So, is it raining where you are? Yep, us too. Here are some good reasons why you need to forget the rain and get outdoors:
- Early Birds-Listen Up! Fisheries Chief Matt Thomas will be on the O’Neill Williams Radio Show Saturday morning (4-6 am) to give info about all things Fisheries.
- Don’t miss out! Join us for the FREE Keeping Georgia Wild Festival at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center this Saturday, 5/19 (10 am – 2 pm).
- Ready to start your Georgia Bass Slam? Check out these tips from Auburn University‘s Dr. Steven Sammons on how to catch a Tallapoosa Bass.
- Have you heard the story about Bessie the Bass? You can see her “in person” at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, GA.
Let’s get this report going. This week, we have fresh fishing news from Southeast and North Georgia.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
The rivers in southeast Georgia are going to get a big shot of water from this week’s rains – what has fallen at the time of writing this and what is still forecasted later in the week. River, pond, swamp, and saltwater fishing was all good this week. We’ll see how it changes with the rains. First quarter moon is May 21st. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.
The river had dropped out to fishable levels but is probably going to jump back up this week. Heather at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the catfish bite was fair. Flatheads in the 20 to 30-pound range were caught on goldfish. Redbreasts and bream were caught with crickets fished in the mouths of sloughs. Donald at Altamaha Park said that the big shellcrackers bit pink worms fished on the bottom. Crickets produced some good bream. Catfishing was slower this week, but the channels should pick up on the rising river behind this week’s rains. The river level was 4.0 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 6.5 feet and rising (78 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 15th.
Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that redbreasts were caught by waders, boaters, and folks floating in canoes/kayaks with crawfish Satilla Spins, orange froggy beetles, and crickets. Zoom watermelon-red lizards worked well for bass. Some good bream were reported by anglers pitching crickets under a small float to undercut banks. This week’s rains will jump the river up and give us another chance at them while it drops back out, but catfishing will probably be the best bet this weekend (if the river doesn’t get too high). The river level on May 15th at the Waycross gage was 7.1 feet and rising very fast (75 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.5 feet and rising.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The Shady Bream Tournament Trail will hold a Dylan Browning benefit tournament June 16th out of Traders Hill Ramp. There will be both live bait and artificial only categories for this tournament. Check out the tournament trail on Facebook for more information on this event or their usual artificials-only panfish tournaments. Carley at Okefenokee Sportsman in Folkston said that catfish are biting like there is no tomorrow. Anglers using rooster livers and shrimp were catching coolers full of the tasty whiskerfish. Bream and some redbreasts were caught on crickets. The river level at the MacClenny gage on May 15th was 2.4 feet and rising.
John Darling and Darrel Fox fished the west side (Fargo entrance) on Friday and caught a bunch of fliers by pitching pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies. They also caught a few warmouth on the little fly by pitching it tight to cypress knees. On the east side, anglers reported catching warmouth on worms. This rain will bring the level up and probably slow the bite for a few days until the level stabilizes and it starts falling back out.
