I know you see it out there…that yellow orb in the sky. I know it is giving you the “itch” to head out to your favorite fishing hole. However, I urge you to remain cautious should you venture out to go fishing, waters have been high and may still be unpredictable. Wear a life jacket and don’t put yourself in unsafe conditions!

News to Know:

  • Spring Fish Harvest at Go Fish Education Center: Throughout the month of March, visitors to the Go Fish Education Center in Perry can bring a cooler and some ice and harvest up to 8 fish of their choice per person. Fish include rainbow trout, channel catfish, hybrid bass and bluegill. Fishing license required for those age 16 and up, and a trout license required if trout are harvested. Children 12 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult while fishing. Call 478-988-6701 for more info.
  • State Fish Art Contest: Students across the United States and internationally have the opportunity to win prizes and recognition while learning about state-fish species, behaviors, aquatic habitats, and conservation.  Using art, the State-Fish Art Contest ignites children’s imagination while teaching them about fish and fishing. Contest entry deadline is March 31 – so get to creating! More info HERE. Georgia Entry Form HERE.
  • Dinosaurs Among Us: Armuchee Fisheries staff captured (and released) a 19-pound lake sturgeon on the Etowah River during targeted sampling in January. This fish is the largest lake sturgeon caught by WRD since DNR’s re-introduction program began in 2002.
  • Where’s the Walleye? Click HERE for an early pre-spawn walleye report, and check out the North Georgia info below!

Let’s get to those reports. This week, we have Central, Southeast and North Georgia reports. Now – 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 3.9 FEET OVER FULL 50’S

Bass fishing is slow.  The lake is taking all the runoff and most of the main lake areas are muddy.  Some of the lower lake creeks are stained and bright crawfish crank baits like the Red Eye Shad and red Rat L Traps will work.  If the water is heavily stained to muddy, bass can also be found in areas that are completely devoid of cover, especially in the shallows.  This is when the cranks like Shad Raps with the tight wobble work well.  Large concentrations of big bass actively hunt flats shelves and shoreline banks with little to no cover but this is far more likely in dirty water than in areas where there is good clarity.

CLARKS HILL IS 2.7 FEET OVER FULL 50’S

Bass fishing is slow.  The lake is taking all the runoff and most of the main lake areas are muddy.  Some of the lower lake creeks are stained and bright crawfish crank baits like the Red Eye Shad and red Rattle Traps will work.  In muddy waters bass can also be found in areas that are completely devoid of cover, especially in the shallows.  Large concentrations of big bass actively hunt flats shelves and shoreline banks with little to no cover but this is far more likely in dirty water than in areas where there is good clarity.  Keep a spinner bait with bright gold blades ready all day.

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL 50S

Bass fishing is slow.  Fish in Richland creek.  Look for any rip rap rock that the sun has been shinning on as this area will be warmer by a degree or two and is bound to hold a few fish.  Use small crank baits like a ¼ ounce Rat L Trap in chrome and back or a number 4 Shad Rap in the crawfish color.  Work this bait using 8-pound test Sufix line.  Work baits slowly and if there are any docks near to the rip rap, work the dock area also.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 4.4 FEET STAINED 60’S

Bass fishing is slow.  The lake is taking all the runoff and most of the main lake areas are muddy.  Some of the lower lake creeks are stained and bright crawfish crank baits like the Red Eye Shad and red Rat L Traps will work.  With the cold runoff it is now jigging time   Fish the main body of the lake and in the main creek channels with the spoons at 23 to 25 feet deep.  Best baits are buck tails, Sassy Shad and ½-ounce Flex It and the Hopkins spoon.  The other pattern is to look for diving gulls on the lake and then jig or troll in the areas where the gulls are feeding.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS FULL, STAINED 60’S

Bass fishing is slow.  The bass are deep.  Large jigs or spoons are the best and you can sit on top of these locations and work the baits straight down.  The ends of the points from the Little River Bridge down to the dam fish all the points.  Run the boat back and forth over these points and be sure to scan with the Lowrance Structure Scan beams out to 80 feet across these points.  In dark or muddy water and on overcast days tie on a brightly colored lure to increase visibility, use a very dark solid color to maximize profile visibility.  A black and blue soft plastic is fair and the white and chartreuse bladed spinnerbait will also produce.

