The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) shared these tips for proper social distancing options. We definitely are in favor of the one that says “Go Fishing.”
NEWS TO KNOW:
- Reduce Risk, Protect Your Health
- State Fish Art Contest: Deadline Extended!
- From Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division: While many changes are occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspending Georgia’s game and fish laws is not one of them.
This week we have reports from North and Southeast Georgia. Stay safe, practice social distancing, and Go Fish Georgia.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jim Hakala, Northwest Fisheries Region Supervisor, Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
I’ll keep the intro short and the let the reports do the talking. If you have been waiting for the fishing to get “good,” your wait is over! Enough said.
Trout Stocking: The stocking trucks are rolling and trout are being stocked in earnest! Over 70 water bodies were stocked across north Georgia this week. Want to know where? Check out our Weekly Trout Stocking Report HERE.
Kid-Friendly “Trouting”: Trout Stocking Coordinator John Thomson suggests Rock Creek Lake (Fannin Co.), Owl Town Creek (Gilmer Co.), or Moccasin Creek (Rabun Co.) at Moccasin Creek State Park. Remember, Moccasin is restricted to kids 11 and under and Seniors 65 and older. Anglers can also see firsthand our progress on the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery renovation.
The UO Trout Report: (This report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters) — It was a mixed message on public waters. Fresh stockers enhanced catch rates on nearby streams like the Tallulah and small lakes like Vogel and Black Rock. In contrast, Smith DH fished poorly, likely due to low, clear water and heavy fishing pressure, according to folks returning to our shop. The Chattooga DH saved the day for many other anglers as bugs hatched and fish rose off the bottom to take advantage of the drift. The bottom line now is that we’re approaching prime time. Most fish will eat what’s on the end of a very good, drag-free drift. When certain bugs are hatching, however, anglers will do better to match the hatch. Have the normal eggs, nymphs, and small buggers in tow, but be sure to carry a few dries (Adams, March browns, gray caddis, Griffith gnat ), and nymphs and soft hackles of our favorite March mays (hares ears, pheasant tails) as hatch-marchers. Study the water for fish and bug behavior and let them help you dial in that day’s winning combination.
Toccoa River Tailwater: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) — The river below Tammen Park has been off-color since Tuesday due to rain, but the forecast for the next few days is showing very little precipitation. Hopefully by Friday the river should be clear and fishable on low water, but in the meantime, Tammen Park is still clear for wade anglers. Cream Midges, Blue Winged Olives, and some remnant Little Black Stones are around, but I would focus on subsurface presentations right now. Try nymph rigs with stonefly imitations like Double Bead Stones, Tungstones, and Pat’s Rubber Legs as the lead fly with the dropper of your choice. Pheasant tail variants 12-20, Rainbow Warriors/Lightning Bugs, Holy Grail/Thrift Shop Caddis, and Zebra midges would be my first choice. Streamers are still producing well. We like to throw Galloup patterns like dungeons/mini dungeons in Yellow, White, Black, Olive, or Craw. Smaller streamers like Lunch $’s, Zoo Cougars, and Wooly Buggers will work well for the wade angler that needs something light enough for a 5 weight. Keep an eye on the generation schedule, as always. Previous schedules from this week have been pretty generous as far as low water goes.
Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Section: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) — The section is still too high to wade. Current flow is sitting around 800 cfs and falling out, so you may be able to float – use the same stuff as the tailwater report above, minus the midges. Don’t forget split shot if you do float the upper.
Small Trout Streams: (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company) — Streams in the Blue Ridge area should fish very well. They’re still a little high, but water levels should be falling out. I like to have some buoyant dries like chubby cherynobyls and Foam PMX’s for dry dropper rigs the slower moving water, but keep some smaller 14-18 sized mayfly and caddis imitations like Parachute Adams and Elk Hair caddis in the box just in case. For subsurface flies, keep a variety of weighted and unweighted patterns like pheasant tails and hare’s ears, stonefly imitations in blacks, browns, and olive sz. 8-12, wooly buggers, and San Juan worms. I adjust my technique to the type of water I am fishing – switch to high sticking in faster water, adjust split shot often, etc.
