How is it possible that we are already halfway through January 2020? Is it just the old-timer in me that makes me think that the days are flying past?

News to Know:

  • Basic Fishing Info: Need some of the basics to get started fishing? We have a great place for you to start right HERE!
  • Youth Art Contest: Do you know a child or teenager who enjoys nature, creating artwork, and buying things off of Amazon? Then make sure they know about Georgia DNR’s 15th annual Youth Birding Competition (YBC) T-shirt Art Contest, an event that encourages resident children and teens to celebrate birds through art.
  • 2019 Bass Slam Winner: We will soon be announcing the grand prize winner for the 2019 Bass Slam. Congrats to ALL the anglers who managed to snag their Slam. Will you be getting yours in 2020? 

On to our reports. This week we have Central, North and Southeast Georgia. Looks like the chill is coming back in the weather, so bundle up and head out and Go Fish Georgia!

CENTRAL GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Steve Schleiger, fisheries biologist and Central Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts) 

Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant. 

LAKE RUSSELL IS DOWN 0.12 FEET CLEAR 50’S

Bass fishing is good.  Spots are on the deeper long run out points mid lake to the dam.  The Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology can make finding the fish a lot easier.  A few spots are coming off points and the channel markers that are positioned close to these points.  The bite in the ditches with a Fish Head Spin and trailer is fair.  Try drop shot rigs in the standing timber.  The fishing should start up soon in the creeks with Shad Raps and spinnerbaits later on sunny days on the rock and channel turns if the water stays stained.  The good rocky banks that are near the channel are also good places to fish this week.  The small Zoom Flukes on an Alabama rig can work.  If the wind is up go to the small #5 Shad Raps in natural colors.

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 2.3 FEET 60’S

Bass fishing is slow.  The bait is beginning to stack up in the creeks, ditches and major pockets off the main lake.  Once you locate the bait and fish, you can catch them on a couple different baits.  Start out fishing with a jigging spoon early and then alternate that with the Zoom finesse worm on a drop shot rig and a Carolina rig.  The fish will react to one or both baits.  Keep the spoons ready all day.  There has not been any definite pattern, so you will have to move around until you can find some active fish.  As the fish move more into the ditches the spoon should begin to work better as the water temperatures stay cold.

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, CLEAR, 60’S

(The report is by Captain Mark Smith of Reel Time Guide Service)– The lake is full.  The water temperature is 53-55 and the south end of the lake is clear and mid lake is lightly stained.  The upper end and in the rivers is a heavily stained.  Sugar Creek and Lick Creeks are stained.  Richland Creek is clear on the south end and light stain on the north end.

Bass: Bass fishing is fair.  The best action this past week was with a jigging spoon on the south end of the lake on humps and long main lake points.  Some fish have come as deep as 30 feet.  Use your Lowrance to locate the fish on the humps and drop a spoon down to them.

Stripers: Striper fishing is good.  The fish are all over the mid lake area around River Bend.  Live bait like bass minnows fished on down lines and flat lines has been producing good catches.  Spoons will produce good catches as well.

Crappie: Crappie fishing is good.  The long line bite is the best way to target the crappie.  You will need to cover a lot of ground, as the fish have moved out of the trees.  Start looking in the mouths of the creeks and work your way to the back of the creeks.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 3.2 FEET CLEAR 60’S

Bass fishing is fair.  Lots of runoff has the main lake stained.  Head down lake to the creeks for clearer waters.  Bass are roaming up on the points and flats all during the day and retreating to deep water stump beds.  Now is the time to get out the Red Eye Shad crank baits in red and crawfish and run the points.  The shallow water fish can be easily caught with Bandits and Shad Rap crank baits.  Try the deeper water for some of the bigger bass.  The Rapala DT10 and Rapala DT6 in hot mustard slowly retrieved over heavy cover caught some bigger fish.  Use the green tiger and red crawfish and use a stop and go retrieve during the slow periods to trigger a strike.  Carolina rigs can also be used on the ledges and deeper water structure.  Zooms green pumpkin u tail worm is the all-day bait.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.20 FEET, STAINED 60’S

