Well, here we are…watching it rain…again. BUT, as I was just reminded by a very nice caller (a 2019 Angler Award Winner – thanks Craig Gladue!), rain helps our waterways, which also helps our fish and keeps anglers happy.
News to Know:
- Buyer Beware! DNR Customers should beware of an online fishing license scam offering fake Georgia fishing licenses. More info HERE.
- Angler Award winners from 2019 should all have gotten their certificates and t-shirts by now. Hats will go out in next few weeks! Hope everyone enjoys their “spoils” and that we can look forward to even more participation in 2020! The Angler Award program has categories for adults, youth, trophy bass and public fishing area records.
Use the following fishing reports from North and Southeast Georgia to plan your trips for the weekend, and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Southeast Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Chris Nugent fished the upper Satilla on Saturday and didn’t do as well as last week, but he still had a good time. He managed a 13-inch crappie and 3 small bass. They ate crawfish Satilla Spins best, but he also caught one on a prototype color. 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 23rd at the Waycross gage was 9.4 feet and falling (54 degrees – a 10-degree drop since last week!), and the Atkinson gage was 10.3 feet and falling.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Matt and Zeb Rouse got into some big yellow bullheads on the upper St Marys late last week. Their biggest was close to 2 pounds – huge for a butter cat!. Shrimp on the bottom is how they caught them. The river level at the MacClenny gage on January 24th was 3.5 feet and falling.
Chad Lee and his uncle, Lester Rowland caught a bunch of crappie on Saturday morning using minnows in an Alma area pond. They kept 12 big ones about a pound and a half apiece. Chad caught 7 bass (most in the 3-4 pound range) over the weekend from Alma area ponds. Chatterbaits and crankbaits worked best for him. I also heard of a few other folks catching bream and crappie from other Waycross area ponds. Some folks did best with minnows, others with jigs.
PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)
Crappie fishing has been tops this week on the area. Anglers drifted minnows near the bottom to catch a few, but anglers fishing from the piers with minnows and jigs did best during the cold. Lowe’s in Waycross donated a load of old Christmas trees to the area, and they will be put out for fish cover in the near future. Thanks, Lowes!
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Winds and cold were the norm for most of the week, but a few folks made trips. Bobby Thompson of Vidalia fished the Shellman Bluff area on Thursday and caught 2 keeper and 3 throwback seatrout by casting new penny-colored Assassin Sea Shads. A group from Waycross went to both Brunswick and St. Marys on Saturday. They fought the wind and only caught 2 sheepshead and 2 toadfish for their efforts. A couple of Waycross anglers trolled jigs in the Brunswick area on Sunday and caught 18 seatrout (about 12 keepers) and 2 weakfish. They cast through an area and caught just a few and then trolled the same lures through the same area and caught most of their fish. Trolling is a great way to find and catch trout this time of year. Check with Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, Fisheries Biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Versatility…… mixed bag…… highs and lows…… those are the words fishing guides across North Georgia are using to describe the current fishing conditions. Highs in the 70s last week followed by lows in the 20s this week coupled with a lot of rain have certainly confused the fish and complicated the fishing. What anglers need right now is some weather stability……. And stability is not on the menu right now. So, the fishing guides are telling us to cast a wide variety of lures and use a wide variety of presentations across a wide range of depths to increase your chances of catching some fish. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to follow the bait. Certainly the gulls and loons will pinpoint schools of herring and shad but they are not your only signpost. Rocks absorb the sun’s warming rays so baitfish are drawn to rip-rap and concrete structures on sunny afternoons. Likewise, muddy water warms up more rapidly than clear water, which makes the back of coves a better target. Also keep in mind that temperature drops push fish down into the deepwater cover where they will hold tight until conditions improve up top. Find the brush in the ditches and you’ll like find the fish. And one final tip, wind can be your friend. Wind pushes shad and herring up against rip-rap banks where bass and stripers will lurk just offshore to seize their chance to snatch a meal. So, fish the rip-rap on those long bridge crossings to increase your chances of success on windy days. Now, here is the scoop from across North Georgia by those who fish just about every day.
Lake Lanier is at full pool and the water clarity is stained on the main lake and muddy in the creeks. The water temperature is running in the low 50s. Bass are in the ditches and Stripers are in the creeks chasing bait.
Report from Jimbo Mathley: Jimbo on Lanier reports that bass fishing has been steady but anglers must remain flexible while searching for hungry fish in both shallow and deep pattens. Stripers 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. Crank baits, jerk baits, under spins, Damiki rigs, jigs, swim baits 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.
GON Fishing Forum Comments: Comments on the GON Fishing Forum indicate that fishing crankbaits on wind-blown rocky points in a good option, especially on sunny afternoon. On cold days, look for spots around brush and in the ditches at 30 to 50 feet. Work a Shakey Head or Flexit Spoon around the structure to entice a strike.
