(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
April is having an identity crisis: it thinks it’s March!
These air and water temperature yo-yo’s are affecting the trout bugs, the reservoir forage fish, and our lake predators. They’re up one day and down deep the next. Even our sampling boats are experiencing these yo-yo catches that follow water temperature trends. But the ups are compensating for the downs, as you’ll see from these fishing reports and tips. It’s striper and hybrid week in north Georgia, as the spring spawning urge brings these fish up the rivers that feed our major reservoirs. It is truly prime time for trophies, if we can catch the big females right before they drop their eggs. For example, read about the Oostanaula river record broken last week. Since nearly all of these reservoir “Morone” fisheries are dependent on WRD’s annual fingerling stocking program, lucky anglers should not feel guilty about taking that trophy home for mounting. On the trout side, anglers will have to dredge when their jackets are on and then fling some afternoon dry flies when they’re in short sleeves. Stockers are easy pickins’, since they’ll usually be huddled near the bottom and looking for anything edible. Worms, salmon eggs, Powerbait, and slowly retrieved spinners are hard to beat.
- Big Rocky PFA Bass
Have you seen this story and picture yet?
- Coosa/Oostanaula Rivers
Striped bass continue to move into both rivers on their annual spawning run from Lake Weiss. The fish are really starting to fill into the Oostanaula River from the islands near the Rome Braves stadium, upstream to the city of Calhoun. Recent electrofishing surveys indicate some of the early female striper arrivals have started to spawn. Fish in the 30+ pound range were also observed during these surveys. Earlier this week, Calhoun angler Phillip Lanier, landed a 36 pound 3 ounce striped bass from the Oostanaula River – crushing the previous river record of 22 pounds 11 ounces. Congratulations to Phillip on a great catch – – – and release of his trophy!
The striped bass run should continue into the early part of May. Live shad are best, but cut bait and lures will produce stripers too. Target the current breaks provided by blowdowns or debris jams along the river banks. The area immediately downstream of any shoal or riffle is also a good place to find feeding stripers.
The Coosa River white bass run has thus far been below average in terms of numbers. Nevertheless, the inside bends and tributary mouths between the River Road Boat Ramp and Mayo’s Lock and Dam Park are holding fish. Jigs, crank baits, spoons and minnows will all entice bites. The smaller yellow bass, which look like a white bass with a yellow body tint, are also building in numbers in this river stretch. Though typically under a pound in size, they still have the fight of a comparable sized white bass.
– WRD senior fisheries biologist Jim Hakala
The hybrid and striper bite has been decent on the north and south ends of the lake. Look for the Etowah River bite about the lake to pick up to in the next week or so. Live shad fished on free or balloon lines have been the ticket. Keep a spinner bait or spoon handy in case any surface action erupts in the early morning or late evening hours. Crappie fishing continues to be fair to good. Jigs and minnows around tree tops are good bets. Spotted and largemouth bass are in a pre-spawn pattern. We should only be a couple weeks out from the full on spawn.
– WRD senior fisheries biologist Jim Hakala
- WRD Report – April 5
There are plenty of striped bass to be caught in Lake Lanier but due to fluctuating weather conditions their locations can be less than predictable. Early this week striped bass were found shallow <12 ft on clay points but with changing conditions these fish have pushed into deeper water. Our best success when electrofishing has when finding good concentrations of bait including threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and blueback herring. Anglers have reported catching fish both early and late in the day using wake baits over points, as well as, live bait throughout the day. We are starting to see more spotted and largemouth bass move up shallow as water temperatures rise specifically on main lake and secondary points. I got out on the lake fishing Tuesday evening before dark and we caught several spotted bass targeting those points with top water.
If you plan on going out this weekend be safe and if you catch a trophy be sure to let us know! http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/AnglerAwards
April 6 update: we caught no stripers in this morning’s electrofishing sample, as they’ve all turned toward deeper water because of the cold weather.
Good luck and tight lines,
-Pat Snellings, GA WRD Fisheries Biologist Gainesville
- “Birdwatchers” Dredger and Cheesegrits hit Lanier after work on Monday (4/4) and had a great evening in the Sardis area. Water temps ranged from 64 to 67F in the areas they covered. They started out by watching the birds (gulls and loons) and chased them down as they flocked onto bait schools, herded to the surface by predators. They managed several strikes and boated & released a chunky 15-pound male striper that inhaled a blueback-colored superfluke (clubtail version) on a jig head, tied to 12-pound test Ande.