Bass fishing is fair.  There is a lot of rain on the way which will keep the lake high and muddy.  With most of the lake stained or muddy, we recommend looking for the clearest water you can find and fish slowly.  The weather was a little warmer this week making for a better shallow bite, especially in the afternoons.  Fish can be caught on an assortment of baits both shallow and deep.  For the shallow bite, fish a SPRO Little John MD 50 slowly along rocky points and concrete sea walls.  Chartreuse or Red Craw colors will be best.  A worm or jig will also get bites in these same areas and around docks with brush.  A 1/8 ounce Buckeye Spot Remover shaky head with a black Zoom trick worm is a good bet around these docks for numbers.  A ¼ ounce black and blue Buckeye Mop Jig will get fewer bites around these docks but will produce a quality bite.  There are plenty of deep fish to be caught right now as well.  Look for rock structure in the mouths of the creeks just off the main river channel.  You can find these deep fish quickly by using your Lowrance HDS Structure Scan units.  Once you have located these fish, drop a gold Hopkins spoon, a tailspin, or a drop shot vertically through the school.  These fish will be located in 24-30 ft. of water.  This is a great way to catch numbers of fish throughout the winter months.

LAKE JACKSON IS 1.53 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED 50’S

Bass fishing is slow and the weather will change again.  Fish the Tussahaw Creek all day.  Fish the bridge and then all the docks up the creek as are good areas.  This water is usually cleaner.  Fish the rocks on both side of the bridge.  Use the crank baits like the jointed #5 Shad Raps and 200 Bandits in bright colors.  Cast the baits right on the bank and use a stop and go retrieve.  The Shad Raps with a Storm suspend strip will almost suspend once they stop and the bass will react to a moderate stop and go.  Keep the jigs rigged and fish them up around the gang planks on these docks by pitching and flipping them.  Start in the creek mouths early and work your way all the way to the back with the sun on your back.  Use a little deeper bait like the Bill Norman Middle N in the perch pattern.

BIG LAZER PFA (More info HERE

  • Surface water temperature: 54o F
  • Water visibility: Visibility is about 32”
  • Water level: 4” above full pool

In general, the weather is cold and the bite has become less consistent.  Anglers have to be more patient and persistent to have a good day fishing.  However, winter weather means less anglers are fishing; thus, less fishing pressure for the dedicated angler.

Bass: Slow – Fish plastic baits at a slower pace now that water temperatures are cooler.  Plastic-worms fished around the deep water by the picnic area and around both fishing piers may produce a few good bites.

Crappie: Poor- crappie fishing has been poor, and they are difficult to locate.  However, their spawning season will start soon.  Until the warmer temperatures arrive fish for crappie in 10-12 feet of water with minnows and jigs.

Bream: Slow- Bream fishing is also slow but try pink and red worms around the new fishing pier.  Also, target areas that have structure like woody brush and blow downs associated with it.  This time of year, most bream will be located in deeper water.  Still, live bait (crickets, worms) will be your best bet for bream.

Channel Catfish: Poor- Fishing for cold water cats has been tough even around the dam area.  However, you may get lucky using livers at or almost at the bottom and at several different locations around woody structures and the rocks around the dam. The new fishing pier may also be a good option for cats.  Fishing with two poles will increase your chances of catching a keeper.

MCDUFFIE PFA (more info HERE

  • Water Temperature: 62⁰F
  • Water Visibility: 20 – 54+ in

Bass:  The bass bite has been tough lately but it’s the time of year where it pays to patiently fish jigs slowly in deep water.  A 2½ lb. bass was recently caught in Willow.  In Breambuster Lake, bass continue to aggressively feed on shad right at the surface throughout the afternoon, especially around the boat dock.  Cormorants and seagulls have arrived for the winter and have been feeding on the surface mostly in Rodbender and Willow.  Look for where the seagulls are diving on the lake surface and bass should be nearby.

Bream:  The bream bite has picked up, some, especially during the warmer afternoons.  Bridge Lake has been the best for bream lately.  Fish feeders at Jones and Beaverlodge Lakes are good spots to try for bream, as well as any structure in deeper water.

Channel Catfish:  The catfish action has been pretty good, especially in the warmer afternoons.  Bridge and Willow have been the best lakes for catfish lately.  Raw shrimp has been the most effective bait.  Deep water around the siphon drain structures continue to be good spots.  Fish feeders at Jones and Beaverlodge are excellent spots to fish for catfish, too.  Remember, the PFA record catfish has not been set.  Any channel catfish caught on McDuffie PFA that exceeds 12 lb. will qualify as an official PFA record fish.  Please see application at kiosk for details.

