“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…” It is so nice to actually have a few days of sunshine that we can “almost” forget about how cold it is outside. Maybe? Always be sure to dress in layers at this time of year – and maybe even a change of clothes in the car, just in case!

Some current things to share:

  • Go Fish Education Center: The chilly winter months are an excellent time to visit the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, GA! This state-of-the-art facility gives visitors a chance to learn about Georgia’s aquatic wildlife and learn “reel” fishing tips.
  • Poster Contest: Attention, K-5 teachers! We want to see your students wild art! The 29th Give Wildlife A Chance Poster Contest is accepting submissions until Friday, April 12th.

This week, we have some great reports from Central and Southeast Georgia, with a quick little North Georgia trout news thrown in there too. Enjoy and Go Fish Georgia!

NORTH GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of John Lee Thomson, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division) 

GAWRD trout hatcheries are having another good production year and we’ve outgrown our rearing space!  We have to stock some catchable-size trout now to make room in our concrete raceways for the smaller fish to grow to their ten-inch target.

With morning air temperatures in the 30’s, Lake Burton Hatchery staff (Fisheries Technicians Jeff Stewart and Colt Martin) braved the cold to load and stock some quality rainbow trout for your weekend angling enjoyment. With high and potentially dangerous water flows in our bigger trout rivers due to frequent winter rains, this week’s stocking trucks are instead headed toward fish-able waters such as small lakes and streams in North Georgia.

For the list of stocked water bodies, click HERE and look for our weekly stocking report, updated each Friday afternoon. Thank you for purchasing your fishing and trout license, and TU car tag, which provide us the fish feed to grown these nice trout and the trucks to stock them.

CENTRAL GEORGIA 

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

Check out more recent Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant 

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, CLEAR, 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  The next two set of cold fronts will slow everything for weeks.  Spoons and drop shot rigs will be best for any angler on the lake.  If it warms up, use the Rapala DT6 in shad and silver.  Rocky points are good places this week on the main lake.  In the backs of the creeks and coves bass that are biting are small fish on plastics.  The bass are suspending in the channels and deeper water and move up early and late to feed.  Bass and especially the spots want larger slow moving crank baits.  Rocks, deep water and wind is the key thing to look for this week.

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 2.35 FEET, STAINED, LOW 50S

Bass fishing is fair.  Main lake points up in the Savannah River seem to be a crowd favorite and some good single bass are being caught in the small pockets along the way.  A lot of anglers are still targeting submerged wood with jigs and Carolina rigs while others are using a #10 Husky Jerk Bait or X Rap.  Some top-water action is still present, but don’t hang onto this pattern for long periods of time.  Lots of rain fell this week which brought the lake levels up and stained the rivers and creeks.  Some of these feeder creeks are muddy, so back off to the main lake points and use spinner baits in the darker colored water. 

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50S

(This report provided by Capt. Mark Smith of Reel Time Service)

Rocky Creek to the dam the temperature is 50-52. The lake is full.  The main lake is muddy from the rivers to the dam.  Richland Creek is stained north and muddy.

Bass: Bass fishing is slow.  You will need to match the color of your bait to the water color.  Whatever bait you use make sure it is dark, makes noise, and puts off vibration.  Small crank baits fished around docks and sea walls from the middle of the creeks to the back of the creeks at 8 ft. water depth at the end of the docks seems to be the best producer.  A spinner bait fished around wood in Richland Creek has been producing a few fish. 

Striper: Striper fishing is slow.  Stripers do not like muddy water but they have to eat sometime.  Down lines as well as flat lines will produce.  Fish are also showing up in the mouths of the coves in the Richland Creek area.  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 Captain Mack Mini rig has been producing good catches. 

Crappie: Crappie fishing is good.  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 6.00 FEET, STAINED, 50S

Bass fishing has been poor.  Fishing has been touch and go with the up and down of water temperatures related to some of our early spring weather.  Fish will begin transitioning from points and road beds to begin working their way back into pockets preparing for pre spawn.  Look for isolated brush piles and rock at the mouths of pockets.  The main baits working right now are all related to the current daily conditions.  On non-windy or post-frontal days use a 3/8 ounce black & blue All Terrain jig with a Zoom black super chunk.  On days when wind is present the pattern changes to shallow running crank baits and spinnerbaits.  For Chatterbaits use a 3/8 ounce with a chartreuse/white skirt.  For crank baits the Rapala RS5 shad rap in a shad pattern and should produce fish in all sizes.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN .73 FEET, STAINED, 50’S

Bass are slow to fair in shallow and deep water.  Some anglers are still catching fish from shallow water using mainly crank baits and jigs.  Most are coming from main river banks that drop quickly into deep water.  Some crank baits producing recent success are Rapala DT10, Shad Rap #5 and Deep Little N.   Try the Stanley 5/16 ounce in black blue with a Zoom Chunk in black blue or green pumpkin.  Riprap along the roads in Little River is still producing bass using crank baits and jigs.  There are now quite a number of main river points and flats that are holding deeper fish.  The area from Nancy Branch to Sandy Run Creek on the Oconee River has been fair.  Most fish are holding on the sides of these structures at 15 to 25 feet deep.  The best baits are varying daily or even hourly. 

