2018 is ticking away! Are you going to be able to get back out on the water before the year ends? 

With the holidays in full swing, are you Looking for gift ideas?:

  • Gift your youth with an experience: Is your kid a future wildlife biologist or nature enthusiast? The 2019 session of Camp TALON is planned for June 1-6, 2019. Openings are limited and are available now at a reduced rate. 
  • Fishing Licenses: Covering your loved one’s fishing license fees for a year or a lifetime is a great gift. Buy a license HERE.

And, not to worry, it might be cold, but Wildlife Resources Division staff continue to try to improve your outdoor experience! Check out Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala as he stocks Carters Lake with hybrid bass.

Now, check out the latest fishing reports this week from Southeast and North Georgia. Have a great weekend and Go Fish Georgia!

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

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

With the rising rivers and cold temperatures, very few people went fishing this week. Ponds and saltwater produced the only reports I received. First quarter moon is December 15th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

Don’t try it… The river level was 14.6 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising (50 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.4 feet and rising (52 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 11th.

SATILLA RIVER

Don’t even THINK about it…… The river level on December 11th at the Waycross gage was 15.4 feet and falling (55 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 16.7 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and falling.

ST. MARYS RIVER

Not a good option but you can fish the tidal river if you think you have to get on a river. With the cold temperatures, don’t expect to catch much or be comfortable trying…. The river level at the MacClenny gage on December 11th was 8.6 feet and steady.

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

The big rains in the swamp have caused the water level to rise even higher than it already was. Fast rises usually kill the bite in the swamp, as the fish spread out into the newly-flooded areas. It was already high and slow fishing, so it is easy to conclude that my recommendation is to fish somewhere else again this week.

PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)

SE GA Gregory Cox Crappie 12 18
Gregory Cox of Albany landed this 2-lb., 4-oz. slab crappie on a minnow at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton last week. The catch earned him an angler award from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division of DNR.

The big crappie parade has started for this winter. Gregory Cox of Albany landed and certified a 2-lb, 4-oz slab last Tuesday to earn an angler award from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division of DNR. His slab ate a live minnow fished from the Lake Patrick fishing pier. Lots of other crappie were caught from the pier and boats this week on both minnows and jigs. The biggest crappie from the area last year was certified at just shy of 3 pounds. A few bass were caught with finesse plastics during the cold weather this week.

LOCAL PONDS

Mike Czaplinski and Harry Bardroff came down from New Jersey and fished with a friend in a Brunswick area pond on Thursday and Friday. They tried lots of lures, but the bass were selecting a black/blue Keitech Mad Wag worm fished on a 3/16-oz. worm weight. The crew caught 16 bass up to 5 pounds (their biggest 5 weighed 22 pounds) on Thursday. On Friday, the bite slowed, and they only managed 8 bass up to 4 pounds. The black-blue Mad Wag worm was the ticket again that day. The first day fish were just cruising the shoreline and were not associated with cover, but the second day the fish were buried in blowdown trees and were not cruising (or at least they were not eating while they were cruising). Another angler fished from a pier on Friday and caught 5 channel catfish in less than an hour. He was flinging a little hair jig, and the catfish were jumping on it. Michael Winge said that the only fishing he heard about was an angler fishing below the dam at Lake Ware in Waycross. That angler caught dozen fish, (mostly crappie) on minnows. He also caught a bluegill on minnows and a bass on shiners. The plunge pool below the spillway at your favorite pond is the place to be again this week if you can safely access it. The flow attracts fish to the base of the dam, and they hang out in the plunge pool. Lots of species are attracted to the flow, but crappie are especially susceptible, as they are suckers for a jig or minnow dangled in their face.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

On Friday, Tom and Ed Zmarzly fished the Brunswick area and caught 20 seatrout (18 were keepers). Their presentation of the day in the stained water was a Calcasieu brew Assassin Sea Shad skewered on an 1/8-oz. Flashy Jighead with a gold blade. Ed caught a couple on Mississippi hippie Sea Shads with a silver-bladed Flashy Jighead, but Tom put it on him with the brighter body and gold blade. Their biggest trout was 19 inches. An angler fishing a pier in the Brunswick area on Friday managed a keeper redfish (21 inches) and 5 throwback black drum by putting dead shrimp on the bottom. A few sheepshead were caught from Golden Isle piers by anglers dabbling fiddler crabs around rocks and pilings. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

Fishing ponds for bass and crappie and saltwater for seatrout or sheepshead are my recommendations for the weekend. With the rain in the forecast at the time of writing this, you may want to go for the pond option or fish saltwater from a bank access so that you can get to cover quickly if it downpours. Winter is here, so make the adjustments to lighter gear and fishing your lures slowly. Afternoons are usually the best bite during winter.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS

This week’s gift idea is a knife. While THIS is a fun option…maybe a bit much? All outdoorsmen and women will appreciate a good knife, whether it’s an Old Timer pocket knife, a filet knife, or an electric filet knife. Some ideas from previous weeks include: Capt. Bert’s Satilla Spin or Okefenokee Swamp Gift Kits – Assortments of Okefenokee Swamp Sallies or panfish spinnerbaits are always a great gift for swamp or river anglers. Costa or Calcutta Polarized Sunglasses – A good pair of sunglasses are a must for cutting through the glare and seeing cover, bait, and fish. Fishing Licenses – Covering your loved one’s fishing license fees for a year or a lifetime is a great gift. Buy a license HERE.

