(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Christmas shopping and family outings have fishing on hold for most folks lately. The number of anglers was low this week, but anglers who went did well in the warm spell we have had. Trout fishing was excellent, and catfishing in the lower rivers was also good. First quarter moon is December 18th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported decent catches of crappie in the Jesup area. Fishing minnows in the mouths of creeks and oxbow lakes produced the fish. Donna at Altamaha Park said that the crappie bite was still tops, with most anglers catching between 10 and 25 fish per trip. Minnows produced the best catches. The coming cooler weather should fire the crappie bite up even more. The river level was 5.0 feet and falling (61 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.9 feet and falling (62 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 15th.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie bite in the lower river is great. Buckets of specks were caught with minnows in the Burnt Fort area this week. Catfish, bream, and crappie were caught in the Waycross area. Some bass were fooled with crankbaits and ZOOM speed craws (mostly fished Texas-rigged). I love fishing the White Oak Creek and Woodbine areas of the river for white catfish this time of year. Last December we had several dozen white catfish per trip. Put a piece of shrimp on the bottom (I like using Catfish Catcher Jigheads for simplicity) at the mouth of a creek or rice ditch on the outgoing tide, and it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get in the winter time. The river level on December 15th at the Waycross gage was 7.0 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.7 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – Bream were eating crickets, and some crappie were caught with minnows. The catfish bite is still hot anywhere you drop a piece of shrimp. This is the time of year when the white catfish bite is off the chain. Fish the tidal areas with shrimp, and you will fill a cooler. Expect the outgoing tide to produce the best catches. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 15th was 2.1 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – Very few people fished the swamp this week, but the reports I received were that the flier bite was strong for those pitching sallies and catfish were caught by bottom fishing with shrimp. The catfish bite will likely not be affected by the coming cooler weather, but the flier will likely slow some for the first day or two after the cold front.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds the crappie bite was as hot as the temperature was on Sunday. Minnows and jigs produced slabs over the weekend. Crickets produced good creels of bream, while pink worms and shrimp accounted for good catfish catches. Free-lined shiners accounted for some nice bass.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – In the Brunswick area, the trout bite was on fire this week. Angler reported catching fish from 14 to 22 inches, and most ate live shrimp. Lots of sheepshead were caught with fiddler crabs from among the bridge pilings. Bank anglers reported catching some trout from accesses along the St. Simons Island Causeway. Michael Winge reported that Waycross saltwater anglers did better for trout and redfish this weekend since the northeast winds subsided. Fishing live shrimp around creek mouths was the best presentation. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that sheepshead were caught from the pier pilings with barnacles and fiddler crabs. The convictfish were 4 to 6 pounds apiece. Lots of black drum ranging from 14 to 16 inches were caught. Quality-sized blue crabs were still caught in fair numbers from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The white catfish bite on the lower rivers is going to be excellent even with the cooler weather this weekend. Crappie fishing in ponds and lakes should be another good option this weekend. Winds will likely be strong behind the front, but if saltwater is fishable, trout fishing is another great option.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)
Lake Russell (down 2.5 feet, clear & upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. There are schools of fish half-back in the main lake coves and creeks and shallow, although some fish are deeper in the clearer water. Crank baits are fair and the Shad Raps, RS Shad Raps, Bandit and Bomber Model A in shad patterns and chrome and blue have been working. Spinner baits are catching a few fish around wood cover but this will slow down with the cold fronts. Try a 3/8 ounce bait in chartreuse and white with gold Colorado blades. Jigs are catching bass. Try a 3/8 ounce jig by Strike King Pro Model in black and blue, brow or solid black. Add a Zoom Salty Chunk or Pro Chunk or a #11 pork chunk. Work the bait slowly through any wood cover and around rocks. Texas-rigged worms are also producing a few fish but work out from 10 to 20 feet or more and along the sides of humps and points. The Lowrance Structure Scan and Down scan technology will help anglers fish where the fish are instead of fishing what “looks good”. Carolina rigs and spoons are the primary choices along with jig-head and worm, jigs, and tail spinners.
