Our cover photo brings the reminder that 70,000 trout “hit” North Georgia waters this week thanks to stocking efforts of Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division staff. More on Georgia trout fishing found here.
This week, reports come from North Georgia, Southeast Georgia and Southwest Georgia.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Frozen Burton ponds…then 86 degrees…then hail…then 60 mph winds – gee, it must be March!
In fact, it’s the end of March, and that means it must be trout and turkey “season.” Yes, this Saturday is a big day as turkey season opens up and as we get all of our trout streams stocked for our traditional ‘opening’ weekend crowds. Hopefully the weather will calm a little bit as we slide into April. At least the ice is gone, and the water temps are creeping up toward the OPTIMAL range for our crappie, bass, stripers, and mountain trout. This is the time of the year that we all live for. Dodge a few spring showers that are delivering desperately needed rain, and go have a lot of fun in the mountains. Real outdoorsy folks might even do a surf-and-turf weekend, with some dawn turkey hunting followed by some midday trouting. The WMA’s are here for you, so do a little evening homework this week and plot your weekend trails to trek. http://www.georgiawildlife.com/maps/hunting/region2
Here we go, in an agency effort to help you scribe those top secret plans:
“Opening Day”: While we no longer have a closed season for trout fishing in Georgia, we still have a trout stocking season that honors Georgia’s traditional “Opening Day” of the last Saturday in March and stretches until Labor Day. (The “offseason” trout hatchery space is used to grow this year’s fingerling (4-inch) trout up to catchable size for next season’s stockings.) This week our state and federal hatchery staffs are releasing 70,000 trout to celebrate the beginning of our 2017 stocking season. http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Trout%20Stocking
We hope you have a chance to head to the mountains and celebrate this tradition once again. It’s a special time, with many special memories. It was truly a highlight of my early years on the water, and likely influenced my career decision. This narrative now has a few years on it, but it’s still a good read as we trouters prepare for the weekend celebration: https://georgiawildlife.blog/2014/03/28/974/ (Note to Jimmy with Savannah River TU- I dedicate that chain stringer paragraph to you!)
New Goody – Weekly “Trout Stocked” List: WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson worked with WRD-HQ web guru Chris Semerjian during the offseason, and they now present you with our weekly trout stocking list, online. DNR’s longstanding policy prohibits the release of trout stocking information before the fish are stocked (in order to give everyone a fair shot at the fish). These lists will be updated weekly, on Friday afternoons, as each week’s stocking is completed. WRD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do hope that this will lead to more fishing fun for you and your family. http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout
Toccoa DH Fishing Report: March 18th and 19th: Jeff, We had a large and diverse group on the DH this past weekend, including eight members of the North Paulding High School Fly Fishing Club. Unless we get some substantial rainfall expect the water conditions to be low flow and very clear. This makes wading easier but, it makes the fish spooky and selective. Results were varied in the group so start with 5x tippet and be prepared to go to 6x later in the day. Fly selection varied quite a bit from the standard DH types, y2ks, squirmy worms worked for some, others found the naturals to their liking such as; hare’s ears, pheasant tails and caddisfly larva patterns, smaller sizes of 14 and under for these, as well as black midge droppers in size 20 . There was a good hatch that occurred in the afternoon and evening, with Blue Winged Olives and Adams in size 18 being consistent producers. Lets hope for some big rain events to keep our streams healthy through the summer. Good fishing to you all! (From: Steve Westmoreland, Cohutta Chapter of Trout Unlimited, http://tucohutta.org/)
- Video: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112835
- Yellowstone buddy Alan from Bogart reported good action on the Chattooga DH. In fact, he recently got into a heavy Quill Gordon hatch and caught a bunch of rainbows on top, with one hitting the sixteen inch mark. Folks heading that way will be smart to carry some of the April bugs- March browns, caddis, and cahills. Details: google “Rabun TU-Tightlines.”
- Sautee’s Saturday Report: Shortly after lunch, when the sun broke free and the diamonds started sparkling across the riffles, the rainbows got curious and started looking up. It must have been the bright sunlight that confused them, but a #14 parachute Adams caught their attention. They ate like they were hungry and the color indicated spawning may not be completely over. Nothing like rising fish on a beautiful, sunny, early March afternoon. Things are definitely “looking up”.
