(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
As the weather finally improved last week, and as lakes and streams began their journey back toward normal conditions, the fish sure seemed to respond. In fact, the big’uns seemed mighty happy and hungry! Last week’s anglers who dressed right and followed weather & water conditions toward some fishing opportunities indeed had great trips. Don’t believe me? Read on, look at the pics, and decide whether or not to believe them. And you might just decide to grab your long underwear and neglected fishing pole and give this winter gig a try! Here we go:
New Year’s Resolve – O’Neill’s Appeal. Follow his advice and it just might pay off. You’ll see some examples in this report.
Why Mentor? – Enjoy “the letter” by this young lady on page 4 of this newsletter:
US Forest Service Relevant Topics –
- Road Closures
- Chattooga Boating News
Federal User Fees –
Lanier Park/Ramp Closures – http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier.aspx
Chattooga DH – The Good Luck Charm – Dredger saw lower flows on the two USGS river gauge websites and trekked north last Saturday for a rematch on the DH. The flows were still high (2.5 on the Clayton gauge) but tolerable for the graying Rabunite. He also saw the biggest strike indicator of his life:
TIRE TRACKS! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X4aI9-fVWk
He had a big time in slack waters, employing the steelheaders’ wet fly swing with a small black leech. A dead-drifted egg and a stripped leech caught a few stragglers, too. A bunch of rainbows and three browns came to hand, with all caught from “flood refuges.” Back in the parking lot, he heard stories of massive brook trout inhaling white buggers from two excited Columbia, SC tourists with tents pitched near the river.
Saturday was so much fun, he watched the evening rainfall total and next morning’s flows, then grabbed young Rabunite, Treyman, on Sunday afternoon. Old dude set him up with a tractor-trailer rig, pulling heavy freight (http://rabuntu.org/site/about/educational-programs/for-beginners-a-rabunite-101-primer/how-to-speak-rabunite/.) Rookie did well with his new double-leech swing technique and celebrated his first Chattooga Slam (all 3 species), topped off by a picture-perfect male brookie to end his day at 4PM. That perfect picture is attached. The duo named their 4-legged good luck charm, a friendly stray, “Brookie” in honor of the team’s success.
Hot flies: peach Oreck egg, black leech, olive woolly bugger.
Chattooga Water /Wading Levels – How do hillbillies decide when and where to go? They use cheat sheets:
The Samsel Report – Chattooga “Solitude Trip” tale: http://jeffsamsel.blogspot.com/
More Evening Reading – Once upon a time, an adult named Jimmy met a kid named Brian, from Bama. He gave Brian a fly rod and took him fishing.
Flash forward a decade: the seeds planted have produced abundant fruits. Taste the mag:
The winter issue is now available to subscribers.
Hybrid Tug-of-War – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=109163
The Bounty is Back – The heck with Powerball; your odds are better on Lanier! Use that lottery budget on bluebacks!
Lanier Stripers are ON –
Carters Report – https://www.facebook.com/Carters-Lake-Guide-Service-170317873014004/
But Not for These Two Duds – The Guru grabbed Dredger after work on Friday and the duo launched from Thompson Bridge. They spotted some birds and breaks halfway back in Wahoo, and tossed their clousers into the waves coming from the “commode flush” rises of hefty stripers. No hookups. As the sun set, The Master called his two pupils. Alas, they had not heeded Henry’s advice: “don’t chase the onesies and twosies on top. Throw full sinking lines and count to forty. You’ll get down to the main school and hook up.” The Dud Duo are now in remedial striper stalking school. Although there was no “kill,” their Friday night hunt was still a blast. Now it’s back to detention.
Good Winter Trouting Advice – See Kyle’s guidance: http://forum.gon.com/showthread.php?t=861220
Big T’s Blueline Report – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=109196
Got Peach Eggs? – That was the question from Landon when he dropped his Dukes trophy rainbow photo into my Iphone lap on Sunday. Here’s the rest of the story: he helped a friend with three family members to enjoy trophy trout fishing at Smithgall Woods on Saturday. They each caught at least one trout, with the biggest among them a respectable 15-16 inches. As they got cold and hungry around midday, they exited for lunch. Alas, Guide Dude was free to fling himself. And the Trout Gods looked down upon him with great pride and said:
“May He Hook Walter.”
And he did. Pic attached; whole forearm and halfway up the bicep equates to about 26-27 inches.
Guess it’s time to go tie more peach eggs. And help a newbie or two.
Reminder: Atlanta Boat Show, Now –
Reminder- Jan 23 Banquet –
Lights, Camera, Eagles – They’re back! https://www.facebook.com/berrycollegeeagles/posts/539341079563134
Serious Poachers. Please Report if Seen –
The LE community uses the term BOLO. All of you, please Be On the Look-Out for these two thugs. Don’t let them come to Georgia and violate your fish and game resources!
