“Gonna get outside (sneeze) and get the poles and tackle box (sneeze) and head to the water (sneeze).”
Don’t let that blanket of pollen in the Georgia air keep you from getting to your favorite fishing hole – just add in some of your favorite sneeze reducing (non-drowsy) medication, some tissues and head out the door. There is plenty of good fishing to be done now that Spring has officially arrived!
- How have you NOT been to Ocmulgee PFA yet? Need further motivation, check THIS out!
- Looking ahead to summer camp options? Check these out!
- Could you give a little during tax time to help wildlife? Here is how
Let’s get to our reports for the week, they include Southeast and North Georgia. Enjoy and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
The weekend cool snap slowed the reports, but some big fish and quite a few fish were still caught. Bass in ponds were the most consistent bite, but Okefenokee Swamp fishing was also very good. The rivers (except the St. Marys) are still high from recent rains, but they are coming down. Full Moon was March 20th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.
The upper river is still too high and swift for good fishing, but it is coming down. J.J. at Altamaha Park (912-264-2342) said that over the weekend limb-liners caught a fair number of flathead catfish on goldfish and blue and channel cats on cut bait. Some crappie were also caught in the feeder creeks on minnows. The river level was 10.8 feet (flood stage is 13 feet) and falling (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.2 feet and falling (62 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 19th.
Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the catfish bite picked up this week in the upper river. Buzzbaits produced some good bass this week, even with the colder weather. In the Burnt Fort area a few 40 to 50-pound flatheads were landed on limb lines. 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 19th at the Waycross gage was 12.4 feet and falling (62 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 11.7 feet and falling.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The river has started dropping again, and fish are being caught. Some bream and redbreasts were caught on crickets and worms, while catfish were caught all along the river on lots of different baits. The river level at the Macclenny gage on March 19th was 5.2 feet and falling.
The water is still high, but the fish are biting. Brentz McGhin and Chad Sexton fished the Folkston entrance on Wednesday and caught 30 warmouths (kept the biggest dozen) up to 3/4 of a pound. They fished jigs really tight to stumps early in the morning. When the wind got up, the warmouth quit. They then fished the more protected areas of the canals with yellow sallies and caught a BUNCH of fliers up to 8 inches. A few fish bit the black version, but yellow was far and away their best color. They also had a bowfin that tried to tear up their tackle. In the Folkston boat basin, fliers and warmouth were caught on worms. Staff at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo reported anglers catching bluegill and catfish in the boat basin and Billy’s Lake.
Lacey Cothern from Bacon County had the catch of the week. She landed an 11-pounder during her first bass fishing trip ever. The monster ate a white Ultravibe Speed Worm. Six year old Briggs Sweat had a unique catch this week. He had two nice bass at the same time inhale a Gunfish topwater plug fished in a Pierce County pond. He landed both of them – about 8 pounds on one cast! Way to go, Briggs! Quinn Brown had two giant bass this week from Atkinson County ponds. He had a 10 and a 12-pounder on plastic lizards. Taylor fished a pond and caught a dozen bigger-than-hand-sized bluegills on Friday. His cousin, Olivia, caught her first fish (a big bluegill) during the trip. On Friday, Scout Carter and Dillon Lake caught 20 bass up to 2 pounds from a Brantley County pond. Most of their fish ate a silver flash minnow Keitech swimbait, but a few inhaled a Whopper Plopper topwater. Chad Lee put it on some pond bass up to 5 pounds again this weekend using stick worms. He’s been tearing them up the last couple weekends with the green nothing-looking plastic. They don’t look like much to us, but bass can’t resist them! On Friday evening, a pair of Waycross anglers fished for catfish in a Brunswick area pond. They caught 17 channel cats the hour before dark and another 14 the first hour after dark. Their biggest was just shy of 4 pounds, and cut finger mullet fished on a Catfish Catcher Jighead fooled all of their fish. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, crappie ate minnows and jigs. Bass fishing was good, with plastics topping the list of lures. The spillway at Laura Walker State Park Lake produced some good catches of bream and warmouth. Worms fooled most of them.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
The best report I heard of was an angler who caught 20 whiting and a few black drum from a pier in Brunswick. Michael Winge said that Waycross anglers caught whiting from the waters around St. Simons Island. Seatrout and reds were also caught from creeks in the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle reported some big black drum and redfish caught from the pier over the weekend. Most were caught with blue crabs. Lots of whiting were caught with squid and shrimp on the bottom. Big blue crabs were caught by crabbers. A lot were females with eggs and were released. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
At the time of writing this, the weather this weekend looks fantastic. Finally we have a weekend without a Friday night cold front! With the late week warmup, you should find whatever you want to catch biting. I’d stay away from most of the rivers since they’re so full, but the Okefenokee, or ponds should be great fishing. Saltwater should be good, but there are some big tides this weekend that will probably compress the best bite around the slack tides.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Trucks and Transmitters…Huh?
