Merry “Fish-Mas” to you!! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and is able to spend time with family and friends and cherishes each and every moment! We are grateful for your readership and hope that all the fishing news we share with you each week provides welcome tips and info that allows you to have the best fishing experience possible.

Some quick news for the week:

  • Shad Season: The start of the new year brings the beginning of shad season.
  • Winter Fishing Tips and Tricks: Read about it HERE.
  • Trout in the Classroom: Last weekend, high school students from 3 schools in the Paulding County School District braved the cold and rain to release their own tiny trout into Raccoon Creek. The release event marked the end of a semester long “Trout in the Classroom” program (TIC).

On to our reports for the week. Today we have reports from the Central and Southeast areas of the state. Now Go Fish Georgia!!

CENTRAL GEORGIA

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

Find Reservoir Fishing Reports at Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is slow.  With the water temperature dropping and some muddy cold water running into the lake, the fishing has slowed.  If there are a couple of warm days in a row the fishing will pick up.  Be sure to rely on the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to scan a lot of water looking for bait schools.  Fish shallow wood where you can find rocks close by as the sun shining on them warns the nearby water.  Use a ¼ or 3/8 ounce Stanley jig in the black and blue with a Zoom Salty Chunk in a green pumpkin.  Fish this bait all around the wood and rocks.  With a couple of warm days, use the smaller ¼ ounce Rat T Trap in the chrome and black or a Shad Rap in the middle to back of the creeks where you find schools of baitfish. 

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 1.33 FEET, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  The crank bait bite is fair but bait is critical for this to work.  Main lake and secondary points are the best areas.  Fish the back side of points and bridge rip rap continues to get a lot of attention.  Shad Raps on spinning tackle and eight pound test line can be fished on these points and retrieved with the current by the points and produce fish.  Bass will hold up in the pockets close by and wait for bait fish to come by.  This is a good technique to use anytime there is any form of current, either generated by man or nature.  After long run up the Savannah River towards the Lake Russell Dam, use Rapala DT10 and DT14 crank baits in shad and hot mustard to fish the deep water pockets.  Deep-water standing timber will produce and Hopkins Spoons are best.

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50S

(This Report brought to you by Capt. Mark Smith of Reel Time Service) — The lake is full and stained over most of the main lake; muddy from the 44 bridge north.  The Richland creek arm of the lake is clear.  The temperature is 50 to 53 degrees.

Bass: Bass fishing is slow.  You will need to match the color of your bait to the water color.  You can fish muddy water up the rivers to clear water in Richland creek.  Pick the water color you like and go for it.  Sugar creek is not as stained as the main lake.  Spoons are the hot ticket.  Try the south end of the lake in the light stained water around humps and just off the river channel in about 30 feet of water.  Small crank baits fished around docks and sea walls from the middle of the creeks to the back of the creeks can work.  Find 8 feet of water depth at the end of the docks.  Be sure to rely on the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to scan a lot of water looking for bait schools.

Striper: Striper fishing is good.  As the mud line moves further south so will the stripers.  They do not like muddy water.  Down-lines as well as flat-lines will produce.  Fish are also showing up in the mouths of the coves.  Use your Lowrance to locate the schools of bait and the stripers will be close by.  Now is the time to go bait hunting.  Find large schools of bait and the fish will be close by.  The sea gulls have not shown up yet. 

Crappie: Crappie fishing is fair to great.  This is the best fishing on Oconee right now.  Long-lining (trolling) will produce some nice catches.  You will need to run your jigs about 10 to 12 feet deep.  Down-lining crappie minnows into tree tops and on ledges on the main lake at 10 feet deep will also produce a lot of fish.  Use your Lowrance to locate the fish in the tree tops and then drop your bait down to the fish.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 4.3 FEET, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is good.  The shallow bite is fair after mid-morning and it will improve even more, especially as more rain and continued cooler days set in.  Use the unweighted flukes, Senkos and the Shaky Heads.  Fish these baits in or near cover or around schools of shallow baitfish.  Fish the open water in the pockets with KVD 1.5 crankbait or an Alabama rig.  Have the jig handy to pitch around any wood cover. A jig won’t produce a lot of bites, but it’s a good way to catch a bigger fish as the water cools off.  The big schools of spots mixed with hybrids, white bass and stripers can be caught on jigging spoons on deeper offshore structures.  Be sure to rely on the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to scan a lot of water looking for bait schools.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.00 FEET, STAINED, 50’S

