(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
Why am I talking about “winter” when we’re stuck in a record-setting string of ninety-degree days, you wonder. What’s wrong with that boy? Heatstroke? Senility? Bad combination of both afflictions, maybe?
Have faith! Read on and don’t put me out to pasture just yet. You might still learn something to make your fishing day a little bit better, despite our persistent heat.
While we’ve had more frequent afternoon storms during the last week or so, their coverage has been spotty and their runoff has been fairly small and short-lived. Most mountain streams are still running low and hot. Our rivers are low, but often muddy because of the brief but intense storms somewhere in their headwaters that deliver a slug of yoo-hoo to downstream reaches. That has been limiting our angling options to headwater streams, the tailwaters (the closer to the dam, the less the impacts from muddy tribs), and ponds and lakes, where we must fish early or late to beat the afternoon heat.
There is still some hope, however:
1. State and federal trout hatcheries have some nice season-ending stockers for you;
2. National forest shade still makes trouting tolerable all day;
3. There are still some windows of opportunity for river bassers, especially those who know how to read river gauges;
4. Most importantly, we have “winter water.”
Our recent addition, Gainesville fisheries biologist Pat Snellings, is working on a nice blog regarding winter water, so stay tuned. In the meantime, the short answer is that winter-stored water is providing us with our best angling opportunities now, during our dog days of summer. Go fish some winter water and you’ll find happier and hungrier fish. You can find that winter water holding trophy trout in Burton, fat stripers in Nottely, hungry hybrids in Hartwell, plump walleye in Tugalo, cool stockers below Buford Dam, giant browns right below those stockers, and West Point’s summer vacationers nosed up against Morgan Falls Dam.
Pat will explain winter water, in greater detail, shortly. In the meantime, let’s look at our current opportunities for summer fishing success across north Georgia.
- Another Big Hooch Brown
Many of you may have already seen this pic and video of Alex’s awesome catch– and release!
- Lake Burton Brown
My son and I landed a decent burton brown this am (7/24) …a little over 6lbs. Caught it 18′ deep on a pointer 65. Surface water temp is pushing 84 so it’s definitely warming up.
– Chris C.
(Ed note: more Burton trout fishing info here: http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Burton)
- Lake Burton Trophy Rainbow
While our agency stocks brown trout each fall because they are more piscivorous and longer lived in reservoirs than rainbow trout, some rainbows from stocked tributaries do wander down into the reservoir. And a few develop a taste for fish!
- Lanier’s Summer Striper Secret
Have you tried these Ben Parker spoons yet for deep stripers?
Terry, at Sherry’s Bait and BBQ, showed me his recent resupply. They are big, expensive (twenty bucks) and evidently are summer fish-catching machines. The other good news is that they don’t need a cool, fresh bait tank to function. Save up for a few, get one of these along with them, http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/captain-macks-umbrella-rig-retriever, and give north Georgia’s deep stripers a shot.
- Lanier Summer Bass…
- …and Stripers
- Toona Bass
o “See, I told you!”
- Ken’s Reservoir Reports
- Stocker Best Bets
Our trout stocking season is now winding down to its traditional end at Labor Day. We also stocked heavily during July to lighten our hatchery loads and deal effectively with low, warm water in the mountains. While the August stocking rates are lower than what you experienced during spring, there are still some good opportunities to wet a line this month. Again, aim real high or below a real big dam holding back “winter water.” WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson suggests these weekend targets: Hooch and Blue Ridge tailwaters, Wildcat, Tallulah, Smith, Dicks, Cooper, and Rock.
- Blueline reports
- Tailwater Trouting
- Creek Bass
- $1,000 Teacher Grant Opportunity
Good luck during our tough times in August. Before we know it, September’s shorter days and cooler nights will be upon us. And another batch of winter water will then appear on the horizon, ready to refill our reservoirs and support next summer’s trophy moments with your kids.
As always, thanks for buying your licenses and TU license plates. Tight lines and cold toes to y’all as you go find some winter water now.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The Camp Tatum Satilla River Showdown benefit tournament will be held this Saturday, August 6th. See Satilla River section below for more information. Most anglers have been doing short trips either early or late during the heat. Even with the hot weather, the shark, bowfin, and bream bites have been good. First quarter moon is August 10th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle said that the 4th Annual Good Ole Boys and Girls Frog Tournament was a big success. Tyler Palmer and Clay Benefield hand-caught a 17 1/4-inch frog to take the big purse ($340). The gig category winners ($102) were Chase Yeomans and Kendall Martin with a 16 3/8-inch frog. Tonya Yeomans and Jaiden Long won the ladies’ category ($68) with a 16 1/2-inch hopper. A bullfrog just short of 14 inches is what it took for Trey Pierce and Logan Banks to win the kids’ category ($34). Connie said that you know that the dog-days are upon us because lots of sturgeon are jumping. Bream have been eating crickets, and some are really big bream. Flathead and blue catfish were caught with goldfish. Some of the flatheads were in the 50-60 pound range. Blue cats were mostly 20 to 30-pounders. Donna at Altamaha Park reported that fishermen are catching primarily bluegills and shellcrackers. Redbreasts have been bedding on the backs of sandbars. The flathead and channel catfish bites have been good. On Sunday, a 38-pound flathead was weighed. It was duped with a goldfish. The river level was 2.2 feet and falling (88 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 2.7 feet and rising (84 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on August 2nd.
