Y’all, it is February already. Have you been fishing yet in 2020? Don’t let time keep passing – you have got to get out there and throw a line, oh, AND make sure you make a plan to introduce someone new to fishing!

Things you may have missed this week:

  • Here fishy-fish: Habitat is the key to success and at Hugh Gillis PFA, they are always working to improve that habitat for YOU. Check out some of their latest work HERE.
  • Grand Prize Winner Announced: The Georgia Bass Slam announced their Grand Prize Winner for 2019: Eric Runge of Winder, GA. Eric is one of 37 anglers that caught at least 5 of the 10 available black bass species in Georgia and getting a Georgia Bass Slam. His name was drawn out of those 37 entries and he is winning a fun prize pack – Congrats Eric!!

Now, on to our reports for the week. This week, we have fresh fishing reports from Southeast, Central and North Georgia. Now, Go Fish Georgia!

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

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

Full Moon is February 9th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE. For the latest marine forecast, click HERE.

SATILLA RIVER

Jonathan Monds fooled a bass this week with a black/yellow Satilla Spin before the week’s big rains. He also landed a giant 20-pound class channel catfish. The river will likely jump after it poured the entire time I was writing the fishing report. You might be able to catch some catfish, especially on the lower river before the river jumps out of the banks again. 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 February 6th at the Waycross gage was 8.6 feet and rising fast (57 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 7.3 feet and rising.

ST. MARYS RIVER

Matt Rouse has been catching crappie and bass on the upper St Marys the last 2 weeks. He caught 5 in an hour on Monday. They were good filet-sized fish, and they ate white curly-tail grubs fished on a chartreuse jighead. He went back Monday evening and caught  few more right at sunset. The river level at the MacClenny gage on February 6th was 2.8 feet and falling.

LOCAL PONDS

Chad Lee had some big bass last weekend up to 6 pounds. He had two 4-pounders, three 5-pounders, and a six-pounder. White vibrating jigs and sexy shad crankbaits caught his fish. This past weekend he had a dozen bass, with a 4-pounder the biggest. A couple smaller fish up to 2 pounds ate a zoom crawfish (green pumpkin), but the majority of his fish this week ate a red minnow plug. Matt Rouse fished purple Cuprit worms in a local pond on Tuesday evening and caught a couple keeper bass. An angler fishing a Baxley area pond on Wednesday caught a limit of crappie by spider-rigging Specktacular Jigs (Tennessee shad and black/chartreuse) tipped with minnows. They were all filet-sized fish.

PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)

A few crappie and bass were caught over the last couple weeks, but the hybrid fishing is what has shined. Anglers fishing livers in Lakes Bobben and Russell (the 2 lakes where hybrids have been stocked) have caught fish this week. The biggest that I know of was over 6 pounds. Some big catches (one angler caught 20 pounds of them!) of bullheads were made this week, also. Lake Bobben was tops for whiskerfish.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

Last weekend Brandon and his boys Michael and Cason had a great day on the lower St. Marys River while fishing with Tripp Lang. They landed striped bass, several redfish, and a keeper trout while fishing live shrimp under a float. A pair of anglers fishing the St Simons area last Monday put it on the redfish up in small creeks. The pair threw Satilla Spin Magnum spinnerbaits (Orange Crush and Halloween were the top colors) and caught (and released) 9 redfish up to 28 inches.The key for them was current breaks on the first half of the ebb tide. A group of anglers fishing the Brunswick area on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday found a school of redfish and put it on them. They caught and released 20 to 40 redfish per day. They caught them on Keitechs rigged on Flashy Jigheads, Keitechs on regular jigheads, and both live and dead shrimp. Look for redfish up in the small creeks 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.

CENTRAL GEORGIA

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

Reports from fishermen indicate fishing is tough right now across central Georgia due to the flooding and high water.  It might be best to stick with the smaller water bodies, like the PFA’s this week.

Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.

LAKE RUSSELL IS .66 FEET OVER FULL, 50’S

CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour and many anglers are not out due to the heavy rains and winds.  Expect floating debris lake wide.  The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain.  Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing, the fishing had gotten tough.

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 2.5 FEET 50’S

CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour.  The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain.  Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing, the fishing had gotten tough.

