(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The crappie and bass bites have broken wide open this week with the warm-up. Don’t mess with the cold, high rivers (except the St. Marys) this weekend….spend your time on flat water. The full rivers will help the fish populations later this spring, so be patient. New Moon is February 8th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – The river rose again this week and is still extremely high and swift. I talked with one person this week while filling my tow vehicle, and they had just fished the river that day. They did not catch anything. Expect a similar result if you go this week (I can’t say it any more diplomatically than that….). The only thing worth trying is to fish for crappie in Morgan Lake. A few were caught this week. The river level was 15.0 feet and falling (51 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.9 feet and rising (54 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on February 4th.
Satilla River – The upper and middle reaches are still high and flowing fast. Fish some flat water this weekend for a much higher chance of success. Dickie of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that there were rumors of some crappie being caught in the 158 Bridge area, although rain forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday will probably knock out that option for the weekend. The extreme lower river produced some crappie (near Burnt Fort) and lots of white catfish (White Oak Creek) during the warm spell. The river level on February 4th at the Waycross gage was 12.1 feet and steady (53 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 11.9 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – This is the only river I would even consider fishing this weekend (unless we get a bunch of rain late in the week that jumps it up for the weekend). Some crappie and bream were reported during the current warming trend (at the time of writing this). The catfish bite has remained fantastic, with one angler commenting that he thinks there are so many that he could catch them on the sidewalks in Folkston. Crappie were eating minnows, and bream were caught with pink worms fished on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage on February 4th was 3.5 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – The swamp bite was on fire earlier this week. One angler fished the Folkston entrance for just an hour on Monday and landed 31 fliers. Needless to say, the warm water had them chowing before the latest front. Expect the stable, cooler temps for the weekend to produce 50 to 75 fliers per trip instead of the silly catch rates from this week. Pitching pink or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies under a small balsa float is the ticket this time of year. If you catch one over 9 inches, bring it by the Waycross Fisheries Office (8am-4:30pm) to certify it for an angler award (nice certificate and an embroidered hat). For catfish, put a piece of shrimp or pink worm on the bottom.
Local Ponds – The pond bite for both bass and crappie has been awesome. The big female bass are about to head shallow for their annual spawn, and they are fat and hungry right now. Walter and Judy Hoyt of Atlanta fished a Brunswick area pond on Saturday and landed 11 bass up to 3 1/2 pounds on little 1/8-oz. shaky heads (built with 3/0 Gamakatsu hooks) and straight tailed worms. Junebug was their most effective color. On Friday, the bite in that same lake was slower, but an angler using the same rig landed a 7-lb., 7-oz. bass in the early evening. Shane Barber of Manor fished with his children Scarlett and Joshua in a Dixie Union pond on Saturday and caught about 20 nice crappie on both minnows and jigs. A group of Blackshear anglers dragged live bait around a Waycross area pond on Tuesday and caught 4 bass. Their biggest was a 10-lb., 9-oz. monster, the angler’s personal best bass. Michael Winge said that Waycross area ponds produced some great creels of crappie this weekend. Both minnows and jigs produced. Free-lined shiners fooled some nice bass.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – In the creeks, the sheepshead bite has been awesome. Fiddler crabs have been the ticket. Some nice sheepshead were also caught around the bridges near St. Simons. Shrimp and jigs also produced redfish from the deeper holes. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that fishing from the pier has been slow with the stained water in the inlets, but a few whiting were caught. A few blue crabs were also caught from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The front late in the week will put the temperatures back in line with normal wintertime weather. Expect the crappie and bass in ponds to be the best bite for the weekend. Fishing minnows in the deepest part of the pond should work, and slowly working jigs and plastic worms around points or offshore cover should produce bass. If you try saltwater, sheepshead should be your target. Dabble fiddler crabs around hard cover to score. The swamp flier bite should be good unless the late week rains raise the level more than a half-foot.