Yes, this is a fishing blog, but let me start with three important reminders before the weekend:
- Memorial Day: While I know many of us are looking forward to a 3-day weekend, please stop and think about what Memorial Day means. To live here in Georgia, in America, we should consider ourselves blessed and fortunate.
- Heat: It is going to be HOT this weekend! Keep an eye on yourself, your kids and your pets. Drink lots of water. Use sunscreen.
- Water: Thousands will head to the water for the 3-day weekend. 2 of the best ways to remain safe are to boat sober and to wear a life jacket. More info on water/boating safety HERE.
On to some fishing reports! This week, we have a report from North Georgia and one from Southeast Georgia. Stay hydrated and stay safe 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)
Congratulations- we’ve made it to the long holiday weekend! It’s time for a retreat. We can retreat from work and our personal responsibilities and take a boat ride on our favorite fishing lake. We can retreat from the record-breaking heat by heading north and then uphill. When we are wet-wading in a Rabun County trout stream, underneath the rhododendron canopy, we might even get a little chilled! And as we steer away from the hot midday sun and steer toward dawn, dusk, or the shade, we will re-treat ourselves to some fast fishing action, like we enjoyed this spring. Here is some current intel that should get you excited about the days ahead, whether you are retreating from the daily grind to recharge your personal batteries, or re-treating yourself to some fast fishing by finding the coolest water available. Here we go:
WORTH YOUR WHILE
Kids Fishing Fun: “Hey Jeff, This past weekend I took my boys to the Buck Shoals Kids Fishing event (KFE) in White County. My oldest, Carsyn, caught a really nice size Bluegill. Although my two year old did not catch anything, he sure did have a great time watching his big brother reel that special catch in! We will definitely be attending more of these events this summer! Such a great place to get out and spend some quality time with your kids while enjoying the beautiful North Georgia scenery. Best part- watching your kid’s eyes light up once that bobber goes under water! Just another plus to add to the list of working with such an amazing group of people who make this happen!” – Lauren Long, Lauren Long, Secretary/Receptionist, GAWRD- Gainesville (Ed note: Buck Shoals WMA will host a monthly KFE thru summer).
Healing Waters: How appropriate, given our weekend ahead: Georgia’s Project Healing Waters program leaders Bud Murphy and Bill Beach said their gang of new fly-flingers had good luck at Smith Creek this past weekend. He led a weekend outing for his PHW vets, who roomed at the Unicoi Park Group Camp cabins along lower Smith Creek. They fished Smith on Friday evening and Saturday, and then fished as guests on a private stretch of trophy stream in Helen on Sunday. Despite its re-opening on May 15 to trout harvest, Smith was good for numbers, and the Hooch gave those folks a shot at a trophy trout or two on Sunday. Bill said all of his attendees caught some fish. Smith Creek even gave one of his vets the excitement of a three-species trout “slam,” with high-hook of the gang had landed ten trout.
Hefty Holiday Trout Stockings: Georgia’s state and federal trout hatcheries will stock more than 100 streams and small lakes with nearly 62,000 trout in the week prior to the Memorial Day Holiday. We had some surplus fingerling (two-inch) brook trout given to WRD last year. After a year of Burton Hatchery growth, these fat, ten-inch stockers have now been spread across many north GA streams this spring, including Holly, Mill, Dicks, Boggs, Tallulah, the Hooch, Soque, Sarah’s, and West Fork Chattooga. We hope you enjoy them as a bonus to the rainbows and browns. Trout stocking info HERE. More on Brookies HERE.
Beat the Heat: Given our heat wave, smart holiday trouters will fish in the mornings and even avoid large or low elevation trout streams which are warming up quickly. I had a Tuesday evening report from a friend who zeroed on the upper Chattooga at Burrells Ford bridge. That was no surprise. Why? Afternoon water temps had hit 75 degrees! Go uphill and under the shade to find cooler waters and cooperative stockers over the holiday.