Clark Hill (down 4.1 feet, upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Bass have scattered at a variety of depths, but many will move very shallow. Late in the day, bass may be found holding in little over a foot of water, in or near the shade of a dock or other cover. Rocks are key structure to look for. Try some power fishing later in the day; throw a shallow or mid depth crank around rock. Try a Bandit 100 and 200 or a Mann’s Minus 4. A spinnerbait should also be good for an active morning bite if not through the day. Try a ½ ounce white and nickel blade bait. You should probably keep it moving slowly. Plastics should be worked as well and use the trick worm and jig-head. Try the medium size Zoom Dead Ringer on a light Texas rig. Watermelon seed works best.
Lake Oconee – (full, the main lake is stained, clearing on the south end), Richland Creek (clear, 55 to 59 degrees)
Striper and hybrid report by Mark Smith of Reel Time guide service: phone 404-803-0741 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bass fishing is fair. The fish are still in the back of the creeks and pockets off of the main lake. Lipless crank baits, rattle traps, fished around docks in the middle to back of these creeks and coves have been producing some of the better fish over the past week. A chartreuse spinner bait fished around wood as well as rock has also produced fish. Try small crank baits fished around docks as well as the bridge rip rap in Lick and Sugar creeks.
Striper fishing is great. The stripers are in the major coves and creeks looking for bait, and cleaner water. Use your Lowrance to locate the schools of bait in the creeks and drop a live bait down in to the fish. Live bait and spoons have both been producing over the past week.
Crappie fishing is good. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. Long lines with double jigs trolled at 1mph has been the best producer over the past week. Any jig with chartreuse in it will work. Some of the fish are also on the ledges in 15 to 20 feet of water and minnows fished on down lines will produce good catches.
West Point Lake (down 6.2 feet, stained & upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. The fish are hard pattern. Expect the patterns to change as we get more cold fronts. Most of the bass have been caught early on shallow crank baits along main river banks and just inside the mouth of coves at 3 to 5 feet deep. Use the Bandit 100 in spring craw chartreuse, Rapala Shad Rap RS #4 in fire tiger, shallow Thunder Shad in root beer chartreuse and Norman Baby N in sun perch. A ¼ ounce Rat L Trap can also produce. The bass may drop back slightly deeper with the water temperature dropping. If that happens, slightly deeper baits will be needed. Some to try are Shad Rap RS #5, Bomber Model A #6 & #7, Bandit #200 & #300 and Rapala DT10. Dock fishing hasn’t produced well. Right now the best bet is to use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology to help find the structure and if the bass are there, the machines will show them. A Stanley 5/16 or 7/16 ounce jig in black and blue with a Zoom Salty Chunk could produce some large fish around docks with brush under them. Carolina rigs are still catching fish from primary and secondary points. Try a Zoom Finesse worm in green pumpkin on a 3 foot leader with a half-ounce weight. More fish are showing up deep in the clearer water down lake. Look for these fish along the sides of points and humps that have lots of shad present. Depths are varying from 15 to 30 feet deep. Try a Hopkins Shorty 75 in chrome and gold. Carolina rigs and drop shot rigs are also worth trying.
Lake Sinclair (down 3.37 feet, mid 60’s) – Bass fishing is fair. The bass are still biting fairly well and the most consistent pattern this week has been covering water with crank bait. The crank bait bite is fair around the docks. Chartreuse SPRO Little John crank baits have been good on rocky points and near concrete sea walls in the Oconee River arm. These crank baits have been catching both quality and quantity the last couple of weeks. As always a shaky head has been a good producer around outside dock posts and brush piles. Right now the best bet is to use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology to help find the structure and if the bass are there, the machines will show them. The Buckeye Spot Remover is a good choice and use a June bug colored Zoom Trick Worm on the shaky head. Fish are schooling up around the creek mouths down lake in 20 to 25 feet deep water around large schools of bait. Large numbers of fish can be caught this time of year by dropping on these fish with jigging spoons and drop shot rigs.
