(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
This report should really be called “water temperature prime time” as reservoir temperatures reach the mid-sixties and our larger trout waters hover right around sixty degrees. These are the perfect temperatures to draw fish into the shallows, where most of us, who are “fish-finder challenged” by the latest, greatest sonar technology, have a really good chance at a great fishing day by simply pounding the banks. On trout waters, last week’s low flows and high sun had fish ducking for midday cover, where eagles, ospreys and otters couldn’t find them. However, reports showed that low-light conditions at dawn and dusk, and at any time of the day on rhododendron-covered headwater “cricks’, produced some epic catches for mountain trouters. Even when bug hatches were sparse, recent memories of prior evening feasts had those trout “looking up” for the next evening’s meals, and the drifted or skittered caddis and cahill dries were often hammered.
The forecasted rain tonight and Friday should help most lakes and many small streams by adding a little color to the water. That means more food and less wariness for our shallow water targets, scared of ospreys and otters and the like. Larger trout waters might be a bit muddy if the rain tallies 0.75 inches or so, but they should clear to fishable levels by Saturday evening or Sunday, depending on their watershed size. Don’t forget your USGS stream gauges and the local tackle shops for intel.
I did sacrifice last Friday evening to lawn care, but made up for my momentary lapse in angling judgement by spending two marathon days with fly-flinging friends to round out the weekend. And was glad I did. Have you made your spring memories yet? Caught that big bass or striper? Filled a cooler with crappie? Limited out on stockers? Ran out of fingers and toes to count your dark-30 catch-and-releases on trout waters? Tick-tock; soon these waters will warm and we’ll have to resort to sonar school to have an equal chance to load the boat. Dredger’s advice: load the rods in the car tonight and be ready to sprint north when your last work whistle sounds.
Here we go. Oh look – there are too many photos in my weekly creel. I guess I’m forced into another addendum to y’all!
- Big Mountain Bass
The water temperature in the mountain lakes along the Tallulah River is around 65 degrees, which is ideal for shallow water bass fishing. Fisheries Technician, Tony Anderson, is shown with a 10 lb largemouth bass collected and released today!
Several bass in the 2 to 4 lb weight class were also collected in our bass survey today, April 20.
More lake info here:
-WRD senior fisheries biologist Anthony Rabern
- Jim’s Toona Report
The spotted bass have moved shallow and the spawn should be any time now. Main lake and secondary points are holding good numbers of spawn-ready fish. Like usual, target largemouth in the very backs of coves or tributary mouths. Finding woody debris in these areas will be key to catching largemouth.
The approaching full moon has the shellcrackers in full spawn mode. The fish are concentrated in the very backs of coves containing woody debris. Tributary mouths are also holding good numbers too. The fish are shallow and the water is clear, so a stealthy approach will be required to entice a bite. Recent electrofishing surveys have been turning up good numbers of 1-1.5 pound shellcrackers in congregations of 30 or more fish!
– WRD senior biologist Jim Hakala
- Lanier Bass
If you’ve been waiting for it to warm up to go fish Lake Lanier, this week is the time to go! We were on the lake completing our standardized spring electrofishing sample this week and water temperatures have reached the mid 60’s which is prime time for fish to move up shallow. We found good numbers of post-spawn Largemouth Bass in the back of creeks in less than 8ft of water. Spotted Bass were found at similar depths but were more prevalent on main lake points and rocky banks. Crappie and sunfish are mid-spawn and in shallow water in coves and pockets near cover, the crappie are especially concentrated on tree tops and blow downs. We even had a chance to find a few big Flathead Catfish in the Clarks Bridge area with the largest being 31 lbs. For those hunting the elusive Lake Lanier Walleye we found several feeding on Threadfin Shad and Blueback Herring on clay flats on the upper end of the lake.
With numerous fish up shallow and ready to feed this is a great time to introduce new anglers especially kids to the sport. So if you have a chance this weekend take a kid fishing and get him or her hooked!
If you plan on going out this weekend be safe and if you catch a trophy be sure to let us know!