Many thanks to A.J. from Denver for this heads-up to Georgia’s sportsmen and women.
Happy new “fleece” season!
Bundle up and go give it a try. The exercise will help you drop those holiday pounds, too. And remember: he who gives, just might receive. A Big’un. Just ask Landon.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)
Lake Russell (down 4.2 feet, clear & lower 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. The high water did bring a lot of fish to shallow cover. With the bright sunny days the bass can get a little sluggish but think jig and pig almost all day. Crank baits are working early in the morning. Also, use the Carolina rigs. This will work but the bigger bass seem to want a slower moving bait like the Rapala DT10 or DT6. The DT6 in shad and silver are working. Rocky points are best on the main lake. In the backs of the creeks and coves. Bass that are biting are small fish on trick worms with a tiny 1/8 ounce bullet sinker. Some bass are suspending in the channels and deeper water and move up early and late to feed. Bass and especially the spots want the larger, slow-moving crank baits. Be sure to use a suspending crank bait. Rocks, deep-water and wind is the key thing to look for this week.
Clark Hill (down 1.45 feet, lower 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Main lake points up in the Savannah River and the small pockets on the way up along the way can produce bass. Work the wood with jigs and Carolina rigs and use the Number 10 Husky Jerk Bait or X Rap. More rain is here for the end of the week but it is not a gully washer as in the past weeks. This will not hurt the water levels and the fish will feed very shallow on the bank structure. The lake levels are up and stained the rivers and creeks. Some of these feeder creeks are muddy, so back off to the main lake points and use spinner baits in the darker colored water. Be sure to look for the bait and this is where the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology can cut your searching time as much as 90%. Send the left and right beams out as much as 80 feet in the creeks and coves.
Lake Oconee (full, the main lake is muddy, Richland Creek is stained 52 / 58 degrees) – Bass fishing is slow. The main lake is still very muddy. The Richland Creek arm of the lake is not as stained as the main lake and the fishing is better in Richland Creek. Spinner baits fished around wood and docks have been producing over the past week. As the water clears the spoon bite on the deep humps will pick up.
Striper report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time 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. The spoon bite has slowed down with the muddy water, as the water clears the spoon bite will pick back up.
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 needs to have 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 6.0 feet, heavy stain & lower 50’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Fishing has been touch and go with the up and down of water temperatures and water levels. But, soon the fish will begin transitioning from points and roadbeds to begin working their way back into pockets looking for food. Be sure to look for the bait and this where the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology can cut your searching time as much as 90%. Send the left and right beams out as much as 80 feet in the creeks and coves. Look for isolated brush piles and rock at the mouths of pockets. The main baits working right now are all related to the current daily conditions. Use the 3/8 ounce black & blue Stanley jig with a Zoom black super chunk. On days when wind is up, the pattern changes to shallow running crank baits, jerk baits, ChatterBait and spinnerbaits. For spinnerbaits, use a Strike King 3/8 ounce gold and nickel double willow leaf blades with a chartreuse/white skirt. For crank baits, the Rapala RS5 Shad Rap in a shad pattern will produce fish in all sizes.
Lake Sinclair (full, stained, low 60’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Fish the shallow water using mainly crank baits, jerk baits and jigs. Most are coming from main river banks that drop quickly into deep water. Some crank baits producing recent success are Rapala DT10, Shad Rap RS #5, Thunder Shad, and Deep Little N. Try the Stanley 5/16 ounce in black blue with a Zoom Chunk in black blue or green pumpkin. Rip rap along the roads in Little River is still producing bass using crank baits and jigs. There are now quite a number of main river points and flats that are holding deeper fish. The area from Nancy Branch to Sandy Run Creek on the Oconee River has been best lately. Most fish are holding on the sides of these structures at 15 to 20 feet deep. T he best baits are varying daily or even hourly.
Big Lazer PFA
Largemouth bass: Slow – Fish plastic baits slow now that water temperatures are chilly. Plastic-worms fished around the deep water by the picnic area and around the newly repaired fishing pier may produce a few good bites.
Crappie: Poor- crappie fishing has been poor but their spawning season will start soon, until warmer temperatures fish for crappie in 10-12 feet of water with minnows.
Bream: Slow- Bream fishing is also slow but try pink and red worms around the new fishing pier. Also, target areas that have structure like woody brush and blow downs associated with it. This time of year, most bream will be located in 6 feet of water or deeper. As usual, live bait will be your best bet for bream. Finally, bream fishing with light tackle can make fishing more exciting. However, make sure the hooks are small because the bream have small mouths.
Channel catfish: Poor- Fishing for cold cats 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. Fishing with two poles will increase your chances of catching a keeper.
In general, the weather is cold and the bite has become less consistent. Anglers have to be more patient and persistent to have a good day fishing. However, winter weather means less anglers are fishing; 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.