Yes- trucks and transmitters! Enjoy WRD’s recent press releases on the 2019 trout season plan and our new Lake Hartwell striper study. But read those stories during your spare time at night, because your daylight hours should now be spent outdoors. We have an awesome weekend forecast ahead of us, and with the rains finally taking a weeklong break, many of our mountain streams and rivers are gradually dropping to some fishable flows.
While our mountain mornings are still chilly, we are finally getting some nice, warm afternoons to heat up our streams, ponds, and lakes. Those rising temperatures are slowly pulling fish into the shallows. The pull is faster on farm ponds and small lakes, where temperatures respond quicker than in our big reservoirs. However, notice that we’re even seeing some bass on the banks of reservoirs during our early season striper shockings. By the way, start aiming for the upper reaches of those reservoirs for stripers and hybrids, as they migrate upstream. Our decades of sampling show that they start getting romantic this time of the year, and will head into the rivers for unsuccessful attempts at spawning (except for the Coosa and Savannah, we don’t have enough free river miles to float the striper eggs long enough to hatch). While the prime time is always the first half of April, we always see some early river runners during the last week or two of March.
We have a lot of trout heading out, too. State and federal hatchery folks have been on the road frequently this week. Give some stocker streams a try and then head to Helen on Saturday evening for some BBQ, bluegrass, and prizes at the annual Hoot on the Hooch (see Events, below). Shoot, your raffle ticket might even be drawn for the Dream Trip- a week’s fishing trip in West Yellowstone! And if stockers aren’t your cup of tea, let the sun get up, over the ridge, and hit your favorite bluelines in the warmth of midday. I’ll bet those little wild trout with dart up and inhale your favorite dries, like an Adams or an elk hair caddis.
Here’s your suggested weekend plan: hooded sweatshirt and yardwork early, while it’s icy. Or maybe even stalk a turkey! Then shirt sleeves and fishing poles in the afternoon, as your favorite spot warms and the fish turn on. Then stay for stripers at dusk or head for a nice victory supper somewhere close. Maybe even Helen.
Brood Collections: Under the leadership of senior biologist Anthony Rabern, WRD field staffs from the Gainesville and Fort Valley regions wrapped up a successful walleye broodstock collection effort, despite muddy, flooded rivers that hampered collection efficiency. Over 60 female walleye and triple that number of males were delivered to the Go Fish Georgia hatchery, where Clint Peacock and his staff have produced more than 6 million eggs, to date. We now hope for a good hatch.
Successful Angler: Anthony, We had a fun morning. We’re ready for a fish fry. Thanks to WRD for creating this awesome walleye fishing opportunity! – From – Scott C.