Chad Lee caught some giant bluegills from an Alma area pond over the weekend using 1/8-oz. crawfish Satilla Spins. If you can safely access the spillway at your favorite pond, you will likely catch some fish while the water is flowing hard out of the pond. Typically fish will migrate upstream and are attracted to the flow after a hard rain. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, big bream were caught on the bed by anglers using crickets. Bass were biting black buzzbaits fished late in the evening. The catfish bite was good for those using worms on the bottom in the better catfish ponds.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
I made a trip to the St. Marys Jetties with Capt. Andy Gowen on Wednesday, and we caught some big fish. We only had one redfish, but it was a 42-incher! It inhaled a mullet colored 1/2-oz. bucktail jig. We had an 18-inch flounder on a white curly-tailed grub fished on a 1/4-oz. Flashy Jighead (gold willow blade). The two species that kept our poles bent were ladyfish and jack crevalle, and we had 3 dozen of them. They were suckers for bucktails, also. Also on Wednesday, Brentz McGhin and a friend fished out of Crooked River and caught 8 trout (7 keepers) up to 17 inches on Assassin Sea Shads (Calcasieu brew color) suspended underneath an Equalizer Float. They also caught 2 sheepshead and a 19-inch redfish during the day. Ed Zmarzly and Justin Bythwood fished the St. Marys Jetties on Thursday, and they had 6 redfish from 28 to 36 inches, a bunch of ladyfish, and a few jack crevalle on bucktail jigs. Electric chicken was their best color bucktail. Wyatt Crews made the maiden voyage of his boat this Saturday along with Scout Carter. They did not land many, but what they lacked in quantity they made up in quality. They landed 3 gator trout (see photo of Scout Carter with one of their successful catches) and lost one at the boat bigger than the ones they landed. They caught their fish on candy corn and hot chicken Assassin Sea Shads suspended underneath an Equalizer Float. The whiting bite in the sounds was good again this week when you could get out. Shrimp on the bottom is how anglers filled coolers with the tasty panfish of the sea. A few tripletail were fooled over the weekend on the Jekyll beach. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that pier fishing was good again this week, with anglers catching sharks ranging from 3 to 8-feet long caught on cut bait. Whiting averaging 12 to 14 inches were landed on shrimp. Some nice trout from 14 to 24 inches were caught with grubs and live shrimp. Flounder in the 15 to 18-inch range showed up in good numbers this week, and they ate mudminnows and finger mullet. Crabbers did well again this week. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
The Satilla and St. Marys were getting low, but rains this week will bring them back up. I would stay off the rivers this weekend (unless you want to go catfishing) because they will probably be pretty stained from all the hard rain we’ve had. Ponds will be a great place this weekend, as bream and bass fishing has been very good. If you haven’t done so yet, give night fishing a try at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton or one of the other areas around the state. Bass and catfish will probably be your best bets at night this month. Buzzbaits should produce some big bass strikes, while shrimp, worms, or cut bait on the bottom will fool some catfish. Anglers have been catching some bream under the green lights on the dock at night. On saltwater, whiting is your most reliable bet, but I’ll be chasing redfish if I’m able to get to the brine. I’ll be pitching bucktails to the St. Marys Jetties for the big bull reds and tarpon that roam the rocks. While you can’t take them home to eat, there is nothing around that pulls as hard.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
It’s rain, rain, rain, and more rain in the forecast as I write this on Thursday (5/17). And at GAWRD, we’re singing in the rain! After getting through a long, dry week, several inches of rainfall are a welcome recharge to our streams, rivers, and especially our heavily loaded state and federal trout hatcheries.
North Georgia stream resources really benefit from about one good rain per week to get us through each summer. Since our streams are fueled by surface runoff and not spring flows, regular visits by summer storm clouds are warmly welcomed by mountain anglers and trout hatchery managers.
But the rains do crimp some of our weekend angling plans. Larger trout streams and bass rivers are usually too high and muddy for good fishing, so our Plan A’s are shot. After the crystal clear water of the last two weeks and shoalies smashing surface poppers, that is, indeed, a bummer. But we are resourceful, and any good hillbilly always has a Rainfall Plan B in the back pocket of his/her nylon wading pants. At this time of the year, our best Plan B’s are headwater trout streams, the big reservoirs, the shadows of their big dams, and especially our small ponds and lakes. Headwater streams shed their rainfall much quicker because their watersheds are small. They are usually fishable within one day, if not hours, of a heavy storm. The big lakes are good, but we’ll have to go early, late, or after dark for the best bites because of warming surface waters and sport fish now pulling off the banks. Reservoir dams hold back muddy runoff in the big lakes above them, and we can find some clear, fishable water (in between dam discharges) the river reach below the dams, before muddy tributaries dump into them. And the most consistent Storm Plan B is our small lakes, where bass and bream are still on fire this spring. Some of these lakes also have trout (see our WRD master stocking list on our website) and those anglers who sink their baits deep into the cold thermocline or who toss them into the mouths of cold tributaries feeding the lake can cash in on stockers, which will crowd into these coldwater refuges.
Don’t let this rain get you down. It’s a great investment in summer survival for our aquatic habitats in the mountains. Simply adjust your weekend plans to fishable waters via your Plan B strategies and have a blast. And next week you’ll probably be able to go back and enjoy your Plan A fishing destinations.