Smith DH Risers: While on their way to a friend’s house on Saturday evening, Dredger and furry sidekick Marley detoured into the Smith Creek parking area. They snuck down to the creek and watched abundant rises at 7:30PM, with not an angler in sight. The evening hatch is on at Smith DH! Don’t leave early, folks.
Another Hooch Tailwater Monster: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112813
Buford Dam: “Rainbows that were not picky:” http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112863
Dry Fly How-to: Finally, it’s dry fly season for Georgia fly fishers! Those fly rodders new to this surface game would benefit greatly from the Orvis Learning Center’s videos. Take a look here: http://howtoflyfish.orvis.com/video-lessons/chapter-six-dry-fly-fishing
We’re Nationwide! The “Georgia Cube” reservoir fish attractor, designed by our own biologists and technicians, http://www.georgiawildlife.com/node/213 is getting some mileage in other states. They attract a lot of fish, are easier to wrestle than Christmas trees, and last a whole lot longer!
- Kansas Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed-S7ky4cXI
- NC: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Fishing/documents/Fish_Attractor_Types_used_by_NCWRC.pdf
- IN (page 8): http://indianabass.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Indiana-Reservoirs-Habitat-Plan2015.pdf
- TX: http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/habitat/fish_attractor_types.phtml
Tying-One-On For Education: Trout Unlimited members from around Georgia convened recently at the Lawrenceville Bass Pro Shops for “Tie-1-On,” the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited’s annual fundraiser. Proceeds from the event benefit educational programs at Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen and the 5 Rivers Programs at North Paulding High School, the University of Georgia, Rhinehart College and Young Harris College.
The 5 Rivers Program organizes campus clubs that teach students fly casting and tying along with volunteer stream conservation activities. Students in Trout Unlimited 5 Rivers Clubs have the opportunity to join a sponsoring chapter in their region, lend a young voice, and help shape the future of Trout Unlimited.
See the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited website for additional information on the organization. http://georgiatu.org/wordpress/ (Photo: Georgia Council Trout Unlimited Vice Chairman Kathy Breithaupt and Chairman Carl Riggs).
BASS: Jack Becker, weekend fishing manager at Academy Sports in Gainesville, told me that he and a buddy have been wearing out the spots on freelined shiners, trolled slowly behind their boat. They were searching for stripers, but couldn’t find any because they ran out of bait on all the spots! http://www.academy.com/shop/storelocator/georgia/gainesville/store-0224
CRAPPIE: (This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club, www.laniercrappieanglers.net) Water temperature is about 54 degrees. Although it is a little cooler than typical spawning water temps, the females are full of eggs and we think that we are at the very early stage of the spawn. Normally, when the fish move to shallower water and you can catch them on blow-downs, that is an early sign of the spawn. Two weeks ago, we were beginning to catch fish in shallow water, but the cold snap pushed them a little deeper. As the water temperature gradually warms, they are slowly hitting the shallows again. For the first time this week, I noticed that the turtles are sunning on blow downs, which is also an indicator of the spawn. With the lake level down about 10 feet, the normal spawning ground that we are used to fishing is obviously now on dry land. But you should still zero in on docks, blow-downs, and even shallow brush piles in 12 foot depths or less. The wind has been a challenge, but that is typical for March. Having said that, the early morning bite or late afternoon bite when it is less windy, is the optimum time right now for fishing, Obviously for dock shooters, jigs are the best option, such as Bobby Garland and Jiffy Jigs. You can substitute a minnow, using a #6 long shank Eagle Claw hook if you prefer. Use the smallest split shot you can, based on the wind to allow the bait to swim naturally. Long line trolling in 12 foot depths or less remains a good option It is critical to use 4 lb. test or less on all your reels when crappie fishing. It’s a great time to be fishing – Stay safe on the water and always wear a life jacket!
- Capt Mack’s Wisdom: http://www.captmacks.com/fishing/lake-lanier-fishing-reports/
- Guru and Dredger snuck out last Friday night and hunted” for gulls and loons on the south end. They found some scattered flocks, which signaled scattered fish schools. There was a boil here and there, with no concentrations of predators on the baitfish. Guru was still able to connect with a 6.5 pound striper to save the vessel from a dreaded skunk. Last night (3/22), Guru and Athens buddy Alan got a last-cast striper as the sun set on their south side creek. As always, the fly of choice was the Something Else. Hint: tie a few without the dumbbell eyes, on smaller hooks, to imitate the tiny threadfins, too. The original chef cooks one up here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QC2FCLWHY3o
- Toona’s Wacky Bass: Ron W said he’s been whacking the bass on Allatoona with a wacky worm rig while floating in his wacky yak rig. He provided some photo evidence of his claim, too!
