Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve….it is almost time for Santa to bring all the good little boy and girl anglers of the world all their fishing wishes. What will Santa bring you?
The Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division offered an early Christmas present to trout anglers who frequent the Buford Dam area, a nice trout stocking (get it, stocking?). Click HERE to see the action.
This week, we have fishing reports from North and Southeast Georgia. We hope that you are able to spend time (one of the best gifts) with family and friends, and even better if you are able to throw out a line with them over the holidays!
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the North Georgia Region fisheries staff. All of us, from Buford to Gainesville to Burton to Armuchee and yonder west to Summerville, wish you a safe, healthy and fun holiday season and many tight lines in the New Year. To help you celebrate your vacation time, state and federal elves were busy spreading Christmas cheer to trout waters, finding good fishing stories, making more fish habitat, and searching the web for more fibs and tips to fire you up. Grab the fleece, goretex, and handwarmers and give some winter fishing a try. Hey, we’re not in Montana, so there are actually some great pockets of mild weather mixed in during Georgia winters. When you’re dressed right, these are some of the best times to wet a line. There are no fair weather crowds, waters are crystal clear, the air is cold and clean, and the scenery is awesome. When the presents have been unwrapped and the leftovers in the fridge are getting a bit old, cure your cabin fever with a half-day trip afield. Before you go, here we go with a GAWRD Christmas stocking stuffed full of fishing reports and conservation news for y’all:
Chattooga DH: Dredger used his “net” last Friday evening (12/16). (21-day report), His net, the inter-NET, showed him that last week’s worth of lower water temperatures, continued low flows, real chilly mornings ahead, and Sunday’s pending rainfall that might be lower and later than originally predicted by the TV weather folks. That web intel indicated: stream trout should have finally acclimated to decreased water temperatures, the larger DH trout streams still had wade-able flows, and the catching should be better in the afternoons as water temps rose at lunchtime. So he plotted a weekend afternoon strategy: Chattooga on Saturday and Toccoa on Sunday.
After a scenic drive along the shady, snow-lined shoulders of Warwoman Road, he landed at noon at the half-filled DH parking lot of the SC side of the river. He wolfed down his Wendy’s chili, bundled up in fleece and Goretex, and began the short hike to the river. A Rabunite, learned in the ways of the north Georgia wilds, he studied the land around him… and noticed telltale critter tracks in the snow on the edge of the wildlife opening. Hmmm, there’s a clue, he thought.
Up the closed road and left at the end of the food plot, he hit the ford, popped into the river, and plopped his thermometer in it. The mercury was hesitant and grudgingly crept up to the 38-degree mark. Uh-oh, self, it might be a real slow start, he mumbled. He turned left, ambled downstream to the head of the first good run, hit the bank, and rigged up his Euro outfit, which he hoped would bring him better luck than last week’s trips with a short pole and a shallow bobber rig. He tied on his home-grown “depth charge version” of a Pat’s rubberlegs to the end of his six-foot strand of 5X tippet, hanging below the sighter on his Euro rig, and then tied an apricot Oreck easy egg to the dropper strand about a foot above the first fly. With very little hope, he tossed it in.
And the first drift stopped, the hook was set, and a rainbow bulldogged toward his net. First cast success! Uh-oh, was that the dreaded first-cast jinx, where nary a nibble would follow?
He fretted for a second, but cast again, and again. One hour, six rainbows, and two browns later, he was confident that the first-cast jinx had bypassed him. The afternoon harvest slowed as he made his way upriver a mile or so. He also tried some top-secret intel from Jake at Unicoi Outfitters: little black stonefly nymphs. Then in the waning sunshine of late afternoon, the catching picked up again. And he saw more of those telltale tracks, on the JoJa side of the river this time. The rainbows liked both the stoneflies and egg flies, while the browns were partial to the stones. Between casts in a long straightaway, a fast shadow caught his eye, and he looked up in time to enjoy the flight of a bald eagle slowly cruising upstream, just above the treetops. The last fish was his best, a chunky 16-inch brown that inhaled the rubberlegs in the “sandy beach hole” at 430 PM. The fish “switch turned off” and the bite then shut down as his fingertips and toes numbed with the setting sun and dropping air temps. He hiked back out, crossed the river, and hit the parking lot around 5:15, where some leftover fried chicken and a hot car heater welcomed him back. It was another fine day on the Chattooga, and he thanked the fish gods for leak-less waders, warm gloves, hot flies, and those deadly strike indicators – – those tracks in the snow…And he said, “Thanks for my early Christmas gifts, Walhalla!”
