(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)
Lake Russell (down 3.2 feet, clear & upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is slow. The bass will be tight in any shallow brush out to the ends of the points mid to lower lake. Carolina rigs with green pumpkin Zoom lizard will work. Use one rod with a 4-inch lizard and one rod with a 6-inch lizard and find out what the bass like. Use the Lowrance CHIRP Sonar and the Lowrance Down beams to see the fish close to the bottom. Run HIGH or MEDIUM CHIRP along with regular 200 kHz or 83 kHz beams to locate the schools of baitfish. Find the bait fish, find the bass. Look for the clouds of baitfish in the month of the creeks and at the opening of the coves. Baitfish should also be found around the humps in the middle of the lake. When you locate the baitfish, take a Flex It spoon in the 5/8 ounce size and drop the spoon under the baitfish. Work the spoon up and down about 6 to 10 inches at a time and watch your line as the bait falls. If you see slack in the line, set the hook.
Clark Hill (down 1.5 feet, upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is slow. The super muddy water has slowed fishing but there are still options. Some good fish are being caught in shallow water from 2 to 4 feet. Look for current breaks at the mouths of both rivers but try to avoid heavy mud. The fish are grouping up in the slack water behind islands and points on the main part of the rivers and in the backwaters. Fish a Spro Little John in Old Fire tiger or Chartreuse with black back. Use a slow retrieve, as the fish are a little finicky with the cold water. If the cranking bite slows down, switch to a Texas rig in the same areas. Use 20 pound fluorocarbon a good stiff and sensitive rod and 3/16 ounce black Tru Tungsten, a 4/0 offset shank Gamakatsu hook. Add your favorite Zoom u tail or lizard in black. Fish super slow in the areas where you find fish. With the runoff dominating look for the grass to start dying off and the shallow cranking bite will turn on better. At that time, use a Spro Aruku Shad 75 in Red Crawfish over the tops of the milfoil and hydrilla. Another pattern that will soon be on fire is flipping dead hyacinths in the backwaters of the rivers with a 4″ Big Bite Baits Yo Mamma in Hematoma color.
Lake Oconee (full, the main lake is muddy, richland creek is stained, 55 59 degrees) – Bass fishing is slow. Any bass fishing will be blow down’s with large worms, large jig and pigs and make sure they are all black. Red Eye Shad crank bats and Rat L Traps in crawfish colors and red patterns are best. Use the Lowrance CHIRP Sonar and the Lowrance Down beams to see the fish close to the bottom. Run HIGH or MEDIUM CHIRP along with regular 200 kHz or 83 kHz beams to locate the schools of baitfish. Fish will be very shallow as the water is high, dirty and warm all at the same time.
Striper report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time guide service. Call 404-803-0741 firstname.lastname@example.org
Striper fishing is good. 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 fair. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. Long lines with double jigs trolled at 1 mph has been the best producer over the past week. Any jig needs some chartreuse in it. 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 2.2 feet, heavy stain & upper 50’s) – Bass fishing is slow with all the runoff and more dirty water will be heading down river over the next few weeks. Get off the main lake and work the shallow cover with the jigs, large worms and Red Eye Shad and Rat L Traps. Bass will still bite with the dirty water but they will rely on sound to find their food. And they will be shallow. Use a 3/8 ounce Strike king Football Jig or a Texas rigged Zoom Mag 2 worm. Good colors in the worms are June bug, Bama Bug and green pumpkin. Jackson Creek and Beech Creek would be the best areas and stay down lake. Jigging spoons have been working down lake. Road beds in the lower lake creeks are the best areas. Right now throw a ¼ ounce Shakey Head rigged with a finesse worm. Also use a Carolina Rig on shallow points and road beds. Good place to start is Rainbow Creek road bed, Wedhakee Creek or the roadbed in Whitewater Creek. Also make sure to use a long fluorocarbon leader for more and bigger bites.
