(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
It’s December and the Georgia weather has finally caught up to the calendar. Get ready for some chilly days and frosty nights to come. http://www.intellicast.com/Local/Weather.aspx?location=USGA0267
What does this mean? Answer: “Low and slow!”
As our sportfish glue themselves to the stream or lake bottom in response to plummeting temps, anglers will have to fish low and slow. Bump the bottom and slow down the retrieves. When in doubt, add more weight until you know you’re bumping the bottom. For trout, the switch will turn on as water temperatures reverse their nighttime course and begin to rise at midmorning. The fish will stir when it hits 40 degrees or so, and their feeding activity will increase with each degree closer toward 50. That’s why the best winter trouting is usually in that 1PM to 3PM window, especially if a bright sun shines upon those streams. Rabunites use this “thermometer” and other winter tips in here to aid their trip planning:
Georgia streamflows are slowly recovering with our recent, regular rainfall. They’ve still only been peaking at historically normal flow levels for this time of year, and have quickly dropped back down to wadeable levels within a day or two after each big rain. The truly good news right now is that the streamflows are, indeed, higher than they were during our fall drought. We’ll still need a winter of consistent rains to continue this recovery. For more info, pick a USGS stream gauge, like the Hooch in Helen, and enter “21” or “30” into the cell for “days of record” and you can see the longer term trend for flows and water temperatures.
Notice also that the Hooch will run a few degrees warmer than places like the Chattooga,
which drains from high mountains in NC, and the Toccoa, which flows from high elevation and aims north. It doesn’t get as much sunlight as south slope streams.
Reservoirs will be slower to respond to cold nights, but temperatures will be falling there, too. Slow down your offerings and watch our winter vacationers, the birds. It’s that time of the year when your flat-water strike indicators are gulls, loons, and herons. The professional fishing guides have better knowledge and fresher Intel than me, so read their fishing reports at key websites (below) before you break some ice in the boat bottom and hitch it up for a trip toward a ramp.
All anglers who don’t already have one should ask Santa for a thermometer.
It’s more important than our selection of the lure or fly pattern, as winter water temperatures will be the controlling factor to our angling success in the weeks to come. This is especially true for our freestone streams and unregulated (no dams) rivers, where cold water flows off the frosted mountainsides and into the creeks. The good news is that this means we can sleep in, eat a late breakfast, and arrive streamside no earlier than 11 AM. Remember a small hand towel and those disposable pocket handwarmers, too.
Good luck slowly bumping the bottom during the slightly warmer afternoons. Here we go:
· Hooch Bucket Brigade #2
We need all the assistance of our volunteer elves to help stock delayed harvest trout in the Chattahoochee River just in time for Christmas! Our second holiday Delayed Harvest bucket stocking at White Water Creek on the Chattahoochee River will be Tuesday, December 20th. The stocking truck should be arriving around 10:30 am and volunteers should bring a 5-gallon bucket, waders, and a signed copy of the attached waiver. These events are great for kids to have a chance to help get trout in the water and even catch a few once all the fish are stocked.
We look forward to seeing you all on the 20th and a special thanks to everyone who came out to the Thanksgiving stocking! If anyone has questions, please contact our office at 770-535-5498.
– WRD-Gainesville fisheries biologist Pat Snellings
· Campfire Bans Lifted
Thank you rainfall!!!
GA Wildfire update: https://www.facebook.com/ChattOconeeNF/posts/1299460116760444:0
· Hooch – Upper and DH
· Toccoa DH
After attending Saturday’s (12/3) annual work project planning meeting with GATU and the US Forest Service in Blue Ridge,
Dredger found a few daylight hours remaining and hurried back to the Toccoa DH. Water temp was 46 at 3pm, which gave him a fighting chance at the fish. They were a bit cold and slow, but enough still inhaled the olive woolly bugger, fished deeper and slower than at Thanksgiving, to give him a good afternoon. More importantly, other new guests (two Lagrange trout addicts and two other morning meeting survivors from Athens TU) also discovered the effectiveness of the deep bugger strip and the fish-attracting powers of Magic Rock (see pic).
· Smith DH
Here’s your chance at trout on dries in the winter. Just have a nice little dropper on 6X to boost your overall catch rate while you await the occasional rise.