LAKE JACKSON IS 1.33 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED 50’S

Bass fishing is fair.  Fish in Tussahaw Creek all day.  Docks and stumps as well as the docks with the heavy cover have fish and they will bite the u tail worms and jigs.  Small lizards are also productive on the points about midway up in the rivers.  Try the six-inch Zoom green lizard on a Carolina rig on the smaller rocky points and secondary points.  Use the pumpkin fire tail in smoke and chartreuse.  Stay off the area and make long casts using 12 or 14-pound Sufix Elite line.  Slow roll the lizard over the bottom and stop it every three feet or so for 15 to 20 seconds.  Most of the bites will come after the bait has stopped or just when it starts to move.

BIG LAZER PFA (More info HERE)

  • Surface water temperature: 58o F
  • Water visibility: Visibility is at 36”
  • Water level: 3” above full pool

In general, February fishing at Big Lazer is challenging.   Anglers must 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.  And warmer temperatures are on the way, which means fish will start spawning in the next few weeks!  Hypothermia could still be an issue so continue to remain vigilant near the water’s edge!

Bass: Fair- Spawning season is quickly approaching which will bring bass into shallower waters.  For now, while the water is cooler, continue to fish plastic lures and crankbaits slowly in about 10 feet of water.  Also, deeper waters near the new fishing pier may produce decent bites this time of year.

Crappie: Fair- We are getting some reports of decent crappie fishing, but they can still be difficult to locate.  Jigs and small spinning baits pitched near structure may produce some decent bites.  Fishing for crappie with minnows in 8-12 feet of water is still a good bet as well.  Add a second pole to increase your chances!

Bream: Fair- Bream fishing is fair this time of year.  Try using red or pink worms near woody structure and the blowdowns associated with it.  The fishing pier may also be a productive location.  For now, bream will be in water that is 6 feet or deeper.  Try using lighter tackle for a little added excitement!

Catfish: Fair- We have had a few reports of catfish bites using livers or shrimp.  Catfish should be fished for near the bottom of the lake and around structure.  The rocks near the dam and the deeper water near the picnic area and new pier could produce some decent catfish bites.

MCDUFFIE PFA (More Info HERE)

  • Water Temperature: 58⁰F
  • Water Visibility: 20 – 54+ in 

Bass: Nice bass are being caught here and there throughout the area.  A five-pounder was recently caught in Bridge Lake along with a 4-pounder caught in Jones Lake.  Several bass have been caught in Willow and Clubhouse as well.  Patient jig anglers slowly fishing deep water have been successful lately. 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 of several lakes.  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 lbs. 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, but they are consistently caught on chicken livers as well.

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

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

New Moon is February 23rd. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE. For the latest marine forecast, click HERE.

ST. MARYS RIVER

This is the only river that is fishable after this week’s rains. A club tournament out of Trader’s Hill took 13 pounds to win (11.1 second and 8.2 third place). Crappie fishing has been ok, and bream should start biting well on the next warming trend. The Shady Bream Tournaments will start back up beginning Saturday March 7th. For more details check out the tournament trail on Facebook. The river level at the MacClenny gage on February 20th was 4.3 feet and falling.

LOCAL PONDS

The pond reports were a little more quiet than I thought they would be. It’s probably because of the terrible weekend weather we have had the last few weeks. Daniel Johnson caught a pair of 2-pound bass using a Senko on Saturday evening. Chad Lee fooled 5 bass up to 3 pounds on Monday evening. Junebug Keitech Mad Wag Worms were the ticket for him. With all the rain, fishing a pond spillway is a good option if you can safely access the spillway. The flow attracts fish from downstream, and they usually stack up in the plunge pool below the pond. There were a few photos of big bass circling around the internet this week, so grab your pole and get out there.