- Toona White Bass: Senior biologist Jim Hakala just called me today (3/23 at 3:30pm) and said the whites have moved into Little River around Rope Mill Park. Water temp was 54 degrees.
WHITE BASS AND STRIPERS: WRD senior biologist Jim Hakala’s sampling this week showed that the white bass run is still a bit early, as river temperatures hovered around 60 degrees. A decent number of large female whites were found, along with the smaller males and also a few striped bass. The migration of white bass out of Weiss should pick up speed over the next week or two, with stripers hitting their peak about two weeks later. Best bets for the whites: the mile of river downstream from Mayo Lock and Dam.
STRIPERS: (From WRD Fisheries Biologist Pat Snellings) This week we had a chance to get on Lakes Lanier and Nottely for our annual spring striped bass electrofishing sample. The water temperatures were in the mid-50s on both reservoirs and the striped bass have been moving up into shallow water, especially in the early morning. We had our best success along clay banks and points, especially in locations where bait was present. There are good numbers of 6 to 10 lb stripers in both lakes with fish over 10 lbs common this time of year. This upcoming week we will be continuing our spring striped bass electrofishing on Lanier. 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
WALLEYE: (From WRD Senior Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) North Georgia’s walleye fisheries are definitely growing in popularity thanks to a successful stocking program. Over the past two weeks, approximately 40 female walleye were spawned at the Go Fish Center Hatchery, producing about one million eggs. Once these eggs hatch, the fry will be stocked into hatchery ponds and then released into one of ten north Georgia reservoirs in late-April.
Our walleye surveys and angler reports this week indicated that walleye are still in the headwaters of many north Georgia lakes. The 8 lb fish pictured below was caught this past Thursday morning on Lake Tugalo. Walleye should soon be moving back down the lake and can be caught around downed trees in about 20-feet of water using worms and minnows slowly bounced along the bottom.
Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Updated every Friday: http://www.southernfishing.com/current-fishing-report.html
USFS Foothills Project: Have you taken these opportunities yet to comment on 150,000 acres of your woods, wildlife, and water? There are lots of trout streams and some small impoundments in this project area. What would you like to see done there? Reasons for you to care are listed on the bottom of this report: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112736
Foothills Landscape Workshop II: March 28: 9:00am – 3:00 pm and/or March 29: 5:00 – 8:00pm North Hall Community Center. 4175 Nopone Road, Gainesville, GA 30506
The US Forest Service: Beep! Beep! We are coming up on the next bus stop! This is the perfect time for you to jump on the bus and join us on this awesome Foothills Landscape collaborative roadtrip. During our second workshop we will: narrow the focus of the project by determining the greatest needs for restoration using the information harvested from Workshop I, turn the identified needs into specific, practical, reasonable and measurable goal statements, and frame what the Collaborative Community will recommend in Workshops III and IV.
Learning and Sharing: Visit www.tinyurl.com/FoothillsLandscape to keep up the conversations online. This online forum is the place to continue discussions, start new ones, post ideas and add comments on the restoration goals, treatment locations, and methods of treatment. The forum has been refreshed to build upon our recent conversations during Workshop I. You can still find last fall’s Community Conversations here. ***Do us a favor and REGISTER so we know how many to plan for***
Young Guns Need Your Money: http://www.georgiafoothills.org/2017/03/fly-fishing-film-tour.html My name is Liam Cunningham and I am the president of Young Harris College’s TU 5Rivers Fly Fishing Club. This is our first year as a program and we are trying to do our best to spread our love of fly fishing and conservation around our area. One of the ways we plan to do this is by bringing the Fly Fishing Film Tour to Young Harris. We are looking to attract people from all over North GA, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and surrounding areas to Young Harris to share the passion of fly fishing.
We invite you to join us on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at Young Harris College Rollins Campus Center for the 11th annual Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T). Participate in our casting competition, visit with area outfitters, guides and fellow fly fishing folk starting at 5:30pm. Dinner will be served at 6:30pm with films beginning at 7:00pm. Proceeds will benefit Healing Waters, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition’s Corn Creek Project as well as YHC TU 5Rivers Fly Fishing Club.