Striped Bass:  Stripers can be found in Clubhouse and Bridge Lakes.  A 5½ lb. striper was recently caught in Clubhouse.  It’s the time of year where larger stripers really start biting crankbaits, swimbaits or umbrella rigs.

NORTH GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Jim Hakala, North Fisheries Region Supervisor with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and local experts)

LAKE HARTWELL 

Sturdivant Report: (This report Courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) — Bass fishing is fair. The weather will change again so expect the fish to be slow to bite. The fish are not bunched up on their normal winter patterns. Keep the jigging spoons handy. The water has still not cooled off enough for the jigging spoon, but as it gets to 50 degrees this should really pick up going into January. The birds are starting to show up more on the lake so keep an eye out for this and fish around that area until you find the bait and the bass. On cloudy and overcast days the bass are roaming between the shallows and secondary points and you can catch them on crankbaits and top water. The water is beginning to drop now for the winter drawdown so the bass should begin staging on the drops between 20 and 30 feet and you can catch them on Carolina rigs and drop shots. 

Rabern Report: (This report Courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — Keep an eye to the sky!  During routine monitoring of striped bass this week on Lake Hartwell, we observed high numbers of gulls in several areas including the Powerbag Creek area, the Seneca River upstream of Martin Creek and in Coneross Creek near the Friendship Boat Ramp.  During the winter months, gulls are good indicators of where the stripers are chasing bait and hopefully these locations will put you on the fish this week. 

LAKE ALLATOONA 

Eidson Report: (This report courtesy of Robert Eidson at First Bite Guide Service) Linesides, good!  The bite remains good even after the recent heavy rains.  The north end of the lake is a mud pit and mid-lake is stained and will probably get worse by the weekend.  The fish are moving south searching for cleaner water. Right now our better bite is from Bartow Carver to Stamp Creek. This will probably change as the mud line moves south.  The good news is the fish are still biting!  Down lining live bait is still very good and most of the bait fish are out over the river channel with the linesides.  The live bait bite remains strong and trolling is as equally good right now. Both full sizes umbrella rigs and the Mini-Mack’s are fishing great right now.  The spoon bite is also good, but works better on schooling fish on the bottom. Suspended fish are tough to catch on a spoon right now. 

Sturdivant Report: (This report Courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) — Bass fishing is slow. Lots of runoff and more rain on the way. The best bet remains creeks and pocket areas off the main lake. Use Strike King 3/8 ounce pumpkin jig with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer in Root beer green pepper. Try it on a bait casting rod with the with Sufix Elite 14 pound test. Use a Jr. sized trailer on the mini jigs. Look for stumps and brush in 5 to 8 feet of water afternoons as it warms a little. Also fish the points and humps that have deep water access and boat docks. The key is finding the brush. Small mini jigs in green pumpkin with a matching Zoom trailer are best. Check the creeks and pockets for the warmest water available. These areas will warm faster and hold more active fish.

Heron Outdoors Adventure Report: (This report Courtesy of Joseph Martinelli at Heron Outdoors Adventure) — Beefy lineside and crappie report – Lake Allatoona is consistently  fishing great this winter, and the best winter yet in my limited years to date here fishing for stripers and hybrids on Allatoona. Current lake levels are at around 825 ft. and are dropping a little daily due to constant pulling (24/7) at our hydropower facility. It almost feels like spring out here many days and the fish have been cooperative all winter. Water surface temps have been as high at 57F this week in the muddier waters – quite warmer than in weeks past.  Continue reading HERE.

LAKE LANIER 

Jimbo Mathley Report: (This report Courtesy of Jimbo Mathley) — Currently the lake stands at full pool, and the surface temps are around 56 degrees. The lake came up a foot and a half since last report and the lake temperatures are up 3 degrees. The backs of the major creeks and creek arms are stained to muddy.  Bass fishing on the lake has again been unpredictable this week. Both shallow and deep remain options given the recent warm weather. The warm weather followed by the intermittent cold fronts reposition the fish regularly, making the establishment of a pattern a challenge. Remain flexible as you search for viable daily patterns. Deep and Shallow are both valid options on any given day. The rock fish we found this week have been shallow on steeper rock areas. The ditches are still holding fish and they are catchable on some days shallow and also deep. Crankbaits, jerk baits, spinnerbaits, underspin’s, damiki rigs, jigs, swimbaits, and shaky heads are all still viable options for both the rock fish and the ditch fish. The message is that there are many different options and bait choices out there to target these fish located in a myriad of places. Stay flexible and versatile in your approach. Look for the presence of bait in the area you are fishing – no bait likely equals no fish this time of year.  

