Holiday Weekend on the Horizon – what are your plans? Besides trying to stay dry! Here are a few ideas or at least some things to keep in mind in case the rain lets up:

  • Night Fishing Tips: Ever wanted to give night fishing a try? Check out these 5 Great Tips!
  • Stay Safe!: If you are out on the water this holiday weekend, please STAY SAFE!  
  • Hooked: Don’t let yourself get hooked like UGA Quarterback Jake Fromm.
  • National Fishing and Boating Week is June 2-11, 2018: That includes Free Fishing Days and lots of fun Kids Fishing Events!

As we head out to enjoy the long weekend, let’s ALWAYS keep in mind the reason we have this holiday. It is to honor and remember those who gave their ALL so we could be FREE. 

NORTH GEORGIA 

(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)

We almost entitled this week’s report, “Broken Record.”  It’s not that some huge fish shattered a Georgia lake record or state record, but simply the darn weather reports.  For the last couple of weeks, the daily forecasts have been the same:  constant showers from a big tropical low and all of that moist tropical air headed north.  They continue.  A broken record.   On Sunday afternoon, I literally watched the Hooch in Helen go from low and clear to red and ripping, WITHIN TEN MINUTES.  Well, at least the North Georgia BBQ was good, and I went home to tie up a bunch of #4 black buggers and chartreuse/white clousers with an optimistic attitude about June’s river prospects.

These intense storms are amazing and can cause flash flood conditions.  For the angler, that’s frustrating and can even be dangerous, from floods to lightning strikes, especially if you’re flinging flies or lures with one of those graphite “lightning rods” in your hand. But there are still some rays of hope mixed in among our holiday storm clouds.  You see….

RAYS OF HOPE

  • Ray #1: since the weather forecast is the same as last week, our detailed “storm Plan B’s” in last week’s report are still great angling intel.
  • Ray #2: rain keeps fair weather recreationists indoors, so you don’t have to share your waters with as many weekend warriors.  Grab a raincoat and a positive attitude and you might find out, like some of us hillbillies, that inclement weather angling is a blast, whether it’s Memorial Day rain or January snow.
  • Ray #3: with daily high temps in the low 80’s, you won’t be sweating your fanny off.  In fact, it’s downright perfect weather when we’re fishing early and late in the day and the air temperatures are in the 70’s.
  • Ray #4: it’s still warm enough to wet wade, so you don’t need clunky boots and heavy shirts.  Go get wet, either from the rain or the river, and enjoy yourself.  Just bring a dry change of clothes to be allowed into a civil supper spot and to drive home in comfort.
  • Ray #5:  There are still plenty of opportunities close to your vehicle.  From trout streams to small lakes and even our reservoirs, just utilize a good weather app, such as found HERE, to watch those storm cells and fish close to your sanctuary of the vehicle, in case the bottom does drop out of the sky. (I picked the Channel 5 app because young weather dude Ryan B is an angler!) 
  • Ray #6: Big fish like rain and they get hungry and stupid.  Cool rain and turbid water give the big boys some air conditioning, a sense of security, and a big advantage in their prey ambush efforts.   But they have a hard time seeing you coming and spotting your fishing line.  So, in tennis terms, the bottom line is, Advantage Angler!
  • Ray #7: North Georgia is, literally, a biodiverse rain forest that needs rain toYonah stormclouds 5-23-18 function well.  And, as my stormy Yonah photo (seen to the right) from last night’s walk through my subdivision shows, that rain forest is getting what it needs.  That’s great for the long run, from the Hooch’s headwater specks, dining on drowned ants, to Lanier’s young-of-year largemouth, dodging hungry spots in the flooded shoreline vegetation.
  • Ray #8:  I’ve saved the best for last.  Rain or shine, Memorial Day is one of our biggest weekends for mountain trouting fans to trek north from their urban confines, so we stock heavy.  Real heavy.  See the note below.  Most of those stocked waters are small streams (and even a few ponds), which rarely are too high and muddy to fish somewhere on them!

(Here’s a shout-out to our fine partners with the U.S. Forest Service.  Those stable, forested watersheds under federal management are the reason for your abundant, clean, cold trout waters!)

We report; you decide.  I’ve laid out the whole story on a) the ugly storm clouds and b) the rays of angling sunshine among them. The rest is up to you.  On this long holiday weekend, watch some depressing metro traffic and weather reports and stay home.  Or check river gauges and trout stocking reports, test that expensive Goretex raincoat, and wet a line between storm clouds.  I will choose the latter myself.  How about you? Got a waterproof camera?

TROUT

burton hatchery Kevin load truck 5-23-18Holiday Stockers: GAWRD and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trout hatchery staffs will stock 106 waterbodies with nearly 70,000 trout this week to accommodate our abundant holiday anglers.  Enjoy the fish flinging expertise of John Lee Thomson in this video as he widely distributes the trout over a long stretch of the Chattahoochee River through Helen, thus serving our anglers well.