Early Hybrids on Tugaloo River/Lake Hartwell: (From Steve Scott of TeamLanier) — Jeff, Here is a report on Hybrid fishing on the Tugaloo River: Traditionally the Hybrid Bass river run takes place on the Tugaloo River Lake Hartwell from March 15th to April 15th. We met at the bait shop this morning at 5:30 and loaded up with Blueback Herring and Gizzard Shad both 3″ and dollar bill sized baits. Next stop was the Rabbittown Cafe for some breakfast. After a good fill up it was time to head to the Stephens County ramp to launch the boat. We headed north through the narrow channel toward the two bridges up the river about 3 miles. As soon as we saw the pylons of one of the bridges we stopped motoring and put out a spread of Planer Boards, Freelines and Carolina Rigged Downlines. The water temperature was 52 degrees and the barometer indicated that fish were eating. After a few minutes we had our first little football on. These Hybrids really put up a fight and you think you are bringing in a monster. This was Gary’s first river Hybrid caught on the outside Planer Board 30′ from the board, then another 50′ out using a dollar bill sized Gizzard Shad. Shortly after we caught another Hybrid using the Carolina Rigged Downlines a foot off the bottom using one of the 3″ Gizzard Shad baits. Then another came on the other Downline using the same bait. Now that we determined what the Hybrids were wanting, we began to bring in the other rods that were not producing and change them to Downlines with the same 3″ Gizzies, Carolina Rigged. We continued to fish until our trolling motor batteries died due to sustaining high speeds for more than 10 minutes at a time just to keep up with the water generation. The wind had picked up a little as well making small white caps. We decided to head in and plan to come back another day. Many thanks to Bill Chasey and Gary McConnell for the good times.
Hartwell Striper Study: Find out more about a currently underway striped bass tracking project on Lake Hartwell.
Lanier Ramps: Here is the Army Corps, latest LOOONG list of open ramps:
Lanier Bass: News HERE
Lanier Sampling: (From Fisheries Tech Mark Rigglesford) –– With walleye broodstock collections over and lake water temperatures slowly creeping into the low 50’s, we’ve now begun our annual spring sampling for striped bass. We electrofish the shallows early in the day in an effort to catch 200+ stripers each spring. We look at their relative abundance (catch per hour) and size distribution to help us assess the status of that population through the years. We started off this sampling season a bit slow on Wednesday, with only four fish netted, but one was a hefty 17-pounder (photo to right). Water temperatures are 54 degrees and the largemouths and spots are on blowdowns (downed trees) and shallow water points. We sampled from Thompson Creek to Nix Bridge out to War Hill Park.
Rocky Mountain PFA: (From Fisheries Biologists Jim Hakala and John Damer) — Local angler Clint Henderson reported that water temps are still holding in the mid to upper 50’s F at Rocky Mountain PFA. The recent cool snap seems to have slowed things down a bit. However, the crappie and bass fishing is poised to bust wide open at any moment with the next warming trend. Some good fish are still being caught on shad imitating lures. Find schools of shad and you will find the fish. Clint said it took 89 inches (5 fish limit) to win at a recent kayak bass tournament held at Rocky.
Fort Mountain State Park: (From Fisheries Biologists Jim Hakala and John Damer)–Small lake fishing opportunity atop a mountain! A recent electrofishing survey of the 17-acre lake at Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth revealed the bass were starting to move shallow. They were especially keying in on downed trees along the shoreline. WRD Fisheries Technician Matt Phillips hoists a pair of nice largemouth (photo to left) captured from one of many trees found along the bank. The bass were subsequently weighed and measured before being released back in the lake. In addition to the bass collected, a fair number of good sized bluegill and redear (shellcrackers) sunfish were observed along the banks. Bream numbers should steadily increase in the shallows as water temps rise this spring. The lake is not known for catching large numbers of bream, but those caught tend to be really nice size fish.
Carters Lake: (From Fisheries Biologists Jim Hakala and John Damer) –The lake level is steadily falling, but remains five feet above normal pool elevation. The Army Corps is reporting that all of Carters Lake’s boat ramps have now re-opened. They are asking boaters to use caution when loading and unloading vessels and to be vigilant of debris on the water.
Allatoona Linesides: (From Fisheries Biologists Jim Hakala and John Damer) — The lake level is still up, but the lineside fishing is great right now. There are a lot of stripers and hybrids being caught for those able to get out on the water. Live shad and minnows fished on down or free lines are the ticket. Cy Grajcar of Extreme Stripers Guide Service reports there’s a bunch of fish from Allatoona Pass southward to the RR bridge. Mainly catching them over deep water. We are boating a lot of fish!