Academy Jack Report: (This report Courtesy of “Academy” Jack Becker) — I fished the south end of Lake Lanier again this week.  High winds kept us from fishing the main lake. We went to the back of a long cove just past Port Royal Marina and found muddy water along steep banks that was holding a lot of bait. The water was 58.5F and 4 degrees warmer than the main lake (and we were out of the wind).  The crankbait bite was really good all morning in the muddy water for spots and even a couple of stripers hit our crankbaits. Red craw color produced most of our fish.

SMALL PONDS

With air temps well above normal, small ponds have been fishing a bit “springy,” with bass up shallow.

Small pond GON-tel: News HERE 

TROUT REPORTS 

Trout Across the Board: (This report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters, www.unicoioutfitters.com) — Weekly trout report – a transition to “winter mode”. This week’s theme is “winter mode.” Finally, our local forecasters are predicting a cold spell ahead. We’ll soon see a 20-degree drop in air temps and a similar plunge in water temps. That cold shock may dampen trout appetites for a few days until they reacclimate to “normal” winter water temperatures…….. continue reading HERE. https://www.facebook.com/unicoioutfitters/

sb_CHA_bntshock_11620
Sarah Baker, trout biologist, getting some great training in jet boat operation and getting familiar with the great resource that is Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River! 

Chattahoochee: (This report courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — We conducted a brief electro-fishing survey on the Chattahoochee River below Lanier around the Hwy 20 bridge today. We were scouting electro-fishing stations for an upcoming DNR work day with Upper Chattahoochee Chapter TU.  In short time we had collected a good number of wild brown trout and stocked rainbows in a short section downstream of Hwy 20.  Several catchable rainbows along the east bank of the river were holding in runs at depths of 3’ -7’.  For spin fishing trout anglers, casting rooster tails or no. 4 panther martins is an effective technique. Rapala countdowns in number 3 or 5 are good for anglers targeting Hooch browns. For fly anglers, try a San Juan worm, egg fly, or black wooly bugger cast upstream and drifted down around rock outcrops and other structure that create eddies and breaks in the surface. We ran into a couple of anglers that had success fishing a Sebile Magic Swimmer.  Our newest addition to the Gainesville Fisheries Office, trout biologist Sarah Baker, also got some great training in jet boat operation, and getting familiar with the great resource that is Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River! 

Toccoa River Tailwater: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) — It is producing well where conditions and generation allow. Little Black Stoneflies and Blue Winged Olives should be coming off, and we may see Black Caddis any day now. Bring some dries and emergers just in case; black Stimulators 12-14, Parachute Adams 14-18, Hi-Viz BWO dries 16-20, and some Sprout Baetis 16-20 will work. For nymphs, try throwing the standard Pat’s Rubber Legs, worm patterns, zebra midges, rainbow warriors/lighting bugs, thrift shop caddis, and add in some Batman nymphs, wire stones, and some other varieties of 14-18 caddis emergers. Tammen Park is almost always clear, so if all else fails this is where I would head outside of generation. If the water remains off color and high, streamers would be my top choice this time of year – ideal conditions for a good day of streamer fishing include overcast/cloudy weather with at least 2 feet of visibility some level of stability in temperature and water level. While I can’t always get the stars to align, a mixture of a couple or one of any of these conditions is enough to get me excited. I like to throw 6-8 weights on floating and intermediate fly lines with 12-20 lb/test leaders and have a mixture of different fly actions and colors. For example, I may have a few colors of a nearly neutrally bouyant fly like Galloup’s Dungeon, a few colors of a fast-jigging fly like Strolis’ Ice Pick and Big Wooly Buggers/Sparkle Minnow, and a few colors of a fly with no weight that tracks straight laterally like Mike’s Maraciever.

Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Section: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) –The section remains high and off-color. It is currently un-wadeable and might remain through the weekend if we continue to receive rain, but watch the USGS gauge off Dial Road for instantaneous water levels. Right now the water level is at 908 cFS and falling. I would have a back-up plan if I were to go up to the DH.

