So, are you going to have a SUPER weekend? Are you SUPER excited that the SUPER Bowl is in Atlanta? Whatever team you find SUPER (this Sunday, or any time), we hope it still allows you plenty of time to get outside and hit up a few favorite fishing holes.

Other things to do this weekend:

  • Atlanta Fly Fishing Show: Come say “hi” to Georgia WRD staff, and grab some swag at the 2019 Atlanta Fly Fishing Show! Show dates are Feb. 1 & 2 at Infinite Energy Center.
  • Catch-able Trout Hitting the Waters – Time to Schedule a Trip: WRD’s 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 high and potentially dangerous water flows in our bigger trout rivers due to frequent winter rains, these stocking trucks are instead headed toward small lakes and streams in North Georgia. 

This week, we have fishing reports from Southeast, Central and North Georgia. 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)

Ponds produced the best reports this week. Some truly impressive wintertime catches were logged. The rivers are all headed back up, including the St. Marys this week. Warmth is back in the forecast starting this weekend and continuing into next week. Expect the bites to pick up significantly during the warm spell. New Moon is February 4th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

The only good reports I had from the river this week were in the Darien area where striped bass were eating shrimp and lures fished around docks and pilings. I’ve caught some nice stripers over the years by fishing Assassin Sea Shads (shad and chartreuse hues) around the Darien bridges. For me, the best timing was the flop from high tide to ebb. The first hour was usually best before the current started cranking up. The rains last week have the river rising again. I would not recommend fishing the fast-flowing, flooded upper river. The river level was 14.5 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising (49 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.1 feet and rising (51 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on January 29th.

SATILLA RIVER

SE GA JR Bagley Flathead Catfish 1 26 19
J.R. Bagley caught this whopper 47.4-pound flathead catfish in the middle portion of the Satilla River before it rose this week. The big fish was the only one that he caught that day, and it ate a bluegill fished on a limb line.

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. The only report I had this week was from J.R. Bagley who caught a monster 47.4-pound flathead catfish on a limb line baited with a bluegill in the middle river. He fished before the rains, while the river was still falling out. The river level on January 29th at the Waycross gage was 14.8 feet and rising (52 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 13.2 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and rising.

ST. MARYS RIVER

The St. Marys is high again (it rose 6 feet during the week) due to heavy rains in the area of the Okefenokee and other tributaries. A few catfish were caught on the bottom on Saturday before the slug of water made its way downstream. By the time you read this the entire river will be high. Find another place to fish. The river level at the Macclenny gage on January 29th was 12.1 feet and rising.

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. Catfishing at the Sill on the west side is another good option when the weather warms up next week.

LOCAL PONDS

Ponds are where the best reports came from again this week. On Friday an angler fishing a Brunswick area pond caught 9 largemouth bass up to 4.3 pounds by pitching black-blue Keitech Crazy Flapper crayfish to shoreline cover. On Saturday, Mark Logan and a friend fished a pond with minnows and caught a couple dozen crappie. On Tuesday a couple of Waycross anglers fished a Brunswick area pond and caught a bass on a green pumpkin candy Keitech Mad Wag Worm, 34 channel catfish on cut bluegill rigged on a Catfish Catcher Jighead, a giant bluegill that ate a crappie minnow, and a 37 1/2-inch grass carp that inhaled a Fish Food Fly. Michael Winge said that the best bite in Waycross area ponds was for crappie, and minnows were the best bait.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

Between the cold and wind, very few folks reported fishing the salt this week. Michael Winge said that a few folks caught trout, redfish, sheepshead, and black drum in the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting bite has been best at the pier. Dead shrimp fooled most of the fish. Some blue crabs were caught from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

Ponds and their spillways will provide the best bite this weekend. Expect the days to start slowly, so fish small baits slowly during the cold mornings. As the sun warms the water, try some larger offerings, and you should be able to get bass to chase a swimbait, crankbait, or spinnerbait. Drifting minnows in the deepest water of the pond should produce crappie early, and long-line trolling the deeper water should work as the water starts warming. Try fishing large channel catfish (cut shad works great) or stripers and hybrids with shrimp or bucktail jigs around pilings in the Darien area of the Altamaha if you want to fish a river this weekend.

CENTRAL GEORGIA

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

Great Reservoir Fishing Reports Can be Found at Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.  