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL 50’S

(This Lake Oconee fishing report is by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service 404-803-0741) — The lake is over full.  The water temperature is 53-55.  The lake is over full and the mud and water keep flowing into lake.  As of now I do not know how bad the mud will be.  It does not look good at this time.  Before the rain and flooding the fishing was going well.  It will be some time before we will know the full impact of all the rain.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 6.9 FEET STAINED, 60’S

Bass fishing is slow.  Many of the lake creeks and main lake is heavily stained.  More rain and storms passed over the area.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.5 FEET STAINED 50’S

CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour and many anglers are not out due to the heavy rains and winds.  Expect floating debris lake wide.  The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain. Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing the fishing had gotten tough.

LAKE JACKSON IS .40 FEET OVER FULL STAINED 50’S

CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour and many anglers are not out due to the heavy rains and winds.  Expect floating debris lake wide.  The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain.  Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing the fishing had gotten tough.

FLAT CREEK PFA (More Info HERE)

Rain has helped to maintain the lake levels.  Anglers have reported the crappie fishing to be great, especially around the lights around the fishing pier, despite cool water temperatures.  Even though we have more water, the fish remain in deeper pockets of warmer water and have a light bite with a lazy pursuit of a lure.  As we transition spring and the temperatures start to warm the fish will be stronger on the bite and closer to the shoreline to feed.

Bass: June bug or watermelon colored Zoom Trick Worms and Zoom Centipede worms with a slow retrieval.  Worms fished on the bottom.

Bream: Worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks) or crickets.

Channel Catfish: Fishing for catfish has slowed down though worms fished on the bottom and chicken livers were working during the last interview with someone targeting catfish.  Catfish has of late been a by-catch from people targeting bream or bass with worms fished on the bottom.

Crappie: Minnows have been the go-to bait, while jigs fished with light tackle to feel the slightest bite and trolled have been working very well!

MARBEN PFA (More info HERE)

Margery and Bennett Lakes are lowered for dam work.  Bennet boat ramp is closed and Margery boat ramp is “use at your own risk” but If you are willing to put on the rubber boots and do some walking you can locate habitat and see topography that hasn’t been available for 20-plus years.

Bass: The milder temperatures have the bass feeding on schooling shad.   Typically, the shad are schooling on the surface early in the morning and sporadically throughout the day.  January water temperatures resulted in the shad becoming lethargic.  When you see gulls diving in January and February that is a good indication the threadfin are suffering from the colder water temps and the largemouth take advantage of this.  Take advantage of this activity and use a lure that mimics a threadfin shad.  But remember when throwing into a school of threadfin your lure is one of many so make that lure appear slightly different.

Crappie: February is normally the month the crappie bite turns on at Marben.  This depends on the weather.  Several days of sunny mild temperatures will get things rolling.  The more successful anglers try their trusted spots but also cover a lot of ground.  Often crappie will congregate in a very small area and landing your bait just a foot off that spot and you don’t get a bite.  Whether you are using a jig or a minnow, try different depths at each spot.  The trick is to find where the crappie are at that moment.  Remember crappie feed “up” or above.  So you want to present your bait at or above them.  Typically, the crappie will move into shallow water as the temperatures rise w February through March.

Bream: Bream fishing in February can be rewarding.  However, don’t expect the bite to be like a warm May afternoon.  Fishing deeper (4’ and deeper) will increase your chances until the water reaches the 60’s.  Bottom fishing can be productive as well as using a cork to fish deeper water.  Worms are definitely your best bet in February.

Catfish: Channel catfish are much less active in the winter so be patient if catfish are what you are after.  Deeper water bottom fishing with a bait that gives off a good scent is your best bet.  

NORTH GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of John Damer, fisheries biologist, with help from Region Staff and local experts)

RESERVOIR REPORTS

CARTERS LAKE

Bartenfield Report:  (This report courtesy of Louie Bartenfield from Carters Lake Guide Service) Our beautiful Carters Lake is fishing well. Both live bait & artificial are producing some nice fish. Fish are being caught at a variety of depths, but 35-50ft seems to be the ticket. Shaky heads & jig-n-craw fished on steep drops where bank transitions from red clay to rock has been a solid pattern. Also, medium shiners & spoons (1/2oz & 3/4oz size in chrome or white) fished half-way back in creeks has been a consistent technique for spotted bass, stripers and the occasional walleye.

