HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Whether this year went good or not-so-good for you, it is always exciting to see a brand new year of opportunity lying just up ahead. Just a tip, fishing makes everything better – so we hope 2019 brings lots of chances for you to go wet a line and make it a great year!

Volunteers make a difference! GA WRD fisheries biologist Hunter Roop and technician Mark Rigglesford showed up at the National Park Service’s Whitewater Creek access with a Buford Hatchery stocking truck full of trout.  They gave a brief safety talk and some stocking instructions to the attending 35 volunteers and then lined up the newly “deputized” fish technicians for some work. And work they did, stocking 1,350 rainbow and brown trout, from 10 to 20 inches long, into the Delayed Harvest section of the Hooch. Take a bow, one and all Hooch Bucket Brigaders.  Thanks for your service to the Atlanta angling community! Here are just a few photos of this great time.

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On to our reports! This week, we have reports from North, Central and Southeast Georgia. Thank you for an amazing year anglers – we appreciate your support!

NORTH GEORGIA 

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

Well, so much for hope for holiday sunshine, as north Georgia’s rainy days have outnumbered sunny ones by a three-to-one margin.  And there’s more water coming, possibly another 2-4 inches at the end of this week.  While we all suspected that this was a darn wet year, the data are confirming such, as Atlanta weather forecasters are predicting that 2018 may rank in the top three wettest years on record. While lots of rain is great for fish, it sure makes it hard on us fishers!

Hey, it’s the holidays, so we still need to find some cheer at this time of year.  We have had a few nice days and, for the die-hard anglers among us, many of the crummy-weather days were still fishable when we dressed right, hopped on a boat, or waded very, very carefully (right next to the bank!).  We also had to bring our winter game to the table, and abandon our warm weather techniques. Recall that we already gave you those winter tips.

Here is a bit of “between holidays” intel that might help many of you to get outside, hike off some of those extra calories, and maybe even create some grip-and-grin moments on your favorite north GA waters.  Just be very careful: dress right, have a dry change of clothes in your vehicle, take a buddy, and know your limits, especially when it comes to winter wading.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN AND YOUR ANGLING ACCESS

Army Corps: See Post #7 HERE.

NPS: My staff was out surveying our Hooch DH stocking sites today (12/26) for their forthcoming fish deliveries.  While formal NPS facilities (ex: restrooms) were closed, it appears that access to many NPS tracts is still possible.

Chattahoochee National Forest: I called the main office in GA (770-297-3000) today and got a voice mail saying that USFS employees were furloughed.  I would expect a similar circumstance to that for the National Park Service, where developed facilities are closed.  https://www.fs.usda.gov/conf

TROUT

WRD “Don’t Miss” Trout Info:

Smith DH: While off last week, I visited this nearby place several times and talked with anglers.  Fishing veterans are having a good time, while new anglers are also catching a few (thanks to the DNR stocking elves last week).  Their trip highlights include some big fish as well as a sudden sprinkling of small brookies to diversify their holiday catches. The key seems to be changing flies until you find the hot pattern(s) of the day.  Suggestions: small, light colored glo bugs, squirmies, small buggers or leeches, Pat’s rubberlegs, and then tiny pheasant tails, zebra midges, or tungsten Euro-nymphs on 6x when the sun is high and the fish have been picked on all day.  Since most of our big streams have been blown out by heavy rains, Smith is getting more than its share of angling pressure this year.  Be ready to downsize tippet, go to fluorocarbon, walk father downstream, and invoke your summer stealth technique to up your catch. Remember to visit the lodge first for your $5 park pass and free Smith DH fishing permit. Some trip reports can be found HERE and HERE.

 

 

Chattooga DH: Here’s a Christmas gift from Dredger to all purchasers of Georgia brook trout car tags: “Chattooga Chuck and Duck” – Dredger first noticed the sun this morning (12/22) and then used his favorite “net” to plan his day. The inter-net showed that THE River was 46 degrees  and slowly receding to barely tolerable levels for tall people (2.75 on the Hwy 76 gauge).

He studied a quick winter refresher at “secrets of the Rabunites” and checked his fly vest pockets for all vital winter trinkets.  Then he loaded up his car and headed north for a Clayton lunch with fellow Rabunite Kent, who piled him up with a second helping of GATU Dream Trip tix to sell to hopeful flatlanders.

