Well, that was a gully-washer of a morning! Hope everyone is safe and dry and making weekend plans for what to do once all the water recedes.
In case you missed it:
- First Striped Bass From Renovated Richmond Hill Hatchery!
- 6 Fish Species on the Move for Spring Spawning
- Got your big bream catching plans yet?
- Keeping Georgia Wild Festival-Come Join Us!
This week, we have some fresh reports from North and Southeast Georgia. Grab a raincoat (just in case) and some waterproof boots, and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
I hope that you and your belongings survived the storm this morning, and that your only losses were a few hours of sleep from blaring cell phone alarms and booming city tornado sirens. It’s still raining cats and dogs here in Gainesville at 11 am, so many of our streams and rivers are flooding, unsafe, and unfishable right now. Helen and Clayton already have three inches of rain!
Lakes will be a better bet this weekend, but tomorrow’s chill may shut them down for a day or so, too. But by early next week we’ll recover and celebrate this good news: It’s time to pull out your spooks and flukes and your caddis and cahills.
North Georgia’s water temps are just right for fish cruising the shallows. While last night’s storm front and tomorrow’s touch of winter will put the fish down for a couple days, it’s gonna heat back up as soon as the rivers recede and the sun cooks those reservoir shallows again. Don’t miss this springtime window of topwater action. To “lure” you toward the water, here are some reports from our sunnier days just before the storm.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
The Damer Report (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer): WRD sampling on the Etowah River in Cartersville found lots of white bass, crappie, and small hybrids, along with a few stripers and spotted bass. One local angler reported that the fishing had been very good recently, especially for crappie. Crappie jigs and worms were the ticket to some good action along the banks, especially during the evening before dark. Just be ready for a fight if one of the monster 12+ pound hybrids decides to swallow your lure instead of that 1 pound crappie!
WRD staff captured and released these two largemouth over 8 pounds on Thursday (4/18) on the Coosawattee River below the Carters Lake Re-Regulation Dam. We saw lots of other quality sized spots, hybrids, and stripers that were apparently feeding on large schools of gizzard shad. Despite all the fish within casting range, the anglers we talked to said fishing was slow. Water temps were in the range of 60 degrees.
The Moran Report (From Fisheries Biologist Zach Moran):
LAKES: I have been waiting since October to say this: Top-water is back! Tuesday I saw bass chasing shad near lake bridges, while trout on the Chattooga were “looking up” for a tasty trichopterid. Grab your Zara spooks and elk hair caddis and you’ll have a blast this weekend. Water temps on Chatuge and Nottely are in the mid 60’s which means…..BASS ARE ON BEDS. Look for beds along the shallow edges of coves adjacent to deep water. Being stealthy and wearing polarized sunglasses are essential. Better hit the water quick because once these fish finish the spawn they’ll move back deep. Zach’s bass tactics: bluegill imitating jigs and swimbaits for largemouth. Walk the dog baits and jerkbaits for spotted bass. Fish coves, docks, and bridges. Go-to colors are white and green pumpkin.
STREAMS: This past week I did some trout fishing with an infamous old Rabunite on the Nantahala and Chattooga DH waters. The friendly fossil knows his stuff, and with his guidance I caught over 30 fish on the Nantahala and nearly 50 on the Chattooga. Two of the best days of trout fishing of my life! Now I know why folks up here call veteran TU members “free fishing guides.” Trouting rookies should give their local chapter a try.
Zach’s Trout Tactics: Name of the game right now is bugs so put away the streamers and wooly buggers and tie on a bushy, #12 or 14 tan caddis. Add a #12 or 14 copper john dropper if you’re feeling brazen. Make sure to embellish your drift with a “skitter” at the end. That copper john “anchor” fly, about 2-3 feet below the caddis, will control your skitter and keep the dry fly in the strike zone. Best of luck and be safe. I’m going fishing!
Ed note: our duo went to Chattooga DH last nite (4/18) to take advantage of Zach’s intel before the weekend rain delay. He was spot-on. My Yellowstone fishing buddy, “Athens Alan” was walking out as we walked in at 6 pm and said he had a great day on a dry/dropper combo, but only when it was skated. He said he landed about 30 in a full day’s fishing. He gave us hope, too, and we soon took up our Dark30 positions in some bedrock shoals below a cobbled riffle (A Rabunite “bug factory”). At 7 pm, the cahills came out to play, with #14 spinners in flight and emerging #16 duns popping from the surface. And it was game on, with mostly rainbows, a few browns, a lone brookie fondled. Again, the skitter was the key until the switch turned off at 8:30pm. Wait for flows at the USGS Clayton gauge to drop below 2.5 and give it a go before our spring bugs depart. Remember, lost sleep and tall lawns are simply part of our spring fishing tradition!