At dusk and after dark, they managed two more four-pound stripers and a two-pound spot on swimming plugs tossed at shallow point markers. It’s shallow-water time at dusk and after dark on Lanier! Got bombers and redfins???
PS- make sure they have hefty hooks and split rings, and not the wimpy ones that almost straightened on ole Grits’ bass plug!
- 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
With the cool nights, water temperature is still holding around 63 degrees. Fishing remains strong. There is plenty of evidence to support that the spawn is still underway. We are catching fish that are full of eggs, and are also catching those that have already spawned. The fishing pattern is definitely not the norm. The docks that we are targeting now generally hold fish only in spring during the spawn. If you think you are in the back of a creek or the back of a pocket that could be a good spawning area, look for these signs: weed lines partially protruding from the water, and willow trees along the banks and in the shallows. You can fish those areas with a jig or a minnow under a cork. However, you should also pay close attention to nearby docks in 5 to12 foot depths. Since you are fishing shallows, your best choice jig will be the 1/32 or 1/24 ounce jig head. If the area has a flat bottom between the spawning ground and the docks, it would be a perfect place to try your long line trolling method using a double rig with curly tails. Use different colors, and if you find you are getting more bites on one color, switch to that color. A few fish are also being caught on blow downs, although the blow down bite has been very inconsistent. Your biggest challenge for this time of year is the wind which may force you to use a heavier jig head. There are a number of fishermen competing for the same fish, so if you feel like you should be getting bites and you’re not, chances are the spot has recently been fished. So keep moving and try different spots.
Wear your life jacket it can save your life!
- Stocked Trout Best Bets
- WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson heads us toward these fine weekend retreats: Hooch and Blue Ridge tailwaters, Dockery and Winfield Scott lakes, Stamp, Holly, West Fork Chattooga, Middle Broad, Amicalola, Hooch on WMA, and Cooper.
- Rock Report
Caught some trout last Saturday on Rock Creek. It was slow on the Toccoa so moved over to Rock Creek. Toccoa was up a little high and running pretty fast and water was probably too clear…as you know trout have good eyesight and if they see you they won’t come near anything. But Rock Creek produced. What’s funny is none of the guys on Rock Creek I ran into were catching there, either. I’m told they stocked but it was slow going for some reason so I was happy to catch what I did! Got three bows on Power Bait on Rock. Two of them were pinker on the inside. I’m told that if the meat is pinker then it’s either a native or a stocker that’s been in the stream for a while living on a diet high in crustaceans which changes their meat color to more pink as opposed to stockers who’s meat is whiter. Not sure if that’s true but it’s what I’ve heard. By the way, I met Butch who runs the Buford area hatchery a few weekends ago. Nice guy.
- Wild Trout Reports
- Landon had a slow trip to his favorite headwater brown trout stream last weekend. He was almost emabarrased to admit dredging squirmy worms to solicit some strikes.
- “Foothills Bob” said he had a great day on wild brookies “somewhere above Helen,” but echoed Landon’s remarks about a lack of surface action. He dredged up quite a few when he fished the bottoms of pools and runs.
- Soon, with the next warm spell, we’ll return to “takes on top.” Here’s something to tie you over:
- Hooch Tailwater
- Sturgeon Restoration
WRD staffers John Damer and Mark Bowen recently caught and released four sturgeon in the Coosa River during their springtime monitoring efforts. WRD hopes to reestablish a naturally reproducing population of this native species. Angler reports are strongly encouraged to help WRD monitor the development of this spawning stock.
More program info here: http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fisheries/LakeSturgeon/Reintroduction-FAQ
- Fishing CPR
Some fish are meant for our dinner tables, while others are freed to fight another day. “CPR” stands for catch, photograph, and release. Here are some tips on taking care of your spring catches that you plan to release:
- Take Better Fishing Photos
- Fishing CFR
That term stands for Casting For Recovery, and this week’s WRD shout-out goes to Beverly and Lamar Booth, Carl Riggs, Jimmy Harris, and their volunteer support cast for hosting another great, FREE weekend retreat for 14 breast cancer survivors. Guests stayed at DNR’s Smithgall Woods cabins, learned flyfishing 101, and ended the weekend with guided fishing trips to Nacoochee Bend trophy trout stream, where tons of memories were made! For more information on applying to the next CFR retreat or donating to this worthy cause, check this out: https://castingforrecovery.org/breast-cancer-retreats/georgia/
- Summerville Outdoor Expo
Good luck this weekend. Go back to the closet and get your jackets, then go back to the tackle box and get more weights. But go fishing, because it’s big fish time in north Georgia. Whether you catch them on top or deep does not matter when you are gripping and grinning. Trust me on this one!
