You can almost feel it…Spring seems like it is just around the corner. Are you starting to put together a fishing wish list (places to go, species to catch, etc.)?
Here are a few things that might make that fishing trip even better:
- NEW Angler Award Program Opportunities: This year, there are 3 new additional award categories recognizing even more angler catches – including a youth category, trophy bass and Public Fishing Area records!
- Fishing Forecasts Updated for 2019: Each forecast (for 32 reservoirs and 18 rivers) is detailed with highly use-able information and is connected to an interactive map.
- Need to Learn the Fishing Basics? Make plans to attend a Fish-N-Learn program.
And, just for fun, here is some more news:
- Outdoor Festivals to Check Out: The Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival is March 9-10 in Claxton, GA and the Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival is March 14-16 in Fitzgerald, GA
- State Fish Art Contest: Can’t take the little ones fishing today? How about encourage them to draw fish instead! Entries into this National contest due by Mar. 31.
Ready to read the fishing reports for the week? Today, we have reports from Southwest, Southeast and North Georgia. Enjoy and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Amy Cottrell, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Most of the larger river basins in the southwest part of the state were hit with a couple inches of rain this past weekend, causing water levels to increase a bit. River height has started to drop, though colder temperatures this past week have also pushed water temperatures down in all water bodies. We will start recovering from the cold snap this coming week and hopefully fishing will improve as well. One South Georgia angler caught a 10.25 pound, 24” Largemouth Bass and multiple other trophies.
(Report brought to you by Brad McDaniel) — Weather has been dramatically colder at Lake Blackshear, and all the rain that fell north raised water levels. This has really put a damper on things this week. The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting that water levels will be closer to normal next week and is forecasting warmer temperatures. Hopefully we will see better fishing then!
WALTER F. GEORGE
(Report provided by Les Bratcher of Big Bite Baits near Eufaula, AL) – Despite the rain and colder temperatures throughout the southeast, there’s been no noticeable change this week – fish are really biting! Anglers are catching high numbers of fish. The fish are staging around the mouths of the creeks and crankbaits will get the job done. It took over 30lbs to win again this weekend. We will just have to see how the fish react to changing weather as things hopefully warm up again next week. Catch rates will hopefully remain high!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
The fishing was great before the weekend cold front and rains. I heard of 2 double-digit bass caught this week in the area. Bass and crappie fishing was very good in ponds and lakes. Saltwater produced a few good reports. The rivers are headed back up after the latest rains. First quarter moon is March 14th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
The upper river is still too high and swift for good fishing. J.J. at Altamaha Park said that the catfish bite is on. Limb-liners caught big flatheads on goldfish Blues and channel cats were also caught on shrimp. Crappie bit minnows fished in the sloughs off the main river. The river level was 12.1 feet and rising (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.1 feet and rising (61 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 5th.
The river dropped to the edge of the floodplain before this weekend’s rains, but it’s headed back up at the time of writing this. Limb line fishing for catfish was tops. J.R. Bagley ran lines from Wednesday through Saturday in the middle river and caught 35 catfish, including channels, blues, and flatheads. Charlie Dawson had a 61-pound flathead, 2 channels, and 8 other flatheads on Friday while running limb lines. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that before the river started rising, the catfish bite was on fire for anglers running trot lines and those fishing shrimp or worms on the bottom. Some bass were caught on black/blue ZOOM Speed Craws. A few bream were caught on crickets and crappie on minnows last Saturday. Take note of the Highway 158 Bridge landing being closed due to construction of the replacement Hwy 158 Bridge. This will affect anglers fishing that upper river area this spring, so plan accordingly. The river level on March 5th at the Waycross gage was 12.7 feet and rising (63 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 9.6 feet and rising.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Matt Rouse fished the upper river on Friday while the river was dropping out and caught a good mess of big bluegills. He went targeting crappie, but ended up catching bluegills. Another angler fishing last weekend caught 40 big bream and redbreasts on crickets. Since then, the rains have jumped the river up and slowed the bite. The catfish bite is still good all along the river for anglers fishing shrimp or worms on the bottom. Some crappie were caught with minnows. The river level at the Macclenny gage on March 5th was 8.8 feet and rising.