The Roop Report (From Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop): This week was all about that bass on Lake Lanier this week. Each spring the WRD-Fisheries staff sampled 15 stations throughout the reservoir, targeting warmwater species like black bass and sunfish. We sampled stations near Sardis Creek, Wahoo Creek, Squirrel Creek, Shoal Creek, Flowery Branch, Chestatee Bay, Don Carter, and Limestone Creek. With water temperatures in the mid-60s across the board, black bass were abundant and were either in pre-spawn or spawning stages depending on location, temperatures, and habitat sampled. Generally, largemouth bass are more abundant in the upper segment of Lake Lanier above Brown’s Bridge, which overall has better quality littoral habitat (shallow coves and pockets) than the lower section of that lake. Anglers targeting largemouth should get out of the main channel and focus on shallow (2-5 ft), sun-exposed shorelines along pockets that have quality habitat for a spawning largemouth (shallow blowdowns, brush, and weedy vegetation over a soft bottom). We are finding largemouth held tight to the bank, likely defending their chosen spawning grounds. As many know, the spawn bite can be tricky, and among all that cover consider baits with weed guard to avoid snags (1/2 oz swim jig with a trailer of your choosing or a Texas-rigged presentation). Spotted bass can be found throughout the lake, and we are seeing some quality spots honing in on spawning sites just offshore from the largemouth, anywhere from 6-10 feet of water and typically over a firm bottom. See a brush pile or tree top in the water? You can be there are a handful of slab crappie lurking. We have seen a number of brushpiles and recently fallen trees that are covered with quality crappie this spring. Special thanks to DNR-LED Ranger Shane Brown for assisting us with several sampling stations this week. It was nice to have a second pair of hands to help handle all of the fish!
To break up the Lanier sampling regimen, we traveled to Stone Mountain Lake on Tuesday this week for standardized sampling. Largemouth bass were in full spawn on this reservoir. Plenty of forage is available to these bass—shellcrackers, bluegill, redbreast, and even the occasional longear sunfish. I had to pause to capture this beauty in its donning its spring colors. What a great time of the year to get out and catch some fish!
The Hakala Report (From Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala) — Carters Linesides: Both stripers and hybrids can be found on main lake points chasing bait fish. Fisheries Technician Russel Wilson hoists a nice sized striper collected and subsequently released during a recent WRD electrofishing survey on Carters. Live shad or shad-imitating lures fished in these areas are an angler’s best bet.
Big Hartwell Cat: Mr. Richard Hix of Lavonia caught a 29 lb, 7 oz blue catfish from Lake Hartwell fishing with a bream on hook-and-line (4/10/2019). I personally weighed the fish on a certified scale here at the Gainesville office, and it came one pound and one ounce shy of breaking the Hartwell Lake record. Mr. Hix said the fish will be returned the lake today.
Hartwell Report: Captain Macks Lake Hartwell Report HERE
Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Southern Fishing Report HERE
Long Sturgeon Drought: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) —About 60 years! That’s how long Ken Moss thought it had been since he last saw a lake sturgeon in the rivers of northwest Georgia until he watched WRD Fisheries staff capture this 16-pounder on the Coosawattee River on Thursday (4/11) below the Re-Regulation Dam at Carters Lake. Mr. Moss (pictured in the background with his wife) recalled catching these hard fighting fish frequently as a teenager on the Oostanaula River, until they were completely wiped out by a combination of pollution, overharvest, and habitat degradation. WRD has been working hard since 2002 to bring these ancient fish back to their native range, and those efforts are paying off. The main goal of the lake sturgeon reintroduction program is for anglers to once again catch these dinosaurs, as Mr. Moss did years ago. If you are lucky enough to catch one, please be sure to release it unharmed as we continue to rebuild the population. For more info on lake sturgeon click HERE.
Lanier Walleye: (From Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — On April 18, nearly 138,000 one-inch walleye fingerlings took the long drive north to their new home in Lake Lanier. The Driver Duo of Richmond Hill Hatchery’s veteran technician, Roger Harrell and Evans PFA manager Steve Mincy was greeted by our Lanier team of Roop and Rigglesford, who helped acclimate the load to north Georgia’s soft waters before releasing them at the Clarks Bridge and Little River ramps. The walleye will return to the Hooch and Chestatee in about three years and, at 18 inches long, will be perfect fillet size for Lanier fans of fresh fish.
Stockers: We will all need to wait a couple days for mountain stream flows to subside. Have your worms, crickets, and Powerbait ready for some trips early next week. Hint: find the flood refuges: deep pools, bedrock ledges perpendicular to the flow, boulder fields, and logjams. Floods will wash stockers down into these slower velocity areas. Go for the slow flows and limit out on wash-downs!