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

This week has been a repeat of last, the ADDITIONAL recent rains have raised the water level, but it’s still fishable. I talked with an angler who fished the east side just a short time on Thursday before the rain moved in and caught a few warmouth on tube jigs. You can get around well, and I would recommend concentrating your efforts on the east side in the areas where the prairies connect with the canal. Fish use those areas like highways to come and go from the shallows to the canals.

DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)

Wildlife Resources Division staff sampled the fish populations by electrofishing the lake this week and saw bass up to 7 pounds in shallow cover. The most noteworthy observation was that lots of big crappie were shallow in preparation for spawning. You should be able to catch some really nice fish over the next few weeks, whether you fish minnows or jigs.

OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)

The water is still muddy from continuous rains. The crappie bite was decent, even in the mud. Most anglers caught a few per trip, and they were big. The bass have moved shallow, and Wildlife Resources Division staff electrofished and released a 13-lb., 0-oz. bass this week.

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

SE GA Carlos Delgado and Antonio Armstrong PPFA 2 20
Carlos Delgado (left) and Antonio Armstrong of Valdosta were the winning anglers at a bass tournament held at Paradise Public Fishing Area this Saturday. Their weight was 22-lb., 14-oz. (5 fish limit), and these are 4 of their biggest. Their big fish was 6-lb., 6-oz.

Bass fishing has fired off at the area as the fish begin to move shallow for the spawn. The winning weight for a tournament held this Saturday was 22-lb., 14-oz. (5 fish).  Carlos Delgado and Antonio Armstrong of Valdosta were the winning anglers. They also had big fish – a 6-lb., 6-oz. whopper.  The hybrids continued to bite in both Russell and Bobben, especially after rains when water is flowing. Chicken livers were the best bait for linesides.

GEORGE L. SMITH STATE PARK (More info HERE)

Anglers reported some nice catches of bluegill and crappie last weekend. Crickets, minnows, and artificials produced fish.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

It’s been a great week on the Georgia coast for redfish. A group of anglers fished the backwaters around St. Andrews Sound on Tuesday and landed 5 redfish up to 30 inches. They were using Keitechs on a jighead for one, a Gulp swimming mullet for one, and dead shrimp under a float for 3 of them. The same day another group of anglers fished the St. Simons area creeks and landed 7 redfish (pulled off 2 others) up to 28 inches. Two of their fish were on dead shrimp on the bottom, and the others were on Keitech Swing Impact Swimbaits (Figichix) on Flashy Jigheads and goldfish-colored (black/gold flash) Satilla Spin Magnum spinnerbaits. They also caught 3 keeper trout and a throwback on the artificials. A pair of nice 18-inch flounder also inhaled their rootbeer-chartreuse back Keitech bounced on the bottom.   Check with Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.

NORTH GEORGIA

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

Saturday and Sunday will provide a great break from the steady rains, but it will still take a while for all of the water to drain off. Be sure to check USGS stream gauges and local tackle shops before making your way to your anticipated fishing spot. Most importantly recognize the power of water and don’t wade when the river is roaring! Talking with avid trout anglers at the Oconee River and Rabun Trout Unlimited Chapter meetings has got me eager for the creeks! While forecasted rain continues next week, I’m going to make my spring and summer fishing trip plans. There’s a ton of fishy water to explore in Georgia! 

RESERVOIR REPORTS 

Weiss Lake Report(This report Courtesy of Mark Collins Service, 256-779-3387) —Weiss Lake is at 1 foot 6 inches above full pool, heavy stained to muddy, and 47-49 degrees. Bass fishing is fair, and a lot of bass are being caught on culverts and anywhere there is fresh water running into the lake. Crappie fishing is fair, and some fish are still being caught long line trolling in Bay Springs and Little Rive, despite the high, muddy water. Look for things to improve as the water recedes and clears up. Striper fishing is poor, no reports of any. Catfish are biting in the bays and creeks in 8-15 feet of water; cut bait is working best.