 LAKE HARTWELL

Sturdivant Report: (This report Courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) — Lake Hartwell is full and in the 50S. CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour and many anglers are not out due to the heavy rains and winds. Expect floating debris lake wide. The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain. Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing, the fishing had gotten tough. Bass fishing is slow. The water temperatures should not get any colder this month unless winter comes back for a week. Bass were staging on secondary points near deeper water until the rains came in. Now expect this to change as the lake is rising due to the storms and very heavy rains.

Headwaters Bass Report:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) The Bartam's and Spotted Bass.headwaters of our major reservoirs are great places to catch bass, even in the winter.  The constant flow of water seems to pull in shad and herring and those other critters that feed on them.  This week, sampling crews working on the Tugaloo River headwaters of Lake Hartwell found a number of spotted bass with a few Bartram’s bass mixed in .  All the bass were found near downed trees and were feeding on 6-inch blueback herring.  Catching multiple bass species reminded me of our Georgia Bass Slam, which is a program that challenges bass anglers to catch at least five of the ten different black bass species found in our state.  To learn more about the Georgia Bass Slam, check out our website at https://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/angler-resources/GeorgiaBassSlam#About.

LAKE ALLATOONA

Lake Allatoona Habitat Improvement Partnership:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer) Fisheries staff from the Armuchee WRD office partnered with US Army Corps of Engineers, Marietta Bassmasters, Bartow County Department of Community Development, and City of Acworth Parks, Recreation, and Community Resource Department to improve fish habitat at Proctor Landing Park on Lake Allatoona.  Together, the group added 90 recycled Christmas trees to existing anchor points around the fishing jetty at this popular fishing spot.  Over the last 10 years this partnership has added 2,545 recycled trees to Lake Allatoona to benefit anglers!

Sturdivant Report: (This report Courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) — Lake Allatoona is down 9.9 feet, stained, and in the 50S. CAUTION: The lake is rising by the hour and many anglers are not out due to the heavy rains and winds. Expect floating debris lake wide.

Allatoona Info from GON: https://forum.gon.com/threads/allatoona-2-2-20-mix-bag-of-fish.960569/

LAKE LANIER

Mathley Report: (This report Courtesy of Jimbo Mathley, www.jimboonlanier.com) — Lake Lanier is 1.5 feet over full, the main lake and the creeks are very stained & in the 50s. Currently the lake stands at 1.5 feet above full pool and rising rapidly with the monster rain we received today. The surface temps were around 53 degrees as of Wednesday, but most likely have risen with the warm rain. The backs of the major creeks and creek arms as well as the rivers will be blown out based on the record rain. Prior to the rain and the resulting major condition change the lake is experiencing, the fishing had gotten tough. The deep timber bite was the most reliable bite this week. Timber edges in 45 feet is where we caught the majority of our fish. Remain flexible as you search for viable daily patterns given the condition change. With the rising water and the warm weather forecast next week, a shallow bite may evolve, so stay on the lookout for that. Crankbaits, jerk baits, under spins, damiki rigs, jigs, swimbaits, and shaky heads will all still be viable options for both the rock fish and the ditch fish post rain. Stay flexible and versatile in your approach after the lake settles. Also, be very careful navigating the lake, it can become quite dangerous due to floating debris when the lake rises this quickly.

Weiss Lake Report: (This report Courtesy of Mark Collins Service, 256-779-3387)

Weiss Lake is at 2 feet 3 inches below full pool and light stained to muddy and 52-54 degrees. Bass fishing is fair. The bass are on a deep winter pattern. The largemouth fishing are tough right now. The spotted bass are biting and they are schooling up in Little River and in The Coosa River near Riverside campground. Crappie fishing is fair. A lot of fish are suspended in the river channels and the deeper bays at 8 to 14 foot deep. Anglers are using long line trolling with Jiffy Jigs for some good fishing. Use the blue color combinations. A float and fly technique is working well also. Pushing minnows 12 to 14 feet deep in the river channels is working also. Live minnows on a slip float, fished 10 to 12 feet deep is working well also.

