(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The less-than-glamorous fisheries, such as catfish and bowfin (mudfish) are firing on all cylinders as the temperatures rise. Expect that to continue with the triple-digit temps expected late this week. In ponds, bream fishing is very good. Saltwater is getting good for trout on the beach and flounder in the sounds and inland waters. Last quarter moon is June 27th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – The bream and mullet bites are firing off as the water level and temperatures get right. Most anglers are making average catches of several bream, redbreasts, and warmouth per trip, but those who have the river figured out are catching some good messes of fish right now. One angler whacked the crappie out of Jaycees Landing this week. He caught a limit of half-pound crappie on minnows. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that catfish of all species, bream, and mullet were caught in good numbers this week. She has mullet tackle in the store so check it out if you don’t know how to rig for mullet. Donna at Altamaha Park reported excellent numbers of eating-sized channel catfish. Pink worms fished on the bottom will get the job done. Mullet are thick and are eating red wigglers fished around sandbars. Crappie were caught with minnows, and bream and shellcrackers were numerous in creels (pink worms were the best bait for them). Flatheads up to 35 pounds were landed this week using goldfish for bait. The river level was 3.2 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 4.7 feet and rising (80 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 21st.
Satilla River – Craig James fished just ahead of the weekend front and whacked the bass in the upper river. He tried several lures, but they wanted Trick Worms. He landed 10 bass up to 3 pounds on Thursday. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the panfishing has heated up. Redbreasts were eating Satilla Spins, Beetlespins, crickets, and worms. Catfish were hungry, as well, with rooter livers and dead shrimp fooling most of them. The bass bite was awesome with 3 to 5-pounders caught on topwater plugs and Trick Worms. A 52-pound flathead was reportedly caught from the Burnt Fort area of the river this week with a goldfish dangling from a limb line. The river level on June 21st at the Waycross gage was 5.3 feet and falling (80 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.5 feet and falling.
St. Marys River – Bream and redbreast fishing has been on fire for those using crickets. Some of the bream were of the purple-cheeked, brightly-banded, big foreheaded, can’t-get-your-hand-around-them variety. Catfish were everywhere you dropped a hook again this week. The river level at the MacClenny gage on June 21st was 1.9 feet and falling.
Alapaha River – Ronnie and Hunter Gaskins fished the river on Saturday and kept 43 nice redbreasts, bream, and warmouth. The river was muddy, but they still bit well. Crawfish Satilla Spins and Spin Dandy spinnerbaits did the damage for them. The river level at the Statenville gage on June 21st was 3.2 feet and falling (81 degrees).
Okefenokee Swamp – The warmouth bite slowed a little this week, but most anglers reported catching 10 to 15 per trip. The best bite this week was for bowfin (mudfish). The feisty, toothy battlers were flipping at the surface all over the swamp. My daughter Ellie and I walked the bank at the Folkston entrance between church services on Sunday and caught 15 bowfin in about an hour of fishing. Our biggest was 4 pounds, and the best color (by far) was Jackfish. We tried several other colors of Dura-Spins, but the red/yellow/white was what they wanted. I didn’t hear of any great flier trips, but this time of the year you can usually catch 40 to 50 fliers per trip by pitching pink or yellow sallies. Believe it or not, we did not see a single yellow fly while walking the bank on Sunday afternoon, so I’m going to start heading back out into the swamp before long. By July 4th the yellow flies usually drop off to tolerable levels, so it’s just a little bit early this year.