Advanced tickets may be purchased on the Fly Fishing Film Tour website or at https://events.ticketprinting.com/event/22997 by April 4th and are $20 adult and $15 with a valid student ID. All tickets purchased at the door will be $30.
Please share our invitation with your club members and other fly-fishing enthusiasts. For more information please call or email Hayley Burch, YHC Events at 706-379-5016 / firstname.lastname@example.org or myself at 912-373-5250 / email@example.com.
Our club would really appreciate your support. Come out, eat some food, enjoy great films and hangout with other fly fishers. We hope to see you there.
MORE UPCOMING EVENTS:
- Saturday Trout Tourney– Helen http://www.helenga.org/calendar/27th-annual-trout-tournament
- Chattooga- Top to Bottom – March 28: Dredger will be telling some Rabunite fibs regarding The Border River to the Cohutta TU bunch on Tuesday, March 28. http://tucohutta.org/upcoming-chapter-events/
- Trouting Open House- April 1: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112753
- April 8 Film Tour: See above.
- April 22 Kids Class: Youths (ages 10 to 15) are invited to participate in the Sam Rizzio Youth Fly Fishing and Conservation Clinic Saturday, April 22, from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (9135 Willeo Road, Roswell). The clinic is organized by the Upper Chattahoochee Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Advance registration is required. The clinic is designed for the beginning fly fisher and provides basic instruction in all phases of fly-fishing, including fly-casting, knot tying, insect identification and conservation. Students will be provided all necessary equipment. Certified instructors and mentors will work with the students to provide individual instruction and answer questions about fly-fishing. Upon completion, each student will be awarded a certificate and receive a box of flies. The registration fee of $20 includes lunch. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/1U2UAkd or contact Tom Hayes at 513.515.7954.
- April 28 Troutfest: https://fannin.fetchyournews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/02/press-release-01-11-2017.pdf
Good luck as we celebrate the outdoorsmen and womens’ return of spring with the opening of trout stocking and turkey seasons. The warming weather should turn the fish on, and the next six weeks will be our absolute best time of the year for fair-weather fishing success across north Georgia. Check those licenses before you head out the door: https://www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com/, and have fun harvesting your trout and turkey for dinner fixin’s.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
The fishing has really picked up behind last week’s cold snap! River fishing is starting to crank up, but saltwater was a little sluggish. The Okefenokee and ponds are still producing good catches. New Moon is March 27th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that striped bass were caught this week. One of the bigger fish was 30 inches and 11.5 pounds. Crappie, bream, redbreasts and shellcrackers all picked up behind the cold snap. All species of catfish bit well for bottom fishermen. Donna at Altamaha Park said that the best bite was shellcrackers, and the most consistent presentation was pink worms on the bottom. Crappie were caught in creeks and oxbows off the main river on minnows and jigs. Rooster livers fooled channel catfish, while goldfish did a number on flatheads. The river level was 5.3 feet (record low for the date) and falling (63 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.7 feet and falling (60 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 21st.
I floated the upper river with my daughter Ellie and her friend Suzie on Saturday afternoon. While the main objective was paddling (we had 10 miles to cover and 5 hours in which to do it!), I could not help but make a few casts. First fish was a 10 1/2-inch bluegill that hammered a 1/16-oz. dreamsicle (orange/white with a white blade) Satilla Spin. The next 4 fish ate a 1/8-oz. red/white Satilla Spin. One of those 4 was a 10 1/2-inch redbreast, and another was a 14-inch bass. That was 5 more fish than I expected to catch in the swift, cold water, but the fish were fairly active. With the warm temperatures this week, I
suspect you could catch quite a few redbreasts this weekend on the little spinnerbaits. The water was surprisingly clear with last week’s rains, and it should only get clearer heading into the weekend. Craig James floated the upper river this week and managed to catch half a dozen bass averaging 2 pounds apiece on junebug and Okeechobee craw colored Bruiser Crazy Craws. A new river record crappie was submitted to Georgia Outdoor News this week. More details will be forthcoming if it is accepted as the new river record. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crappie were still biting well on minnows. Bream and catfish were caught with worms fished on the bottom in deep holes. ZOOM Lizards in black and Trick Worms produced a good number of bass, as did shiners. The river level on March 21st at the Waycross gage was 7.0 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.9 feet and falling.