NORTH GEORGIA

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

This is our pre-holiday report, as we try to corral WRD staff, guides, tackle shops, and benevolent anglers for some report fodder before we all scatter for the winter break.  We’ve been able to piece together some pretty good intel for our subscribers, despite the cold, rainy weather and high water of the last several weeks that limited fishing and sampling activity.

Striper Lanier John Biagi
Check out this nice striper catch by retired WRD Fisheries Chief John Biagi

So what’s the forecast?  I think we should have Hope for the Holidays!  While our streams are still running high from three inches of rain last week, and Mother Nature will dump another inch on us (12/14), there’s a clearing and warming trend that gives me some hope for more days afield, from Sunday onward.  Even with our tough conditions, experienced folks have braved the weather to find decent, and sometimes outstanding, fishing success.  It should only get better with each passing day of warmer weather and receding streamflows.  Right now, our best bets are lake stripers and hybrids, deep bass, small stream trouting, and careful trouting on larger rivers when they drop to wadeable levels or can be fished from the bank.

 

“The birds are back,” sez Henry C, so use the gulls, loons, and herons as strike indicators as you search for stripers and hybrids on our big lakes like Lanier, Allatoona, Hartwell, Nottely, and Chatuge.  Fish are scattered, so spend time searching for birds or bait schools before you wet a line.  Match the hatch, so look at the bait fish that are attracting striper attention.  Are they tiny threadfins, medium bluebacks, or big gizzards?  Have your bait, lure, or fly match the size and color of the forage fish and your success rate will climb.

 

 

Watch the GON message board for great tips by Lanier Jim, Scoutin’ Stripers, and Jimbo for winter spotted bass success.

On trout waters, the Rain Plan B’s of Smith DH, Dukes, smaller stocker streams, and Vogel Lake can send you outdoors with hope, even when our big rivers are at flood stage.  And as those rivers recede, show up at lunch, fish from or near the bank (for wading safety), and aim for the flood refuges of slower pools and runs.

 

As that water warms, those flood survivors will rediscover their appetites and it can be game on, til about 4PM when the sun dips behind the ridge and the water temp turns south.  My favorite combos are a) legs and eggs for bigger or naïve fish and b) one of those big flies, followed by a tiny pheasant tail trailer on light tippet, for picky fish.  To decipher that line, “legs” are Pat’s Rubberlegs and “eggs” are any good, small, light colored salmon egg fly. Check out Page 3 HERE.

Of course, the “how” trumps the “what,” so we should work on technique more than worrying about our fly pattern.  Lengthen your leaders with thin tippet, add enough lead, and bump the bottom for winter trouting success.  Chuckin’ and duckin’ isn’t pretty, but it can be deadly when you find that pod of flood wash-downs, just below the last set of ledges, at the head of the first big, flat pool!

 

I have cabin fever, but I now have hope.  I’ll fish with a net, the internet, the night before my free time, pick a spot with good water conditions, bundle up, and go the next day.  I won’t go early, but will let the waters warm ‘til I hop in at eleven or noon.  I also won’t have to worry about crowds and overheating.  I’ll quit before dark and hike out without the need for a flashlight, for a change.  I’ll enjoy a big supper, a hot shower, and a sound sleep under a pile of Mom’s home-made comforters.  And I’ll forget about how good the spring fishing season is because, by golly, the winter fishing in JoJa isn’t bad at all.  How about you?  If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

 

 

 

LAKE REPORTS

Lake Allatoona: (This Lake Allatoona striper and Hybrid fishing guides report has been brought to you exclusively by Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service)  Line side fishing is very good. The fish are on the move and can be caught anywhere from Little River to Iron Hill. The water temperature is in the low fifty’s and warms the closer you get to the dam. Our better bite has been mid lake from Stamp Creek to Kellogg’s Creek out over the river channel.  I start out my day putting out a full spread, planner Boards, Free Lines and Down Lines mid way back in the Creeks.  After 9 am I switch to all down lines and after 10 am I pull U-Rigs out of the river channel. Trolling has been my best bite for numbers, But our bigger fish are coming on live bait Shad, Threadfins, Shiners and trout. This is usually the time of year I put my cast net up and fish exclusively store bough bait ( Striper Soup and Dugout Bait and Tackle ) and Mack Farr U-RIGS.   Over all I think this is the best fall bite we have had in years. I look for this pattern to hold on through Christmas and until the middle of January . Remember Christmas is right around the corner and First Bite Gift Certificates make great gifts……. 770 827-6282. Temp 52 F, Clarity north = stained, south = clear.