Academy Jack Report: Our good friend Academy Jack had a good outing on Lanier this week. He reports, “We made another run to the South End on Lake Lanier this week. Not the best weather. 36 degrees with a 10-12 mph East wind. 49 degree water in the backs of the coves with deep water docks holding fish again. Find the loons feeding on bait and you will catch fish. We caught mostly Spots but also 2 chunky Largemouth. Not a bite on hard baits. Every bite came on Shakey Head worms and Texas rigged creature baits. Steep banks down to 30 ft. Is where we found the bait and fish.” Thanks, Jack, for a solid report and a picture to prove it.
Captain Buck Cannon Report: This Lake Lanier Striper report is by Captain Buck Cannon of Buck Tails Guide Service Buck Tales Guide Service (404/510 1778). Stripers fishing has been good. Find them in Little River, Laurel Park and Wahoo Creek and you can catch them under the birds. We caught double digits and a lot were 10+ and a few 15’s. Down lined blue backs at 30 to 35 feet deep. Trolling works but if you’re chasing the birds don’t pull up and just rabbit to them. Change baits then and they will hit the bait that you pulled. We have had 4 stripers on at one time. Pull Mini Macs and umbrella rigs when the wind picks up. Mini macs 150 feet and umbrella rigs 120 feet back using the big motor around 3 mph.
We’ve also heard from other anglers that Striper fishing has been pretty good. With the colder temperatures this past week the bait has been deep over a 40 to 70 foot bottom. The warmer temperatures forecasted for this week end will bring the bait shallower onto flats and into the backs of the creeks. Fishing the backs of the creeks and flats will be the key this week. When you find an area you want to fish put out a “spread” (combination of free lines and planner boards) of Herring and Trout and vary your depths and distance behind the boat and boards. As an example; use a small split shot with a medium Trout 12 feet behind your planner board closest to the bank. Use a Herring on your inside board 50 feet behind the board. Continue to vary the distance and weight as you put out your free lines behind the boat and “deep water side” planner boards. Don’t forget to drop a couple of down rods over the side and vary the depth based on the bottom. Herring and Trout have been working equally well. Also, vary your trolling speed from .2 mph to 1.2 mph. don’t spend a lot of time in any one area. The back of Flat Creek, Six mile creek and Short Creek are all good places to start.
Dan Saknini Crappie Report: For those who are eager to catch crappie, Dan Saknini from the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club offers these suggestions, “The river channel docks with warmer water temps will be your best options. Our dock shooting technique is producing well. The bite is starting at fifteen to twenty feet, but it is amazing how quickly the entire school will shallow up if they decide to feed, sometimes up to eight feet below the surface. Many community docks and marinas are holding fish. If you are willing to invest the time to find them by scanning with your electronics, it can pay off. When you locate them, note the depth that the fish are suspended and work the jig directly above their heads. Jiffy jigs in a variety of colors and hair jigs are working well, but the soft body Bobby Garland jigs tend to skip the water easier. The fish are holding tight to the structure and it is very critical to keep the jig in their strike zone. The bait will lead you to the fish, so pay attention to your graph. Threadfins are the bait of choice for crappie.”
Lake Allatoona remains at 16-feet below full pool. The water color is clear to stained in most places and muddy in the backs of coves. The water temperature is hovering in the low 50s.
Matt Driver Bass Report: This week’s bass report is by Matt Driver. Bass fishing is great and the bite is good both shallow and deep. The shallow baits of choice are a willow leaf white spinnerbait, a crawfish colored Strike King 3xd and Strike King 1.5 square bill. We also keep a Picasso tungsten “Little Spotty” jig with a Zoom twin tailed trailer tied on for targeting shallow cover. There have been quite a few large mouth being caught too. For the deeper off shore bite, the Ito Vision 110 jerkbait in white and the Duo Realis Spybait have been the ticket. We are going ultra-finesse with our line choice and are using 5 to 7 pound Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon. Make sure your drag is set and you won’t have any problems. You get better distance and lure movement with the lighter line. The most productive areas currently are between Galts Ferry up to the Delta area.
First Bite Guide Service Report: Striped Bass/Hybrid Bass fishing guide, Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service reports that fishing for linesides in Allatoona has been decent this week despite the rain and drastic drop in temperatures. Lake conditions the north end is rolling mud from Little River to Clear Creek. The south end of the lake mud hole from the blockhouse to Glade Marina. The water between Glade and Clear Creek is fishable. The sudden drop in temperatures has these fish feeding on small baits. It happens every year at this time. Our better bite is coming on medium size from shiners from the Dugout Bait and Tackle and the Mack Farr’s Mini Mack. The fish are over the channel. Find the cleanest water you can and start fishing.