Toccoa DH: Dredger headed northwest on Sunday afternoon. The snow-covered mountaintops on his ride over Hwy 129 from Cleveland, coupled with snow-lined river banks, made this a Christmas card-worthy road trip, if just for the scenery. Given the gloom-and-doom weather report, he expected little competition from fair-weather anglers, and was prepared to battle the elements again with his fleece pants, goretex waders and raincoat, thick socks, and handwarmers. He was right, as the crystal-clear DH stream was abandoned except for one hardy soul with stout Yankee blood. There was only an intermittent, slight drizzle. He and “Boston Steve” from Cartersville struck up a conversation about crazy, displaced Yankees who liked fishing in frigid conditions. Despite the 38-degree water, the duo lit ‘em up on the go-to winter combo of legs and eggs. After spotting the fish slowly tail-wagging in the bottom of gin-clear pools, Dredger tossed Euro while Boston tossed his bobber, long tippet, and shot combo. They could have stayed til dark and still caught fish, but numb toes and the arrival of steady rainfall finally drove them back to car heaters at five o’clock. It was a great afternoon between brand new fishing buddies, thanks to their dismissal of a dismal weather report and some nice federal hatchery rainbows, showing off their festive holiday colors.
Holiday hints: the fish were again bunched up near stocking sites, due to the low water this fall. However, after the expected storms this week, they should finally flush throughout the DH reaches with high water. Be careful about higher flows and wade only where safe, or try a float tube or small pontoon craft to deal with higher water. Icy water is dangerous, so practice wading safety and always, ALWAYS carry a spare set of dry clothes in your vehicle. And, by all means, try a drag-free drift and use enough weight to get down to these winter fish, now glued to the bottom.
Toccoa Tailwater Browns: Time to dress like an Eskimo and take a float trip?
Hooch Tailwater: The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam was stocked with some 10 to 14 inch rainbow trout (video HERE) for the upcoming holiday weekend. River water quality has improved abruptly over the last two days and the long-awaited Lake Lanier “turnover” has finally happened.
Dissolved oxygen levels in the upper river now are more than adequate for stocked trout survival and feeding, so this week would be a great time to try your luck at places like Buford Dam, Jones Bridge and Island Ford. River temperature this morning (12/19) was 12.3C and DO was 8.9ppm.
Special Hooch DH Stocking: Last Friday, December 15th, Gainesville Fisheries and Buford Hatchery staff delivered a total of 2,000 Brown, Brook, and Rainbow trout to the Chattahoochee River DH. This stocking was in partnership with Sweetwater Brewing Company as part of their “Stack a fish, stock a stream” campaign. Over twenty volunteers from the Sweetwater Brewing, National Park Service, and local anglers and guides bucketed trout at Paces Mill to provide additional holiday fishing opportunities to Georgia’s metro trout anglers. Enjoy the photo gallery HERE.
Holiday Trout Stockings: During the past week and a half, WRD and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery staffs have stocked a total of 8,500 rainbow, brown, and brook trout into Georgia’s Delayed Harvest waters, the upper Lanier Tailwater, Vogel Lake, and the Toccoa River below Lake Blue Ridge Dam. I am especially thankful for the long drive that our federal partners took to Erwin, TN last month to obtain a truckload of “retired” rainbow trout broodstock for stockings in select Georgia waters. Both agencies hope that these stockings bring holiday cheer to many Georgia anglers.
The Next Generation of Conservationists: High school students from three different Paulding County classes released tiny trout fingerlings into Raccoon Creek this past weekend as the culmination of a semester long “Trout in the Classroom” program (TIC). TIC is an environmental education program in which students raise trout from eggs to fry in their own school while learning all about trout, their habitats, water chemistry, aquatic ecosystems, and conservation. TIC programs are sponsored by local Trout Unlimited chapters with help from partners like WRD. Click HERE for more info on Trout in the Classroom program.