The trout will be there. Will you? More Info HERE.

Hooch Tailwater: News HERE 

Toccoa Tailwater: News HERE 

Enjoy the little guys, too: Given abundant streamflows and great hatchery conditions, GAWRD and USFWS staffs have stocked 80K fingerling rainbows from 2.5 to 4 inches in the Toccoa Tailwater this spring.  Hopefully enough of them will survive, spread out, and grow large enough to contribute to your sport fishery in the years to come. And we will apologize in advance for their repeated drownings of your size 18 dry flies this summer!

Smith Surprise: Find out more HERE.

Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Check HERE each Friday for his latest editions.

LAKE NEWS

Lanier: Bass News HERE; Capt Mack’s Report HERE

How Many? Yep, more than six and a half million warmwater fish have been stocked by WRD staff this spring! Our region staff has recently stocked more smallmouth bass fingerlings from the Go Fish Hatchery, in Perry, into Lake Blue Ridge as part of our continuing restoration program for this highly prized sport fish.  Gainesville fisheries tech Chris Looney met Bowens Mill Hatchery staff and stocked the last of this year’s statewide striper crop into Lanier.  The 90,000 fish load was split between Young Deer and Nix Bridge ramps.   Enjoy Chris’ photos.  Our north Georgia Region staff sure appreciates all of the hard work and great fish produced by the GAWRD Warmwater hatchery system to our south!

Small Lakes: These are still a best bet, especially during this period of heavy rains and muddy rivers.  Here’s some good intel on one north Georgia example. Focus on fishing early, late and in the shade, and toss your bait or lure toward fish cover like downed trees along the shoreline.  See last week’s report for a long list of small lakes.

Nottely News: GAWRD’s statewide boat ramp construction crew swung through the north Georgia region this week and dropped off a really nice gift.  Enjoy the photo of our ramp crew’s newly installed courtesy dock (see below) at the Jacks Creek boat ramp. For more information on boating accesses across Georgia, visit HERE. Nottely fishing intel is HERE.

boat ramp Nottely new court dock 5-23-18
New courtesy dock on Lake Nottely thanks to license buyers!

License Buyers: Thanks for your support of the recent changes to Georgia fishing and hunting licenses.  Enhanced revenues from that initiative are coming right back to you, from bigger stocked trout to this new courtesy dock (see photo to left). Need a license? Buy one HERE.

MORE NEWS

Hooked? Sometimes yes, sometimes no: If you saw the photo of UGA QB Jake Fromm, this hook (and the rest of the story) might be Even More Painful. The first one was just slight, temporary discomfort.  This one will cause a lifetime of nightmares! Don’t miss the video.

 

 

KFE Kudos: This week’s WRD pat on the back goes to one of our local chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation. This gang worked in partnership with WRD and Amicalola Falls State Park to host a great kids fishing event (KFE) last weekend.  Thank you guys and gals!  We enjoyed your photos!

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 2- Hooch KFE at Jones Bridge: Help wanted-check HERE.

June 2 – Tallulah River KFE: More Info HERE 

June 2: Rock Creek KFE: Here’s another great event sponsored by our federal hatchery partners.

 

Find a KFE: Events can be found HERE: Select “Kids Fishing Event” under the “Event Type” tab. You can further query for events close to you, by date, etc.

Good luck on your soggy holiday weekend.  Be safe and find a few windows of opportunity to get outside.

 

Know that our DNR game wardens will be out in force, from trout stream license checks to boating safety patrols, to help you enjoy your holiday safely.  Let the rain lift you up instead of getting you down.  Work around the weather or even dive into it, based on the tips provided in all of our “rainy weekend” fishing reports this spring.

 

Remember, the big boys like to hide in that turbidity and make easy meals of unsuspecting prey.

 

Their guard is down.  Are your lures in the water?

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA 

(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)

The daily rains have been the story over the last week. Some gages received over 5 inches of rain this week. The river fishing has slowed (except catfishing) as the rivers rose. Ponds and lakes were the place to be this week, as you could quickly get to cover if a storm popped up. Saltwater (whiting) has been good for the few anglers braving the pop-up storms. Full Moon is May 29th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

The river is rising and swift. You could catch some catfish on the Altamaha over the upcoming holiday weekend, but you’ll probably do better on flat water. Heather at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the catfish bite was decent over the weekend with some 15 to 25-pound flatheads caught on limb-lines baited with goldfish. A few bream and redbreasts were caught with crickets in the backwaters. Minnows even fooled some crappie in the backwaters. Donald at Altamaha Park said that flatheads were caught and a few shellcrackers and bream were caught by those that know where they hang out. The river level was 6.2 feet and rising at the Baxley gage, and 7.0 feet and rising (79 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 22nd.

