(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
The last Saturday in March was always the traditional “opening day” for seasonal trout streams in Georgia. While DNR changed the regulations last year, based on significant public input (7,000 responses; http://www.georgiawildlife.com/fishing/proposedregulations?cat=2)
and now allows year-around trout fishing, there is still a fishing tradition associated with the last Saturday of March. One again our stocking trucks are rolling, and anglers are getting ready for this weekend. Join me in celebrating one of the great spring traditions for Georgia sportsmen and women, trout fishing.
- WARM SPRING WEATHER SIGNIFIES TROUT STOCKING TIME
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Mar. 18, 2016) –Make sure you put a trout fishing trip on your list of things to do this spring, especially since it is the time of year when trout raised in Georgia hatcheries start hitting the water. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to stock more than 80,000 trout during the last full week of March, with more than one million trout scheduled for stocking by the end of this year.
“All trout waters in Georgia are now open to fishing year round, and to sweeten that news, stocking efforts are ready to begin to make your trip even more rewarding,” says John Lee Thomson, trout stocking coordinator for the Wildlife Resources Division. “One of the best opportunities for fishing success will be this spring when stream flows are high and the water is cool.”
Some popular stocked streams include Cooper Creek in Union County, Wildcat Creek in Rabun County, Dicks Creek in Lumpkin County and Johns Creek in Floyd County.
The daily limit is eight trout on general regulation trout waters. Anglers are reminded to respect private property rights along streams flowing through private lands and to obtain permission before fishing on private property.
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license and a trout license to fish in designated trout waters and to fish for or possess trout. Anglers must also possess a wildlife management area license or Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass (GORP) in order to fish on certain WMAs. Find a list of designated areas at www.georgiawildlife.com/Georgia-Outdoor-Recreational-Pass .
How can you get a license? It’s easy! Buy it online, find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passesor buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
Purchasing a Trout Unlimited license plate supports Georgia’s trout conservation and management programs. These efforts impact trout production, stocking and stream restoration throughout north Georgia. Purchase or find out more at your county tag office.
For the list of stocked trout streams, online versions the Georgia trout stream map, and other trout fishing tips, visitwww.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout or call (770) 535-5498.
Communications and Outreach Specialist
Wildlife Resources Division
- Attachment – Georgia Trouting Through the Seasons
Here’s a helping hand to all new Georgia trouters. Readers can also view an online version here:
- GAWRD Trout Stocking List – 2016 Edition
- Accessible Trout Waters
- Trout Partner Thanks
Trout fishing in Georgia wouldn’t be nearly as fun without the significant contributions of our partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Rainbow trout eggs from the Erwin, TN and Ennis, MT broodstock stations
supply Summerville Hatchery for its fingerling and catchable (9+ inch) trout production.
Fingerlings from Chattahoochee Forest National Hatchery in Suches (http://www.fws.gov/chattahoocheeforest/)
help to supply Burton and Buford hatcheries with small fish to grow to catchable size. More than 300,000 catchable trout are also grown and directly stocked by Chattahoochee NFH into Georgia waters.
The next time you’re fishing Rock Creek, stop in the federal hatchery and say thanks to Kelly, Mitch, and their fine federal gang. GAWRD has sure appreciated decades of state/federal partnership that have produced a lot of trout fishing memories for Georgia anglers.
- Wild Trout Waters
Just go prospecting farther up most of the designated trout stream watersheds in Georgia to find these small, colorful headwater gems in rainbow, brown, and brook colors. Most high elevation tributaries to the Chattooga, Tallulah, Hooch, Hiwassee, Etowah, Toccoa, and Conasauga have some wild fish in them. Rainbows are the most common species here in Georgia, but we have numerous “speck” streams and even a handful of wild brown trout streams. Our best wild brown trout stream isn’t even in the mountains; it’s the Hooch below Buford Dam!
For many veterans, the small, wild mountain trout are worth the hunt due to the scenery, solitude, fast action, and beautiful fish colors. These attributes compensate for the naturally small fish size, a result of north Georgia’s granite bedrock and low water hardness. Here are a couple of great treasure maps to take on your next prospecting trip.
o GAWRD trout maps: WRD Gainesville (770-535-5498), or visit Bass Pro Shops-Lawrenceville fly shop.
Of course, if you join one of the trout fishing organizations and contribute to their conservation and education efforts, chapter elders might just adopt and invite you along with them. I call these fine folks “free fishing guides.” Go pay a little dues on the conservation front and YOU just might get adopted on their next mountain trip to Notellum Creek.
- Helen Trout Tournament – Saturday
You may choose to enter the tournament or simply fish without entry and your resulting shot at tourney prizes.