Lake Allatoona: (Courtesy of Joseph Martinelli of Heron Outdoor Adventures) Current Lake Allatoona levels are at 851.5 feet. While this is well above full pool of 840 feet, we still have a margin of 10+ feet before it is considered a true flood level per the ACOE. The Corps is pulling at full generation today (and yesterday) and the water levels could level off and even drop a little barring any unforeseen precipitation this weekend. Surface temps hover in around 51-52 degrees lake-wide though warmer waters can be found further upstream in the Etowah and Little Rivers. Waters are quite stained from the Delta to Bethany Bridge. Some cleaner water can be found in the pass through to Glade area and again stained waters in the major creek arms of Tanyard and Clark. The fishing has been just what we expected for such a fine fishery as Allatoona. The fish are simply spread out and even into the trees where rising waters are bringing all the worms and grubs and such into the reach of the little fishes’ mouths. But they are still hungry! 

  • Hybrids and Stripers: StriperWhile down-lining is still a productive method for the Hybrids and Stripers, we have had some great success in fishing the pockets in between trees for all species of fish. This is not to overlook the point breaks and cove mouths where we were lucky enough to find some good hybrid and striper schools this past week. Free-lines with medium shiners and threadfin shad proved quite effective for secondary hookups while we were pitching into pockets on the shoreline with smaller livebait as well as small crankbaits. On one excursion this week we landed 6 species (no cats) and even netted threads and gizzards in a 4 hour trip. The prize that day was a 4 lb. hybrid with enough spirit to test the drag. No monsters, but tons of fun on a rainy day.
  • Spotted Bass: The Spotted Bass are all over the place. We have fished and hooked up with schools of them in the stained and muddy waters just below the S-turns all the way down into Tanyard Creek. They really like this little DT-6 Rapala we had finally tied on to the line for a test run though I would imagine if you are targeting them specifically that a myriad of baits and techniques could be found effective.
  • Crappie: The Crappie are scattered, at least on the North end where we targeted them a week ago with just a few hookups and the slowest day of fishing aboard our boat this winter, but we still caught some. While we were trolling where cleaner surface waters allowed after a few windy days, the better technique on days as such would have been working the marinas for resident fish as well as pitching into the trees in the backs of creeks.

Stay safe out there. Be mindful of your surroundings as many of the reef markers and other tethered buoys are just below the water surface and there are still some nice campfire logs and other debris creeping above and below the surface. This is the time of year where they feed on unsuspecting boats. Your life vest is definitely best utilized on your body instead of a random compartment at all times, and no less so when you may be the only one on the water and your rescuer is yourself and common sense. Tightlines and Godspeed on your adventures! 

Lanier Boat Ramp Closures: Lake Lanier still has ramp closures throughout the lake. The current list of ramps that are closed can be found on the Army Corps’ GIS map for Lake Lanier. Refer to this map and the Corps Facebook page for updates on lake conditions and other pertinent announcements. Be safe! 

WALLEYE REPORT 

Early Pre-Spawn Walleye Report(From WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern)The walleye run has started a little early this year. Our walleye sampling crews did some reconnaissance and are finding fish in the shallow headwaters of most of our northern lakes. Shallow water presentations like subsurface Rapalas and curly-tail grubs worked with a slow and steady retrieve over the rocks and around shoals are effective approaches to catch walleye this time of year.  For more information about walleye fishing in Georgia, click HERE to download a free walleye fishing publication.

Carters Lake: (Courtesy of WRD Fisheries Technician Mark Bowen) Walleye run is heating up!  A recent electrofishing survey indicated that good numbers of spawn-run walleye are starting to migrate into the Coosawattee River above Carters Lake.  All of the walleye observed were males, but the females are likely not far behind.  The fish were running in the 2-3 pound range, but a few larger fish in the 5 pound range were encountered.  Walleye numbers should continue to increase in the river over the next couple weeks as more and more fish migrate out of the lake and into the river to spawn.  These fish are notoriously tough to catch this time of year, so patience and persistence are a must.

WARM WATER STREAM REPORTS 

ShoalBass
Fisheries Tech Mark Rigglesford shows off a pretty Shoal Bass.