Heron Outdoors Adventures Report: Fishing guide, Joseph Martinelli at Heron Outdoors Adventures has also experienced some success recently despite the cold and muddy water. Captain Martinelli offers these suggestions: Our lovely little lake Allatoona is still fishing well, and it has been an amazing winter with very few slow fishing periods. While the North end still resembles a muddy lazy rolling river, there are still fish to be caught from Kellogg Creek down to Bartow Carver. Through today, cleaner water truly begins closer to Stamp Creek and down into the Pass and there are fish here, too. I can share this – Just over the weekend 6E had a lot of catchable bait and fish over the weekend in the morning when we made it by there. By noon, the bait had moved elsewhere and the fish with them as we looked on our way back through to load up on more mixed baits for the next day. Swimming fins and all that. But that area and the channels in particular have been good gathering locations for fish lake-wide. Scanning the channels for the masses is a good approach in addition to covering your favorite holes off the channel. Down lining medium to large shiners as well as small gizzard shad have been producing well for both our striped and spotted fishes. For the most part, this will be predicated by the bait size the fish are feeding on as they do tend to become a little more particular this time of year. In the past two weeks I have sat on fish that would only eat small-medium gizzard shad or larger artificials and would not touch a smaller threadfin or shiner, and vice versa. While down lining has been our primary go to approach this past week, there was a day this past weekend that activity slowed for nearly 30 minutes and I casted to a point with the Mini-Mack and hooked up with a nice hybrid and a larger spotted bass in 2/3 casts. Simply had to put that rod down when the school moved back under our live bait rods and things became a little fantastically frantic when a wolf-pack of Stripes and Hybes moved back in under the boat.
Lake Hartwell is at full pool and rising. The water is stained in the open water and muddy in the backs of coves. The water temperature is in the low 50s.
Southern Fishing Report: Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant, reports that bass fishing has been a bit slow this week due to the big cold front that sweep through. The fish are not bunched up on their normal winter patterns. 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 bass should be moving onto the drops between 20 and 30 feet and you can catch them on Carolina rigs and drop shots.
The recent Striped Bass Challenge tournament on Lake Hartwell produced a few 20+ lb fish. Anthony Rabern, WRD Fisheries Biologist for Hartwell reports that Coneross Creek holds a lot of bait and a lot of big fish. Large flocks of gulls and loons are working the area and Friendship Park Boat Landing and fish can be caught on downlines and behind planer boards from the ramp all the way to the back of the cove. Lightwood Log Creek and Powderbag Creek are also holding bait and the hungry fish who chase them. Once again, the gulls and loons will point you to them.
Captain Mack Report: Captain Mack Farr also provides the following report. Now is the time to pull planer boards with gizzard shad close to the banks or in the backs of the creeks where the big fish roam after the rains stop and the trash settles down. When I move back out of the backs of the creeks I deploy two ultra-light freelines behind the boat rigged with live herring to catch the fish that are feeding on top and you would be surprised at just how many fish I catch on these ultra-light rigs. I usually locate these fish one of two ways. I locate them on my Humminbird Side Imaging or Down Imaging and the minute that I get them under the boat I drop my live bait and Mini Mack’s into the schools of fish. If the fish decide not to eat my live bait then my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs are my automatic tools for the guaranteed bite.
Trout Across the Board: The trout fishing experts at Unicoi Outfitters report that the combination of cold temperatures and high water are clear signs that we are in the full swing of winter fishing mode. Under these challenging conditions, trout anglers will need to fish really low and slow. They suggest using Euro techniques in the pockets and runs and super-deep Indi Rigs in the bigger pools. For more tips from Unicoi Outfitters, you can read their fishing report on their Facebook page.
Cohutta Fishing Company Report: The guides at the Cohutta Fishing Company offer these suggestions for wintertime trout fishing. Fish the small trout streams with 5x and 6x leaders with dry droppers, the main focus being subsurface patterns imitating stoneflies, small mayfly nymphs (pheasant tail variants, size 16-20), and caddis patterns (holy grails, thrift shop caddis, etc). Pat’s rubber legs and a size 4 split shot under a size 10 Chubby Cherynobyl find their way on my leader 75% of the time in the winter. High sticking heavier or dropshot rigged flies in longer riffles and pockets should produce well, but keep your eyes open in slicks and tailouts of pools – this time of year offers opportunities for sight fishing when conditions are low and clear. For the Toccoa River, their trout guides reported that the tailwaters is clear and fishable. “We’ve been seeing midges and blue winged olives coming off on the river, and you may see some Little Black Stoneflies coming off as well, so keep some dries handy just in case. I would try to hit the river as the day warms to the peak temperatures of the day. For nymphs, try throwing the standard Pat’s Rubber Legs, worm patterns, zebra midges, Griffith’s gnat, rainbow warriors/lighting bugs, thrift shop caddis, and add in some Batman nymphs, wire stones, and some other varieties of 14-18 caddis emergers. For streamers, 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.”
The Upper Toccoa Delayed Harvest is at 670 cfs and falling, so wading is still not possible. Wait till the USGS gauge reads at 500 cfs or lower for wading. This is a great flow to float this section if you have the means. Bring typical delayed harvest stuff and lots of split shot! The Cohutta Fishing Company also provides some great tips on fishing Georgia’s Delayed Harvest streams on their blog page HERE. or more information on Georgia DNR’s Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Program, click HERE.