- Bass: (This report is courtesy of Matt Driver) — LAKE ALLATOONA IS DOWN 4.4 FEET, STAINED and in the 60’s. Bass fishing is great! Fish are active and shallow. Jerk baits, flukes and spinner baits are the key right now. Wolf packs of spots are feeding. Wind-blown points pockets are the best areas to locate fish. The wind pushes phytoplankton, which shad feed on in these locations. The bass use the pocket or point like a backstop to corral the shad up for an easy meal. Until the bass go on bed, this is the way to catch them.
- GON-tel: Spot Tacos
- Stripers and Hybrids: (This report Courtesy of Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service) —Temp. 61 degrees and fishing is good!! The bite has been the best I have seen this year. The white bass are making their spawning run up both the Etowah and Little Rivers. The Hybrids and Stripers are feeding heavily down on the main lake and should start their spawn migration run north any day now. The south end of the lake is also fishing very well right now. The threadfin shad are moving into the backs of the creeks and pockets and the Stripers and Hybrid are following the bait. Theadfins fished on flat lines and planner board has been our best bite. The fish are very aggressive and are blowing our bait completely out of the water sometimes. We are also catching some really nice fish blind casting jerk baits. Mid-lake is good too. We have seen some sporadic top water action out in front of Bartow Carver at first light. We aren’t catching big numbers mid-lake, but what we are boating are healthy fish. The Striper and Hybrid bite on the north end of the lake is starting to heat up and will only get better with the warming temps. I believe the spawn run will be in full swing soon, so grab the kids and go fishing.
- Crappie (This report courtesy of “CrappieMan” Jeff Albright) — Crappie are headed to their spawning grounds, but you can still catch them trolling in 5-10 ft of water at trolling speeds of 0.8-1 mph using Red Rooster custom jigs! Also look for fallen tree & brush piles close to the bank and throw some minnows & floats. You may also tie on a Red Rooster Jig and throw to the banks. Water temps are perfect for the spawn 60-65 F. The bite is about to get really good!
- Striped bass: (This report courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — Hartwell striped bass are cruising the shallows of the backwater areas. This is part of their annual pilgrimage to find flowing water in an attempt to spawn. The large tributaries that feed Lake Hartwell are your best bets, especially Coneross, 12-Mile, Powderbag and Lightwood Log Creeks.
- Crappie: (This report courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — During our routine sampling, I saw a number of anglers fishing for crappie this week on Lake Hartwell. Several were fishing around bridge abutments, but most were fishing around downed trees in the backs of coves. Lake Hartwell’s best locations for crappie are Eastanollee and Gum Log Creek.
- Bass: (This report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant at Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant) — LAKE HARTWELL IS 1.12 FEET OVER FULL, 50’s. Bass fishing is good. Warm weather coupled with some sunny days warmed the lake water up fast. Early spawning bass are up tight and bass are roaming all over in shallow water. Spinner baits in the 1/4 and 3/8 ounce size coupled with the larger Rapala X-Raps are catching shallow water fish. The warm weather will move bass shallow. Keep the Rapala DT6 crank baits, Wiggle Warts and Shad Raps handy. Keep an eye out for any fish breaking the water just off the main lake points and don’t rule out a top water bite. Throw a Skitter Pop or Chug Bug from time to time throughout the day. Work both the shallow and deeper water with these top water baits.
- Bass: (This report courtesy of “Academy” Jack Becker) — Back out on Lake Lanier this week. We arrived at the boat ramp at 7:30. The fog kept us from going out on the main lake until 9:30. Rocky banks 1/2 way back in the creeks held fish again. We could not get a bite on hard plastic baits, but slow moving Senko style baits and 3.5” Keitech swim baits fished slow over a rocky bottom in 3 to 5 foot of water allowed us to catch 9 Spots. Found water temperatures as warm as 60.2 in the afternoon. We stopped at several reef markers on the main lake on our way back to the ramp and my fishing partner (pictured) caught the biggest fish of the day on a jerk-bait.