-WRD biologist Pat Snellings
Water Temp: 64
Lake Level: .51 below full pool
The fishing on Lake Lanier this past week has again been excellent. A wake bait or a bomber has been our first choice in the mornings. The focus with these baits should be fairly shallow on flats and shallower rocky points and humps as well. A steady slow retrieve has been best for these baits. When the wake bait/bomber bite slows down, switch to a worm on a 1/8 oz Davis Shaky Head in these same areas, if the wind will allow. Focus on points at the mouths of spawning pockets and on secondary points as well. With the full moon this week and the warm weather, fish are headed to the beds. Look for both spots and largemouth on bed all over the lake this weekend. The spots will often be just out of site on points, shallow humps and pockets. A fluke is a great search bait for these fish. A drop shot rig with a 4″ worm is a great follow up bait if the fish does not eat the fluke. Work the rig like a shaky head and watch for light bites. Spots on the bed are generally very aggressive. The largemouth can be much more finicky and you have to work on those girls if you want to catch them. Long running flat points are holding fish as well. Often these fish can be found in the 8-10 foot depth ranges or shallower on top of these points. A jerkbait and a swimbait, along with a spinnerbait have been productive on these shallower rocky points as well. Try a straight retrieve with both the swimbait and the jerkbait as well as the spinnerbait. Again, other than early morning, wind is important for this bite. Here is what I have open in early May: 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, and 26. The spots are on fire! Don’t miss out! Give me a call and let’s go fishing! Thanks to all and May God Bless.
Jim “JIMBO” Mathley
Spotted Bass Fishing Guide – Lake Lanier
Mobile – 770-542-7764
- Lanier Stripers
From: Michael Maddalena
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2016 4:08 PM
Got triple Teenagers on at the same time, they were 15 to 18 pounds! On a trip last week, a grandma took out her 10 and 8 year old grandsons. It was a hoot!
It was a mess, the 1st rod started screaming and Isaac couldn’t get the rod out of the holder so I was holding the rod tip up and he was reeling his little heart out, was saying he couldn’t do it – Nancy and Gabriel & myself were cheering him on. The 2nd fish hit and grandma took over holding the rod for Isaac and I helped Gabriel start on the 2nd fish. The whole time I’m trying to keep both fish clear of the other 9 lines we had out (I don’t mess around, I’m a very firm believer of baits in the water.) and started clearing what rods I could. Gabriel seemed to have thing under control, I got a breath in and the 3rd rod started going – I literally yelled at grandma to “get that rod” and I took over helping Isaac. We got Isaac’s silver bullet in the net and unhooked, I was able to leave fish in the net and put net handle in a rod holder. Grandma Nancy got hers to the boat, I grabbed it, unhooked it and put it in the net. Finally we were able to get Gabriel’s in and in the net for a quick picture. None of the three could hold up a fish for a picture. We tried releasing them all, but the 1st one that hooked up was done. So we kept it for a fish fry and the picture of the 3 of us. By this time there were still 3 or 4 rods out, all in a tangled mess, we started to clear things and discovered we had a 4th 8lber on. We laughed and laughed – it was the boys 1st fishing trip. Grandma could not have been any happier.
- Hartwell Hybrids and Stripers
- The early waves of hybrid bass are beginning to run up the Tugaloo River upstream of the Highway 123 Bridge on Lake Hartwell. Although we caught a striped bass with the hybrids, the main pulse of the striped bass run is still a couple of weeks away. Hybrid bass can be caught on live herring, crappie minnows, Flukes and even cut bait or chicken livers on the bottom.
-WRD senior biologist Anthony Rabern
- Stripers and hybrids being caught late evenings in the Mill Town and Crawford’s ferry areas! Fish are being caught on super flukes and on live bait, trolling.
-GADNR Conservation Corporal Craig Fulghum
- Ken’s Reservoir Reports
- Saturday FREE Fishfinder Seminar
- Stocker Best Bets
- Got one and then moved to different part of stream on Toccoa and caught five in under an hour! Water down a little from previous weekends but sun was up so you had to look harder for shaded spots. Caught mine on orange and orange/yellow Power Bait but when cleaning one the stomach contents contained some artificial pink worms. Can you hear my skillet sizzlin’?!
- WRD trout stocking coordinator said that state and federal hatchery truck fleets have been “everywhere” during the last month. He lists the following best bets for the weekend. He also notes that a standpipe problem has dropped Lake Winfield Scott’s water level about two feet, so anglers will have to get past that bathtub ring to reach success. The USFS is looking into the problem and its repair options. Best bets: the three GA tailwaters, West Fork Chattooga, Wildcat, Dicks, Middle Broad, Panther, Hooch thru Helen, Dockery and Rock Creek lakes, Rock, Cooper, Holly, and Amicalola.