The recent rains and cold weather will put the bite off until the weekend, but the fliers should be biting well again during the warm up. I didn’t hear any reports from late this week, but I’m sure the fliers will bite like they did with the Chattanooga Christian School group caught around 200 fish during their 3-day paddle while it was warm. Pitching yellow or pink sallies under a small balsa float is how they caught most of their fish. At the Fargo entrance, catfishing will be the deal. Put a piece of shrimp or worm on the bottom and you should catch whiskerfish. With the new flush of water attracting them, the catfish and warmouth should bite in the creeks out Swamp Road near Waycross.
PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)
Bass were caught in decent numbers this week, but the crappie and bream bites were tops before the cold. One angler caught 20 crappie from the Lake Patrick fishing pier.
Top reports this week were from bass anglers. One angler reported catching and releasing a 10-pounder from an area lake using a finesse worm. Another angler caught a double-digit bass on live bait. Prince Preston fished a Statesboro area pond with Cindy Bernhardt, and they landed a dozen nice crappie using white jigs with silver spinners. Cindy had the catch of the day, a slab weighing 2-lb. 3-oz. and earning her an angler award from the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia DNR. Daniel Johnson and a friend fished some ponds this weekend and caught 25 bass from 1 to 4 pounds, mostly on Christie Craws and senkos. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, crappie were eating minnows and bream were eating crickets fished in the shallows.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Mark, Krista, and Logan Youmans sent me the best saltwater report of the week. They fished the Hampton River area and landed some slot-sized and oversized redfish using live shrimp on an 1/8-oz. Capt. Bert’s Jighead. The whiting bite in the sounds should pick up during the next warm spell. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that some big black drum were caught off the pier by anglers using cut bait. Dead shrimp produced good numbers of whiting. A few sheepshead were caught on fiddler crabs fished by the pilings. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
Bass fishing in area ponds will probably be the first bite to pick back up after the cold snap this week. By Saturday, you should be able to catch bass and crappie around shallow shoreline cover, especially during the forecasted warm afternoon. In saltwater, sheepshead should bite fiddlers and whiting should eat shrimp on the bottom. The Okefenokee flier should start biting again late in the weekend and through next week with the warmer temperatures.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
North Georgia’s annual spring break-out has started, so grab your fishing poles, check your weather forecasts for dry days, and head out soon! Why? There are several reasons for this optimism, but the primary reason is a truly magic number: 50.
Yep, 50, fif-teeee, five-oh. That is the key water temperature to trigger many sport species, as they abandon their winter hibernations and head toward forage and dates. While we see some fish stirring a bit when winter water temps get above forty, that bite is still pretty slow. But when our streams and lakes hit 50 degrees and stay above that mark, springs magic happens! First, we see the walleye run kick into high gear as they search for spawning mates in gravel river shoals, upstream from our stocked reservoirs. Second, aquatic insects start moving and hatching. Mountain trout, no longer glued to the bottom by icy water temperatures, run toward these extra groceries in the water column and on the water surface, as our first mayfly and caddis hatches of the season occur.
Third, 50 degrees is a magic number for stripers and hybrids to start running the bank. When our field staffs are conducting their annual lake electrofishing samples, their catch rates are pretty good in stained water that’s fifty degrees or warmer, as the warmth pulls the shad and bluebacks shallow. When cold fronts briefly knock down the water temps, those predators retreat to the depths and we can’t even catch them with electricity. But, as soon as the lakes warm back to fifty or higher, those stripers and hybrids return to the shallows. The long range weather forecast shows rising air temperatures, so we’re hopeful for our reservoirs.