· Chattooga DH in Winter
Here’s a nice video to encourage y’all to bundle up and enjoy the winter trouting opportunities during your holiday break.
WRD and Chattahoochee Forest NFH trout stocking elves will be “spicing up” the Georgia DH waters for you just before the Christmas holidays. (sentences like these are why our report readers are encouraged to pay attention and read the whole thing…)
· Winter Trouting with Bobbers and Jigs
Suspension systems or Euro rigs?
It’s not either/or; it’s both!
Jigs and bobbers each have their place in our coldwater arsenals, as their use depends on the habitat fished.
And there’s even more in the George Daniels book, if Santa’s really good to you.
· New Toccoa Tailwater Ramp
Many thanks to TVA for the Tailwater access improvement. I had a chance to inspect the site at Tammen Park on Saturday and it’s a very nice launch site for driftboats, pontoons, yaks, and other small craft. Since the pink donut hatch (tubers) is a summer occurrence, well-dressed winter anglers can have a quiet, fun float at this time of year. Remember that tailwater temps are usually several degrees warmer than the water flowing from our high mountain streams, so the tailwater fish may be more active.
Local Intel: https://www.facebook.com/BlueRidgeFlyFishingCompany/
· Muddy Trout Water – Plan B
Given these recent forecasts, we’re feeling a bit better about our chances for continued winter rains. Given this renewed hope, many winter trouters should prepare for “blown out” (unfishable) streams and start working on a Plan B. For some of my unnamed friends, this means a nap . For a few others, it could be a warm chair and internet fishing videos. But for the Adventurers, who must have a real fishing fix to survive until spring, consider a road trip to Lake Tralyta at Vogel State Park.
In response to angler inquiries a couple years ago, we started a limited offseason stocking program there. We hope that a few trout stocked monthly thru winter will give Georgia trouters a “muddy stream” alternative to staying indoors. You can try casting from the bank (the upper end and along the dam are good bets) or launching a small watercraft. Just be safe. Feedback from last winter’s anglers was positive, so we hope that this alternative is a wintertime hit again this year. For more info on the park, visit here:
And for some Vogel fishing tips and reports, take a look here:
· Lanier Crappie
Lake Lanier Crappie Fishing Report December 7, 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 hovering in the mid-50’s. Over the next several days, night temps will drop below freezing. With temperatures like this, we should see a significant drop in water temps. This sudden drop will slow the bite down, but crappie like cold water, and they will adjust in a day or two. Your best bet will be fishing brush piles in twenty five feet of water. Cooler water temps mean the crappie hold tighter to the brush piles, Make sure you fish the brush from different angles, and if that doesn’t trigger a bite, try positioning the boat directly above the brush pile and jig vertically. As you approach, make sure you set your trolling motor speed on the lowest setting to avoid spooking the fish. Crappie minnows should work as well as jigs. If you are a dock shooter, you will most likely catch the bigger fish in this manner at twenty to thirty foot depths. Shooting docks can be challenging this time of year with the falling leaves. Depending on the wind, leaves can get trapped between floating docks and boats, making it difficult for the jig to fall through. When it does, get through, it can be rewarding. The fish need to fatten up for the winter, so should be biting well after adjusting to the colder water temperatures.
Be safe on the water and wear your life jacket, it can save your life! See you on the water!
· Spooning for Reservoir Bass
This is an interesting conversation that might help our newest winter bassers to find some coldwater success.
· Ken’s Reservoir Reports
Fresh outa Ken’s oven every Friday:
· Holiday TV
When the weather’s really bad and you’re stuck inside, you can fish vicariously through these shows, “Anglers and Appetites.” They cover everything, from trout to reds to shrimp. http://www.anglersandappetites.com/full-length-videos
Many of you will recognize David from his efforts with Georgia Public Broadcasting. Last June the A &A TV crew came up and shot two great shows around Clayton, in cooperation with Rabun TU. The shows aired last month on cable TV. Hopefully they’ll be posted to the web or will rerun on TV in the near future. https://www.facebook.com/anglersandapps/
· Another “Shot” at a Free Lifetime License – December 13 Deadline
· NGTO Trout Elves and BOD Kudos
o Steve’s at it again, with some help this year from Sam. Do you want a free fly rod?
o Kudos to the North Georgia Trout Online (NGTO ) Board of Directors and membership for Saturday’s generous donation to Georgia TU’s “Wood is Good” Campaign.