Lake Sinclair (full, stained, mid 60’s) – Bass fishing is slow. The extreme high water levels and all the debris in the lake has kept most anglers at home. Any bass fishing will be blow downs, large docks and fish with large worms, large jig and pigs and make sure all your baits are all black or red shad. Red Eye Shad crank bats and Rat L Traps in crawfish colors and red patterns are best. Fish will be very shallow as the water is high, dirty and warm all at the same time. Use the Lowrance CHIRP Sonar and the Lowrance Down beams to see the fish close to the bottom. Run HIGH or MEDIUM CHIRP along with regular 200 kHz or 83 kHz beams to locate the schools of baitfish. Use a Strike King 3/8 ounce jig in black and blue with a Zoom Chunk in green pumpkin or black blue. Line should be 15 to 20 pound test. The Carolina rig anglers are catching fish from the points and docks. Try a shorter leader of 18 to 24 inches with a Zoom Finesse worm in green pumpkin and a half ounce weight.
Jackson Lake (3.1 feet over full, muddy & upper 50’s) – Lake conditions are poor and the water has been flowing over the dam. We will not have fishing reports until it is safe to get back on the water.
Flat Creek PFA – Extensive rain has ushered in the New Year and fortunately for Flat Creek has helped to raise the lake level. The extra three-and-a-half feet of water will allow forage fish to find new areas in which to hide and create more opportunities for bank anglers to catch large fish cruising the shallows. Crappie are still biting near the fishing pier in the early morning and those fortunate to have a boat have found great success trolling for them. Catfish and bream are also biting really well right now on worms. Several anglers have had success catching bass in the shallows.
Bass: Cream colored Shad imitation lures, dark colored (June Bug, Watermelon) Zoom Trick Worms, and Zoom Centipede worms. Worms fished on the bottom.
Bream: Worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks) on a Carolina rig. Worms on a Texas rig.
Channel Catfish: Worms fished on the bottom. Chicken livers.
Crappie: Minnows, jigs fished with light tackle to feel the slightest bite. Trolling jigs has been working very well.
Marben PFA – Largemouth Bass: January brings cooler temperatures and unstable weather. Despite our best efforts at Marben, fishing really slows down this time of year. However, water temperatures are still warm enough for fish to be in shallow water, especially on warmer January days. Anglers should try crank baits or rattle traps in the 6 to 10 feet of water. Do not be afraid to try a Texas rig in the same depth. Mid-day will be the best times to target bass giving the sun a little time to warm the water just a touch. Shad are schooling in early morning, so try to mimic small shad and you will increase your success rate. Submerged timber and rock beds are good habitats to target when seeking bass at Marben PFA.
Crappie: Crappie are probably the most aggressive fish anglers will find at Marben this time year. However, do not expect to hook one with every cast. Finding them may require a little effort. Remember though, the crappie bite can turn on at any moment in these small lakes. Flooded timber is the preferred habitat and the most popular bait is live minnows and yellow jigs. Try fishing cover approximately 10-12 feet throughout the day. Expect crappie to move into shallower water on warmer days in December.
Bream: Bream fishing will be slow at Marben. Cold water temperatures play a factor with the decrease in activity. Anglers should expect bream fishing to be best with mid-day temperatures. Remember that bream are deeper this time of year so to be successful anglers will have to target deeper water in order to increase your chances.
Catfish: Look for catfish to be extremely sluggish this time of year. Patience is necessary if anglers are in pursuit of this fish. Anglers should target days when it is sunny which should warm the water in order to get catfish moving. Livers, worms and stink bait are the preferred choices if targeting catfish at Marben.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
I hope you each have a safe and Happy New Year! The warm weather has folks fishing (and catching) this week. Forget the Altamaha River system for now, but ponds and saltwater are on fire. Last quarter moon is January 2nd. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – The river is flooded. Forget it upriver, except for fishing for crappie in oxbow lakes off the river (like Morgan Lake where there is a boat ramp directly into the lake). Donna at Altamaha Park said that the big slug of water from upcountry had not arrived yet, and folks caught creels of 30 to 50 crappie in the lakes and mouths of creeks. Shrimp was working for channel catfish below Altamaha Park. The river level was 15.9 feet (well above flood stage) and rising (63 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.9 feet and rising (64 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 29th.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the fishing on the river has been great. On Saturday, anglers reported crappie eating minnows and jigs in sloughs and creek mouths. Bream were caught with Satilla Spins, worms, and crickets. Bass ate plastic worms and buzzbaits (it’s crazy weather when you can catch a bass on a buzzbait at Christmas!). Catfish were eating rooster livers. In the lower Satilla (Burnt Fort area), big crappie ate minnows and jigs. Creels were generally from 15 to 25 fish per boat. The river level on December 29th at the Waycross gage was 9.0 feet and falling (67 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 7.6 feet and steady.