Wildcat Creek – Good News: Chattahoochee National Forest district ranger Ryan Foote told me on 5/22 that his staff has been able to reopen the Wildcat Creek Road in Rabun County. We will get a load of trout up there before the holiday weekend to celebrate the restoration of public access to this very popular tract of federal land. More on Wildcat HERE.
Kudos to our Federal Partners: Nice story – read it HERE.
Nan DH: Rabunites Kidd and Dredger hit the Nan DH this evening (5/19) at the right time, 5pm, when all the flatlanders had departed for supper. They got in and went deep while waiting for the sun to set. Each fondled a nice bunch of fish with his respective dredging flavor: traditional for Kidd and Euro for Dredge. Kidd’s bobber rig won big fish honors with a 21-inch pig rainbow. When asked of the hot fly, Kidd replied, “a T.Rivers Special.” They reeled in their dredge rigs at seven and switched just as the switch turned on. Their Cahill/Caddis dry combos found a lot of open mouths as the bug buffet presented itself in the waning light. Mayflies, Caddis, and even a few Coffins created a natural chum slick for their fake offerings, and both Rabunites scored the hat trick on top. A couple dozen fish each topped off their evening, which ended at 845. While some ate the dead drift, many more scarfed down the skittered dries. There are a couple weeks of Dark30 action left. Don’t miss the chance to partake. You’ll be glad you did. This duo sure was glad, however hoarse they are right now on their ride home. Why? Too many of these heard in the gorge tonite: “Waaaahhhh- HOOOO!!!!!” To learn more about Rabun TU, visit HERE.
Looking Ahead: River Bass and Stripers – As the rain quits and our big rivers clear and recede, it’s the beginning of the float fishing season for river bass, bream, stripers and gar. Get your canoes and kayaks out of the basement, dust them off, and get ready to float. Check your PFD’s and make sure you have those literal life preservers on while floating. For river fishing, it will only get better as the waters recede and warm up.
See Damer’s intel: Check last week’s report for still accurate info!
Hooch migrants spotted: Read it HERE.
Etowah Float: (From Rodney Tumlin, environmental Science Teacher, Bass Fishing Team Coach, Fly Fishing and Cold Water Conservation Club Sponsor at N. Paulding High School) — Took my Fishing Club down the Etowah in Cartersville Saturday. We got several spots & a striper. Another picture from our club outing to the Etowah on Saturday. We used spinning gear instead of fly gear. We do not have the equipment for stripers! LOL
Big Coosa Cat: Way to go Jenna! An angler named Jenna Thomas caught 2 nice fish this week, a big freshwater drum that weighed 10 pounds 13.6 ounces on our certified scale, well above the angler award minimum of 5.0 pounds. This drum might also be a potential river record, and she plans to submit the info to GON as well. Then, she sent a pic of a 54-pound blue cat she caught just a few nights after her big drum. She released this behemoth back into the Coosa without documentation for another angler award, but it’s still a tremendous fish that looks every bit of 54 pounds! (her scale was accurate on the drum, too). See Jenna with both her fish HERE.
Lanier Bass: Finesse is still the best
Lanier Crappie: (This Lake Lanier Crappie fishing report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club) — Water temperatures are in the high 70’s, nudging into the low eighties. The lake level is a bit over full pool and the creeks are moderately stained. For the avid crappie fishermen who don’t mind dodging the increasing traffic on the lake, crappie fishing remains good. The early morning bite is good to excellent, from thirty minutes before daylight to about 9:30, longer if cloudy. Target deeper docks with structure below the surface, especially if you can find a dock with a sizeable brush pile just outside it, which is an added bonus. The docks that are producing have twenty to thirty foot depths, and are closer to the main creek channels. With this condition, these fish have the best of both worlds – the cover of the brush pile, then the shade of the dock during the middle of the day. If you can find a dock with an active beaver, that is even better, as fresh vegetation is continuous. Look for limbs and branches sticking out of a dock. Also target submerged brush piles in at least twenty to thirty feet of water. Fish the brush pile from all angles. This time of year, the fish are holding tight on the brush. Before you leave a spot, ease up slowly on top of the brush pile and try vertical jigging. Soft body, hair jigs and minnows are all working well. Because the fish are deeper, the sensitivity of the bite seems less, so watching your line is VERY important. If you see or sense any unusual movement, set the hook! For the night owls, fishing under bridges is picking up. The sign of a good bridge is if you see dangling ropes from above. That typically means it is being fished by regular night fishermen. You will need a fishing light, and it can easily take an hour or two for the light to draw the bait and the bait to draw the crappie. So be patient, stay safe on the water, and wear your life jacket!