Some of the projects in the “Wood is Good” program include helping the US Forest Service to add woody debris to wild trout streams, supporting the Save the Hemlocks campaign of restoring this riparian tree species,
and building structures like the new Tallulah River wheelchair-accessible fishing pier.
I salute this great partnership between the two Georgia trout fishing organizations that will benefit a lot of trout streams and trouting fans.
· “The Biggest Trout I’ve Ever Hooked”
Kudos to Foothills TU and Unicoi Outfitters for their recent Veterans Day fishing outing with wounded vets. Story and pics here: http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/archives/120241/
· Saturday Sonar Basics
Saturday, December 17, 2016 2pm at Bass Pro Shops in Lawrenceville, learn BASICS OF ELECTRONICS BY LOWRANCE PRO STAFF, KEN STURDIVANT
· Counting You for More Federal Cash
Did you know:
If you’re age 60 or older, please look closely at buying a lifetime license for $95.
You’ll save some money (or lose only about $40 if you’re 64) over buying annual licenses.
Most importantly, we can count you as a Georgia license holder for another couple of decades (via actuarial tables). That is so important as Georgia WRD competes nationally for federal aid funds via the Sport Fish Restoration and Wildlife Restoration programs. The number of paid licenses holders is a key component in the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s funds allocation formula.
Free (honorary) license holders cannot be considered in this process of federal aid fund allocation.
Those “federal aid funds” are the tax moneys you’ve already paid on your hunting and fishing gear and motorboat fuel. We just want to bring as much of your money back to Georgia on your behalf as we can!
I encourage you to spread the word. Thanks.
Welcome to North Dakota. Bundle up, take a water temperature, fish the afternoons, and ALWAYS bring a dry change of clothes with you. These brief winter fishing fixes can be a lot of fun, and the “cardio” can help you work off some of your extra holiday calories. Grab a school-less kid (on holiday break) and a bucket on the 20th, and come help our “Pat and Pat Show” at the Whitewater Creek stocking access. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t believe me? Watch the video clip. Good luck, and thanks for buying your licenses and TU car tags.
PS- Deadline- lifetime license contest – December 13.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
The rain was the big story this week. Rivers are filling back up as runoff from tributaries makes its way down the systems. Crappie, sheepshead, and trout fishing were tops this week. Full Moon is December 13th. 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 reported that the crappie bite is still on. Minnows and jigs produced the fish. There were no reports of catfish, but the bass bite has been good. The rising water should trigger the channel catfish bite. Donna at Altamaha Park said that over the weekend anglers caught crappie on minnows and jigs in the main river and the creeks. Creels of 20 to 30 fish per boat were the norm. Catfish were caught on dead shrimp and worms fished in the deeper holes. Flatheads ate goldfish fished on the back sides of sandbars. The river level was 2.4 feet and rising (62 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 2.4 feet and rising (63 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 6th.
Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river produced good catches before Monday’s rain. Over the weekend, anglers reported catching redbreasts and bream by wading the river. I would not recommend that this week, as the level is coming up! Crickets, worms, and spinnerbaits produced the best catches. Catfish were also caught on worms and shrimp fished in the deep holes. Bank fishing is a great approach for catfish as the river is rising. The river level on December 6th at the Waycross gage was 6.6 feet and rising (64 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.2 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – Catfishing is excellent. Just drop a hook baited with worm, shrimp, or rooster liver and the catfish will find it. A few anglers reported catching crappie on minnows and jigs. Bream ate crickets, and most catches were between 15 and 20 fish per boat. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 6th was 1.8 feet and rising.
Okefenokee Swamp – I did not receive any reports this week, but I would imagine that the warmouth and fliers still bit in the boat basin at the Folkston entrance, and catfish chowed down on the Fargo side. The water level in the swamp should be coming back up, but check with SC Foster State Park (912-637-5274) before going if you want to fish that entrance.