WALLEYE REPORT

Early Pre-Spawn Walleye Report(From WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) The calls are starting to pour in from anglers wanting a status report on North Georgia walleye fishing.  February is generally the time when pre-spawn walleyes gradually make their way upstream into the spawning grounds located in the headwaters of our North Georgia walleye lakes.  To confirm these suspicions, our walleye sampling crews did a little bit of reconnaissance this week before the big rains hit.  Water temperatures in the headwaters of our North Georgia walleye lakes are running about 48oF, which is a little bit too cool for walleye to spawn.  Our crews found no early-arrivers in the typical shallow water spawning areas.  That means it is still too early to catch them shallow.  Walleye are starting to stage lower down so walleye anglers might want to drag a nighcrawler or crankbait along the bottom in the deeper bends in the river.  For more walleye fishing tips, check out our free Walleye Fishing Guidebook.

TROUT REPORTS

 Trout Stream Flows: (This report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters, www.unicoioutfitters.com) It’s 34 degrees and spitting snow this morning in Helen. All streams are ripping after yesterday’s six inches of rain! Unicoi Lake is chocolate milk, and even Smith Creek DH was very high and heavily stained at 7:30am (https://vimeo.com/389969549).  We can think of better days than today to wet a line safely on north GA trout waters.  Flows on small streams should drop fairly quickly to fishable levels, so places like Smith and Dukes should give careful waders a few weekend options.Stay tuned for our weekly fishing report, later today. It might just be a slow day here at the fly shop, giving us the time to write one up. Stay safe. Conditions will improve as streamflows slowly drop from yesterday’s flash flooding.

WARMWATER STREAM REPORTS

Upper Hooch Report:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) The Chattahoochee River above Lake Lanier is low and clear as of Wednesday (2/5/20), but that story is likely to change with the expected weather which should cause river levels and turbidity to rise. Water temperature was 53 F. During a reconnaissance for upcoming walleye broodstock collections, we observed several stripers between 2 and 3 feet in length. We saw a good number of shoal bass above Belton Bridge in and downstream of shoal complexes. Live bait or slowly worked jerk baits mimicking blueback herring will be good general tactics for late winter fishing in this stretch. We did not see strong numbers of walleye, indicating that we are ahead of the spawn despite abnormally warm river temperatures for this time of year.

Hooch Shoal Bass
Trout biologist Sarah Baker holds a Shoal Bass from the Hooch.

Lower Hooch Shoal Bass:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist Sarah Baker) This week, WRD biologists conducted a brief electrofishing survey on the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls dam. Several Shoal Bass were found in flowing water near large boulders. Target Shoal Bass with a Texas rigged plastic worm, or fly anglers can use crayfish patterns and wooly buggers in olive. Just remember to grab a trout license and abide by trout regulations in this stretch of river, even to fish for Shoal Bass.

Big Etowah River Lake Sturgeon:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer) 19 pound Etowah River sturgeon.Armuchee Fisheries staff captured (and released) this 19-pound lake sturgeon on the Etowah River during targeted sampling a couple weeks ago.  It is the largest lake sturgeon caught by WRD since our reintroduction program began in 2002.  This fish was last encountered by University of Georgia researchers in a gill net in 2006 when it weighed just 2 pounds.  Lake sturgeon like this one spend most of their time in the deep waters of the Coosa River and Lake Weiss, but some fish are now making their way upstream into the major tributaries in preparation for spawning.  More info on our reintroduction program can be found HERE.  If you catch a lake sturgeon, please report your catch at 706-295-6102.

Etowah River Bass:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer) While looking for lake sturgeon over the last couple weeks, we have seen good numbers of largemouth, spotted, white, and striped bass in the Etowah below Lake Allatoona.  With largemouth up to 6 lbs and spots over 4 pounds, the average size was pretty good for black bass.  Stripers were small and mixed in with the typical white bass around 1 pound.

Etowah SPB and LMB 2_3_20.png

SMALL LAKE REPORTS

Liming at Arrowhead WMA Lake:  (From WRD Fisheries Biologist John Damer) WRD Fisheries staff added 32 tons of limestone to the large lake at Arrowhead WMA to increase its primary productivity.  This 15-acre lake is located just behind the Armuchee WRD office and is intensively managed through feeding, fertilization, and stocking to provide great family fishing opportunities for the public.  Stop by with your kids the next time you are in the Rome area!

Arrowhead Liming
Liming at Arrowhead WMA lake.