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, CLEAR, 40’S

Bass fishing is fair.  The majority of the bass being caught are the spotted bass with an occasional largemouth.  Main lake points will be the pattern.  Use the Rapala #7 Shad Raps along with the Rapala DT10 and Rapala DT6 are best.  Use the crawfish and the shad patterns with the crank baits.  Fish from Rocky River south.  Deep-water running near the channel markers are the best places to fish this week.  Use the Flex it spoons for the deep suspended bass.  Medium tackle and the 1/2 ounce jigs are also working on any wood or on the longer points down lake.  Carolina rigs on heavy stump fields in the deeper water and on the channel ledges is another good choice.  Use 10 to 12 pound Sufix Elite line with a medium heavy spinning outfit on the stumps.  The bite will usually be nothing more than added weight to your line so be prepared for anything unusual while fishing. 

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 2.06 FEET, STAINED, LOW 50’S

Bass fishing is fair.  A crank bait and a trick worm on a Shaky head can catch them on the deeper side of the humps if they aren’t hitting on top.  Use a Shad Rap and stay shallow at less the 5 feet.  The smaller Rat L Traps are also good choices.  Berkley Power lizards and worms in dark colors on Texas rigs on any wood on or around the points has been fair.  Also the 3/8 ounce jigs in black or brown colors with a Zoom Chunk will work on the creek ledges.  Slowly fish this bait with the Sufix Elite line and the fish can be tight on the bottom.  So when this happens, zoom In with the Lowrance Down Scan technology and you can see them on the bottom. 

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50’S

(This report brought to you by Captain Mark Smith of Reel Time Guide Service) —  The lake is full.  The main lake is muddy from the rivers to the dam.  Richland Creek is stained north and muddy from Rocky creek to the dam.  The temperature is 50-52.

Bass: Bass fishing is slow.  You will still need to match the color of your bait to the water color.  Also, the 3/8 ounce jigs in black or brown colors with a Zoom Chunk will work on the creek ledges.  Slowly fish this bait with the Sufix Elite line and the fish can be tight on the bottom.  So when this happens, Zoom In with the Lowrance Down Scan technology and you can see them on the bottom.  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 in 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, 50’S

Bass are making their ways into the coves and pockets off the main lake.  Try a square-billed crankbait or Rat L Trap near the schools of shad that can be seen near the surface.  Most of these bass will be smaller, schooling-sized bass.  For spotted bass use a 1/4 ounce Greenfish Tackle Skipping Jig in natural colors in clear water or blacks in stained water.  Look for rocky banks with any wood cover.  Tip the jig with a Missile Baits Baby D Strober and dip the plastic in JJ s Magic for added color and scent.  Later in the month, expect fish to get on the spinnerbait and buzz baits.

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

Bass fishing is good despite the cold weather.  Bass are beginning to feed up on the baitfish as they move back into the creeks.  This time of year it is critical to find the baitfish, so we look for them on the surface and on the Lowrance electronics.  Once you locate the fish, they can be caught on a variety of baits.  Look on the main lake on humps and points.  Any brush can help at 15 to 30 feet deep.  The best presentation for fishing around brush is the drop shot or jig worked slowly along the bottom.  Also the 3/8 ounce jigs in black or brown colors with a Zoom Chunk will work on the creek ledges. Slowly fish this bait with the Sufix Elite line and the fish can be tight on the bottom.  So when this happens, zoom In with the Lowrance Down Scan technology and you can see them on the bottom. 

LAKE JACKSON IS 1.09 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED, 40’S

Bass fishing is fair.  Start the day on the sunny banks and any wood and have the Bitsey Bug jigs in green pumpkin and a small matching Zoom plastic trailer ready.  Mid-day go to the small Rapala DT 10 crank baits in crawfish and shad patterns.  Try the Bagley Killer B II in the Tennessee shad color.  There is a good jig bite just use dark colors in the off-colored waters.  Try the 3/8 ounce Stanley jig in green pumpkin and work the lay downs up in the pockets.  Out on the main lake the spots will bite the smaller jigs that are bounced around any rock structure and off sea walls.  The bigger fish should show up in the pockets soon. 