Bass fishing is fair.  Fish the brighter colored crank baits and cover a lot of water down lake.  Focus on any shallow blowdowns, stump fields and docks that have deeper drops nearby.  With more cold weather the bite will shift to rocks near deeper water.  Any stretch of seawall near creek channels have potential to be holding bass.  In addition to crank baits, shaky heads will really come into play as the bass’ metabolism slows this month.  A jigging spoon bite should come into play in areas where you find birds diving on bait.  Be sure to rely on the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to scan a lot of water looking for bait schools.  Use your Lowrance HDS electronics to find schools of bait around the mouth of creeks in the channel and drop your spoon or drop shot vertically below the boat.

LAKE JACKSON IS 1.09 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED, 50’S

Bass fishing is good.  Fish the rocks near deep water and any wood cover makes them better.  The bass are feeding on shad and crayfish.  Look for baitfish in an area.  For covering water and finding bass use a crawfish colored Rapala DT6 crankbait, a 3/8 ounce white spinnerbait with silver and gold blades, and a silver Deep Shadow Rap jerk bait with a black back.  To slow down and cover an area use a 3/16 ounce shaky head jig with a green pumpkin or black Zoom Trick worm.  Try the 3/16 to 3/8 ounce jig with a black Fat Albert trailer. Try a morning dawn or bluegill Robo worm-rigged drop shot style above a 5/16 ounce sinker on a 1/0 hook. 

BIG LAZER PFA (More Info HERE

  • Surface water temperature: 55° F
  • Water visibility: Visibility is about 34”
  • Water level: 2” above full pool
  • Attention: Waterfowl Hunters are allowed to hunt the PFA Wednesdays & Saturdays until noon during the season.  See Hunting Regs for more details.  
  • Hunters & Anglers remember Hypothermia can be a Killer so be careful out there!!

Bass: Slow – Largemouth bass fishing has been slow lately. Increasingly cooler water temperatures are a large contributor to the sluggish fishing. However, determined anglers may have better luck as the fish become acclimated to the cooler water. Fish near structure at a slower pace with darker colored plastics worms or shad.

Crappie: Slow – Crappie are hard to locate but should readily bite in the cooler water. Try minnows or brightly colored jigs. Try fishing in deeper water and around standing timber. You may also have luck fishing around the pier.

Bream: Fair – Using live baits such as crickets or worms can produce some decent fall/winter bream. Try fishing around structure from 5-8 ft. deep. Downed trees along the bank near the picnic area may produce good bites. However, be careful of the deeper water and steep banks in that area.

Channel catfish: Slow – There have been very few reports of catfish bites. You may have luck fishing with liver or shrimp at or near the bottom of the lake at the upper end. Along the dam is also a pretty respectable area for catfish bites.

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA 

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

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas! Saltwater and ponds produced some good reports this week. The rivers are still high and cold, so fish flatwater again this week. Full Moon is December 22nd. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

Don’t try it… The river level was 15.8 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising (51 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.5 feet and rising (53 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 18th.

SATILLA RIVER

Don’t even THINK about it…… The river level on December 18th at the Waycross gage was 15.2 feet and rising (56 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 15.1 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising.

ST. MARYS RIVER

No…..the slug has worked its way downstream, and water is high all along the river…..fish elsewhere. The river level at the Macclenny gage on December 18th was 12.9 feet and falling.