The long lunch let the river drop a bit more as he arrived at 2pm and suited up in the JoJa lot.  He hiked in a good ways on the JoJa trail and then scouted for eddies. They were scarce in the raging current, but he finally found a few. He took only one or two steps off the bank for self-preservation purposes, chucked, and ducked.  And hoped…

And soon gripped and grinned. More than a dozen rainbows and a lone brown came to hand in his 2.5 hrs of catapulting, err, fly casting. The first six were split equally between the legs and the eggs, so he simplified his multifly rig down to just the “cheap-and-easy-to-tie” Oreck egg for the last half of his game. They ate the egg just fine.  He quit on a last cast fish at 5:15 due to cold fingers and some desired daylight for the 45 minute hike out. It was a great holiday afternoon on the ole Toog. Sticking near the bank, he didn’t drown! Adding to the success, the fish were podded up in the flood refuges. And, at 46 degrees, they ate the eggs when served at nose-level.

And here’s your stocking stuffer: Dredger’s recipe for success was a sliding bobber (a ¾ inch airlock indicator), a seven foot leader with three more feet of 4x attached, Then a foot of 5x knotted to the 4x.  One to three size BB shot were added above the triple surgeon knot between tippet strands. Then the fly was tied to the loose end of the 5x. The bobber was adjusted to 1.5 times the depth of the eddy fished, so it slid from three to ten feet up and down the leader, depending on the spot fished.  The airlock brand made sliding easy!

Dredger lobbed this concoction upstream a short distance and histicked it back down to him. He rarely had more than six feet of fly line on the water, and often had zero. His ten foot Euro rod aided his lobbing, hi-sticking, and bottom/bumping in the flood flows. Dredger had to watch his bobber carefully, and he set the book on each “bream nibble” that inched the bobber back upstream ever so slightly.  Half the nibbles were rocks, but the other half had adipose fins attached and ran like heck toward South Carolina!

So there you go: fresh intel in time for the holidays. Be careful and know your wading limits. But as these rivers drop and the water temps stay above forty, anglers who can bottom-roll their flies effectively can have some great afternoons. Good luck plotting your own vacation getaways. Don’t forget a sliding bobber, a pocketful of lead, and two big spools of 4x. And some hope for the holidays!

Merry Christmas from the Rabunites: Waaaah- HOOOO!!!!! (Rabunite term for “fish on”)

 

Editor’s note: Dredger reported in again and reconfirmed the DH trout pods ganged up in flood refuges.  He said the wading on Christmas Eve was much easier at 2.5 on the Clayton gauge, and the fish still loved the legs and eggs combo.  Chattooga guest “Chatham Mills” joined ole Dredge for a couple hours and had a nice, fat brown stuffed into his Christmas stocking, err, net (see his net-full in photo above).  A black woolly bomber, on the swing, did the trick.

Nan DH Holiday Hat Trick (12/23): Despite the crummy weather report, Dredger headed over the mountain to Nantahala DH.  The afternoon air temp in the gorge was 35 degrees with intermittent spells of mist and rain, while the water was 44 degrees.  At least it was above 40, which gave him hope. Despite the winter steelhead weather, angler climate was toasty warm and dry, thanks to head-to-toe fleece and goretex.  The water was high, but wadeable with extreme care and a stout wading staff.

Dredge got on fish immediately and had a steady pick throughout the afternoon. The browns were against the bank, the rainbows were in midstream pools and runs, and two brookies were in a flat, shallow pool near the 4pm quittin’ time, completing his trout hat trick.  All three flavors had one thing in common: they hung in slower velocity than the ripping main current.

The winning rig was Euro, which started with a short tapered leader, a tippet ring, and then a tricolor segment of Orvis 0x sighter material, which is supple and easy to see, even for older anglers. Four feet of 6x were then knotted to the 2nd tippet ring at the end of the sighter. Another 18 inches of 6x were then triple-surgeoned to the end of the first piece of tippet, with one tag left long at the knot. On that tag was knotted a #16 surveyor, while the terminal end got a big, heavy, #12 sexy Walt’s worm, a great anchor fly to bounce the bottom.

Fish ate both flavors equally. Browns were common, rainbows less so, and brookies were scarce. All in all, a great way to salvage a rainy day. Special thanks to Landon (Fishbreath) for his early Euro lessons to ole Dredge several years ago. Dredger’s subsequent practice is starting to pay off.

Good luck to any holiday road trippers.  Got a raincoat, a sighter, lotsa 6x, and some hope?

How? Watch all three parts of this George Daniel vid.

Winter Trouting Stories from Midcurrent.com: Where and How

 

Academy Jack Strikes Again: Went back to my favorite river today (18th).  Fishing the

trout rbt GPC TW Academy Jack 12-18-18
Nice rainbow trout caught by Academy Jack on 12-18-18

tail water below a Georgia Power Dam in north Georgia. Big Jerk-baits.  Hard keeping the Pickerel off the bait but I did manage to get this nice Rainbow.  Water is 47.5 degrees.  Also caught a smaller rainbow on a black and blue bass jig.  Come see me at the Academy Outdoors store in Gainesville!