- Chattooga Reports
o Dredger gave the DH section a shot at midday, Saturday, and peeled a handful of rainbows and one decent brown off the bottom. It was a tough go because most fish had lockjaw, but leeches and squirmies, bottom-rolled in pools, saved the day. About three bugs were seen all afternoon, so surface feeding activity was nonexistent. The trip highlight was a rainbow doubleheader, which was a great reminder to always fish with a dropper! Dredger had to cut out early to attend the Hooch Hoot in Helen, so he may have missed any evening hatches that might have occurred. With warming weather, bug activity should be more consistent in the weeks to come. Hatch charts are in Rabun TU’s Tightlines newsletter (worth a couple of mouse-clicks to find).
- Big Hooch Browns
- Hooch DH Report
As rainfall and Lanier releases finally subside, wading access and angling success are increasing in the Delayed Harvest section.
- Blue Ridge Tailwater
- Blue Ridge Trout Fest
Mark April 29-30 on your calendars.
- Dream Trip Winner
Winner of Georgia TU’s Yellowstone Dream Trip raffle:
Thanks to all raffle ticket purchasers, who help to fund GATU’s annual trout camp for kids. If you know of eligible kids, contact your local TU chapter for an application
- Coosa Reports
This week was a slow go, even for our electrofishing boats. We need a warm spell to bring the fish back up.
o Landon also said the night striper bite has been good for the abundant 5-6 pound fish. Look for bait balls around the lights.
- Lanier Crappie
o Crappie Fishing Report March 23, 2016
This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club. See our club’s website,www.laniercrappieanglers.net
Water temperature is an average of 61 degrees, with some spots in the backs of creeks marking a few degrees warmer. Fishing remains good to excellent. We are in the middle of the spawn, and the bite is good throughout the day, with overcast days working to your advantage. Try fishing blow downs and the weeds in shallow water, using a popping cork and a curly tail. Minnows will also work if you prefer live bite. You will notice that you are starting to catch some darker fish, (males) in the shallows, as some of the females have pulled away from the spawning areas toward deeper water around docks. We’ve been catching fish as shallow as one foot away from the bank. Docks in fifteen feet or less are still producing bigger fish than in the shallows. The best method for fishing the docks is shooting your jig in toward the darkest part of the dock. Of course, crappie are structure oriented fish, so finding a dock with some type of structure below will be helpful. Your Lowrance side scan will assist in this. Hair jigs and Bobby Garland soft body jigs with a straight tail are both working around the docks.
As we mentioned before, there are two ways to learn how to catch crappie: first, time on the water, or second, you can join the Lanier Crappie Anglers Club. We have seasoned fishermen who will share tips to help you learn how to fish for Crappie, and it’s a great way to meet others who share a passion for Crappie fishing. Be safe on the water as the lake is getting more crowded! Wear your life jacket, it can save your life!
- Small Lakes
Good luck this weekend. May the Opening Day tradition continue for many of you who have fished, camped, and told tall tales on the last Saturday of March for decades. Thanks for buying your fishing licenses, fishing tackle, and TU vehicle license plates, which help to fund the Georgia trout program. Hopefully you’ll continue to get your money’s worth from the GAWRD and US Fish and Wildlife Service trout hatchery and stream management staffs this spring.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Freshwater fishing is still off the chain in flatwater, but the rivers haven’t fired up yet with the cooler weather this week. Saltwater is hit-and-miss, but the great whiting fishing should be just around the corner. The Satilla Riverkeeper just announced that they are hosting another fishing tournament this spring. The tournament will be held May 7th, and contestants can fish anywhere on the Satilla River proper or its tributaries. For more information, check out flyers in area tackle shops or the riverkeeper website at www.satillariverkeeper.org (click on “Activities”, then “Events”). Last quarter moon is March 31st. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – I saw the river at Jesup on Monday, and I had no desire to fish it at those levels. The river is still high, muddy, and swift. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that a few crappie were caught from the backwaters, but it was overall slow. Donna at Altamaha Park said that the catfish bite was the best again, with flatheads dominating the catch. Some crappie were caught in the lakes on minnows and a few on jigs. The river level was 9.2 feet and falling (65 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.7 feet and falling (65 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 22nd.
Satilla River – The upper river is going back up into the floodplain from the upriver rains last weekend. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that some anglers caught crappie from trash piles and tree tops. Minnows were the top bait. Catfish ate pink worms fished on the bottom. Lizards and Trick Worms fooled some bass. The white catfish bite in the Woodbine area is still good, with some nice fish being caught. Craig and Brandy James made a repeat trip to the area on Friday, and Craig caught an “angler award” sized white catfish (17 1/2 inches) and got it certified (Brandy caught one last week). Now the two will have matching white catfish embroidered hats (the prize for certifying an angler award fish through the GA Wildlife Resources Division angler award program). They caught their fish with shrimp baited on a Catfish Catcher Jighead. Craig said that he loved how easy the rig is to use, and he never even lost any of the rigs. He said that they come through cover without snagging as much as a Carolina rig does. The river level on March 22nd at the Waycross gage was 9.9 feet and rising (65 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.3 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – The St. Marys produced some good catches, as the level is very fishable. Bream and redbreasts were caught this week on crickets. The catfish bite is still wide open. It’s been unreal how many catfish have been caught from the river over the last year or so. Some bass were caught in eddies by anglers fishing shiners or plastics. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 22nd was 4.1 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – I talked with an angler who fished with his wife on the east side and caught a bunch of warmouth on yellow beetlespins. Other anglers reported catching both warmouth and fliers on the east side this week.