The mountain lakes of northeast Georgia have a reputation for chunky spotted bass. Right now on Lake Burton, bass are chasing blueback herring in the creek mouths and open waters around the dam. Besides live bait, anything that looks and swims like a herring is apt to draw a strike. Anglers are also finding bass in deepwater brush piles at 30 to 40-feet and having some success using large hair jigs. In addition to Burton bass, walleye and yellow perch are doing well on Lake Tugalo and Lake Yonah. These two small reservoirs on the Georgia/South Carolina border support the highest walleye densities of any Georgia lake and quality yellow perch is a by-product of our walleye stocking efforts. This time of year, anglers will find walleye in downed trees around 30 to 40-feet deep. Live bait presentations and slow trolling around these structures are your best bets.
Stripers: (This Lake Allatoona fishing guides report for striper and hybrid has been brought to you exclusively by Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service) – Line side fishing is decent! The snow storm really dropped the water temperature and the north end of the lake is stained. Nevertheless, it is still holding a ton of fish, mostly white bass and small hybrids. These fish have been picky, but they will still eat live bait and will take a spoon as well. Look for these fish north of Galts Ferry. Mid lake is where you want to be if you are looking for stripers. Bartow Carver to the dam is the place to be for stripers and bigger schools of hybrids. These fish are wanting to eat big baits like jumbo threadfins or gizzard shad. If you don’t have shad, trout will work. I suggest going by Striper Soup and picking up a couple dozen gizzard shad if you are looking for a bigger fish. I have also had some really good luck mid-lake pulling u-rigs the last few times out. These fish have moved out of the river channel and up on the edge of it. Look for these fish to be in water 20- 40 of water. I look for the live bait bite to really ramp up once the water temps stabilize. This time of the year you need to be open minded on your techniques. Top water, trolling, spooning and live bait can all work this time of year, but what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow! So take the kitchen sink with you when heading out to the pond this time of year.
(This Carters Lake fishing report has been brought to you exclusively by Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service) –
Stripers: Decent! The fish are starting to move out of the river, back to the main lake. They are splitting up into groups. Some are following the threadfins to the back of the creeks and others are staying on the main lake chasing alewife. If you’re targeting the fish in the backs of the creeks you need to use small threadfin shad, trout or even shiners. Fish the baits on planer boards and/or free lines early in the morning. Once the sun comes up change over to down lines. If you’re targeting the fish on the main lake, fish the pockets. These fish are holding on 90 foot bottoms and are eating big baits. Big shad and trout are working best on down lines 55 feet deep.
Walleye: It’s that time of the year and the bigger fish are starting to show up. Threadfin shad, small gizzard shad and shiners have been working best for us, but I would imagine they would eat a night-crawler very well right now. The walleye we are catching are coming on a 20 foot bottom in the backs of the creeks with standing timber in the early morning. Most of the fish we are catching are good fish in the 5-7 lb. range. I am very pleased to see fish of this size this far south!
Bass: (This report brought to you by: Jimbo Mathley – Jimbo on Lanier) – The weather and the lake has started to stabilize this week. The water temps and level are nearly the same as a week ago. Some areas of the lake are still showing signs of turnover – the water quality is mixed throughout the lake – some areas look great, and others not so much. Some fish have started to move shallower in the ditches. We have found some good activity in ditches from around 30 feet all the way back to 15 feet or so. A SPRO McStick has worked well on these shallower ditch fish of late. A Picasso ShakeDown Head with a finesse worm and a Chattahoochee jig are also good options in the ditches when they are not chasing the jerkbait. The spoon bite has started to slow a little this week. We aren’t finding as much bait out in the deep timber, which makes sense as more fish are starting to move back shallower in the ditches. When we are finding the spoon fish, they seem to be more in the 30-50 foot range. Some days they are relating to the bottom near timber, and some days they are in more clean, flat bottom type areas. Some days they are more up in the water column and easier to spot. When they are down in the timber, rely on your Lowrance 3D Structure Scan to discern the presence of fish. You may not see them well until you hook one, then your display will explode with activity. Now is the time to book your trip if you would like to learn ditch fishing! I know a lot of people have talked to me about learning this bite – it is here! Following is a list of my upcoming open dates in December: 27, 28 (PM); January: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9(AM), 10, 11, 12. Give me a call and let’s get out and catch some fish!