Jackson Lake (down .9 feet, stained & upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Use a #5 Shad Rap and fish the rocky points down lake. Be sure to cast right up on the rocks. Also try the smaller Bandit as well as the Rapala DT7 Flat and bump these baits along the bottom and off of the stumps and rocks. This will usually trigger a strike. Start off by fishing the windblown banks first. The steady blowing wind will keep the bait fish in tight and the bass will feed on them on and off all day long. Drop shot rigs are working with the Morning Dawn color worm the best one for the lake. Have a Flex It 5/8 ounce white jigging spoon ready all day for any schools of fish that are tight on the bottom.
Ocmulgee River – Bass fishing on the Ocmulgee below Lake Jackson is good. Pick a day when water levels are between 4.2 ft. and 5.5 ft. on the USGS gage below Jackson. Look for slow water along the banks for largemouth and spotted (Alabama) bass. Shoal bass are still found in faster water near structure. Black and blue jig and pigs were the ticket this past Saturday morning. This is the time of year that the biggest bass seem to be biting best!
Big Lazer PFA – Largemouth bass: Slow – a few small bass are being caught. Plastic-worms fished around the deep water by the picnic area and around the newly repaired fishing pier may produce a few good bites. Remember to fish plastic baits slower now that water temperatures are cooler.
Crappie: Poor- A few crappie are being caught in 10-12 feet of water on minnows.
Bream: Ok- Bream fishing has been ok lately on pink and red worms. Several are being caught around the new fishing pier. Also, target areas that have structure like woody brush and blow downs associated with it. In the fall, the best strikes maybe in water 6 to 8 feet deep. Live bait may produce a few late season bream. Fishing with light tackle can make bream fishing more exciting. However, make sure the hooks are small because the bream have small mouths.
Channel catfish: Poor- the catfish bite has been slow even around the dam area. However, you may get lucky using livers at or almost at the bottom and at several different locations around woody structures and the rocks around the dam.
In general, the weather has turned colder and the bite has become less consistent. Anglers have to be more patient and persistent to have a good catch. However, fall weather means many anglers are hunting this time of year thus less fishing pressure for the dedicated angler. Finally, the repair work on the old wooden fishing pier has concluded and is ready for use. Some of the fishing pier’s upgrades include sitting benches, rod holders, shelves for tackle, and gaps in the railing for landing fish.
Additional information at http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/BigLazer
McDuffie PFA – Largemouth Bass: Fair. Fishermen are still fishing on the nice winter days and the bass are still biting. Several keeper bass have been caught out of Willow Lake which remains the lake with most potential for quality and quantity and receives most of the fishing pressure for bass. Rodbender, the trophy bass pond is closed until January first (1st). This lake has been setup with multiple bait species for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass. Also, Rodbender receives additional female bass stockings when the fish are available. McDuffie PFA and Hatchery staff stocked golden shiners in Rodbender so using a shiner type imitation may produce some strikes. The diehard bass fishermen are still fishing with hopes of hooking into a McDuffie PFA lunker.
Bream: Fair. No reports of fishermen catching bream. The Bream can still be found around structure and aquatic plants as the weather cools but will be near deep water. The best baits for catching bream are still meal worms/red wigglers/worms fished deep in the lake channels as the water cools. Patience and finding the bream locations is the key catching bream during cold weather.
Channel Catfish: All lakes with the exception of Rodbender have been restocked with catchable size channel catfish. Catfish were biting great this past weekend and several large fish over 7 pounds were caught. The catfish bite should be good until water temperatures drop below 50 degrees. The best fishing is on the bottom in shallow to deep water using chicken liver, worms, stink-baits.
Striped Bass: No reported striper catches. Stripers like cooler temperatures and the cooler the better. Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse Lakes. Stripers will be chasing bait during winter months.
Additional Information: http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/McDuffie