SATILLA RIVER

Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that limb-liners reported catching some channel cats using shrimp and rooster livers as bait. Some bream and redbreasts were caught in the Hwy 158 Bridge part of the river. The rains will make the fishing tough for this weekend, but it will be good to give anglers another shot at them as it drops back out (hopefully slowly….). The Riverside Chapel Baptist Church is hosting a panfish tournament June 9th out of Burnt Fort to benefit their youth group. For more information and to register, go to 82 Tire and Lube in Nahunta or call Derek Roberson at 912-614-1655. The river level on May 22nd at the Waycross gage was 7.4 feet and rising (75 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.6 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 the river is muddy and rising, but catfish were still caught by those putting shrimp on the bottom. Some bream were caught with crickets from the creeks off the river. The river level at the MacClenny gage on May 22nd was 7.3 feet and rising.

WITHLACOOCHEE RIVER (NEAR VALDOSTA)

An angler reported catching a limit of 50 nice redbreasts on beetlespins this week from one of its tributaries. The river level at the Pinetta, Florida gage was 6.7 feet and rising (78 degrees) on May 22nd.

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

Worms produced some good warmouth catches this week on both the east and west sides. On the east side, some limits of warmouth were reported. Catfish were also caught on crickets and worms.

LOCAL PONDS

Wyatt Crews and Scout Carter fished a Waycross area pond on Sunday night and flung buzzbaits. They caught 8 bass up to 5 pounds, all on a black – silver flat-bladed version, although they tried other options. They just would not swing at the others that particular night. Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson caught 30 bass over the weekend. Each of them had a 5-pounder. Most of their fish ate spinnerbaits and plastic worms. Chad’s biggest ate a wacky-rigged senko, while Daniel’s 5.3-pounder on a hollow-body frog. On Tuesday a couple of anglers fishing a Brunswick area pond caught 40 bass up to 6 pounds. Chatterbaits were the ticket for them. After hard rains, pond spillways are the place to be for crappie, bream, and catfish. If you can safely access the spillway at your favorite pond, you will usually find fish migrating upstream toward the flow until they reach the dam. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, bass were eating green pumpkin ZOOM Speed Worms and lizards. Crickets fished around beds produced some good bream catches. Anglers reported catching some big warmouth on crickets at Lake Ware.

SEGA Mary Washington Bluegill 5 18 IMG_0259
Mary Washington of Tifton caught her personal best bluegill on Monday evening while fishing at Paradise PFA     

PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (Near Tifton-more info HERE)

Anglers have done well recently for bass and bluegills. The most notable catch was by Mary Washington of Tifton. She caught her personal best bluegill on Monday evening. Catfish bit well at the ponds near the entrance of the area. Chicken livers and worms worked, but one group reported catching them on shrimp. Bass responded to topwaters early and late and plastics during the daytime. Night fishing is now allowed, so expect the buzzbait bite to pick up soon.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

The whiting bite in the sounds was good this week when the wind allowed folks to get out. The same was the case for tripletail. Anglers caught them when the weather allowed. Seatrout fishing was hit-or-miss, as some folks had some nice keepers, while others did not. Tarpon have just arrived, but their numbers are still pretty low. The best report I’ve heard of recently was an angler at the St. Marys Jetties going 2 for 4 on tarpon using artificials. That bite should increase over the next month and be wide open by the end of June. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that pier fishing was decent. Sharks are still eating cut bait. The whiting bite has been good, and some Spanish mackerel have been around. Trout and flounder joined the mix this weekend, as well. Blue crabs were numerous for those working traps and baskets from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

A chance of pop-up storms is forecasted straight through the holiday weekend. Because of this, you might want to fish ponds so that you’re close to cover should a storm pop up. If you go to the ocean or a lake, it would be a good idea to go early and work your way close to the ramp as the afternoon heating starts. The rivers are all up and stained. You can still catch catfish, but you will probably do better on flat water. Your best catches with the rivers up will probably be white catfish from the tidal areas of the St. Marys, Satilla, and Altamaha. Put a piece of shrimp on the bottom near a creek mouth or some kind of cover in any of those rivers and you should bring home a great mess of catfish. My favorite is catching the lower Satilla on an ebb tide and fishing the mouths of the old rice plantation ditches as they flow out. Fishing at night for bass or catfish in your favorite pond or Paradise Public Fishing Area (or another PFA around the state) are great options for the weekend. On saltwater, whiting will be your most consistent catch. The piers will be crowded over the holiday, but you can fish at an off hour to lessen the number of anglers competing for space. Redfishing at the St. Marys Jetties will be a fun option if the weather allows.