch lasts. But as we return to seasonally cooler air and water temperatures, we’ll have to slow down and sink those baits, lures, and flies in order to bump our intended targets in the nose. Here we go:
Good Winter Trouting Advice –
- There are some nuggets of knowledge in this recent trip report about chasing cold-blooded critters in two states.
- Winter tips from experts here:
Forlorn Trout Fishers – High flows in our larger streams, like the Hooch and Toccoa DH reaches, have a lot of our trout anglers frustrated.
Dredger’s advice: go with the flow. Here are some alternatives:
1) Fish smaller DH waters with smaller watersheds that return quickly to fishable flows;
2) Try a float tube or pontoon boat on DH waters, like Toccoa DH, that haven’t yet returned to wadeable flows. Don’t forget PFD’s and a dry change of clothes in the car;
3) Fish the upper Hooch Tailwater;
4) Toss the toon into Vogel Lake and try some trouting there;
5) Remember the change to year-around trout season in Georgia and try some small wild trout streams. Dry fly action will be sparse, but fish should still hit some dredged nymphs on sunny afternoons.
6) Aim for spots and stripers on area reservoirs.
High flows present a challenge, but they sure beat droughts. And we are not tying flies and waiting for spring, like many Rocky Mountain folks are doing while it’s 20 degrees with 30 mph winds in Wyoming. We are FISHING. Adapt and overcome!
Hooch Help Wanted Again – WRD is in need of volunteer bucket toters for the holiday Delayed Harvest trout stocking at Whitewater Creek on the Chattahoochee River.
Stocking will be Tuesday, December 22 at 10 am. Please bring boots, a 5-gallon bucket (editor’s note: preferably with a kid attached to it), and a signed DNR Volunteer Waiver. A blank waiver is attached. Thanks for everyone’s consideration. VOLUNTEER WAIVER RELEASE Form_5-25-11
– Chris Looney – Fisheries Technician, Fisheries Management
More Holiday Stockings – GAWRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson said that state and federal hatchery elves plan to spice up DH waters and Vogel Lake the week before their big sleigh ride home to the North Pole.
Chattooga DH Reports –
- Dredger and a new, streamside fishing buddy hit the river on Sunday afternoon (12/6) and had a big time. The key was getting the fly down along the bottom in “flood refuges” where fish have been relcated since the November monsoons. Long leaders of light line sliced through the water column and allowed the heavily weighted flies (tungsten or split shot) to bounc along the bottom. Hot patterns were Big T’s fancy olive leech and the Oreck Easy Egg. Water temp was 45F around noon and likely rose a few degrees in the hours that followed. Fleece pants over the fishing pants, along with two pair of thick wool socks, optimized the anglers’ wading time. Fish hit hard and fought hard for them.
- Report #2: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=108621&page=2
An Excited Apprentice Dredger – Hey Jeff! This is Susie from the Georgia Women’s Flyfishers! My friend Anna and I practiced the ‘drag free drift’ and some other amazing fishing tips up at Smith’s Creek a few weeks ago! The practice paid off. Some friends from GWFF and I went to Big Snowbird Creek in Robbinsville, NC over Thanksgiving and I caught 30 fish in two days!!! OMG!!! Never in my life!!! Oh, and I caught all these using my grandfather’s old automatic fly reel for the first time!
Good Manners Help Make Fishing Friends – http://www.fly-fishing-colorado.com/fishing-etiquette/
Cool Carters Fish Story (Big Striper) –
Our Carters Experiment – “The Great Hybrid Haul – A Cross State Journey”.
Staff from WRD’s Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery recently transported and stocked 8,100 juvenile hybrid striped bass into Carters Lake in northwest Georgia. A small convoy of trucks and tank trailers was used to haul the 2,200 pounds of 8 inch fish from the hatchery, located near Savannah, across the state to Carters Lake. The fish arrived in excellent condition and now call Georgia’s deepest lake home. Most hybrid stockings across state are carried out in the spring months. This unique, late fall stocking was done to take advantage of better water quality conditions than are typically experienced at Carters in the spring. As such, these hybrids should experience better survival – a plus for anglers in the coming years. Learn more about the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery and fishing opportunities at Carters Lake at: http://www.georgiawildlife.org/Hatcheries/RichmondHill
-WRD Senior Biologist Jim Hakala
Toona Report – http://forum.gon.com/showthread.php?t=859515
Lanier Bass –
Sturgeon Sampling – On 12/3/15, Fisheries Biologist John Damer responded to a call from a concerned angler regarding a lake sturgeon that had become trapped inside the lock at the Mayo Lock and Dam Park on the Coosa River near Rome (Floyd Co.). Damer was able to successfully capture this 39-inch sturgeon and release it safely above the lock, along with another smaller (24-inch) sturgeon. Damer suspects that these two fish had become trapped in the lock while seeking refuge from rising flood waters.