LAKE JACKSON IS DOWN 1.44 FEET, STAINED, 40’S

Bass fishing is fair.  But a double blast of cold weather is coming.  Use a brown jig in clear water and a black and blue jig in any stained water.  Go with a brown or green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk Jr. on the natural color jig and a green pumpkin or black Super Chunk Jr on the black and blue jig.  Shaky heads will also work on the docks and deep water structure.  Rig them with trick worms, finesse worms and Senko’s.  Shorter finesse worms or shortened trick worms will get more hookups when the bite turns slow, short, and subtle.  Slow down your presentations and fish a 1/8 ounce jig head when you can get away with it.  Spoons are also picking up deep bass relating to bottom and bait.  A relatively subtle soft raise and lower action should perform best when fished just above the bottom or to fish elevated in the water column.  Fish spoons 16 feet and deeper and stick to clear water for best results in spooning.

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 rivers are still high, but saltwater and ponds (including their spillways) were tops this week. The forecast is for seasonable winter weather for this week, so the bites should be back to typical wintertime fishing. Last quarter moon is January 27th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

The river is high, cold, and flowing fast from rains upcountry, but it is falling out. Fish elsewhere again this week. The river level was 12.8 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and falling (50 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.4 feet and falling (51 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on January 22nd.

SATILLA RIVER

The high water will allow the fish to survive well and grow fast out in the floodplain, but now is still not the time to catch them. I’d suggest fishing elsewhere, but a couple folks reported catching some crappie in the backwaters of the upper river on both minnows and jigs. The river level on January 22nd at the Waycross gage was 11.6 feet and rising (54 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 11.6 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and falling.

ST. MARYS RIVER

The St. Marys is the best river in southeast Georgia to fish this week. Anglers reported catching between 25 and 30 fish (mixed species) per trip. Crappie, warmouth, bluegill, and catfish were in the creels. Minnows enticed most of the crappie, while worms on the bottom caught the other species. Shrimp and rooster livers also fooled catfish. The river level at the Macclenny gage on January 22nd was 5.9 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 anyway. The warmouth bite in the creeks along Swamp Road was still good this week. Worms fooled most of them.

OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)

The white crappie bite is great right now. Lots of 9 to 12-inch specks have been caught. Andrew Laney of Cochran did well on Tuesday. Despite the 49 degree water temperature and brisk wind, he kept 18 nice crappie and a couple quality bluegills, and he threw several smaller fish back. His biggest crappie was 15 1/2 inches and 2.36 pounds, big enough to earn him an Angler Award from the Wildlife Resources Division. His fish ate jigs tipped with minnows.

LOCAL PONDS

Ponds are where the best reports came from again this week. On Wednesday, Bucky Buckner fished the spillway of a Waycross area lake and filled a stringer of crappie, warmouth, catfish, bluegill, and bass. His best presentation was minnows suspended about 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep, but he also caught some on worms. On Thursday, Curtis Rainge and a friend fished the spillway of a pond and caught 42 fish of mixed species. Their crappie ate mostly chartreuse-silver flake Assassin 2-inch Curly Shads fished on 1/16-oz. Flashy Jigheads, but a couple ate minnows. Their bluegills and warmouth inhaled red wiggler worms fished on the bottom. Their biggest bluegill was 10 inches, biggest crappie 12 inches, and biggest warmouth 13 inches (right at a pound). They had a very productive couple of hours in the spillway. The weekend’s rain should have spillways flowing again below your favorite pond, and that should attract a new batch of fish to the base of the dam. An angler reported catching 5 bass up to 2 pounds from a pond on Monday. They key that day was a wacky-rigged junebug Senko. He also had 3 crappie that inhaled yellow tube baits. On Tuesday, an angler reported catching 8 bass up to 1 1/2 pounds on wacky-rigged stick worms (junebug). Michael Winge said that the best bite in Waycross area ponds this week was crappie (no surprise here….). Jigs fooled some of the bigger slabs, but minnows produced the most numbers.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

SE GA Chris O'Berry Redfish 1 19
Chris O’Berry caught his first bull redfish while fishing offshore before the front this weekend. It slammed a heavy bucktail jig (white color) bounced along the bottom.

Johnny Wildes and Chris O’Berry fished offshore on Friday before the front, and the ocean looked like a pond. They caught and released several nice red snapper. Chris caught (and released) his first bull redfish. They brought home a nice mess of keeper black sea bass. All of their fish ate white bucktails bounced along the bottom. Black drum and redfish were numerous around the docks and piers in the Brunswick area again this week. Fiddler crabs and shrimp produced the fish I heard about. One angler was using some prototype Capt. Bert’s Fiddler Crab jigheads that sport a heavy-duty Gamakatsu hook. Michael Winge said that Waycross anglers fishing the Brunswick area on Friday and early Saturday did well for trout and reds at the mouth of creeks. The higher tides muddied the water, and most of the fish were caught within an hour either side of a tide change. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the big tides had the water muddy over the weekend, but anglers still caught a bunch of whiting using dead shrimp from the pier. Blue crabs were still around and were caught from the pier when the tide slowed and it was easier to keep a basket on the bottom. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

Saltwater tides will be lower this weekend, so give trout and redfish a try if you are so inclined and the marine forecast is suitable. Keep moving until you find them, as they will be tightly schooled this time of year. Most of the year I fish a Sea Shad under a Cajun Thunder or Equalizer Float, but during winter I usually bounce it on the bottom or slowly retrieve it near the bottom. In freshwater, crappie will be hard to beat. Minnows drifted in the deepest part of the lake will produce, but I prefer long-line trolling with 4 rods out the back. I start at 0.9 miles per hour and adjust my speed from their based on the bites I get. I haven’t heard of anyone catching channel catfish in the Darien area of the Altamaha, but this is the time of year when you can catch a giant catfish in that area. With the river falling out, that bite should pick up over the next few weeks. It is hard to beat fresh cut shad for a big channel catfish.