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The recent rains washed out much of the fishing over the weekend and for the next several weeks on most rivers. Ponds, the swamp, and saltwater are the places to fish this weekend. The second annual Satilla Riverkeeper fishing 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”). New Moon is April 7th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – Nope – forget the upper river. The river is still full, muddy, and swift. Fish elsewhere this weekend. Be patient – it will be awesome fishing when the river drops. The river level was 13.0 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising (66 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.1 feet and rising (66 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 5th.
Satilla River – Forget it this week – the river is FLOODING! The entire basin got slammed with several inches of rain, and it will be a couple of weeks before fishing is feasible again. Dickie Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that it is a mixed blessing that the river is flooded, as he expects a new world record redbreast will be caught when it comes back down. (I hope his prediction comes true!) The river level on April 5th at the Waycross gage was 17.3 feet (flood stage is 16 feet) and rising (66 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 13.2 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising.
St. Marys River – John Biagi fished with me on Thursday while the river was still in good shape, and we slammed the redbreasts and a few bluegills on Satilla Spins. We landed 24 panfish (redbreasts primarily, but a couple bluegills and a crappie), of which all but a couple were from 9 to 10 1/2 inches. The size of our fish was amazing. We released them all to be caught again (we didn’t feel like cleaning fish that day!). Our best spins were the 1/8-oz. bruised banana gold (I caught all of my fish on that color even though I tried several other colors), 1/8-oz. orange/chartreuse, and 1/16-oz. black/chartreuse. The current was such that we could fish either size, but it was a little easier to get the 1/8-oz. size down. Bass fishing was great before the rain. On Wednesday evening the bass were eating topwaters. But, at a tournament this weekend after the rains, it only took 3 pounds to win, even though about 20 boats were entered. The combination of murky water and the cold front shut them down. What a difference a couple of days makes! The river is currently still fishable, but it is murky and swift. You will do better to wait a couple weeks for it to get back down. If you must fish, catfish would be your best target. Put shrimp on the bottom, and you should catch a nice mess of whiskerfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage on April 5th was 7.9 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – Anglers were catching fliers and warmouth in the swamp on yellow sallies before the rains. Since we got a couple of inches, the bite will likely be slow for a few days this week, but it should pick back up by the weekend as the water levels stabilize. It is time to pick up your inline spinners and fling them for pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish). Reel it fast for jackfish and slowly for mudfish. On the west side, catfish are your best bet. Fish shrimp on the bottom to catch them. The boat basin at SC Foster State Park is a great location to bank fish for fliers (with yellow sallies) and bullhead catfish (with shrimp on the bottom).
Local Ponds – Spillways were the place to be early this week as lots of water was spilling out of ponds, and fish were attracted to the flow. That bite should continue late into the week, and you can usually catch some nice crappie at the base of dams after the flow has been going for several days. Daniel Johnson caught his personal best bass, a 7.2-pounder on a spinnerbait on Sunday while fishing an Alma area pond. Congratulations, Daniel! Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson fished ponds several times over the weekend and early this week and caught around a dozen to 20 bass per outing. Trick worms were the deal for them. Ron and Nathanael Johnson of Blackshear fished a Douglas area pond and Nathanael caught 4 bass and a redear sunfish (shellcracker). Michael Winge said that bream were biting crickets pitched around shoreline wood cover and vegetation. Crappie were fooled with minnows, and shiners produced some good bass reports. At the Shrine Lake spillway, big bream and crappie were caught on crickets and worms.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – Wind kept most folks out of the brine this week, but some good whiting catches were reported. Michael Winge reported that the trout bite around the St. Marys Jetties was still happening on days when the northeast wind was not blowing badly. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting bite is on. Lots of the tasty fish were landed with dead shrimp and squid. Sharks are still around in good numbers, and a few bull redfish have been caught at night on cut bait. Crabbing improved this week from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The forecast is for a nice, sunny weekend, but right after a stong cold front. Expect the winds to be high behind the front, so small, protected waters will be your best bet. Ponds fit that bill for Saturday. With the cold front, don’t look for the crappie to cooperate very well. Bass and catfish will likely be your best targets. Put shrimp or worms on the bottom if your favorite pond has catfish. For bass, slow and small is probably the way to go behind the front. Stick worms, such as Assassin Fat Job worms rigged on shaky heads or wacky-rigged is a great approach this time of year. Winds are supposed to be lighter on Sunday.