Chattahoochee River: (From WRD Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) Lanier’s projected to meet an elevation of 1077’ this weekend, and most boat ramps are shut down. Access to the Hooch north of Lanier is still available at Don Carter, though with high flows and fast water I wouldn’t recommend chancing a fishing trip. However, the diehards will find that the stripers are just starting to make their way upstream, shoal bass are abundant in deeper runs downstream and upstream of what would normally be shoals at standard flows, and the tributaries are contributing plumes of stained water that are attracting baitfish like spottail shiners. Water temps were in the low 50’s, although the river temps have been going up and down with the rain, runoff, sunshine, and even snowmelt all having an effect.  In these high muddy flows, casting a large shallow-diving crankbait, rattletrap, or jerkbait in darker patterns is the best option if you aren’t fishing with live bait. We found a couple of male walleye higher up in the river, indicating that the walleye spawn is imminent and will likely take place over the next couple of weeks. Walleye are crepuscular (low light) feeders and fishing success is best right around daybreak and sunset.

TROUT REPORTS 

Vogel State Park: (Courtesy of Bob Lux) Since most of the streams have had a little bit more than the average flows to fairly unsafe levels, I decided to take the ride up Blood Mountain on Sunday and hit up Vogel State Park’s Lake Trahlyta for some trout. A quick check of the weather confirmed that the winds would be low as prevailing winds tend to come right up the middle of the lake making it a little difficult to get decent drifts.

After the windy ride up and over the Appalachian Trail, I reached the South West end of the lake. I aired up the pontoon and set sail. The water temps were fairly cold, but past experience on the lake has told me that the trout like to concentrate on this lake on the drop-off where the creek comes in. This end of the lake is fairly shallow at around 6-8 feet where the creek drops in, so I put on an intermediate line on my 5 weight. I fished a two-fly rig with a leader of about 10 feet on 5x with a olive bugger and an orange blob. Both had glass beads as I want the flies to be at the same level as my line to increase hook sets versus a heavy fly sitting deeper than the line creating drag on the line for hook sets. I picked up 6 trout there on the orange blob with a 10 second countdown after the cast. I varied the retrieve to slow/steady and then also a extremely fast retrieve. Both produced fish.

I decided to fish a couple of other areas on the lake that consistently produce trout. One at mid lake on the north side and then at the dam on the northeast end. Fish were found here about 15 feet down and a little less eager to bite as compared to the creek end. Here, I fished a type 3 line and slow retrieve. I had a number of takes I missed, but only managed a few down in the deeper water on a pink blob and an orange blob. The water temperature is much cooler in that water and the fish don’t seemed to be concentrated too much down there as the heavy rains have brought plenty of food washing down on the creek end.

All in all, it was decent fishing for a few hours. At sundown when the lake really became glass, the lake started to boil with trout rising to midges and BWOs. At this point of the day, I didn’t feel like changing lines or tying in size 18 flies as I was ready to head home. There are plenty of trout to be had and you will definitely increase your chances by being in some sort of small watercraft rather than fishing from shore.

Toccoa Tailwater: (Report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company)  The Toccoa Tailwater spilling and generating around the clock today, and the predicted outflow for the next two days is about the same (2500 cF/s). I wouldn’t make any plans to wade the tailwater, but watch the generation schedule – you might catch the TVA giving a break from generation but spilling at an irregular flow. If this happens, you may very well catch some of the best streamer fishing of the year if you can float, and maybe the Black Caddis hatch.

Upper Toccoa Delayed Harvest: (Report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) The Upper Toccoa Delayed Harvest is high but clearing. The USGS gauge at Dial Road is showing flows around 1190 cF/s, but I would anticipate that to rise after the rain today. You can’t wade it, and I wouldn’t float it much higher than it is now, but if the flows don’t change and you’re willing to brave the conditions, you might catch some very good trout fishing. Bring loads of heavy split shot and prepare to fish deep. Pat’s Rubber Legs, Squirmy Worms, Tungsten Pheasant Tail/Hare’s Ear soft hackles with colored bead variants, Two Bit Hookers, and Thrift Shop Caddis should all be on the menu. Don’t forget your Black Caddis and Little Black Stonefly Patterns.