Local Ponds – I mentioned last week that it is time to go “jugging” for catfish. My son Timothy, Justin Bythwood, and I validated that claim on Saturday. We floated pool noodles baited with bluegill chunks and landed 36 channel catfish in just over an hour of “fishing”. Our biggest was 3 pounds, but the bite was so good that we could only fish 5 noodles, and all 5 were bobbing at times. We ate catfish for lunch on Father’s Day – yummy!!! Just as much fun as pulling noodles was catching the bait. We caught a dozen big bluegills in about 10 minutes by pitching orange Okefenokee Swamp Sallies near a dock. Sallies work for more than just fliers and warmouth in the swamp! An angler fishing a blackwater pond reported catching 12 bream that weighed 14 pounds by pitching glow bugs at night. That fishery is a hoot – especially when you are on fish like those! Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, bream ate crickets, pink worms, and small spinnerbaits. Bass bit best on buzzbaits and spinnerbaits late in the afternoon. Pink worms and shrimp fished on the bottom fooled lots of catfish.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – The trout have hit the beach to spawn. I heard of a limit of trout caught from the Cumberland Island beach (fishing from a boat toward the beach) this week. The fish are usually caught just behind the breakers. My favorite presentation is a Sea Shad suspended underneath an oval Cajun Thunder Float, but many folks use live shrimp for bait. Quite a few sharks are being caught wherever anglers are putting cut bait on the bottom, whether from the beach, piers, or boats. Catchable numbers of tarpon should be crashing beachfront pogy pods any day now. Michael Winge reported that Waycross anglers caught quite a few flounder on mud minnows and finger mullet. White Gulp swimming mullet are also fooling some doormats. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle reported that the crab catches have been great this week. Buckets full have left the pier. Flounder are around in good numbers, and keeper trout are around, also. Sharks were numerous at night on cut bait. Whiting disappeared this week for whatever reason. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: If you want to get on a good bite and don’t care the species, sharks at the coast, bowfin at the swamp, and catfish on any of the rivers are the species of choice this weekend. With the heat, it will be hard to get some of the more popular species interested, but those listed above will be chowing. Cast net some mullet or pogies, cut them up, and put them on a bottom rig no matter where you fish near a sound, and a shark will likely inhale it. At the Okefenokee, you don’t even have to own a boat to be successful for bowfin (mudfish). The boat basins at both the Fargo and Folkston entrances have ample space to fish from shore. Cast an in-line spinner (like a Dura-Spin, Mepps Spinner, or large sized Rooster Tail) and hold on. The slower you reel it without digging up bottom muck, the more likely you are to get a bite. Jackfish, fire tiger, and black/chartreuse have been my most productive colors for mudfish. Don’t look at me cross-eyed next time you see me, but mudfish are actually good to eat if you eat them the same day you catch them. Filet them and deep-fry or pan sauté them in butter and spices and you will be surprised. The meat is a little mushier than “prized” species, but they are very good. Catfishing involves simply putting a piece of shrimp, pink worm, chicken liver, or cut bait on the bottom and waiting for your rod to dip. All our rivers and many ponds have catfish in them.
(Info provided by fisheries biologist Rob Weller and region fisheries staff)
Lake Walter F. George – Recent reports say that the bass bite on George has moved away from the shoreline vegetation to the ledges. The “hottest” fishing right now is for channel and blue catfish. Two anglers fishing at Pataula Creek caught over 50 cats in less than two hours of fishing. They were only using one rod each. Crappie can be found on structure in deeper water near the river and creek channels. Fishing at night seems to be the most productive technique at this time. A few bream are still being caught and can be found along the edges of shoreline vegetation.
Flint River – The Flint River has produced a new state record shadow bass. It is the first time that shadow bass are recognized as eligible for state record status, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division. Kristen Brown, of Baconton, hooked this new state record shadow bass on the Flint River on June 1, 2016 using a plastic worm as bait. This 10 oz, 9 1/4” inch catch now sets the standard for any new state record shadow bass. A new state record has to be at least one ounce greater. The lower Flint River is well within its banks and is a bit on the low side for this time of year but it is in good shape for a fishing trip. There have reports of good fishing for bream, largemouth bass, shoal bass and catfish. The water level in the lower Flint has been fluctuating a great bit due to the hydroelectric operations at Lake Blackshear so you will need to plan your trip accordingly. The following USGS gauges of river level may be useful for doing so.
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 Well the fishing has been steady for both bass and bream. The bass fishing continues to be good and lots of fish in the 3-5 lb. range are being caught with an occasional fish over 5 as well. Bass are being caught both shallow and deep. Early morning frog fishing has been productive as well as flipping heavy cover. The Georgia High School State BASS fishing tournament was held a couple of weekends ago and the wining weight was over 30 pounds for this two day tournament. The crappie are in their summer pattern and can most likely be found in deeper water near cover along the river channel in both the Flint and Chattahoochee arms of the Lake. Fishing for crappie remains fairly slow and there have not been many reports of big catches of crappie.