- Stocker Worst Bet:
The reflection pool at the base of Amicalola Falls, on the state park, is drained so that the sediment buildup can be removed and the pond restored. The project should only take a few weeks. In the meantime, stocked trout will be redirected to Amicalola Creek on Dawson Forest WMA. That should make the mainstream a “best bet” for at least several weeks!
- Yellow on Bluelines
- Sautee got his yardwork done early on Saturday and hiked uphill to some favorite local trout waters. Here’s his report:
Hope your day on The River was enjoyable. I went to upper IDBIS Creek for the afternoon, after yard chores were complete. It was a good day. First 1-1/2 hours were slow, with only 3 fish caught. It heated up about 4 PM, bugs started coming off and the fish looked up. Ended the evening with many, many rainbows. Caught a few on parachute Adams, but the majority were on yellow caddis and pale yellow evening duns. Didn’t have any cahills (which were coming off) but anything with yellow was attracting them apparently. Even caught a small brookie, which was entirely unexpected! Anyway, the fishing was good, solitary, comfortable, relaxing, convenient and just what I needed!
- Trout Rivers
Dark-thirty action has started on our bigger flyfishing waters. Cahills, caddis, and sallies are the flavors when the “switch turns on” (aquatic insects hatch). Two Rabunites ht the Chattooga DH on Saturday and suffered through slow daytime action. Best bets were size 18 adams in riffled waters and some big nymphs dredged through deep runs. A sparse #18 cahill hatch happened near dark, and the action picked up. The Dark-thirty phenomenon has officially arrived.
Three Rabunites trekked north to Nantahala DH (NC), based on a fellow members Saturday intel (“it was epic”) and also struggled through slow daytime hours. Dark-thirty action more than made up for the prior hours. Bugs included yellow stones, cahills, and some caddis. Dead drifts and skitters both had their place in the action, which lasted until, you guessed it, dark-30. The two rookies caught some fish and the senior Rabunite rubbed a sore shoulder and simply said, with a grin, he had landed “enuf!”
- Spring Flyfishing Tips
See these dry/dropper tips from a veteran springtime fly-flinger who validated these techniques last weekend. Hint: some bugs and fish are already acting like it’s May. Got a flashlight, maybe two?
- Trout Tailwaters
- Trout Fishing Boulder Fields
Tom Rosenbauer’s Orvis podcast regarding pocket water fishing is outstanding. Try these tips the next time you step into a boulder field or set of bedrock ledges on the Toccoa, Chattooga, Ami, Nantahala, or Oconaluftee.
- Biggest Sturgeon to Date!
Enjoy the latest “catch and release” by biologist John Damer and technician Mark Bowen.
Take a look at this impressive lake sturgeon caught by WRD Fisheries staff last week in northwest Georgia. At almost 4 feet and more than 16 pounds, this is the largest lake sturgeon yet captured by WRD staff during our monitoring efforts in the Coosa River basin. Biologists estimate this fish is at least 13 years old (still young), and it has been more than ten years since this fish was last captured and tagged by University of Georgia researchers when it was only two feet long. Lake sturgeon like this one have been stocked in the Coosa Basin every year since 2002 in an effort to bring these awesome sportfish back to their native waters. For more information on WRD’s lake sturgeon restoration efforts, visit http://georgiawildlife.com/Fisheries/LakeSturgeon/Reintroduction-FAQ
And to see where Georgia’s sturgeon eggs come from, take a look at Wisconsin’s live river cams: http://www.wolfrivercam.com. Can you spot the sturgeon?
- Angler Kudos!
This week’s WRD shout-out goes to all of those volunteer Lanier boat skippers who hosted free fishing trips for Outdoors Without Limits! Enjoy the pics of some of the awesome memories made last Saturday.
Learn more about the organization here:
Consider donating a little bit of your boat gas and expertise to the Georgia program. Join others and be the hero!
Good luck this week. Hopefully it will rain just enough to make your grass just too wet to cut. And your fishing waters just right for your long-awaited spring trip. Grab your son or daughter, or a new fishing buddy, and let them help you load the boat. And your memories of fishing Georgia, together.