Allatoona Hybrids and Stripers are Eating Great Right Now: (From Robert Eidson with First Bite Guide Service) — the hybrids and stripers are eating great right now. Spring has sprung and the bite is on fire!! Winter is over and the fish are biting. The best part about it is the fish are everywhere, north end, mid lake and the south end. The warmer dingy water and no shad kill this season has contributed to a very early spring bite. The number of fish we are catching right now are a mirror image to what we catch in summer. It has been a norm for our boats to catch between 30 – 60 fish on almost every outing. These are crazy numbers for this time of year! All the major creeks are holding fish right now Stamp, Clear, Kellogg and Tanyard are all fishing exceptionally well right now. We look for these fish to move up north any day now to start their spawning run. So if you’re a river angler, the time is almost here. As far as techniques it really doesn’t matter. They are eating everything right now. Down lines, free lines (live shad/shiners) are all working well. Spoons and Capt Mack’s Mini Me’s and his regular size umbrella rigs are getting hammered too. Pick your favorite, grab a kid and head to the lake! Fishing just doesn’t get much better than it is right now on Allatoona.
Coosa River White Bass: (From Fisheries Biologists Jim Hakala and John Damer) — Coosa River water level remains high and temps are starting to rise into the mid-50’s F. Recent electrofishing surveys have found white bass stacked in the creek mouths of just about every tributary coming into the main stem. The overall trend is increasing fish numbers as you head downstream from the Mayo Lock and Dam towards the Alabama state line. Some of the best fishing can be found around the mouth of Big Cedar Creek (Brushy Branch), Byrnes bottom and some of the other tribs feeding into the Coosa River in the area. The bulk of the white bass are males with a few of the larger females mixed in here and there. Jigs, small shad-imitating crankbaits and live minnows should elicit bites. With warmer weather predicted for the weekend, the bite may turn on soon. Most of the fish are small males as they usually run first, but be ready for the occasional 3+ pound female (see pic) to smash your crankbait or curlytail jig. Hopefully more big females will start their river runs, too.
Ken’s Reservoir Reports: The Southern Fishing Report by Ken Sturdivant HERE
LAKE LANIER IS 2.0 FEET OVER FULL, THE CREEKS ARE STAINED AND THE MAIN LAKE IS CLEAR THE RIVERS AND UP LAKE COVES ARE VERY STAINED. 50S: (This report brought to you by: Jimbo Mathley) –Currently the lake stands at 2.0 feet over full pool, and sits around 53 degrees surface temperature. The lake has dropped 1.4 feet since last week. The Corp has really been pulling water to get the lake level trending toward normal. The backs of the live creeks in the lower lake are stained. The lake above Brown’s Bridge is stained and progresses to muddy as you approach Gainesville Marina. Please be careful of floating debris when navigating the lake as there is still some of it out there. The fish are definitely and finally in full pre-spawn mode. They are still somewhat spread out and somewhat unpredictable, but they are moving. A crankbait and a jerk bait have been our best choices for catching fish this week. Shallow is the word for the fish we have been on. We have been working these baits shallow on rocky and clay points at the mouths of pockets and creeks. A Spro McStick jerk bait and a Castaway 1.5 Shad crank are good choices. Also, these baits will work back shallow in the creeks as well. Some days the wood in these areas is holding fish as well, so make sure to make some casts to the now many pieces of flooded cover. The jig and worm bite is still an option when the moving baits aren’t working, so keep those handy as well. Shallower docks are holding fish as well, so those are always worth a check on sunny days. Lots of stuff working out there now – get out and fish and have fun. Here are my open dates for March: 28(PM), 30. The pre-spawn bite is on – give me a call and let’s go fish. A Look Ahead to April: 1(PM), 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12(AM), 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23(PM), 24, 25, 26, 27(AM), 29, 30
LAKE ALLATOONA IS 5.25 FEET OVER FULL, 50S, STAINED: (This Bass fishing report is by Matt Driver) — Bass fishing is tough due to high water conditions and the full moon high water. The late day bite yes the best right now. Currently there is no one pattern that is winning out over another. Junk fishing is king. Right now we are mixing it up between jig head worms, chatter baits, jerk baits aunt even a weightless Senko. The water can’t I have been starting off in the high 40s in the morning and riding to around 52 53° in the afternoon. As the water continues to draw water temperatures increase the bot will get better.