ST. MARYS RIVER
On Saturday a 2-day bass tournament was held out of Temple Landing. The heaviest stringer the first day was 17.8 pounds and the second day was 17.0 pounds. The 2-day winning aggregate weight was 24.9 pounds – stout for a blackwater river! Big fish was an 8-pounder, and all fish were released back in the river. Soft plastics were the most productive lures. Bream were also caught this week, and as usual, the catfish bite was great for anglers putting shrimp in any deep hole in the river. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 21st was 1.7 feet and falling.
I did not receive specific reports this week from friends, but I’m sure you can still whack the fliers at any of the swamp entrances, like when my daughter and I caught 136 fliers 2 Saturdays ago in under 3 hours of fishing. The warm afternoons will be the best time to fish this week. Michael Winge said that the warmouth bite has been good, and some bluegills are still being caught by anglers fishing worms on the bottom.
Michael Winge reported that crappie were the best bite this week, and anglers are catching them by pitching minnows and jigs around shallow cover. Bass were caught in good numbers by anglers free-lining shiners and casting ZOOM Trick Worms. Worms and rooster livers produced some good catfish.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Joshua and Shane Barber fished the Brunswick area on Friday and part of the day Saturday. They managed 25 seatrout, but all of them were throwbacks. Their fish ate chartreuse grubs fished on 1/8-oz. jigheads. Saturday afternoon they switched locations to the Darien River and tried their hand at stripers and catfish. Both bites were surprisingly slow, but they managed one striper and a few catfish up to 3 pounds. A couple of Waycross anglers fished out of Crooked River over the weekend. They managed about 20 trout, with 6 of them in the keeper range. Most of their fish were on natural colored (silver and gold glitter colors) Sea Shads fished underneath an Equalizer Float. The fish came up for the offering in the clear water. A few were fooled with Sea Shads fished on a Flashy Jighead. On the beaches, whiting are thick and are biting dead shrimp on the bottom. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the big news was a goliath grouper caught from the pier. The monster, estimated at about 100 pounds, was hooked on a whiting rig baited with dead shrimp, which is why the fish straightened the hook once it rolled to the surface then took off. Whiting fishing has been strong, with lots of the tasty fish clearing the rails of the pier. On Tuesday, a 9.4-pound sheepshead was caught dining on a fiddler crab, but then the next day was dined upon by his captor. Blue crabs were caught in good numbers. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
With the warmer weather this week, you can take your pick this weekend. The crappie bite should still be good in ponds and rivers. Redbreasts and bream should be chowing Satilla Spins, worms, and crickets since we did not get rain this week and have had warm weather. Bass are still shallow and eating well in ponds. Seatrout (although many are throwbacks) are cruising mud flats and shell mounds looking for shrimp or Sea Shads. Whiting are numerous in the sounds and on the beaches if the wind allows you to get to saltwater. Catfishing is picking up in ponds and rivers. You can hardly go wrong fishing this weekend.
(Fishing report courtesy of Rob Weller, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
LAKE WALTER F GEORGE
The Fisheries Management Section of the Wildlife Resources Division began spring electofishing samples on Lake George this week. The bass and crappie have moved into the coves to spawn along with threadfin shad. Anglers should concentrate around weed lines for both bass and crappie. In addition, good numbers of crappie were observed around submerged woody debris in the back end of the coves. These seem to be the first wave of crappie to head shallow and more should continue to do so.
The Lower Flint River is a bit low for this time of year but fishing should be good. The shoal bass have entered spawning shoals and areas where anglers have had success in the past should be good again this year. All other species should be picking up as well including striped bass, hybrids, white bass and channel catfish.
The following USGS gauges of river level may be useful when planning your next fishing trip:
- Montezuma above Lake Blackshear : http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv/?site_no=02349605&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00062
- Highway 32 below Lake Blackshear: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv/?site_no=02350512&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00062
- Lower Flint River below Albany: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv/?site_no=02353000&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00062
The fishing report for Lake Seminole is very short. According to Lake Seminole fishing guide Steven Wells, “fishing on Lake Seminole is on fire.” The bass are spawning, redear sunfish are in the cutgrass and anglers are catching large numbers of bluegill pitching crickets and worms.