Stockers: (From Steve Scott – author of Striper reports in Angler Magazine and the Georgia WRD blog, www.TeamLanier.com) — Jeff, Just a short note about catching some Trout this past Sunday with my little sister. We decided to head to North Georgia this past Sunday as it was way to windy to fish for Stripers on Lanier. It was a last minute decision to enjoy the mountains and do a little fishing. We did not have any rods or tackle with us but that did not stop us. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to bait up for Trout fishing. We headed to Wally World and picked up two rod & reel combos for $10 each. Grabbed some #6 hooks and some BB weights. Total $23. Stopped at a bait shop along the way for a cricket tube, ½ tube of crickets and some red wigglers. Spent another $4.50. We went to my all-time favorite place which was where the Chestatee River crosses Copper Mines Rd. and fished under the one lane bridge. Within the first few minutes is was Fish On. I caught a nice 12” Rainbow on a cricket just before the rocks in mid-river. Fishing was slow but enjoyable. We stayed until the bite slowed and left for Dick’s Creek. Just a short drive north and we were there. I managed to catch a nice Brownie on a worm in a fast moving eddy. What an enjoyable day. A couple of DNR Game Wardens came by and greeted us asking for our licenses. We showed them and I was pleased that Georgia still does this which protects our right to fish and protects the fishery from depletion by poachers. After that we enjoyed the rest of the day in the mountains driving home.
Stocker Best Bets: More than 31,000 trout will exit the gates of Georgia’s state and federal trout hatcheries this week. Given the heavy rainfall, here are WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson’s best bets for this weekend: Right below the dams of the Lanier and Blue Ridge tailwaters Tammen Park/Fannin County, Wildcat, Dicks, Boggs, Sarahs, Amicalola Park after the Saturday morning kids fishing event, Rock, Hooch on WMA, and Tallulah. As always, our Friday updates to the trout stocking list can be found HERE. Sign up for their direct delivery to your smart phones via that pop-up brookie!
Raccoon Creek Bucket Brigade: (From Eric Wittig, Fisheries Tech 2) – Volunteers from the Cohutta Chapter of Trout Unlimited assisted GAWRD in stocking Rainbow Trout in Raccoon Creek (Paulding Co.) within Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area,on May 10. In addition to the traditional stocking method of unloading trout straight from the stocking truck and into the creek, trout were stocked by volunteer bucket brigade to better distribute fish to distant stretches of Raccoon Creek. This will improve the angling experience and encourage anglers to venture out of the heavily fished stretches of Raccoon Creek in search of a new “Honey Hole.” I enjoyed the TU’ers help and their company during our caravan into and out of the area.
Delayed Harvest Last Hurrah: DH streams will still have some fish in them, so don’t give up on them yet.
- Recall that NC’s DH season extends for a few more weeks. More HERE and HERE
- Trouter23 went out with a bang on Smith Creek! Enjoy the photo of his sixteen-incher on a dry fly.
Blueline Best Bet: Bluelines (small headwater trout streams) are a best bet this week because of the heavy rainfall that has our bigger waters high and muddy. Head uphill with a light rod, a raincoat, and a friend with a camera. The scenery and the sheer number of colorful fish will compensate for their small size. These small streams are fun for both crowds, the short rod and also the long (Tenkara) rod fans.
Hint- When you wade up to a deep pool, add shot and a dropper of a small leech or Pat’s rubberlegs, and dredge it to catch the big boy in there. Then remove the shot and dropper, dry out the dry, and resume your surface searches in the upstream shallows.
PONDS, RIVERS AND LAKES
Pond Action: Here’s another post-monsoon best bet. Heavy rains don’t adversely affect most small impoundments. Got rubber spiders and a six-weight fly rod? Or, better yet, a full cricket basket, a Zebco, and a kid? Ponds will fish best in the shade and shadows, so go early or late in the day. Don’t miss the photos in the “Heating up” section HERE. Don’t forget about some great small lake opportunities (listed below):
- Yahoola Creek Reservoir
- Lake Russell Recreation Area
- Vogel State Park
- 2018 Trout Stocking Information
- Bear Creek
- James H “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
- Cedar Creek Reservoir
- Hollis Q Lathem Reservoir
- Stone Mountain Lake
Damer’s “Shocking” Reports for Blue Ridge and Coosa Basin: Check out Fisheries Biologist John Damer’s reports below:
- Blue Ridge: Bass are finally shallow at Blue Ridge. Lots of quality largemouth cruising the flats or holding in the creek channels near the backs of the coves. Surprisingly not a lot of fish hanging tight to downed trees or areas of floating woody debris. Resending the 7lb LMB pic and got some really cool shots with all 3 bass species together in the same size range (~4lbs). Smallmouth still scarce, but some good ones to be found if you try hard enough.