Crappie: (This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club) – Water temperature still varies from the north end to the south end of the lake. On the north end in the backs of creeks, you will find water temps 50 degrees and below. In the middle to the south end of the lake, you will find water temps approaching mid- fifties. The bite has slowed with the recent cold spell. But it should be picking up in the next day or two, so right now, crappie fishing is fair. With this rain, expect the creeks to have moderate to heavy stain. This could work to your advantage, using darker colored jigs. To have a successful day, we are having to cover a lot of water until you find the right spot with schooling fish on submerged brush piles. Channel docks are also holding fish, and the water is not nearly as stained as the backs of creeks. Bobby Garland’s Mr. Crappie, and the Panfish Assassins, combined with 1/24 oz Davis jig heads are a good choice. If you prefer it, our “go to” hair jig continues to be a Jiffy Jig. Because the bite has slowed, you may want to consider a change to 2 lb test line. Most of the fish we are catching are a pound or less. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Stay safe on the water and wear your life jacket!
Chatuge Attractors: Last Tuesday WRD Gainesville fisheries staff took a trip up to the mountains, braving the cold and remaining snow, to install new fish attractors on Lake Chatuge. In partnership with the US Forest Service, 91 fish attractors were installed within casting distance of the newly opened Mayor’s Park Boat Landing and the RideShare parking lot just south of the US-76 bridge. These attractors will help hold bass, crappie, and bluegill and are within casting distance of the shore which creates great fishing opportunities for both boat and bank anglers. Click HERE for more fishing info on Lake Chatuge. Our 2018 reservoir and river fishing prospects are being drafted now by state biologists and should be available online around the first of February.
LAST MINUTE GIFT IDEAS
Time running out? Still stumped? Here’s a list of potential stocking stuffers to end your holiday shopping stress:
Lifetime License: Let them fish for free, forever!
Gift cards: Local tackle shops, box stores like Bass Pro and Cabelas. Sportsmen and women always love to “shop for free” and get exactly what they “need” (code name for “want”) via targeted gift cards from their favorite sporting goods stores, from Striper Soup to Cohutta to the Fish Hawk to Hammonds to Oakwood Tackle to Unicoi Outfitters.
Guided fishing trips: Most sportsmen and women are too tight to spring for that Bucket List item of a guided trip. Gather all family members, chip in, and land that big one for Mom or Dad, whether it’s trophy trout, big Carters spots, Toona hybrids, or Lanier stripers. Just Google “(insert lake or stream name) fishing guides” and check out their reviews, especially on some of the Georgia fishing message boards like GON and NGTO.
Lodge Stays: Maybe Mom likes to fish, but the other family members like to hike. Check out some cool spots that allow a diversity of activities like Smithgall, Unicoi, and Don Carter state parks. http://gastateparks.org/
Fly or lure assortments: Sneak a peek into Dad’s tackle box and see what he likes. Take a pic or two, then go to a tackle shop and have the sales attendant make you a nice batch of “hot” flies or lures that are sure to bring a smile on Christmas morning.
Fishing books or subscriptions: You have your pick from big, expensive encyclopedias down to affordable pocket guides. Examples:
- Flyfishing Books
- Trout Fishing North Georgia
- Flyfishers Guide: North Carolina and Georgia
- Fishing Georgia
- American Angler
- Grays Sporting Journal
- Dynamic Nymphing Tactics and Techniques
- Orvis Guide to Small Stream Fly Fishing
Best wishes for a great holiday season. We hope Santa brings you that new fishing pole or guided fishing trip that you’ve longed for. Thank you all for your support of our staff and their operations during 2017, and we will see you and serve you in the New Year.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The current warming trend should spur pretty much all bites for this weekend. If you’re done your Christmas shopping, it’s time to hitch up the boat this weekend! First quarter moon is December 26th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.