FLAT CREEK PFA (More information HERE)

The water level is up at Flat Creek but the cooler temperatures have caused many anglers to either stay at home or spend a very short time trying their luck fishing.  The anglers that were spoken to while out fishing were reporting catches on largemouth bass, crappie and bream.  The bass and crappie have been hanging out in cover, within the submersed brush piles, and thicker submersed grass.  With the crappie most of the successful anglers were using very light tackle and a slow retrieval to be able to feel the slightest bite.  Most of the bream caught were on the warmer days that precede a cold front.  Here’s a list of what the anglers are reporting to have had great success using for each of the following: 

Bass: A Finesse Jig with Strike King’s Rage Tail Craw in a Green Pumpkinseed, Plum or June Bug colored ‘Ol Monster worms by Zoom.  Watermelon or Pumpkinseed Culprit worms. Buzz bait. Jitterbug. Minnows.

Bream: Red Wigglers/Crickets

Channel Catfish: The last anglers that were catching catfish used the following: chicken livers.

Crappie: Minnows, Mister Twister Curly Tail Grubs in bright colors. Strike King Mr. Crappie Scizzor Shad Jig in any of the four available colors.

MARBEN PFA (More Information HERE)

Bass: Historically, February brings unstable weather.  Afternoon temperatures vary significantly from week to week due to unstable weather patterns.  This does not mean to ignore all the opportunities that exist at Marben PFA.  According to some anglers, now is a great time to target bass at Marben PFA.   Their reason: as water temps drop into the 40’s threadfin shad become lethargic.  Late February is a great time to target largemouth gorging on threadfin preparing for spring spawn.  Successful anglers mimic lethargic shad by casting jerk baits and crank baits.   Mid-day will be the best times to target bass giving the sun a little time to warm the water just a touch.  Submerged timber and rock beds are good habitats to target when seeking bass at Marben PFA.  Many reports of “lunkers” are heard this time of year.

Crappie:  Crappie remain the most aggressive fish anglers will find at Marben this time year and this will only increase as March approaches.  However, do not expect to hook one with every cast.  Finding them may require a little effort.  Anglers should see a significant change as March gets closer.  Flooded timber is the preferred habitat and the most popular bait is live minnows and yellow jigs.  Try fishing cover approximately 6-8 feet throughout the day.  Expect crappie to move into shallower water on warmer days in February.

Bream: Bream fishing will start to pick up in late February but not nearly as much as in April and May.  Coldwater temperatures play a factor but a few warm days in February, anglers could really see a difference.  Anglers should expect bream fishing to be best with higher 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.

Catfish: Catfish will remain 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.

NORTH GEORGIA

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

Hey, look!   The fishing stars are finally aligning: It’s dry.  It’s sunny! It’s getting warmer!!

We have all the ingredients for a super weekend ahead.  And I’m not talking about that excessively hyped football game downtown.  I’m talking about fishing opportunities across north Georgia.  We’ve had more than a week without a big rain, so our river flows and lake levels are dropping.

 

We do have even more bright sunshine and even warmer afternoons forecast, so that warmer air and radiant heat will boost afternoon water temperatures.  That’s good in two ways.  First, we have a warming trend, and such an upward temp trend turns fish on.  Second, we’ll have some warmer absolute temperatures, and stream temps in the mid-40’s and higher will turn on trout appetites. Know your own tolerances to air temperatures and your own skill level at safe stream wading and get out there!

For lake anglers, the crappie should start turning on soon and the bass will look for warm shallows.  February and early March is always a time of size over numbers, and we often weigh in bass in the teens from our mountain lakes.  They’re often caught on jig & pig combos crawled along the bottom in muddy shallows (here is more backup for the jig&pig combo), where the water has warmed and those sluggish bass can excavate crawdads. I still remember our shocking boat fleet hitting upper Lanier in the late 80’s during the late, great Reggie’s Weaver’s black bass tagging study (which gave us the data for the 14-inch size limit proposal).  Bass from four to over 12 pounds were up in that shallow, muddy water, basking in the sun’s rays. Shallow flats and riprapped banks, way back up in Wahoo and Little River, gave us some of the fattest LMB’s we saw on Lanier.  Crawl a crayfish in warm, muddy water this month and see if you find your own personal best LMB.

 

 

Georgia 2019 Fishing Regs Now Available: Find more info HERE.