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
The Moran Report: (From Fisheries Biologist Zach Moran) –
- Fishing for bass has been tough the past couple weeks with Spotted Bass being on beds and Largemouth Bass in post spawn mode. Fish are difficult to pattern as some have moved out deep (following the end of the shad spawn) while others remain in the shallows. Male bass will be finishing up fry guarding and will be moving to join females on secondary points before heading to deep water for the summer.
- Best tactics right now are to hit the early morning and late evening topwater bite. Throw a walk the dog type bait around high percentage areas like points, and docks. The best docks will be isolated near deep water and surrounded by woody debris. Once the sun comes up fish deeper structure with a shakey head, drop shot, or neko rig. Other productive tactics are to skip a whacky rigged senko or Yum dinger into the shade of a dock or overhanging tree limb.
- With the weather heating up, catfish will become more active at night. Check the underwater topo maps to see where the underlying river channel bends and creates a hole. Fish the flat adjacent to this hole with live or cut bait and HANG ON!
- Stripers and hybrids are moving out deep and can be caught by live-lining shad or dropping live shad or bucktail jigs into a school of fish. If you’re lucky you may find a school busting shad on the surface in the early mornings or late evenings. Make sure you have good electronics so you can find schools of fish.
- To make up for the tough bass fishing, Bluegill and Redear fishing has been fantastic! Big fish will still be on beds and can be caught with crickets, night-crawlers, and poppers. My favorite bream setup is a 5 or 6 foot ultralight rod equipped with 4-6 pound test. I like to rig this setup with what I call “the cricket-shot”. This rig is basically the same as a dropshot…baited with a (wait for it) cricket.
Everyone please be safe this weekend as we celebrate our Memorial Day. Make sure to wear your lifejacket and attach your boat’s kill-switch during operation. As always…Good luck and HAPPY FISHING.
The Roop Report: (From Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) –
- We stocked nearly 187,000 striped bass fingerlings at Lanier’s Sardis and Bolding Mill ramps on Wednesday this week. Surface temperatures are on the rise (low 80s), water clarity and color indicate good plankton blooms throughout the northern portion of the lake, and these factors make great nurseries for small striped bass fingerlings. If these fish grow quickly and survive their first winter, I expect that the 2019 year class will contribute greatly to the fishery in the coming years. Thanks to the fish hatcheries at Richmond Hill and throughout the state that produced and grew some quality fingerlings for Lanier in 2019.
- Standardized sampling was conducted on the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls from Peachtree Creek to Buzzard Roost (Camp Creek Parkway). Striped bass and channel catfish were most abundant. We did pick up a few spotted, largemouth, and shoal bass as well. Due to continuous generations from Buford Dam and Morgan Falls Dam that are only now starting to subside, turbidity and flows are high and fishability is poor. We do not recommend fishing this section of river at this time simply due to river conditions. If you do venture out though, wear a life jacket, and be sure to check the previous day’s generation schedule. This section reflects Buford Dam’s generations roughly 22 hours later (USGS gage data here: )
- Word on Lanier is that the stripers have moved deeper and the downline pattern is picking up. Look to target stripers over points in anywhere between 20 – 30 feet of water, and 40 – 60 feet of water as the warming trend continues. Next month we will begin taking lake profiles that will inform anglers about thermocline (temperature) and oxycline (oxygen) depths to aid your striper pursuits.
Ken’s Reservoir Reports: Ken’s Reports will likely be updated later today.
Good luck this weekend, whether you are retreating from work, retreating from the hot sun, or re-treating yourselves to some fine spring fishing by aiming for the morning shadows and evening shade.