St. Marys River – The St. Marys has produced some great catches during the warmth. The water levels are very fishable in the St. Marys, maybe even a little low for this time of year. Anglers have averaged 50 to 60 fish per trip (a mixed bag of bream, redbreasts, crappie, and catfish). Pink worms fished on the bottom produced most of the fish. Anglers have been targeting creek mouths and deeper holes for their best success. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 29th was 2.3 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – I guarantee the fliers were chowing in this warmth, but I didn’t receive any specific reports. By the time you read this, a cold front will likely slam the swamp, and it will take a few days of cold weather for the fish to stabilize and start biting well again. Fliers are your best bet in the coming colder weather. Pitch pink or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies under a small balsa float.
Local Ponds – The pond bite has been awesome. Chad Lee has been spanking bass, including some monsters, in Alma area ponds. On Friday, he caught an 8 1/2-pounder on a ribbit frog. Saturday, he landed 20 bass, with the biggest a 9 1/2-pounder. That day, shallow cranks and ribbit frogs produced. Monday saw 10 bass coming over the gunnels, including some fish over 4 pounds on ribbit frogs and spoons. On Tuesday, Scout Carter and Wyatt Crews landed 17 bass and a slab crappie from a Waycross area pond. Keitech swimbaits on Flashy Swimbait Heads, Trick Worms, hard jerkbaits, flukes, and spinnerbaits produced their fish. Michael Winge said that Waycross area ponds were on fire during the Christmas weekend. Big crappie were caught with minnows in deep holes. Bream were landed with worms and crickets. The summertime temperatures have brought the bream to life! Free-lined shiners fooled nice bass, and catfish ate pink worms fished on the bottom.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – Scout Carter, while on break from UGA, had an awesome trip fishing with Wyatt Crews and another friend on Saturday. They put in at Crooked River State Park and fished Crooked River around high tide, boating 23 trout (11 keepers) and a bluefish. Their best trout baits were Texas roach and copperhead Sea Shads suspended under Equalizer Floats. They also caught a couple on a manic shrimp under a Cajun Thunder Float.
At mid-tide, they decided to try the St. Marys Jetties for redfish, so off they went. The bite was slow on the last of the outgoing, with them only landing one redfish. It was a 22-incher (Scout’s first ever redfish) that ate a chicken-on-a-chain Sea Shad fished on a 1/2-oz. Jetty Jighead. After the tide turned, the bull reds started chowing. They caught and released 4 big bulls and broke off another. Three of the giants ate 1/2-oz. bucktail jigs (mullet and fire tiger colors), while 2 of them ate Jetty Jigheads sporting chicken-on-a-chain Sea Shads. Wyatt got the prize for unique catch of the day – a big octopus that attempted to eat a Sea Shad. An angler fishing from the bank on Tuesday evening caught a handful of trout (one was a 20-incher) and a half-dozen weakfish (the limit on weakfish is one fish per person). Live mullet was his best bait. In the St. Simons area, trout, reds, and flounder were reported. An angler bottom fishing out of Blythe Island Regional park on Monday fooled a mixed bag of black drum, whiting, and yellowtails using dead shrimp. The sheepshead bite around St. Simons Island has been strong for those dabbling fiddler crabs. Remember that the seatrout limit goes up to 14 inches beginning January 1st. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting bite was good from the pier during the warmer temperatures. Some trout and reds were caught on dead shrimp and cut bait. Blue crabs were still caught in good numbers. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The weather is probably changing while you are reading this Thursday night. After weeks of abnormally hot temperatures, winter might actually stay for awhile. With the cooling water, the fish will likely get a little shocked for a couple of days. After it stabilizes, the winter bites will take off. Crappie are the primary winter freshwater bite, and I imagine by next weekend they’ll be eating it up. Flier fishing in the swamp is another great cold water bite. In saltwater, look for trout to school up more tightly than they have been, and giant packs of redfish will be roaming the “right” mud flats on outgoing tide. The weakfish will also move into deeper holes in the Brunswick area, but remember that the limit on them is only one per person.