Local Ponds – Chad Lee put it on the bass this weekend, catching a total of 30 over the weekend. Most of his fish were in the 2-pound range, but a half-dozen were around 4 pounds. His best baits were Bang-O-Lure jerkbaits, SPRO frogs, ZOOM Ol’ Monster worms (junebug was the best color), and Berkley Crazy Craws (black/blue was the best color). Michael Winge said that local Waycross area ponds produced crappie in great numbers. Both minnows and jigs produced fish. The bream bite on Saturday was strong with crickets catching hand-sized panfish. Most anglers reported catching 15 to 25 bream per trip.
Florida Lakes – Rodman Reservoir is the place to be for big crappie. Lots of fish over 2 pounds were landed over the weekend by anglers fishing minnows. On the St. Johns River, crappie were reported from anglers fishing out of Georgia Boys Fish Camp on the north end of Crescent Lake.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – Jimmy and Tim Kirkland had a good day fishing out of Doboy Sound the week of Thanksgiving. They caught several limits of redfish on their way to keeping their limit of 17 to 20-inchers. They released several over 20 inches. They also had some nice trout and a monster sheepshead (almost a 10-pounder!). Way to go, guys! The best trout report I received from the Brunswick area was from a group of Waycross anglers fishing out of kayaks. They were throwing Sea Shads (Mama’s 14K) on Flashy Jigheads and swimming them around shoreline cover. The pair ended up with 20 nice trout (17 were keepers!) up to 20 inches and a bluefish. The 1/8oz version of the Flashy Jighead was the ticket for them. Brentz McGhin and Chad Sexton fished the Crooked River area on Saturday and caught several sheepshead on fiddler crabs and over a dozen whiting on dead shrimp. Michael Winge reported that trout, reds, sheepshead, and black drum were caught on days when the wind allowed. Live shrimp and Assassin Sea Shads (electric chicken) produced most of the trout. Pilings around docks and bridges were the ticket for sheepshead and black drum, and fiddlers and dead shrimp were the most productive baits. Dead shrimp or squid fished on the bottom accounted for some good whiting catches in the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that trout, black drum, whiting, and sheepshead were tops this week from the pier. On Saturday an angler had a 10-pound sheepshead from the pier. It ate a black mussel. Fiddler crabs and barnacles also worked for smaller convictfish. Large sand sharks were cruising under the pier, and an 8-footer was landed. Blue crabs were numerous under the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: The cold weather late in the week will likely push the bite to the afternoons for this weekend. But, with warmer temperatures early next week, the crappie and trout bites should fire back up full-bore. During the cold days this weekend, white catfish in the lower rivers and sheepshead on the coast should be good options. Neither fish is typically affected much by cold fronts.
(Info provided by fisheries biologist Rob Weller and region fisheries staff)
LAKE WALTER F. GEORGE AND LOWER CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER – The recent heavy rains and cooling temperatures have slowed the bass fishing on Lake Walter F. George. However, anglers throwing crank baits or fishing a Carolina rig along the edge of the hydrilla beds should still be able to catch some fish. The bass should be a bit deeper than they were the last few weeks. The cooling water should be good news for crappie anglers. Crappie should be schooling and feeding along the creek channels. Fishing for catfish continues to be good with several reports of anglers catching 8-10 pound fish on cut shad in the creek channels.
FLINT RIVER – The recent rains have swollen the Flint and this weekend might be a good time to visit either the tailrace below Lake Blackshear or below Lake Worth in Albany as the increased flow should attract white bass, hybrids, striped bass and catfish. The following USGS gauges of river level may be useful when planning your next fishing trip.
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 old saying “you should have been here last week” applies to Lake Seminole. A friend of his caught over 50 bass on a rattletrap last Saturday. He was fishing just outside the grass in 8-9 feet of water. It took 24 pounds to win a one day tournament last weekend. However the bass fishing has slowed after the recent heavy rains and cooling temperatures. Crappie fishing has improved dramatically and the fish are schooling and hungry. Anglers can expect the crappie fishing to continue to be good as water temperatures continue to decline.
LAKE BLACKSHEAR – Crisp County Power has drawn down Lake Blackshear to allow homeowners the opportunity to repair docks and seawalls. They will begin to refill the Lake December 15th. The cooler temperatures and lower water should improve fishing for crappie, as well as, white, hybrid and striped bass. Anglers should exercise caution while boating due to the currently lowered water level.