- Coosa Basin: The spring striped bass run in the Coosa River basin is winding down. Most of the females we’re seeing now are spent. Fish of all sizes are starting to migrate to the Etowah River. We sampled the lower end near Rome this morning and saw more fish there than we’ve seen in a while. They are attracted by the colder water flowing from beneath Allatoona Dam. We will hit the upper end (hopefully) later today, and expect lots of fish there as well. Still some fish on the lower end of the Oostanaula too, but water temps are rising fast and those fish probably won’t be there much longer.
River Bass: Sautee and Dredger had limited time on Saturday afternoon, but still caught a few shoalies at less-than-prime time (before sunset). Sautee caught them on top, while an impatient Dredger pulled out river bassslayer Todd Holbrook’s #1 all-time Shoalie Killer, a #4 black bugger, to dredge deeper pools that were dead in the direct sun, but came back to life when the shadows fell. Given recent rains, river bass fishing opportunities will now be sidelined for a while until those waters clear.
Lanier Early Bite: More info HERE
Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Catch his Friday updates HERE.
Lanier Crappie: (This Lake Lanier Crappie fishing report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club) — Water temperature is in the high seventies, and a few degrees higher in the afternoon. The month of May remains strong for Crappie fishing on Lake Lanier. The secret to catching crappie this time of year is to use the method of “run and gun” (targeting as many docks with structure as possible). Using your downscan and sidescan will greatly assist in finding these spots. There are a lot of fishermen on the lake, and it is getting busier with recreational boaters as well. We’ve been catching good numbers of quality fish on deeper docks, especially targeting the channel docks in fifteen to twenty five feet of water. When you start catching smaller fish, move on. The fish on submerged brush piles in fifteen to twenty feet of water are greater in number, but smaller in size. The brush piles with tops about 10 feet below the surface are producing best. Your electronics will help you determine whether there are fish on the brush piles or not. If there are, throw a marker buoy and fish the whole brush pile by circling your buoy to find the best angles. Stay off the brush about thirty feet, cast your jig past the brush pile and retrieve slowly while shaking your rod slightly. This will give the jig more action. You will get most of your bites ten feet below the surface either directly over or slightly to the side of the brush pile. Our preferred bait is still one twenty fourth ounce soft body jigs or hair jigs. If you prefer using a crappie minnow under a slip cork, it will work just as well. The fish are aggressive right now, so the color doesn’t seem to matter, but if the bite slows, switch colors. If your boat is set up for tight lining, get your trolling rods out and put them to good use. Crappie minnows under a Carolina rig is your best bet for tight lining. Locate the submerged brush piles and troll over and around the piles. The night fishing bite seems to be picking up slowly, as we are noticing new dangling ropes from the bridges. Once the nights are consistently warmer, the night bite will pick up even more. It’s a great time of year to enjoy fishing – see you on the water! Stay safe – wear your life jacket!
(Big) Lake Russell: Great few days fishing on Lake Russell last week. My cousin and I caught a good number of bass and he caught a large gar as well. Anything shad was the ticket. Swim baits, jerk baits or stick baits worked for us. Take care, Wally
- Saturday (May 19) – Our Fisheries Chief Matt Thomas on O’Neill Williams Radio Show!
- Saturday Festival at Charlie Elliott (May 19)
- June 2- Hooch Tailwater- Volunteer Opportunity
Good luck implementing your weekend Plan B’s. We won’t complain about the rain. It’s an investment in some great fishing opportunities for us all in June! In fact, some savvy fisher-folks even HUNT for muddy water….