Satilla River – The Camp Tatum Satilla River Showdown benefit tournament will be held this Saturday, August 6th. Proceeds will go to help offset medical expenses of Camp’s family. Many businesses and individuals around Waycross have pitched in to sponsor the tournament. For more information, pick up forms at Winge’s Bait and Tackle, Clayton Homes, Hog-N-Bones, Lee Hardware, or Yarbrough Printing in Waycross. The best approach for the tournament this weekend is probably going to be paddling or wading, unless we get several storms this week to bring the water level up. Craig James has been whacking the bass on the upper river. Plastics have been producing about 10 bass per trip, and one of them pushed the tape measure out to 18 inches. He said it’s the best bass fishing he’s ever experienced on the river. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river is low, but anglers wading or fishing from small boats have been doing well. Redbreasts were eating crickets, pink worms, beetlespins, and Satilla Spins. Catfish bit well in deep stretches of the river. Rooster liver and shrimp produced the most. Shiners produced some good bass catches, but the fish were on the small side. In the Burnt Fort area over the weekend, anglers reported catching from 19 to 33 panfish per trip. Most were bream, with very few redbreasts caught. The river level on August 2nd at the Waycross gage was 4.7 feet and falling (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 2.9 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – The upper river jumped up about a foot with recent rains, but it is falling back out again. There was a scaled-fish tournament held Saturday on the St Marys. The attendance was 30 boats, and it took a 10.2-pound 5 fish aggregate to win. A 17-ounce bluegill was the biggest panfish. As usual, catfish were caught about everywhere by folks dropping shrimp to the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage on August 2nd was 2.1 feet and falling.
Ocmulgee River – Some Waycross anglers fished the Ocmulgee on Saturday and caught 25 bass and lost another couple dozen. Their biggest was 3-lb., 4-oz., and it ate a Texas-rigged plastic. The river level at the Abbeville gage on August 2nd was 0.8 feet and falling. The river is very low, so expect to drag over sandbars.
Okefenokee Swamp – Very few anglers fished this week, but those that did caught fish. On a trip last week, several friends caught dozens of fliers and bowfin (mudfish) and a few warmouth. Pitching sallies to shoreline wood and vegetation will land quite a few panfish, while flinging Dura-Spins down the middle of the canal will produce lots of bowfin and a few chain pickerel (jackfish). Expect to catch about 20 fish per hour by throwing in-line spinners on the east side. The sure bet on the west side is putting shrimp on the bottom and catching catfish.
Local Ponds – Night fishing for big bass is in full swing. Throw black buzzbaits (you can fish a quad-blade very slowly and still keep it on top) in the deepest water of the pond for your best bet at a giant strike. Michael Winge said that the water temperatures topped 100 degrees in several Waycross area ponds over the last week. Daylight and late evening were the best times to fish. Some big bream were caught with crickets and pink worms. Pink worms produced some nice catfish catches. Bass were caught after dark on buzzbaits.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – The most consistent bite in saltwater has been tarpon and sharks in the sounds and coastal rivers. This is the month when tarpon will often follow baitfish up into the rivers, such as the Altamaha and Satilla. Find the right area, and you can have some fun! A pogy or chunk of fish on the bottom in the sounds is an almost sure thing for sharks. The little pups can get aggravating this time of year, as they will chew your bait up. Michael Winge reported that flounder were abundant in creeks. Sandy areas next to oyster bars were the key to finding flatfish. White swimming mullet grubs and mudminnows produced the most flounder. Whiting were caught with shrimp and squid, and croakers were also in the mix. Trout were caught around creek mouths on Gulp shrimp and live shrimp. Look for most trout to be near the sounds, as the bigger fish are moving back and forth to the beach to spawn. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle reported that flounder, trout, croakers, whiting, and Spanish mackerel were caught from the pier this week. Flounder were mostly 16 to 20 inches, and a few were doormats. Dinner plate-sized blue crabs were abundant. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: Redbreast fishing on the Satilla is slower than in the spring, but it is still your best option to fish the Camp Tatum Satilla River Showdown benefit tournament this Saturday and support the Tatum family. Mullet fishing on the lower Altamaha sandbars is a good option with the river low and clear. Bowfin (mudfish) fishing in the Okefenokee Swamp is excellent right now, with 20 fish per hour being the norm. Shark fishing is your best option in the “big pond”.