Largemouth Bass: Fair. Bass are biting. Fishermen are still fishing on the nice winter days. 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 will close today at sundown. This lake has been setup with multiple bait species for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass. McDuffie PFA and Hatchery staff stocked golden shiners in Rodbender so using a shiner type lure may produce some strikes. Bass fishermen are still fishing Rodbender and one fisherman caught a bass with a reward tag. The tag must be sent to the Thomson fisheries office.
Bream: Good. Bream fishing has slowed dramatically due to temperatures swings. Bream can still be found around structure and aquatic plants suspended over 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. During cold weather bream have also been known to bite chicken liver fished on the bottom as fisherman fish for catfish.
Channel Catfish: Catfish are still biting but slowing down due to dropping water temperatures. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep water using chicken liver, worms, stink-baits.
Striped Bass: Two fishermen reported catching stripers from Clubhouse which they released. Stripers like cooler temperatures and the cooler the better. Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse Lakes. Stripers will be chasing available bait during winter months.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Winter is definitely here. One of the windy, cold days this week was the first time in a LONG time that I was actually GLAD that I was not out on the water (I hate cold weather)! Ponds and saltwater produced the best reports this week. First quarter moon is January 16th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – The river is at record high flows for the date, and was in the parking lot at high tide even in the Champney River area on days with an east wind. Fish elsewhere for the next couple of weeks….ok, probably month. The river level was 18.4 feet (record high for the date – flood stage is 13 feet) and falling (52 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 13.8 feet (record high for the date – flood stage is 14 feet) and falling (58 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Tuesday evening.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle (912-283-9400) in Waycross said that the fishing was slow with the current slug of water. He said that the bright spot is that the upper river has begun to fall, and the catfish bite should pick up once the river drops out a little bit, especially with the growing moon. The river level on Tuesday at the Waycross gage was 11.4 feet and falling (54 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 10.1 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – The river is in good shape for fishing. Catfish and crappie were caught in good numbers this week. Crappie were averaging “hand-sized” and were eating minnows. Fish around the tree tops and a crappie should inhale your offering. Catfish are just about anywhere in the river and are eating primarily worms and shrimp. The river level at the MacClenny gage on Tuesday evening was 2.5 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – I didn’t receive any reports from anglers fishing the swamp this week. Typically, you can catch lots of fliers during cold weather by pitching a sally with a super-tiny (I like a number 10 clam-shot) weight above it and suspend it under a balsa float (you need to use the second smallest size when using the number 10 clam-shot). On days in the 60’s the fish usually get active in the afternoon and you can catch them on the edges of shoreline vegetation and near the cuts between the flats and the canals. If you can find a current break (yes, there is a slight current in the swamp), you have found a spot where the fliers will likely congregate. Catfishing on the west side is another great bet in the swamp. Put a piece of shrimp on the bottom (tight-lined behind the boat) and hold on.
Local Ponds – Ponds produced most of the good reports this week. Wyatt Crews, Scout Carter, and a friend fished a Brunswick area pond last Thursday and caught 4 chunky bass that totaled 10 pounds. They had a pair of 3-pounders and a pair of 2-pounders. Their fish ate Texas-rigged plastic worms worked around shoreline trees. They also caught a trio of nice channel cats that also inhaled their worms. Chad Lee caught 18 bass up to 2 pounds this weekend from Alma area ponds. He used ultralight gear and small crankbaits to fool most of them. While they were not big, they were a hoot on the micro-gear! Michael Winge said that Waycross area ponds produced some meals of crappie for anglers fishing blue colored jigs around shoreline vegetation and hard cover (tree tops). Catfish were landed by anglers fishing pink worms and rooster livers. A few bream ate crickets. Bass ate free-lined shiners again this week.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – Cold and winds ruled the week again, but Justin Bythwood and Ed Zmarzly braved the elements in their kayaks and landed a great mess of sheepshead on Saturday in the Brunswick area. They dabbled fiddlers around pilings and rocks to land 22 sheepshead to 3 pounds. Justin went back to another area near Brunswick on Sunday afternoon and used live mullet to get 3 bites. He whiffed on two of them, but the third was his personal best spotted seatrout – a 24 1/2-incher. Congratulations, Justin! I saw that fish, and it was a beauty. A few catches of trout and reds were reported from the backwaters around St. Simons Island, but very few people went. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) said that the bite was off over the weekend in the nasty weather. The few anglers who went caught some whiting, black sea bass, and a few black drum. Some blue crabs were still caught from the pier when they could keep their basket on the bottom and not blowing sideways. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: Crappie fishing should be the best bet this weekend in area lakes and ponds. You can either spider-rig the deepest part of the pond or long-line troll a spread of lures out the back as you ease along. For a trophy bass, fish a jig and plastic crawfish or big worm slowly around offshore cover. Flier fishing in the Okefenokee should be very good on warmer afternoons. Pitch sallies under a float to score. Pickerel (jackfish) fishing should pick up on warm, sunny afternoons, as well.