PS- Thanks for buying your licenses and funding your GAWRD fisheries management programs. Go cash in on them soon.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The St Marys River, the Okefenokee Swamp, and ponds are the places to be this week. Reports have been good from these locations, and pretty sorry from the flooded rivers and saltwater, although gale-force winds are the culprit in the brine. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will hold an Earth Day celebration at the refuge headquarters in Folkston this Saturday. Many displays will be set up, and you can even go fishing in the swamp from the boat basin courtesy of the Waycross Fisheries Office staff. The event is free (other than the entrance fee to the refuge) and lasts from 10am to 2pm. 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. Full Moon is April 22nd. 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 again this week. Be patient – it will be awesome fishing when the river drops. The tidal portion of the river below Altamaha Park is the only place even fishable, and catfish on trotlines and bush hooks are the only viable option. The river level was 10.2 feet and falling (66 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.2 feet and falling (64 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 19th.
Satilla River – Forget it again this week – the river came back up after last week’s rains and won’t be fishable this weekend. The river level on April 19th at the Waycross gage was 13.4 feet and rising (63 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 11.6 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – The best report I heard of was from a group of anglers fishing the river above tidewater. They caught 35 really nice redbreasts – mostly on Satilla Spins – and a half-dozen catfish. The river should be fantastic this weekend after the warming trend late in the week. The best colors of Satilla Spins so far this spring have been bruised banana gold, orange/chartreuse, black/chartreuse, and crawfish. Staff from Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that catfish were caught by the bucketfuls this week. Bream and redbreasts were eating worms and crickets. The bass bite improved with the dropping water and warming daytime temperatures. The river level at the MacClenny gage on April 19th was 3.8 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – Fishing on the east side was good again this week. The warmouth bite remained strong for those using crickets. Yellow sallies produced some great flier catches. If you want to try it for yourself, come to the Earth Day celebration from 10am-2pm at the Folkston entrance on Saturday. Georgia DNR staff from the Waycross Fisheries Office will have equipment available for free (Georgia fishing licenses are required for those 16 years of age and older), and you and a child can fish in the boat basin and learn the techniques to catch fliers, warmouth, and chain pickerel (jackfish). You might even land a feisty bowfin (mudfish). Refuge entrance fees apply, but the event is free of charge. Bring a child (or several children) and enjoy the day!
Local Ponds – Greg Bednar and Tony Muscato visited the area from Illinois this weekend and whacked the channel catfish and bass on Saturday. The pair caught one bass on a bladed jig and 20 others on stickworms fished on a wacky head. Watermelon-red flake was their best color. The wacky worm bite will only get better over the next couple of weeks in area ponds. Michael Winge said that bream fishing picked up this week, with the tasty panfish inhaling crickets pitched near shoreline vegetation. Beetlespins started producing some of the bigger bluegills. Expect the first big wave of fish to move shallow to spawn over the next week with the full moon. Bass were caught with trick worms and lizards, as well as free-lined live shiners. Rooster livers produced some good catfish catches from ponds that have good whiskerfish populations. Crappie were caught with dark colored jigs and minnows. The Lake Ware spillway was the hot-spot for bream, shellcrackers, and catfish.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – Winds dominated the brine and kept folks away. I received very few reports from saltwater this week. The only good report I had was from an angler walking the bank in the Brunswick area. On Saturday he reported catching 2 flounder, 4 trout, and some bluefish on Sea Shads rigged on Flashy Jigheads and live finger mullet. A few trout were caught behind Cumberland Island and St. Simons Island by anglers fishing Sea Shads around shell mounds. The whiting bite should be excellent over the next few weeks when the wind will allow you to get to the holes. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that whiting, black drum, and flounder fishing picked up on Tuesday. Some of the flounder were quality fish. Monday night a few bull redfish were caught with cut bait. Blue crabs are still in good numbers under the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The St. Marys River is your best bet (and realistically your ONLY bet!) for river fishing this weekend. Redbreasts should be biting small spinnerbaits in the upper river, and bream, bass, and catfish should be eating well from tidewater downstream. Ponds should produce some great bass and bluegill catches over the weekend. I love bass fishing this time of year in ponds because you can usually get lots of bites until the hot weather sets in.