- The Guru and Dredger gave Lanier a fling after work on Friday night. They found some bait under dock lights in Longwood Park and cast clousers on sinking lines along the edges of the illuminations. One twelve-inch striper was caught and released along with an unusual flyfishing target. Dredger remarked, “anyone can catch a striper” as he unhooked a one-pound channel catfish from the clouser. Sounds like he was pretty desperate for some action…
- Chaz Williams caught this nice Walleye December 5th 2015 fishing with Capt. Ken West of Big Fish On Guide Service. He took a Blueback Herring at 38 feet over a 40 foot bottom. He was hanging out under a school of Stripers!
Lanier Striper Tips – Henry’s December strike indicators= dock lights and birds!
Thanks for buying your licenses and fishing tackle that fuel our fisheries programs. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the GAWRD Fisheries Management staff!
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas parties and other details, the number of reports this week dropped off sharply. Those who went in area ponds and the St. Marys River did great. The warm spell that we are in should have lots of fish chowing this weekend. New Moon is December 11th. 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 about the only thing going this weekend. Minnows were catching some slabs at the mouths of oxbows and creeks off the main river. The river level was 7.5 feet and falling (56 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.3 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on December 8th.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river is in good shape, and anglers fishing in the Blackshear Bridge (Hwy 84) area have been catching a fair number of crappie. Minnows and blue jigs produced best. The most productive areas have been the mouths of sloughs. Topwater lures produced some good bass during the warming trend this week. The river level on December 8th at the Waycross gage was 8.1 feet and rising (59 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.8 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – An angler fishing in the main river with crickets caught 57 keeper fish (8 redbreasts, 6 crappie, 2 catfish, and 41 of the biggest bream you could want) this week. Catfishing has remained excellent, with folks catching them everywhere. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 8th was 2.2 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – I didn’t receive specific reports this week, but I’m sure the flier bite is still on fire like it was for my son and Ron and Nathanael Johnson last weekend. We fished the east side for 1 1/2 hours and landed 58 fliers. These warm afternoons are exactly what it takes to get the fish fired up like that. Pitching yellow or pink sallies suspended underneath a float has been the best way to fool the tasty panfish. The bite should be ridiculously good this weekend, and expect the pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish) bites to be in fire in the warm afternoons. If they get active, it will be hard to beat casting a Dura-Spin down the middle of the canal and reeling it back. The twisting, flashy action has been irresistible to jackfish and bowfin this fall.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds crappie were biting well. Minnows produced the most, but jigs also fooled some nice slabs. White and tan mini jigs were tops for artificials. Pink worms and rooster livers produced some solid catfish stringers.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – A Waycross angler fished walk-in accesses in the Burnswick area on Saturday morning and fooled a half-dozen nice trout (to 18 inches) and a doormat flounder. He cast-netted finger mullet and used them on a Carolina rig. In the Brunswick area, boaters reported catching trout and redfish from creeks protected from winds. Michael Winge reported that saltwater anglers this week had a slow go because of the strong northeast winds. A few trout and redfish were reported by those who went. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the wind slowed the number of anglers, but quite a few puppy drum were landed from the pier on Monday. Dead shrimp fooled the fish. Lots of nice-sized blue crabs were still around. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The warm spell we are in should cause fish to put the feed bags on in the smaller, shallower systems that will heat up quickly. The Okefenokee and ponds are where I would concentrate this weekend. Crappie and bass fishing should be great on warm afternoons as fish move shallow to feed in the low light. If winds moderate, expect the trout bite to be good on warm afternoons. The trout are still fairly scattered, so you will probably catch a fish or two about everywhere you stop.