Local Ponds – Catches in ponds were great. Many anglers reported that the bass and crappie were bedding before the cold snap early in the week. I have not received many reports since the cold mornings, but I imagine the bite will fire right back up with the warming trend by the time you read this. Chad Lee of Alma fished with his friend Daniel Johnson on Friday to fool about 30 bass up to 3 pounds. Trick worms were tops for them. I love dancing the floating worm around shoreline cover and watching it disappear in a boil. It’s a hoot! Michael Winge said that bass are bedding in Waycross area ponds, and anglers caught them by dragging lizards around the beds. Minnows and Tennessee shad jigs produced good crappie catches. Crickets started to produce some good bream catches.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – The cold weather early in the week slowed the trout bite, but before the cold, reports from bank anglers fishing Brunswick and St. Simons were really good. An angler fishing Friday caught 15 trout up to 22 inches on 1/8oz. Flashy Jigheads and Mama’s 24K Sea Shads. He followed it up on Saturday with a catch of 6 trout, but 2 of them were whoppers of almost 24 inches (he released one of them, but the other inhaled the Flashy Jighead deep, and he had to keep it. Boat anglers fishing around Brunswick caught trout and reds on live shrimp around the Mackay River. Bank anglers fishing the Mackay also reported catching some nice trout. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that fishing picked up on the pier. The flounder have arrived. Most are on the small side, but they are abundant. Both dead and live shrimp produced the flatfish. Bull whiting have arrived for those bottom fishing with dead shrimp. Some black drum and big sand tiger sharks (don’t forget that you must release them) were caught this week. Blue crabs were around the pier in big numbers. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The forecast is iffy again this weekend, with afternoon thunderstorms a strong possibility both weekend days. The pond bite has been so good, it will be hard to beat again this week, as you can get to cover quickly if lightning starts popping. The Okefenokee is another good bite for the weekend. If you want to fish a river, the St. Marys is the place to be for panfish and catfish. In saltwater, your best bet will be trout or whiting.
(Info provided by fisheries biologist Rob Weller and region fisheries staff)
Lake Walter F. George – According to Richard Sacco with the Friends of Lake Eufaula, the bass fishing has recently has been very good but has tapered off the last couple of days. This was most likely due to the Corps of Engineers lowering the lake approximately 0.5 feet which resulted in pulling the bass out of the shoreline vegetation. The lake levels are again rising and you can expect the bass to return to the shallows. Most of the bass anglers Richard has spoken with are of the opinion that there are more bass over five pounds and up to eight pounds being caught this spring than in the last several years. Also, fewer spotted bass are being caught. The crappie have moved shallow and good catches of fish over 10 inches and even larger are being consistently caught. Jigs and minnow fished shallow seem to be bringing in the most fish. Richard has heard some very good reports of some large (over a pound) redear sunfish (shellcracker) being captured in the southern end of the lake on the Georgia side. Richard rated the current bream fishing a 10 out of 10 and the crappie a solid 8. The lake continues to be full of catfish and anglers interested in taking some home should have no problem harvesting a mess. Noodle fishing appears to be the favorite technique but if you prefer to sink some worms or liver on the bottom you should also find success.
Flint River – The Lower Flint River continues to drop and is now well within the banks. There continue to be reports of channel catfish being caught with worms fished on the bottom and there have been the first reports of bream being caught with crickets. Hybrid and striped bass are in the tailraces of both the Albany and Blackshear dams. The Wildlife Resources Fisheries staff recently collected several Gulf stripers below the Albany tailrace the largest of which was well over 20 pounds. Some favorite baits for these hard fighting fish include large white jigs, silver spoons and spinners. As temperatures warm and the water continue to fall in the Flint, fishing will continue to improve over the next few weeks.
The following USGS gauges of river level may be useful when planning your next fishing trip:
Montezuma above Lake Blackshear
Highway 32 below Lake Blackshear
Lower Flint River below Albany
Lake Seminole – According to Lake Seminole fishing guide Steven Wells, the fishing for bass is very good. The recent cold front slowed them down a bit but they should be right back. Steven said the week before the front “you couldn’t shake the bass off.” Anglers should be able to expect the same type action over the next few weeks. The water is still a bit stained but is clearing. The bass and bream don’t seem to mind but it seems to have slowed the crappie fishing somewhat. There have been several reports of eight pound bass being caught but nothing over 10 yet, however that is likely to change soon. The redear sunfish (shellcracker) have moved shallow in preparation for the spawn and can be caught by pitching along the saw grass and in and around vegetation in the sloughs.