Let’s just all remember that this weekend is really not about retreating. It is about holding ground and then advancing. Many folks blazed this path for us so we can enjoy another fine spring season in America with family and friends. So, if you think you are hot, maybe you really aren’t that hot, after all. Just ask anyone who slogged thru the jungles of Guadalcanal, the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta, or the sand beyond Baghdad.
And if you think you’re too chilled in a headwater trout stream, maybe it isn’t really that cold, after all. Just ask folks who hunkered down at Valley Forge, Bastogne or Chosin Reservoir.
Maybe, just maybe, our lives are darn-near perfect. And we have our veterans to thank for our quality of life on this special weekend. May we all appreciate our outdoor opportunities and abundant public lands in our free country, and those who have given us this amazing life. Happy Memorial Day. Now let’s all re-treat ourselves to some fishing fun soon!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
The fishing reports have been great in the rivers, Okefenokee, ponds, and saltwater. It should be a great holiday weekend for fishing, but go early or late in the forecasted heat. Last quarter moon is May 26th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.
Brad Hooks reported catching a 10 1/2- pound largemouth bass. That’s quite an accomplishment to catch a double-digit bass on a river! J.J. and Lance at Altamaha Park said that the panfish bite has fired off big-time. Anglers caught bluegills, redbreasts, and shellcrackers galore this week. Limb liners caught some nice flatheads this week using goldfish as bait. In the Jesup area, anglers reported catching lots of bream and redbreasts. Channel and blue cats were also caught by anglers putting worms on the bottom. The mullet started showing up in creels this week with the sandbars starting to show. In the Hazlehurst area, anglers were using red wigglers to catch the tasty fish. That bite should be red hot in the heat this weekend all along the river. The river level was 5.8 feet and falling (82 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.6 feet and falling (80 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 21st.
Lots of panfish, including some really big ones, were reported this week. Mark Bacon of Screven reported a monster redbreast from the middle river. His fish is being processed as an angler award through the Wildlife Resources Division of the DNR. His 11 1/4-inch, 1.2-pound rooster ate a worm. The river is getting low, and dragging is just part of the deal, but fish will tear it up. Jonathan and Tab Guy came down and fished the middle Satilla on Saturday and caught 63 panfish (mostly redbreasts) on copperfield and copper juice Satilla Spins and poppers. They said that 50 of them ate the spinners, while a dozen sucked down the bug. Tab landed a giant warmouth during the trip. Scout Carter, Andrew Steedley, and Tristan Guess fished the Alabaha River, a tributary to the Satilla, and caught 35 panfish (mostly redbreasts) on crawfish and copperfield Satilla Spins. They also had about 5 by pitching a lime-colored bug on a bream buster. On Saturday three anglers in kayaks fished the middle river and caught several dozen redbreasts and bluegill by pitching crickets. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the upper river is low and tough to get around, but folks fishing from the bank or walking the river pitched crickets and worms to catch quite a few redbreast and bream. In the Burnt Fort area, some flatheads were caught on limb lines baited with panfish, small catfish, or goldfish. 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 May 21st at the Waycross gage was 4.3 feet and falling (79 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 3.4 feet and falling.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Shady Bream Tournaments held their first panfish tournament of the year on Saturday. This was an artificial-only tournament. They had 18 boats fishing the event, and lots of fish were caught. First place was won by Robert and Tucker Hyers with a 6.10-lb sack of 10 panfish. With 6.9 pounds, Dale and Emma Anderson took home second place honors. Clark Higginbotham and Bubba Crib claimed third place with 6.8 pounds. My son and I fished it and caught our limit by 8am, but we only able to catch a couple of the giant bluegills the river is known for, and the rest of our fish were smaller. Thus, we ended up about half-way down the pack (we had 4 pounds, 3 ounces). We had a quick limit with an 1/8-oz. chartreuse bruiser Satilla Spin and culled a couple times (for mere ounces) with a copperfield Satilla Spin. We caught a bass and bowfin during the morning, as well. For more information check out Shady Bream Tournaments on Facebook. Catfish were caught just about anywhere you dropped a bait to the bottom this week. Deep holes were especially good producers. The river level at the Macclenny gage on May 21st was 2.0 feet and falling.