- More Bass: (This report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist Hunter Roop) — Lots of anglers are practicing social distancing by hitting one of Lanier’s 38,000 surface acres, as evidenced by a packed Balus boat ramp on 3/19. Lake Lanier has warmed up slightly and now ranges from 55 – 60 F depending on where you are fishing. If you can find the “hot spots” and target the right structure and depths you will find the bass, which are just starting to move shallow and are actively feeding on small threadfin shad and blueback herring. Bait are moving shallow over rock and clay/mud banks in the morning, though their numbers would probably be even higher if the cloud cover weren’t so persistent. During sampling this week, we found several examples of large bass pushed far in the backs of creeks. We found a good number of spotted bass on the 8’-12’ contours over rock, but we netted these two largemouth in four feet of water right at the mouths of small feeder creeks. Burton Hatchery’s technician Joe Otto accompanied me on a survey of Mud Creek and put on a big smile when he netted this 6 pound largemouth. Target bass this weekend with shallow diving crank baits, mop jigs, and plastic worms in natural colors as the lake is starting to clear up nicely, except some of the smaller, warmer coves that are producing an early plankton bloom.
- And Even More Bass: (This report brought to you by Jimbo Mathley of Jimbo on Lanier) — THE MAIN LAKE AND CREEKS ARE VERY STAINED & 50’s. THERE ARE STILL SOME DEBRIS FLOATING LAKE WIDE. Currently the lake stands at 1.9 feet above full pool and falling as the Corp of Engineers is pulling water continuously and the surface temperatures have been around 56 degrees. The water has dropped 1.6 feet since last week’s report. The backs of the major creeks as well as the rivers are stained, but continuing to clear up. Many backs of pockets and creek arms are stained, particularly if they have a live feed in the back. The majority of our fish this week came from 10 feet or less. You will find the fish are very shallow in the stained water and further along in the pre spawn process and still a bit deeper and fewer shallow in the clearer water on most days but that too is beginning to change as fish are beginning to move up all around the lake. Overall, look on flatter rock and clay points and look shallow. Remain flexible as you search for viable daily patterns given the conditions and the fish changing so rapidly. Crankbaits, jerk baits, under spins, jigs, swimbaits and shaky heads will all still be viable options for rock fish and the ditch/pocket bites that are available. In general, I would chose the shallows early, and move deeper as the day progresses if the shallow bite fails. Also, be very careful navigating the lake there is still a lot of floating debris.
- Spots on the Fly: (This report Courtesy of Dredger, Unicoi Outfitters) — Lanier this morning as we practiced social distancing. Bunch of spots and one small striper in the morning fog. Good time to get out at dawn, watch the birds, and if no bird action, work the banks.
- Stripers: (This report brought to you by Buck Cannon, Buck Tales Guide Service) — Striper fishing is good. The water is still stained with plenty of floating debris. Flat lines and planer boards have been catching most of the stripers. Fish flat lines 100 to 120 feet behind boat and 30 to 40 feet behind boards using blue backs hooked in the mouth and up thru the top in front of the eyes. Look over 30 60′ bottoms around points and right off the channel. Gainesville Creek north and Wahoo Creek and Little River. Watch for the bird activity even if you don’t mark fish try that area and use your pool que to get their attention. Always have a down line because they are unpredictable. Remember Buck Tales it like it is.
- Striper Science: (This report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist Hunter Roop) — Striped bass sampling continued this week, and produced great numbers of stripers in the mid-lake areas on Lanier south of Gainesville Marina. In the early morning, we are consistently finding stripers over a 8’-10’ bottom. We will also find them piled into the backs of creeks feeding on blueback herring and threadfin shad. With the lake still over full pool, one can easily troll herring with either freelines or planar boards targeting shallow-sloped clay banks and secondary points. With regards to size structure, we are seeing really great numbers of the 2018 year class (fish on top in picture; approaching 20 inches) and signs of stocking success for the 2019 year class as well (fish below in picture; ~15 inches). We are also seeing some quality fish in the 10-12 pound range mixed in amongst the juveniles as well.
Northeast Georgia Lakes: (This report courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — The yellow perch bite is heating up in the northeast Georgia mountain lakes. Several perch tipping the scales near 2 pounds have been caught over the last week. Chris from Wisconsin was visiting our state on business this week and asked me for a few suggestions on where to catch walleye and perch. Based on the photo, Chris had good success. Chris was envious of the quality size and said he had never seen perch like this in Wisconsin. The quality perch fishery in North Georgia is a by-product of our walleye stocking program. Because walleye feed on perch, the perch density is reduced and their growth is accelerated.