Beyond our warming waters, we have more great reasons for a great fishing season. First, we’re starting to see an equal number of dry days to wet ones, so there are more opportunities to get outside and not fight monsoons. We will still have to dodge our big, swollen rivers and some inundated and closed reservoir boat ramps, but angling opportunities still abound. Second, our days are longer, with the sun now setting around 6:30 PM. There’s enough daylight hanging around til 7PM for us to see our fishing line. Third, we will lose an hour of sleep due to the weekend time change, but we’ll regain the ability to take some after-work fishing trips to local waters because of these extended daylight hours. Fourth, our trout stocking trucks start rolling, big-time, this month. If you’re a stocker fan, you’ll have plenty of water, plenty of fish, blooming streamside vegetation, cool mountain air, and great campfire weather to celebrate the end of winter in grand style.
In my book, the next eight weeks are the best time of the year to wet a line in north Georgia waters. Maybe this week’s intel will convince you, too. Are you ready?
Georgia Trout Gold Mine: One-clickers, with short web attention spans, may be passing over one of the best sources of trout fishing intel in “JoJa.” Yes, it’s our agency’s trout page. Dig down a bit and discover all of the hidden treasure here.
- First, we have the rules. Follow them and you’ll stay in our wardens’ good graces. And you may think you’ve never been checked. Have you ever heard of camo, binoculars, and stealth? You may have been checked, rather often, along our mountain streams.
- Then we have an overview of our hatchery program, which shows how important our federal partners are to Georgia’s program. Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches produces and stocks nearly one-third of our hatchery trout in this state! Kelly, Mitch and their staff at the Rock Creek hatchery work closely with our WRD trout stocking coordinator. Those fine feds provide us with small fingerlings for Buford and Burton hatcheries to grow to stockable size, and stock their own catchable-size fish into those waters on John Lee’s weekly stocking list. It’s one of the greatest examples of a state/federal partnership that I know.
- Next we have our master stocking list for 2019. If you want to see which streams are stocked and how often they will get fish, this is the trip-planning site for you.
- After that, we try to help our anglers, young and old, who don’t have the mobility of some of you mountain goats. Our list of accessible trout fishing sites will ensure that all of our trouting fans have a good shot at some fish.
- Next we have a complete list of designated trout waters. We classify on a watershed basis (which helps to protect water quality), so some of these streams may be too small for great fishing, but they supply cold water to your favorite downstream destinations.
- The last two links take you to the mother load. First, the interactive trout map is awesome. You may have the paper, fold-out version in your vehicle’s glove box. But if you haven’t explored the online map, you are missing out on some outstanding intel. And we end this page with a link to the coveted weekly stocking list. Wanna know where we’ve tossed trout that week? Sign up to receive a Friday afternoon text or email on your mobile device.
So there you go. Click once and catch a just a few, or click several times and fill your creel. We’ve loaded the GA trout mine for you. It’s now up to you to shovel and sift.
More Trout Nuggets: Experienced Rabunites often say they use a “net,” even before their poles, to catch more trout. Poachers? No. Researchers? Yes! They’re actually referring to the internet, where they check GAWRD fishing reports, local tackle shop blogs, and USGS streamflow gauges to plot their next-day paths to productive trout waters.
Do you know there are two great Smokies websites that are updated often and contain intel of direct benefit to north GA trouters? While the Smokies are slightly taller and colder than north GA environs, their local fishing reports should only be a week or so behind our goings-on at lower, warmer elevations. If you want to save some gas and up your catch, bookmark these great websites by R&R Flyfishing and Little River Outfitters, you’ll be glad you did!
Bluelines Warming Up: High elevation fans Splatek and RodneyT have been venturing uphill, into the national forest, on dry days and doing rather well. They’re staying on the more-improved roads to respect the Forest Service wishes, and finding some early hatches on warmer days, with wild fish cooperating. Slower pools, which represent flood refuges during this high-flow season, have been the best bets. When the sun didn’t shine and the flying bugs were scarce, dredged nymphs beat dries.
Hooch Tailwater: Brief window
Trout Fly Hatch Chart: Fly-flingers should remember this great reference as they plan their trips up to north GA trout waters.
Stockers: Sign up to receive our Friday afternoon trout stocking reports via text or email. With March upon us, these weekly stocking lists will be much longer than the winter lists. This week of March 4, almost 19,000 stockers will head out from state and federal trout hatcheries and hit 35 different waterbodies. And they’ll be fatter again this year, thanks to your slightly increased license fees of two years ago.
