(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
*Updated Reservoir Information December 31*
North Georgia reservoirs are extremely high, muddy, and full of floating debris from tributaries that presents significant boating safety risks. For example, all of the floating logs in the open water at Lanier’s Laurel Park megaramp this morning looked like the Allied fleet on D-Day (photo). Several Lake Lanier recreation areas and boat ramps have been closed by the Corps. Think twice before launching a boat right now on our major reservoirs, especially on their upper ends where mud and floating debris present navigation hazards.
(includes ramp closure list)
Southern Company (GA Power):
Helen Hooch Cam (river conditions):
I hope this updated reservoir information is helpful. Be safe until we dry out and get past some of these flood control operations.
While the continued rainfall frustrates all of us north Georgia river and stream fans, there are still some fishing opportunities available on our lakes and ponds. Here are several news briefs to help you if you’re off this week with the family, looking for somewhere to go. Remember, safety first!
*End of Update*
(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
Toccoa- No Go – How high, you ask. Have you seen this pic yet?
Chattooga’s Still High – Good daily Instagram status reports from Karl and Karen along the river:
and the gauge: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?site_no=02176930
Dredger saw several bank anglers carefully fishing the Burrells Ford reach yesterday afternoon (12/27). Thankfully, none of them were wading. He took a look downriver at Highway 28 and decided to keep his waders, rod, and dry, breathing self in the car!
Smith DH Usually Fishable – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=109056
Use the Hooch gauge in Helen as a Smith flow index or call the local fly shop:
Read Up to Prepare for Winter Stream Fishing – http://www.southeastflyfishingforum.com/forum/nimpin-nuggetts-t46480.html
Vogel LakeTrout – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=109049&page=2
Reservoirs and Small Lakes –
Remember that reservoir stripers and hybrids will stay shallow a lot longer on overcast days, and the warm water still has spots and largemouths active. John B reported Charlie Elliott water temps at 63F and some luck (photo) on a pig&jig combo. Size (23 inches) made up for numbers.
Angler Intel Pays Off
I like this “new model” of sturgeon sampling. Anglers call and report seeing sturgeon on the rivers, and then we just go out and get them! Here is the latest one.
A trusted angler contact reported seeing two sturgeon on the Etowah at the end of the day, the week before Christmas. We could not get there until the next morning, but we still shocked up two fish fitting the description given (pics attached). One of them was exactly where the caller said it would be. That fish was 37 inches and 9.5 lbs. The other was much smaller at 25 inches and just under 2lbs. The smaller fish was another tagged fish stocked this fall from the Go Fish Hatchery in Perry.
Many thanks to our anglers for this “intel” leading to successful sturgeon sampling!
WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer
Huge Christmas Present! – LWCF – Good News: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10153867919550159&id=170323695158
Bottom line: try ponds and lakes while our rivers still rage. Watch USGS stream gauges and call local tackle shops to see if and when our smaller mountain streams return to safe, fishable levels. Once they recede, focus on the flood refuges to find schools of survivors.
Good luck as we all “wash” into the new year together.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! The number of reports were still low again this week, but those who went did very well. Trout fishing is still on fire, and the jackfish have started biting. Just as predicted, the catfishing in the lower rivers was excellent. Full Moon is Christmas Day. 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 that the crappie fishing was good in the oxbows before the river started rising. Folks stopped fishing by mid-week because of the rise. Donna at Altamaha Park said that the crappie bite was awesome. Anglers were catching slabs on minnows and jigs, and creels were running between 25 and 30 keepers per boat. The bass bite was decent, and the catfish bite was hot. On Tuesday, a group of young anglers fishing from the dock at the park caught 3 big blue catfish, with the biggest pulling the scales down to 12 pounds. In the Darien area, the channel, blue, and white cats are tearing up shrimp and cut bait. The river level was 7.8 feet and rising (57 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.9 feet and rising (61 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 22nd.
Satilla River – Todd Walker, Chris Royer, and their friends from Douglas made a trek to the lower Satilla at White Oak Creek on Monday. The crew managed 37 and 58 white catfish by putting Catfish Catcher jigheads baited with shrimp out the back of the boat. They caught fish in all the little cuts they stopped at, and loved how the Gamakatsu circle hook set itself into the whiskerfish. Chris made the catch of the day, a 19-inch, 2.97-pound white catfish (that one was big enough for a DNR Angler-Award). The one boat’s 37 catfish weighed 30 pounds – perfect eating size. That trip is typical for that area this time of year. Trips I made with my son and other family and friends this time last year produced about 50 fish per trip. If you want to introduce a child to fishing, there is no better option. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the rising river has significantly slowed the fishing. Before the rise this week, crappie were caught in the oxbows. Even with the rising water, I received several reports of nice crappie catches in the Burnt Fort area. That bite should stay good until next week, but the upriver crappie bite will be tough in the rising water. (Take home message – fish the tidal Satilla for white catfish or crappie, or fish elsewhere!). The river level on December 22nd at the Waycross gage was 10.3 feet and rising (57 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 6.5 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – On Tuesday morning, an angler fishing in the main run caught over 30 crappie and kept 12 big slabs for the frying pan. Catfish are still being caught wherever you put a bait down. Rooster livers and dead shrimp were the most effective baits. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 22nd was 2.2 feet and rising.
Okefenokee Swamp – Almost nobody has been fishing the east side. With the warming trend, the fliers will be tearing it up over the weekend (unless we get significant rains this week – over an inch or so). For fliers, pitch pink or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies under a small balsa float. For jackfish, throw a Dura-Spin along vegetation edges and wood cover. On the west side of the Swamp and upper Suwannee River, the catfish bite has been excellent for those fishing shrimp on the bottom.
Local Ponds – A couple of anglers fishing a Waycross area blackwater cypress lake last Thursday reported catching 5 nice bass on ZOOM flukes and Dura-Spins (jackfish color). They also had a half-dozen nice pickerel (jackfish) to 19 inches on the same two lures. Michael Winge said that Waycross area ponds are the best places to try your luck this weekend. Anglers reported catching lots of crappie and catfish. John Deere Jiffy Jigs and minnows produced the crappie, while pink worms and shrimp fooled the catfish. A good number of bream reportedly ate crickets. Shiners were tops for bass, according to reports.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – In the Brunswick area, the hot trout bite continued and the redfish bite picked up again. Lots of 18 to 20-inch trout were caught around St. Simons Island by those using live shrimp at the mouths of creeks along the ICW. The back side of Cumberland Island also produced some great redfish catches. Anglers fishing the nearshore reefs got into some big schools of redfish this week. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the big redfish bite took off over the weekend. Fish up to 40 inches were caught from the pier on cut bait. Whiting, black sea bass, and black drum were also reported. Blue crabs are still around the pier. If you want to cast-net some eating shrimp, do it soon, as the season ends on New Year’s Eve. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The white catfish bite on the lower rivers was awesome this week. Most boats caught around 50 fish per boat (some caught even more….). Catfish catcher jigheads baited with a little piece of shrimp worked great. That bite should continue to be excellent into the New Year. Flier fishing and jackfishing at the Okefenokee is another excellent option. Pitch yellow or pink sallies for the fliers, and fling “jackfish” colored Dura-Spins for jackfish. Dragging minnows around your favorite lake for crappie is a third option. If winds allow, trout fishing has been and should continue to be off the chain.
Chris Royer of Douglas caught this 19-inch, 2.97-pound white catfish on a Catfish Catcher Jighead and a piece of shrimp. The fish he caught from White Oak Creek on the Satilla River was big enough to earn him an Angler Award from the Georgia DNR.