Summerville Hatchery manager Josh Tannehill thanks all purchasers of the TU brook trout license plate. These TU tag dollars allowed him to purchase a new stocking tank this year for the bed of his pickup truck. That smaller, 4WD rig is used to stock remote locations, where his full-sized stocking truck can’t reach. Enjoy his pics. Also, did you discover last week’s surprises from Burton Hatchery? They had light colored spots on a dark background…
DH Streams: Check out the Moran Report above
“On the Move:” Can’t find the fish? Did they move?
Good luck and happy Easter, everyone. We’ll dry out soon and the topwater action will again be ON! Sincerely, Sleepy Cahill Fan
(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 (except for the St. Marys) but the panfish bite has been very good even with the high water. Okefenokee Swamp fishing has been fantastic! Pond fishing has been very consistent. The best bet in saltwater has been whiting, but flounder have started biting. Full Moon is April 19th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.
The river is still high, but anglers have been catching some very nice bluegill and shellcrackers in the flooded willows. Jamie Hodge fished the river this week and caught 42 big shellcrackers and bluegills and kept a mess for supper. The river came up this week and muddied, so it may be a little too stained for a good bite this weekend. The river level was 9.9 feet and falling (69 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.3 feet and rising (70 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 16th.
Kyle Carver fished the upper river over the weekend and ended up bringing home 16 nice redbreasts that he caught on both Satilla Spins and crickets. Chris Nugent continued whacking the fish this week in the upper Satilla while fishing from his kayak. He flung his old, trusty crawfish Satilla Spins for his fish, tallying 87 fish for the 2 days. He tried other colors, but crawfish is what they dialed in on. He had a bass and 7 stumpknockers to go along with his rooster redbreasts. The redbreasts he’s been catching are IMPRESSIVE size! He even had an 8-pound class bass to the kayak before it spit the tiny hook. Georgia Wildlife Resources Division staff conducting sampling on the river reported great size of the panfish that are there, but numbers are not as high as expected. Redbreasts need low water in the May/June window to have good survival of their reproduction. Last summer the river was flooded all summer, so the fish probably did not get off a good spawn. This year’s fishing is going to be awesome, but if there is a missing year-class, we might see slower fishing in next year or two. The guys are about half-way through their sampling on the Satilla. 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 Satilla Riverkeeper is again hosting the A.J. Strickland King of the River Fishing Tournament on the Satilla River. Weigh-in will be held in the Blackshear Park on May 4th. T-shirts for the event are available ahead of time at local tackle shops. For more information or to register, check out the Satilla Riverkeeper website at satillariverkeeper.org. The river level on April 16th at the Waycross gage was 7.7 feet and rising (70 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 6.7 feet and rising.
ST. MARYS RIVER
A river record largemouth bass was certified on Saturday. Don Durr from Waycross caught the 11-lb. 4-oz. trophy on a plastic. Ed Zmarzly fished lures, including yellow Satilla Spins on Saturday and Sunday mornings and caught some giant bluegills. He also broke off several fish that were larger than the ones he landed. The water was 75 degrees, so was just getting into the great bream fishing zone. He estimated that he had 100 bites on Saturday. The river level at the Macclenny gage on April 16th was 3.0 feet and falling.
My son Timothy and I fished the east side on Wednesday and fooled a jackfish, several warmouth and a dozen bowfin throwing jackfish-colored Dura-Spins. They were reluctant to hit other colors, but jackfish made them commit. Another angler fishing the east side that day reported that the bottom fishing bite for catfish and casting and trolling plugs for pickerel was slow, but he caught fliers on yellow sallies. At Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo, anglers reported good catches of both warmouth and fliers from the boat basin and Billy’s Lake. Yellow sallies, crayfish, and crickets fooled them. At the Sill, fishing shrimp on the bottom for catfish worked, and a few bass, crappie, and bluegills were also caught. Glen Solomon caught a bunch of warmouth on small plastic worms from the west side.
Seth Thompson continued the big bass parade this week, catching a 10-pounder from a local pond. David Knight fished a pond with Satilla Spins and used black/chartreuse and black/yellow to catch some redbreasts and small bass. In Waycross area ponds, bass were caught with plastic worms and swimbaits, while the bluegill bite was decent for those fishing crickets near vegetation. The crappie bite has slowed, but some were still caught with minnows and jigs fished around shoreline wood.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Steve and Brenda Hampton started their flounder expeditions on Saturday with a trip to the Jekyll Pier. They caught 3 keepers and lost at least that many on pink gulp minnows on a jighead. The best reports I received from the St. Simons Pier were for whiting. Dead shrimp on the bottom was the ticket. A few sharks were also caught. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
Another cold front is forecasted for the weekend. Even so, you should be able to duck into some protected ponds or the St Marys River and catch some bass or bream. Saltwater will probably be a little bumpy, but try for whiting if the winds allow you to get out this week. The Okefenokee will be great for fliers, warmouth, and bowfin once the wind dies back late in the weekend.