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

You can fish here if you want to, but it is high and cold, and the fish will be hard to find. Fishing the boat basins at the Folkston and Fargo entrances would be your best bet if you plan to be at the swamp. I actually received a report of some warmouth being caught on shrimp in the Folkston boat basin.

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

The crappie bite continued this week. Everyone didn’t catch them, but several folks did. Minnows produced the most fish, but anglers drifting and trolling with jigs had some good catches, as well. One of the more interesting catches was made by Zack Rogers of Cecil. He landed a 4.18-pound largemouth bass from Lake Horseshoe 1 while catfishing with chicken livers for bait. Chicken liver worked for Zack, but I would recommend plastic worms or jigs if you want to target bass…

LOCAL PONDS

SE GA Harry Bardroff Bass 12 18 - IMGP0335
Harry Bardroff caught this chunky bass last week on a black-blue Keitech Mad Wag Worm fished in a Brunswick area pond. Pond fishing will likely be your best option this weekend.

One of the better catches I heard of was Tuesday afternoon, when an angler caught 8 bass from 1 to 5 pounds on swim jigs and Rat-L-traps (his biggest fish ate the trap). He and a friend also caught 15 bass up to 3 pounds on Saturday. Most of their fish that day came on swim jigs, but a few ate Rat-L-traps. Another group of anglers fishing a Douglas-area pond on Saturday caught 106 crappie (they kept a limit) in 3 hours of trolling and casting jigs. He said they had trouble keeping a jig in the water without getting a bite. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the crappie fishing in ponds in the Douglas area was the highlight of the week. Both jigs and minnows accounted for the catches. Crappie were also caught in ponds around Waycross. If we get a good bit of rain Thursday (it’s in the forecast), the plunge pool below the spillway at your favorite pond is the place to be 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 Sunday, Brentz McGhin and Greg Nelms fished at Crooked River and caught a good mess of fish. They dabbled fiddler crabs and mussels around hard cover and landed 3 keeper redfish (to 20 inches) and 6 keeper sheepshead to about 4 pounds, along with 4 throwback sheepshead. They also cast a green jig around deep holes and managed 4 keeper trout. Another angler fishing the Crooked River area landed and released over 100 seatrout by casting chartreuse grubs to deep holes. The fish are moving toward their wintertime locations, but most are not quite there yet. With this week’s moderate temperatures, the trout should still be roaming and feeding in lots of different places. A couple different anglers reported catching trout and redfish from Brunswick area piers. One caught a 28-inch redfish on a Capt. Bert’s Premium Minnow jighead and natural-colored Assassin Sea Shad. Another angler landed 4 quality trout up to 19 inches on Capt. Bert’s jigheads and Sea Shads. A pair of anglers fishing the Brunswick area landed a limit of keeper redfish on shrimp. Everyone didn’t catch them, though, as I heard a report of an angler only catching 1 trout and a couple bottom fish. So, keep moving until you find them if you fish this weekend. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

With the big full moon tides in saltwater over the weekend, crappie fishing in a pond will likely be your best option. Whether you drift minnows, troll, or cast jigs, you should be able to land a good mess of specks. You might as well make a few casts for bass while you are out there. If you go to saltwater, concentrate your efforts around slack high or low tide when the water will be its clearest. Trout and sheepshead have been numerous, so hopefully you can get on some if you go. Check the marine forecast late in the week if you’re planning to fish the brine, as the winds are supposed to be strong.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS

This week’s gift ideas are a good cooler or a pair of boots like Muck Boots. They’re easy to get on and off and work great. A good quality cooler, like a Engel or Calcutta Cooler keeps fish or drinks cold for a long time with a minimal input of ice. Engel also makes a high-quality live bait cooler with aerator that keeps bait frisky a long time. I used mine down in the Everglades this past summer, and it did a great job keeping shiners alive, even in the heat. 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. All outdoorsmen and women appreciate a good knife, whether it’s an Old Timer pocket knife, a filet knife, or an electric filet knife. Fishing Licenses – Covering your loved one’s fishing license fees for a year or a lifetime is a great gift.