 

sturgeon CGeorge 16.5lb Etowah shock Jan 2019
GA WRD Fisheries Technician Collin George captured this 16 lb (3 1/2 foot long) sturgeon on the Etowah River. All sturgeon must be released unharmed.

Big Sturgeon: (From GA WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Newly hired WRD Fisheries Technician Collin George was excited to capture his first lake sturgeon last week on the Etowah River, which was about 16 lbs and 3.5 feet long.  Lake sturgeon like this one have started to migrate upstream from the Coosa River into its major tributaries in preparation for spawning in the spring.  Anglers are likely to encounter a few of these hard fighting dinosaurs in the next few months.  If you are lucky enough to hook one while fishing in Northwest Georgia, remember that all lake sturgeon must be released unharmed.  Anglers are also asked to report their catch at 706-295-6102.  More info about the lake sturgeon program HERE.

 

TROUT

Winter Stockers: See ‘em in action HERE.

 

Trout Stocking Info: As our 2019 trout inventory outgrows its rearing space, we’ve ben stocking a few fish to allow the rest to continue growing.   Last week we hit several popular small streams and lakes including Black Rock, Vogel, Tallulah, Dicks, and Johns.  This week we split a couple of Hooch Tailwater loads between Buford Dam and upper Cochran Shoals.  The warming weather and dropping flows should give winter trout fans some good fishing opportunities this week.  Weekly stocking lists are updated on Fridays HERE.

DH Streams: Small waters like Smith will fish well.  We put a bunch of Burton brookies into Smith last week, so if you haven’t found them yet, now you know.  The bigger DH waters are slowly receding.  They’re still double the normal flow for this time of year, but are dropping.  Whether you should fish them depends on your own personal skills at high water wading, or your selection of good, safe perches right at the riverbank.  If I wasn’t working the fly show on Saturday, I’d be standing in the Chattooga DH.  I might still go at Sunday, lunch.   My winter go-to combo of a big attractor as the front fly (glo bug or Pat’s rubberlegs) with a tiny-fly dropper (pheasant tail, zebra midge, or Euro jig) is hard to beat right now for both numbers and size.  Change the bobber height and shot amount before changing fly patterns! For ease of change, remember this sliding bobber.

 

Don’t Forget Dry/Droppers! What? Its winter, you’re thinking.  Are you nuts, Jeff?  Seasoned Rabunites will be on the lookout for warm afternoons and calm water, because they might see some noses poking through the surface film to sip some winter dries.  At this time of the year, watch two places for noses: the back half of slow, flat pools and the calm pockets around boulders and logs within two feet of the bank.  Take your first ten minutes to observe from a high point before you jump in and cast.  You might be glad you did, and can break out that dry fly rod for its first trip of the new year. Your menu includes midges, little black winter stoneflies, and blue wing olives.

Dredger shared a few of his winter dry secrets.  First, he admitted he’s a crummy midge angler due to lack of patience with tiny flies and wispy tippets.  He vows to up his midge game in his ample retirement years, soon to come.  Right now, he likes to toss these afternoon recipes against the bank or into flats of the Tooga and Nan DH waters:

  1. A single #20 blue wing olive, on 6x, to spotted risers and to fishy water that’s similar in habitat qualities similar to those niches holding the noses.
  2. A search rig of a #16 or 18 parachute adams with a 3 foot dropper of 6x, tied to a #18 or 20 pheasant tail.  Sometimes he evens adds a #8 dinsmore shot about 6 inches above the nymph.
  3. A hatch matcher of a #18 black stonefly dry and a #18 black, soft-hackle wet as the trailer.  He dead drifts it past himself, then holds the rig tight in the current to swing it, and finally twitches and strips it back upstream toward him before starting the next cast.  If he’s outa black stones, he’ll substitute a gray elk hair caddis for the dry.  He trims both sides of the elk hair wing to streamline it into a stonefly imitation.

Have a compartment or two in your winter box filled with these dry/dropper patterns.  You might be real glad you did.  Dries on the ice, anyone? More about that HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

 

 

Rx for Ice in the Guides: Ice in the Guides

Hooch Tailwater Gators: Tailwater predators are on the prowl, so skip the midges and toss some meat! Visit the link to see the photo proof!