CHRISTMAS GIFT SUGGESTIONS
The fishing has been good so far this December, so I have spent more time on the reports than gift suggestions. With this being the last week for ideas, here are some primers for gifts for the anglers in your life. Engel live bait coolers are really neat gifts that allow you to keep bait alive or stow equipment or lunch. High-end sunglasses like Costas are another necessity for hours on the water. As always, you can’t go wrong with a good quality fishing outfit, whether for salt or freshwater. I love Penn, Abu-Garcia, and Pflueger outfits, while some others prefer Zebco, Lews, or Quantum. Lure kits, pliers, utility knives, filet knives, braided line scissors, or other tools make great stocking stuffers. One of the most useful tools I own for fishing sallies is a Bug Out hook remover. It’s inexpensive and makes a great tool for removing popping bugs from redbreasts or sallies from fliers or warmouth.
Heather at Jaycees Landing Bait and Tackle said that a few crappie were caught on minnows. At Altamaha Park, crappie were biting minnows fished in the creek mouths and oxbow lakes. Channel catfish ate cut bait in the deeper holes. The river level was 4.1 feet and falling (54 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.7 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on December 19th.
Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that crappie were biting minnows. Some bass were caught with buzzbaits. The river level on December 19th at the Waycross gage was 7.0 feet and falling (54 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.9 feet and cresting.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Catfish were caught by putting shrimp or worms on the bottom. Not many people were fishing for bream, but the fish they caught were huge. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 19th was 5.6 feet and falling.
I didn’t receive any reports, but I’m sure the fliers are biting with the current warm spell. Bowfin should be hitting inline spinners, while catfish should be eating shrimp on the bottom (especially on the west side).
The crappie bite was very good this week. A couple of Waycross anglers fished a local
pond for 1 1/2 hours on Sunday afternoon and caught a bass, a bluegill, and 14 slab crappie (11-13 inches) on chartreuse 2-inch Assassin Curly Shads fished on an 1/8-oz. Flashy Jighead suspended under a float and 1/24-oz black/chartreuse Specktacular jigs suspended underneath a float. They reported that the bite was wide open for about 15 minutes as the sun dipped below the trees. Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson fished an Alma area pond on Saturday and caught 9 bass up to 4 pounds on crankbaits. Michael Winge said that crappie ate minnows and bream bit crickets. On the warmer days, catfish were eating rooster livers fished on the bottom.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
The trout bite at the St. Marys Jetties and Brunswick has been great (on days the wind allowed you to get out there) from the several reports I’ve received lately. A group of Blackshear anglers caught their limit of 45 keeper trout up to 21 inches and threw back about that many short fish by using live shrimp at the jetties on Friday. They also had a few keeper redfish. On Saturday a Waycross angler fished from shore in the Brunswick area and landed 2 keeper sheepshead. He had a dozen other bites but just could not hook up well with them. He also hit one of his favorite trout spots for a half-hour and caught 5 keepers (all over 16-inches) on Sea Shads fished on Flashy Jigheads. Also on Saturday, a couple anglers fished the backwaters in Crooked River and managed to catch 3 redfish in the 53-degree water. They fooled them with Assassin Sea Shads fished under Equalizer Floats. Calcasieu brew was the color of the day. Another group of 3 Blackshear anglers sheepshead fishing in Crooked River on Saturday managed to catch 11 keeper sheepshead on fiddler crabs and 5 throwbacks. Their biggest was 6 pounds. On Thursday night, two anglers caught a limit of trout from the St. Simons Causeway in just a half-hour. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that anglers caught trout, flounder, and sheepshead from the pier this week. Good numbers of blue crabs were caught, as well. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
We’re in a warming trend that should have just about everything biting by the weekend. In saltwater, seatrout, redfish, and sheepshead should be biting inshore. Don’t be surprised if you find some active whiting if you drop a shrimp to the bottom in your favorite hole. In ponds (which warm more quickly than deeper waters), expect bass to bite well early and late and crappie to tear it up in the afternoon and evening. In rivers, pitch plastics to shoreline cover in eddies or back in oxbow lakes for bass and probably even some bluegills if you pitch crickets or throw Satilla Spins or other panfish spinnerbaits. Crappie can be caught in river oxbows by trolling minnows or jigs. Expect some slabs to move to shallow cover with the warm afternoon temperatures. Get after them this weekend, as temperatures are forecasted to plunge during the week of Christmas.