LAKE HARTWELL IS 1.38 FEET OVER FULL, CLEAR DOWN STAINED UP RIVERS, 50S: Bass fishing is good. The bass are active and be on several different patterns and lures. Use the Shad Rap crank baits in the creeks and ditches. There is also a good McStick jerk bait bite early and late in the day. The spotted bass are still deeper on the main lake and in the creek mouths. Use a drop shot and a Zoom Z to drop worm around brush and rocks. There is a shallow pre spawn bite on this full moon. Look for the bass to be in the flooded grass all over the lake. Check the backs of creeks and pockets. For the shallow bass use a Zoom Trick Worm and a jig. Try some lighter tackle like the spinning tackle. Use the smaller jigs and small soft plastics and hit the major creeks. Have a 1/8 ounce jig head and a tiny pearl Zoom Fluke. Use the Sufix Elite line and dip the tail in some JJ’s Magic. Check the creeks and pockets with the Lowrance Down Scan technology and find the bait fish and the warmest water available. These areas will warm faster and hold more active fish.
WEISS LAKE IS DOWN .27 FEET, SLIGHT STAINED AND 57 60 DEGREE’S: (This report brought to you by Mark Collins Service) — Bass fishing is good. Bass are starting to be caught shallow on rip rap rocks and deeper rocky banks. Some bass are still deep on their winter pattern, on the creek and river channel ledges. Look for the bass to move shallow over the next few weeks as the weather warms. Crappie fishing is great and they are being caught in the main Coosa River, the Chattooga River and Little Spring Creek. A lot of crappie are suspended at 15 feet deep in the main Coosa River channel. Long line trolling with Jiffy Jigs in 1/16 ounce and 1/24 ounce in colors JJ08, JJ13, JJ17, JJ24 and Marks Ice Blue color is the way to catch these winter fish, Spider rigging live minnows 14 18 feet deep over the main river channel, is producing some great fish also. They can also be caught on a float and fly technique, live minnows under a slip float is also producing some fish.
Trout Stocking in 2019: What Can Anglers Expect? Read the news release HERE.
Stockers This Week: More than 22,000 stockers will hit forty different waters this week. WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson suggests these best bets: Rock Creek and Nancytown lakes, Hartwell and Buford Dam tailwaters, WF Chattooga, Watermill Creek, Rock Creek, Hooch thru Helen, MF Broad River, and the Tallulah. The 2019 master stocking list is at this web page. The list of streams stocked this week will appear here or on your Iphones on Friday afternoon, if you’ve signed up for that service.
Cast and Blast? This might be a good weekend to bring both your shotgun and your trout pole to a north Georgia Wildlife Management Area. Turkey season starts, so you can hunt early and late and fish in the middle of the day.
Trout Stream Flyfishing: Here’s a great tip, especially for our newer anglers: hold the seam! “Most times, trout ask for something believable.”
Smith DH Report: The new guy scores!
Fresh Article on Spring Fishing Opportunities in North GA: Published today!
Great Fish Story: Here’s a nice one to end this week’s report.
- March 22: Lanier Striper Tourney – Join us this this weekend for our 2nd Annual Southern Striper Open on Lake Lanier! Anglers will have a great opportunity for friendly competition, as well as thousands of dollars in giveaways, prizes, and raffles, all while raising funds for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Let’s get our veterans fishing! -Jeff Wright (manager, Alpharetta Outfitters)
- March 23: Hooch Hoot in Helen This is where the GATU Dream Trip’s winning tickets are drawn.
- March 30: NGTO Fling at Buford Hatchery
- March 30: 30TH Annual Helen Trout Tournament
- April 6: Rabunite 101 (Learn to Flyfish)
- April 6: Smithgall’s Flies and Fly Water
- April 26: Fish and Learn
Good luck this weekend as north Georgia waters warm, river flows drop, lake fish hit the shallows, and the catching gets better by the day! Thanks for your license purchase for our trout feed and boat gas!