WALLEYE AND WHITE BASS
Walleye Run is On: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Fisheries staff from the Armuchee office braved the cold, wind, snow, and high lake levels/inflows on Monday morning (3/4) to collect walleye broodstock from the headwaters of Blue Ridge Lake in Fannin County. Despite the conditions, more than 2 dozen walleye were collected, indicating that the spawning run has begun. But, we are probably still a week or two away from the peak of the spawning run. The fish collected here, along with others from other north Georgia lakes, will be spawned at the Go Fish Education Center to produce fingerlings for restocking. Although the Blue Ridge walleye population maintained itself through natural spawning for at least 50+ years, the illegal introduction of blueback herring now severely limits natural reproduction. Stocking is now necessary to keep a fishable population of walleye at Blue Ridge.
Walleye Spring Run: (From Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — Walleye have begun their spring runs up the rivers. While the fish are still a bit scattered and hard to catch, due to the high, muddy river flows, we had a good increase in our catch this week and were able to send our first batch of broodstock to the Go Fish Georgia hatchery in Perry.
Walleye numbers on the spawning grounds should continue to increase over the next week or two as the waters warm up to fifty degrees or more. On Lanier, anglers should try the river reaches below Highway 400 and around Belton Bridge. For the mountain lakes that we stock with walleye, remember our walleye fishing guide.
White Bass Run: It’s still a bit early for the whites. They usually come upstream after the walleyes. Here are some real fresh reports from Jim and John.
- Coosa River White Bass: (From fisheries biologist Jim Hakala) — The river is running high and water temperatures are in the high 40’s F. There are a few white bass that have moved into the river between the Old River Road Boat ramp and Mayo’s Lock and Dam Park. Given the high river flows, the fish have situated themselves in the smaller tributaries feeding the main river. Water flow in these tribs is very slow relative to the swift current in the main Coosa River channel. Use caution if you do plan to boat the Coosa over the next week. The current is strong and there is debris of all sizes floating down the river.
- Etowah River: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) – Fisheries staff electrofished the Etowah River above Lake Allatoona near Canton and found a few white bass, hybrids, and stripers. The white bass run has yet to really get going and fish condition suggests we are still a week or two from significant spawning activity. Water temp was 46 degrees. As the water warms to around 50 degrees and water levels continue to recede, anglers can expect white bass fishing in this river section to improve. Any anglers looking to run up the Etowah from Lake Allatoona should be aware that most boat ramps on the upper end of the lake remain closed due to high lake levels. Check with the US Army Corps of Engineers and local municipalities to make sure your favorite ramp is open before you go.
Lanier Whopper Trout: Yes, a trout! My work week brightened up early Monday morning when Brooke and Landon toted a large cooler into our region office. We believe that large rainbow enjoyed some whitewater surfing down from the Hooch or Chestatee before settling into Lanier and making Brooke’s day! Pics and brief story here, if you click twice.
Update: Lanier Lake Level and Ramps
Ken’s Statewide Reservoir Reports: Look for His Friday update HERE.
Got Licenses? Our DNR mountain game wardens remind all of us anglers to have our licenses with us while fishing. We can’t reply on an email link to show evidence of licensing, for internet reception is very spotty in the mountains. If we pop that license out of our pockets, the license checks are quick and easy, and our fishing time is optimized, especially with a few new, hot fishing tips from our local wardens!
Yellowstone’s Wild Trout: Nice article for all western fans among us. Link courtesy of midcurrent.com
- March 14: Lanier Stripers
- March 23 – Hooch Hoot This is where the GATU Dream Trip’s winning tickets are drawn.
- March 30- NGTO Fling
- April 6: Rabunite 101 (Learn to Flyfish)
- April 26: Fish and Learn
Good luck as we celebrate spring in north Georgia by dodging high flows and running toward the warm afternoons! There is much more daylight to each day, so let’s grab our fishing poles and put those hours to good use! Pull out that thermometer and find the magic number. Do you remember it? 50!!!
Is it Fishing, or is it details – what is your call for life? Ready, set, go fish Georgia.