LAKE REPORTS

Lanier Stripers: Henry C told me today (26th) that the action was picking up.  While there wasn’t much surface action, there are fish under the birds, down in the bait schools.  He said sinking lines are the ticket, and that the upper half of Lanier has been better than the lower half.  He has a great January report in the latest edition of the Coastal Angler Magazine- Atlanta edition, so grab one of these free pubs at your local tackle shop or gas station.

Capt Mack: Find Captain Mack’s Latest Lake Lanier report HERE 

Capt Clay: Catching Not Fishing report

Ken’s Detailed Reservoir Reports: Get all the news HERE

We hope this report will help you have a little more holiday fun, whether at home or on the water.  The DNR hatchery videos should bring you closer to the action, even if you’re still in that comfortable recliner while the monsoon blows out your favorite trout stream – again. Lanier, Smith DH, or Vogel, anyone????  Pass the Christmas cookies, please.

CENTRAL GEORGIA 

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

Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  The water came up some with more rain.  There are a few fish scattered around on windy banks, points with rocks but these fish are small.  Fishing the jig more than anything will get the better bites.  Brown jigs and brown trailers are best.  Worm fishing is best with the Weedless Wonder heads and a green Zoom craw in root beer or cinnamon pepper around the brush and on the humps and points.  On cloudy and windy days use a swimming jig with the 3/8 ounce heads and a small swim bait trailer or white twin tail.  The nest bait is a Fish Head Spin out over the brush very slowly on 12 to 15 pound test Sunline fluorocarbon line.  Give this a try on unstable weather days. 

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 3.24 FEET, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  The fish are on deep creek bends down lake.  Mid-day Fish Head Spins baits down lake in the creeks may work but drag the baits slowly over the structure.  Use the 1/2 ounce Fish Head or a Scrounger with a Zoom Fluke trailer.  Bass have moved to the creek channels and points.  Use the all black or all brown 1/2 ounce jig and a Pro Pork Trailer by Uncle Josh on the points.  After a few days of warm weather look for the crank bait and spinner baits cast on the bank cover and slowly worked to get small strikes.  Watch the water temperatures all day and find the warmest water in the north west coves for any active fish. 

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50S

(Report by Captain Mark Smith of Reel Time Service, reeltime@bellsouth.net) —

The lake is full, 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 fair.  The lake is stained and the rivers clear in Richland Creek.  With all the rain and cold the bite has slowed.  Jigs fished under docks in the back of the major coves off of the main lake are catching some fish.  Work your way out of the coves. Small crank baits fished on the outside of the docks in the same area will also produce.  If the sun comes out move out to the deep humps and fish a Capt. Mack’s spoon on the schools you find on your Lowrance.

Striper and Hybrid: Striper and hybrid fishing is fair.  The cold weather has scattered the fish.  The best way to put fish in the boat is with the umbrella rig.  We are using a 4 arm 9 jig rig.  We are fishing it 100 feet behind the boat at 3 mph.  While you are pulling the rig use your Lowrance to look for large schools of bait.  When you find the bait, use a spoon to jig for the stripers in the schools of bait.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 7.09 FEET, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  With all the rain and cold the bite has slowed.  Jigs fished under docks in the back of the major coves off of the main lake are catching some fish.  Work your way out of the coves.  Small crank baits fished on the outside of the docks in the same area will also produce.  If the sun comes out move out to the road beds down lake and the deep humps and fish a Flex It 5/8 ounce all white spoon on the schools you find on your Lowrance.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.52 FEET, STAINED, 50’S

Bass fishing is fair.  The bass are starting to get grouped up in schools all over the lake.  Lowrance Down Scan technology will help find the bait schools.  Try a lipless crank bait or a suspended jerk bait.  Make several casts with a Spro McStick 110 in clear and chartreuse.  Use 12-pound test Sunline FC Reaction Fluorocarbon line and a medium action rod.  Also use a 1/2 ounce Buddha Baits Football Jig with a Big Bite Baits Reel Deal Craw trailer.  Watch the Lowrance for the bass to lay dead on the bottom in the creeks.  Zoom In with the Lowrance Sonar and sit still to see any fish moving on the bottom. 