 

LAKE NEWS

Capt Mack’s Reports: Reports for Lake Hartwell and Lake Lanier

Capt Steve’s Lanier Report: (This report comes from Capt Steve Scott with Team Lanier) — Friday January 18th 2019 went Striper fishing with Tom Brown local Striper hunter on a midday trip. We launched from his slip north of Brown’s Bridge at noon and headed to Flat Creek. The air temp was about 47° and the water temp was in the low fifties. A typical day in January, bluebird sky and all. Tom had been fishing Flat for a couple of months because it seemed that this had the most concentration of bait in the area. We found long bait layers along a 60’ bottom and could see Stripers below them. We targeted between 48 to 52’ and the fun began. When I say the hard way I mean fishing with 10lb leaders and this was new to me. With medium light rods and no drag on the reels it was difficult at times not to thumb the reel. But I didn’t, causing the fight to be way longer than what I was used to. Eventually the Striper would grow more tired as the fight continued taking up slack as the Striper slowed down his escape. All in all it was another great day on the water with just a slight wind and very few boats around us. We boated 7 Stripers in the 25 ½” to 26 ¾” range only losing a couple as it was a fast hit and run. Some of the fatter ones took a lot longer to bring in but following the 10lb leader rules we were very successful.

Lanier Crappie: (This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club) — This past Monday, a number of our club members took advantage of the good weather and reported great catches on both the Chestatee and Chattahoochee sides of the lake.  We targeted docks in the range of 25-35 foot depths.  When we launched the boat, we noted 40 degree water temps near the boat ramp, before daylight and in shallow water.  By the time we finished fishing around noon, we were reading 47 degree water temps. We covered a lot of water, “running and gunning” to find the combination of warmer water temps and less stained water.  The people who caught fish targeted docks with structure, marina docks and community docks.  We have been relying on our downscan and sidescan to locate the fish in these areas.  I suspect you might be able to find fish on submerged brush piles, but we think they will be smaller in size, so we have not been spending time on them.  The lake was moderately to heavily stained and was full of floating debris everywhere we went.  It was difficult to maneuver.  Below Gainesville Marina, the stain lessened – similar to south of Thompson Creek on the Chestatee side.  I suspect that, with the wind picking up the last two days and the Corps of Engineers constantly pulling water from the lake, much of the debris will be pushed toward the banks, making it easier to boat safely.  The daytime temperatures are going to be nice over the next week or more, but the cold nights will drive the water temps down.  We suspect that our fish will go deeper and hold tight to the brush piles.  Our “go-to” bait continues to be the Bobby Garland jigs.  Go on their websites to check them out.  The new colors are amazing and are working extremely well.  I am proud to be on their Pro Staff, and if you happen to be in the Macon area during Bass Pro Shops Crappie Madness Weekend on February 8 and February 9, stop by and say Hi to me. Let’s hope that on February 2, the Groundhog will NOT see his shadow and we’ll have an early spring!  Stay safe on the water and wear your life jacket!

Lanier Bass: Get the news HERE

Rabun Bass: Check it out HERE.

 

More Trees for Toona: (From Ga WRD Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala) — The Marietta BassMasters fishing club, in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, Keep Bartow Beautiful  and GAWRD, recently installed 150 recycled Christmas trees around the Blockhouse Fishing Jetty on Lake Allatoona.  When the lake level returns to full pool this spring the anchored trees will be inundated with water – providing cover for sportfish such as bass, bream and crappie.  This is the 7th year the club has participated in the program, which to date has utilized nearly 2,500 trees to improve fish habitat in this aging lake.  Brush piles like these can now be found around all six public jetties at Lake Allatoona . GAWRD appreciates this longstanding partnership that benefits our Lake Allatoona anglers.

Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Get ‘em fresh right HERE

UPCOMING EVENTS:

So this week’s bite should be good, from crappie to stripers to trout.  You’ll be away from the world’s tourists and online hackers downtown and still get home in time on Sunday to tune in the Michele vs Hurley game. And if your own catching is slow, just remember that our fine Georgia weather lets you wet a line.  If you’re still unhappy, my best friend from our Hokie days together will trade with you.  He’s been sending me daily weather reports from his vet clinic.

Wanna go up there and ice fish?  Or stay down here and toss dries and droppers?  We report, you decide!

Good luck, Super Sunday’ers.  May you score your own bass and trout TD’s this weekend!