Small Trout Streams: (Report courtesy of the (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) — Small streams are fishing well when the water levels are a little higher and a little off-color, so if you can’t find a place to go on the big rivers, I would recommend hitting some of these creeks. If you end up on a creek and find it to be high, high sticking wooly buggers, pat’s rubber legs, double bead stones and Tungstones, and worm patterns. If the water drops out enough, switch tactics to dry-dropper rigs with Chubby Cherynobyls,  parachute adams/purple haze, and Caddis dries in sz 12-20 depending on the dropper size. For the droppers, pheasant tails, hare’s ears, and stonefly patterns in any variation will produce if presented properly. I tend to fish the Pheasant tails and hare’s ears on the smaller side, so 16-20’s. Don’t be afraid to fish bigger 8-10 pat’s and stoneflies on these creeks

MISCELLANEOUS

Vogel GON-tel:  Stocker trout 

RIVERS

Etowah River Tailwater: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) –The river was fishing well before the torrential downpour earlier this week. If the creeks clear up by the end of the week and generation allows, this would be a great option this weekend. Water temperatures at the dam are falling into the low fifties, so be prepared to work your flies S-L-O-W. I recommend intermediate or sinking lines with neutrally buoyant flies around structure, so think Galloup’s Dungeons in tan/craw/black, and unweighted 2-3 inch baitfish patterns. Sparkle Minnows/Rubber Buggers and Kreelex’s are also good producers. Be patient and don’t think numbers – some of our biggest  Bass of the year come out of the river from now through March.

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Southeast Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)

Last quarter moon is January 17th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE. For the latest marine forecast, click HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

The stripers are in the lower river. An angler caught some while pitching bucktails and curly-tailed grubs around bridge and dock pilings on Thursday afternoon. The big channel catfish bite in the Darien area should start before long, but I haven’t heard of any good catches yet, though. Cut shad on the bottom is a great bet for big cats.  Check with J.J. or Lance at Altamaha Park (912-264-2342) for the latest information. The river level was 13.3 feet and falling (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 11.3 feet and falling (61 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on January 16th.

SATILLA RIVER

Chris Nugent fished the upper Satilla on Saturday while it was still in good shape and caught a few bluegill, 5 bass, and 12 redbreasts. His biggest bass was 3 pounds, a HOOT on ultralight tackle! He caught a couple of his bass on curly-tail grubs, but the other bass and panfish were on 1/8-oz. crawfish Satilla Spins. He caught his fish in eddies and current breaks. For the latest Satilla River information, check with Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle (912-283-9400) in Waycross. The river level on January 16th at the Waycross gage was 12.2 feet and rising (64 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 10.3 feet and rising.

LAKE GRACE (WAYNE COUNTY)

Trevor Brown and I fished the lake on Thursday afternoon for a March Georgia Outdoor News article. We caught 7 bass up to 1 1/2 pounds. A cold front was coming through, and the big fish didn’t eat, but the smaller fish were biting hard jerkbaits. All of them were caught on either gold-orange belly Smithwick Rattling Rogues or gold-black back Rapala floating minnows. We caught them scattered all the way from the boat ramp to the upper end. For more details, check out the upcoming article.

LOCAL PONDS

SE GA photo
Sam Braddock (left) caught this nice channel catfish and 75 others while fishing with friends at a Brunswick area pond on Saturday.

Sam Braddock, his friend Timothy Deener, and I fished a Brunswick area pond on Saturday afternoon and caught a bunch of channel catfish. Sam caught his first freshwater fish during the trip. The trick was to thread cut bluegill or a dead shrimp on a Catfish Catcher Jighead and fish around docks. We caught 76 catfish and a big bluegill in a couple hours of fishing. The biggest catfish was a 6.11-pounder. John Ross O’Berry (age 2) has been catching some nice crappie in a farm pond near Waycross. He has been using black/yellow Satilla Spins for his specks. Chad Lee caught a 5-pound bass and several crappie on Saturday morning using a hard jerkbait. On Monday evening he caught a few nice bass on the same jerkbait and lost a giant right at dark. On his lunch break Tuesday he landed 2 bass using a black/blue Keitech 3.6-inch plastic crawfish (Crazy Flapper).

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

The winds and nasty weather held off most trips to the brine. I heard of a few catches off docks and a few trout caught in the sounds. I heard of one good trip to the St Marys Jetties last week, but that is about it. Expect sheepshead, trout, and redfish bites to be tops this weekend if weather allows you to get out in saltwater. Check with Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.