LAKE JACKSON IS 1.12 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED, 50’S

Bass fishing is fair.  The lake is up and more rain has rolled in.  The water is cold and the bass are biting later in the day with a warm up.  Stay down-lake and use worms and jigs.  Fish the humps and points half way to the backs of the creeks.  In the mouths of the main lake creeks try blue pumpkin Zoom mini lizards.  The backs of the lower lake creeks are clear and a use 3/8 ounce Stanley jig in black and blue Zoom pork imitation.  Fish the docks down-lake.  Work baits dead slowly and bites are going to be light.  Drop spoons and small all-white buck tails to the fish once they show up on the Lowrance depth finder.  The ledges right off the main lake are still good locations to find schools of fish.  But getting them to bite has been tough. 

FLAT CREEK PFA (more info HERE)

  • Surface Temperature: 53.6 F (˚12.0 C)
  • Water Level: 3’ 7” Below Full Pool
  • Water Visibility: 24”
  • Additional information HERE 

Rain has ushered in the New Year and at Flat Creek the lake level has risen.  This extra water will allow forage fish to find new areas in which to hide and create more opportunities for bank anglers to catch large fish cruising the shallows.   Largemouth bass are still being caught, but they have required patience, fishing deeper water and a slower retrieval.  A few anglers reported catching crappie, but they too were found in 7-8’ of water and were slow on the strike.  Several bream were reported to have been caught and some of them large and picture worthy.

We are deeply grateful to our anglers that not only enjoy fishing at Flat Creek PFA but enjoy passing on their tips to help other fishermen have the same joy of catching fish!

Bass: Pumpkinseed or Green Pumpkin worms.  Willow Leaf Spinnerbaits, Yellow-White 1.5 Strike King KVD HC Square Bill Silent Crankbait, 5” Black Red Silver Flake Laminate Yamamoto Senko Worms, seven-ten foot of water near cover, with a slow retrieval.

Bream: Crickets or worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks).  Near cover or near the shallower water during a full moon. For larger Redear try blue/black or white/yellow 2” Rage Tail grubs with the tail cut down 75%, close to cover and with a slow retrieval.

Channel Catfish: Insufficient information to report on.

Crappie: Live minnows are the best at about 5-feet at the dock.  Less weight and four-pound test line.  Let the minnows swim freely.  Watch the line carefully.  When the minnow becomes active you will know the crappie are close. Yellow Mr. Crappie line is a must.  Change the depth of your minnow between five feet and the bottom.  The bigger crappie are near the bottom.  Many 7 and 8-inch crappie are at the five-foot depth.

MCDUFFIE PFA (More info HERE)

  • Temperature hovering 48 – 52⁰.
  • Water Visibility: mostly clear to 54+ inches
  • The Fish Cleaning Station is closed until spring.

Bass:  Report of one angler catching a 27-inch bass.  Bass should be suspended and in winter patterns.  The bass are feeding on shad on the surface in Bream buster, Willow, and Clubhouse during the early mornings and late afternoon just before sundown.  Bass activity is still slow in Lake Rod Bender. The trophy bass pond is open year-round and anglers can harvest one bass (22) twenty-two inches in length or longer per day.

Bream: No reports of bream being caught.  Water temperature is below 60 degrees which stops good bream fishing.

Channel Catfish: The catfish action has slowed down due to water temperatures but some anglers are still fishing for catfish. The fish feeders at Jones Lake are still operating with three (3) daytime feedings.

Striped Bass: No reports of stripers being caught. Each angler can keep (15) Stripers but only two of them can be over 22 inches. Which means if all Stripers are under 22 inches all 15 stripers can be kept. 

MARBEN PFA (More info HERE)

  • Water temps: Mid/High-50’s
  • Additional Information found HERE 

Bass: January brings cooler temperatures and unstable weather.  Despite our best efforts at Marben, fishing really slows down this time of year.  However, water temperatures are still warm enough for fish to be in shallow water, especially on warmer January days.   Anglers should try crank baits or rattle traps in the 6 to 10 feet of water.  Do not be afraid to try a Texas rig in the same depth.  Mid-day will be the best times to target bass giving the sun a little time to warm the water just a touch.  Shad occasionally will school in early morning, so try to mimic small shad and you will increase your success rate.  Submerged timber and rock beds are good habitats to target when seeking bass at Marben PFA.  Slower fishing techniques are preferred this time of year for those anglers targeting big bass.

Crappie: Crappie are probably the most aggressive fish anglers will find at Marben this time year.  However, do not expect to hook one with every cast.  Finding them may require a little effort.  Remember though, the crappie bite can turn on at any moment in these small lakes.  Flooded timber is the preferred habitat and the most popular bait is live minnows and yellow jigs.  Try fishing cover approximately 8-10 feet throughout the day.  Expect crappie to move into shallower water on warmer days in January.