(From Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala) –– I’ll add that we (WRD) wrapped up our fall striper and hybrid sampling at Allatoona two weeks ago, and fish numbers look great!  The number of young striped bass (0.5 – 3 pounds) encountered during our survey this year was exceptional.  This would suggest that survival of fish stocked over the last two years was well above average.  As such, striped bass fishing at Allatoona looks very promising in the coming years.  Hybrid striped bass abundance was also stellar with lots of one-pound fish coming up through the ranks.  Bigger hybrids seemed to be more prevalent at sample sites from Galt’s Ferry northwards, while smaller, more abundant hybrids dominated sample sites from the dam southward.

Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Check ‘em out HERE each Friday

Lanier Whopper Spot: Did you see this?

 

Capt Mack’s Report: Lake Lanier Fishing Report

 

Capt Clay: Captain Clay’s Striper Fishing Report

 

TROUT

Stray Stockers! Sgt. Mike and wife Carmen took their grown nephew from FL up to Dicks Creek yesterday (12/13).  Mike said they did well by covering a lot of ground and tossing Berkeley worms into the nooks and crannies that many fair weather anglers had passed over.  Nice days during fall and winter are a lot of fun when you a) dress right, b) cover a lot of stream, and c) always have a dry change of clothes in the car. Where?  Check out the WRD master stocking list and aim for the heavily stocked waters.  With stocking trucks a distant memory in the minds of most summer anglers, you won’t have to worry about a crowd.

 

Dukes Back in the Game: Abundant, cold winter water has Dukes back on north Georgians’ radar screens.  NGTO’s “Seal Team Trio” of Mo, Mog, and Big Browns braved Saturday morning’s elements and had a good time on Dukes Creek.  The Smithgall veterans, who know that high water means active fish and heavy rain means “vacant slots,” dressed right and landed a nice handful of fish, including some big ones.  Several more trophies were “uncapped” and led to a bit of heartbreak.  They left before the roads got bad and vowed a reunion in the new year.  Smithgall Woods Dukes reservations: 706-878-3087.  You can also try to “walk on.” If no slots are available, Unicoi State Park’s Smith Creek DH is a great, nearby Plan B.

 

 

From BB: “We threw eggs and bacon (SJW) at them all day, with a heavy helping of shot, as always 🙂 We did great. Bout a dozen or so fish each. Lots of smaller fish, a few larger ones. Each lost a monster or two.  We’ll be back for a rematch!”

Smith DH: Cumming Dude braved Saturday’s weather and gave Smith DH a shot.  He was one of three young die-hards on the creek after lunch.  His dry/dropper combo wasn’t producing earlier in the day.  Then he added another two feet of tippet to the dropper and sunk his Pat’s Rubberlegs way below the bushy stimulator.  As he finally bumped the bottom, he nailed two nice browns in ten minutes.  The weather was nasty, but the fish were there. So was his soggy smile!!!

DH Streams – Data Breach: Santa has a cyber-security problem.  Evidently one of his elves squealed, and Dredger now has some top-secret intel that he has shared.  Supposedly the WRD elves will be out in force late next week, sprinkling pre-holiday goodies into Georgia’s DH waters.  Got some y2K’s and squirmies ready?

MISCELLANEOUS NEWS

Dress for Success (continued): I hope you enjoyed Dominick’s tips last week on keeping your hands warm.  Here’s a link to his part 2, an excellent narrative on keeping the rest of your body warm during winter fishing.

Last Minute Gift Ideas: Desperate for the perfect gift that sportswoman or man if your life? Remember some easy ones: lifetime fishing licenses, gift cards to favorite local tackle shops, and guided fishing trips and more trips!

Long Flight for Sunshine: My office mate, David, took a week’s vacation and migrated south to Brazil with seven other friends for a trip of a lifetime.  They aimed for peacock bass and caught a bunch, along with some other oddities.  Enjoy both pics of fish, and of anglers NOT in parkas! He did return with all fingers intact, but several of his clousers had serious haircuts of the Parris Island style. (Ed note: Dear Santa, please visit these folks before coming down my chimney.)

Upcoming Events – Reminder:

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.  We here at our WRD North Georgia Region’s two offices and three trout hatcheries hope you have a chance to wet a line during your winter vacation.  I know I’ll be out there, somewhere, in north GA.  Stop and say hi if you see an older dude in a Simms vest chucking a ton of lead into a slow Chattooga pool, or tangling his backcast, due to buck fever, when a pod of Lanier stripers erupts at his feet.  May we all have a chance for some “grip-and-grin moments” with our fishing buddies, old and new!

Good luck as you go fish Georgia this winter!