Glen Solomon put it on the warmouth and chain pickerel this weekend in the Suwannee River. He had a big stringer of warmouth (several pushing a pound!) and close to a limit of jackfish. His warmouth were suckers for small plastic worms, while the jackfish attacked crawfish-colored Dura-Spins. He even caught a big bluegill on a crawfish Satilla Spin. His biggest jack was 2.32 pounds and biggest warmouth was right at a pound on certified scales.
Last Wednesday Rusty Garrison and a friend fished the east side in the late afternoon and caught several chain pickerel (jackfish) on Dura-spins. The jackfish color (red/white/yellow with a silver blade) was best. They also had about a dozen bowfin up to 4 pounds on the lures. They pitched yellow sallies for just a little bit and caught several fliers up to 8 inches and a warmouth. Between the swamp and St. Marys River later that evening, Rusty added 6 new species to his checklist. On the west side, you can catch fliers on sallies, warmouth on crayfish or crickets, bowfin on in-line spinners, and catfish by putting shrimp on the bottom. The water level in the swamp is getting low and concentrating the fish. The yellow fly numbers are increasing, so go now before we get into June and their numbers ramp up.
A couple of anglers fished a Brunswick area pond on Friday and whacked the bass. They caught 68 bass up to 6-lb., 10-oz.. SPRO crankbaits and bucktail vibrating jigs did the damage. A few catfish also inhaled their offerings. Over the weekend, Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson fished Alma area ponds and landed about 20 bass. Most were on plastic crayfish and buzzbaits. Chad’s biggest was a 6-pounder that inhaled a Zara Spook. On Tuesday evening they caught 5 bass up to 3 pounds on black/blue Christie Craws. On Monday evening, Hubert Crawford, Beverly Hoke, and Bob Springer fished a Brantley County pond and caught about 60 big bluegills hand-sized and bigger. They fooled them with crickets and black-chartreuse jigs.
HUGH M. GILLIS PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Dublin, more info HERE)
The bass fishing was strong this week. On Wednesday, a couple of anglers caught 20 bass between 2 and 3 pounds using topwaters (bluegill color). Anglers using other lures were not catching many, but those two had it dialed in. The week before they did really well with senkos, but that day the fish wanted topwaters.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Whiting produced the best reports this week. The bite in the sounds was good on days when you could get out. On Friday, Steve and Brenda Hampton fished the Jekyll Pier and caught 3 keeper flounder (12 1/4, 13, and 14 inches). Spanish mackerel (on the small side) were caught in the sounds. Tripletail were caught around the buoys and off the Jekyll beach. Jim and Garrett Page and a friend fished the beach on Tuesday and caught 3 tripletail up to about 18 inches, but they saw 37 fish. The fish were skittish. In the rivers around Brunswick, trout, flounder and redfish were caught with live shrimp and jigs. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle reported anglers catching TONS of whiting on dead shrimp. Croakers and flounder were also caught in good numbers. Surprisingly, dead shrimp fooled some of the flounder. Live shrimp and finger mullet also caught flatties. Blue crabs were caught by the bucketload. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.
For the holiday weekend, expect to have company fishing. To get away from anglers, float the Satilla in a kayak or canoe. You’ll catch lots of fish, but expect to drag a lot. Mullet fishing on a sandbar on the Altamaha would be a great option in the forecasted triple-digit heat. Just sit down in the river if you need to cool off! A salt block, bag of rabbit chow (or your favorite bait), a cup of red wigglers, and a bream buster is all you need. Another simple trip would be fishing the Okefenokee. In the heat, bowfin (mudfish) bite like crazy. Fling Dura-Spins down the middle of the canal and you will hook up with the feisty fish regularly. In saltwater, look for the flotilla in the sounds, anchor up nearby, put a shrimp on the bottom, and expect to catch lots of whiting. Ponds are always a great place to fish during a holiday weekend to get away from crowds. Bream or bass fishing should be great.