Bream: Bream fishing will be slow at Marben.  Coldwater temperatures play a factor with the decrease in activity.  Anglers should expect bream fishing to be best with mid-day temperatures.  Remember that bream are deeper this time of year so to be successful anglers will have to target deeper water in order to increase your chances.  For anglers targeting bream, pick days that reach the mid-50’s to increase success.  Crickets and worms are the preferred bait.

Catfish: Look for catfish to be extremely sluggish this time of year.  Patience is necessary if anglers are in pursuit of this fish.  Anglers should target days when it is sunny which should warm the water in order to get catfish moving.  Livers, worms and stink bait are the preferred choices if targeting catfish at Marben.

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

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

As we bid farewell to 2018, I reflect on a year with lots of great catches and look forward to memorable times fishing with friends and family in the new year. I wish each of you a Happy New Year! With all the high water we’ve had (basically all year) we have some tremendous fish populations currently in our rivers. If the river drops out after it warms up but doesn’t drop out too quickly, the panfishing in our south Georgia rivers should be phenomenal like it was in 2014. Last quarter moon is December 29th. 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 falling (51 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 12.2 feet and falling (53 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on December 26th.

SATILLA RIVER

Definitely not a good option.…… The river level on December 26th at the Waycross gage was 13.9 feet and falling (53 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 14.6 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and falling.

ST. MARYS RIVER

A few crappie were caught this week from slower backwaters. An angler landed a 1-lb., 14-oz speck on a minnow. I would not recommend fishing the St. Marys (or any south Georgia river) this weekend because of the high water. An angler who launched just to run his boat last week said that he had trouble figuring out where the ramp was to launch, and the main flow was ripping. Wait until it drops out…. The river level at the Macclenny gage on December 26th was 10.5 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 anyway.

LOCAL PONDS

SE GA Timothy Deener Grass Carp IMGP0347
Timothy Deener (left) caught this giant grass carp by fishing a fake fish food fly around a fish feeder. He watched the behemoth inhale the fly and about freaked out when he felt the fish’s power after setting the hook.

Timothy Deener caught an early Christmas present on Christmas Eve, a 36-inch grass carp that inhaled a fake fish food fly right in front of him. He fought the fish several minutes before landing it, taking a few photos, and releasing it. We also caught 32 catfish on worms, a big (over a pound) bluegill on a cricket, and 2 bass that were 3 pounds apiece while bouncing a 1/16-oz brown hair jig (trying for bluegills). On Wednesday evening, a couple of anglers landed 8 bass from 2 to 4 pounds in a Waycross area pond. Most were fooled with a black/blue Christie Craw, but the biggest was on a white spinnerbait. Also on Wednesday, a pair of anglers fished a Brunswick area pond and used cut bluegill on a Capt. Bert’s Catfish Catcher Jighead (3/16oz built with a Gamakatsu octopus circle hook) to land 24 catfish to 3 pounds in just over an hour of fishing. They said that the fish were chowing the bait. Michael Winge said that the crappie fishing in Waycross area ponds was the ticket this week. Minnows were the top bait. Some bream and bass were also caught in Waycross area ponds on the warmer afternoons. Spillways were the best locations. If we get a good bit of rain (like forecasted for the foreseeable future….), 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 an especially susceptible species.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

I received several reports of folks fishing the brine this week, but none of them were stellar. The combination of wind and strong tides because of the full moon muddied the water. A few black drum, whiting, yellowtails, and trout were reported, but the great trout fishing of the last couple weeks didn’t happen according to the reports I received. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that a few sheepshead were caught from the pier, but the weather has kept folks away, for the most part. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

The temperatures are going to be warmer going into the weekend, but rain is in the forecast through New Year’s Day. Ponds will be your best bet if the forecasted thunderstorms materialize, because you can get to safety quickly when they pop up. Crappie fishing should be decent in the warmer temperatures, whether you drift minnows, troll, or cast jigs. I love bass fishing ponds during winter warming trends, as the big fish will usually eat. Jigs, jerkbaits, and big worms have produced most of my winter bass over the years, but it is feasible to get them to hit any lure on warm afternoons. If you go to saltwater, give the shell mounds and creek mouths a few casts and then cast or troll Sea Shads in deep bends for trout and redfish if they aren’t shallow. You should be able to fool some sheepshead using fiddler crabs around rocks and pilings if the wind allows you to get out. Check the marine forecast and weather forecasts closely before planning a saltwater trip with the iffy weather over the weekend.