SMALL PONDS AND LAKES
Bass, Cats and Bream: (This report courtesy of WRD Fisheries Supervisor Jim Hakala) — Don’t overlook your pond and small lake fishing opportunities this weekend. Pond water temps are running in the 60’s and the largemouth bass are moving shallow. On several recent pond outings with my son, we caught excellent numbers of largemouth throwing pumpkin colored Ned Rigs, weed-less rigged plastic worms and shad or bluegill colored crankbaits. The warming temps have also spurned a decent catfish bite. Worms or cut bait are all you need to entice a “whiskered” bite. Bluegill and shellcrackers are also moving shallow to feed, but they tend to be scattered. In other words, you may have to cover some water to land big numbers of either species.
If you don’t have access to a pond, consider one of the following publicly accessible small lakes at: James H. Sloppy Floyd State Park (Chattooga Co.), Fort Mtn. State Park (Murray CO.), Sweetwater Creek State Park (Douglas co.), Rocky Mtn. Public Fishing Area (Floyd Co.), Arrowhead Wildlife Management Area (kid fishing, Floyd Co.), Bear Creek Reservoir (Jackson Co.), Commerce watershed reservoir 51 (Banks Co.), Cedar Creek Reservoir (Hall Co.) or Lake Herrick (Clarke Co.).
Coosa River White Bass: (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist John Damer) — Armuchee WRD staff continue to monitor the Coosa River white bass run on a weekly basis. Catch rates in our sampling remain very consistent, with good numbers of fish to be caught in the section from Mayo Lock and Dam down to the Hwy100 bridge. We are still seeing lots of females packed with eggs, so the peak spawn still has not happened yet, but I’m sure it is coming soon. This weekend should be a great time to get out there with light spinning tackle, and hook a few of these mini-linesides. Expect lots of fish in the 1-2 pound range with the chance of some monster 3-pounders too. Check river flows HERE.
Upper Etowah White Bass (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist John Damer) — Our Armuchee sample crew was on the upper Etowah River above Lake Allatoona this week looking for white bass for the Fish Consumption Guidelines Program. They found decent numbers of whites all the way from Boling Park in Canton downstream to the mouth of Shoal Creek. This run out of Allatoona peaks earlier than the Coosa run, and we saw lots of spent females that had already released their eggs. This indicates we are on the tail end of this run. If you have plans to hit this section for white bass, go sooner rather than later. As a bonus, our crew also saw some really big stripers (up to 30 lbs.) around some of the creek mouths. Check river flows HERE.
Oostanaula River Stripers: (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist John Damer) — Armuchee WRD staff are also keeping tabs on the striped bass on the Oostanaula River, where these fish are known to spawn. This run has yet to really get going. Numbers have barely improved from last week, and most fish on the scene are smaller males, though our crew did find one 28-pound female. If you really want to try it now, I would target the lower part of the river near Rome as the fish start to make their way upstream. Check river flows HERE.
Chattahoochee GON-Tel: Franklin “white” fish run. Need Water Flow Info? Check water flows HERE.
Social Distancing in the Great Outdoors: Perfect Time to Get Outside
From the DNR Law Enforcement Division: “While many changes are occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspending Georgia’s game and fish laws is not one of them.”
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Southeast Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The southeast Georgia Rivers are still too high to effectively fish, except for the St. Marys. The other rivers are dropping out, and the panfishing should be great when the levels get right….hopefully in just a few weeks.
New moon is March 24th. 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 river to fish if you want to fish flowing water. Wyatt Crews and a friend fished out of Temple Landing on Tuesday afternoon for about 2 hours before torrential downpours ran them off. Wyatt caught a monster bluegill pushing a pound on a stumpknocker Satilla Spin. The duo caught a redbreast, a big bowfin, and missed a bunch of hits on chartreuse bruiser and stumpknocker Satilla Spins. The first Friday evening (5pm to dark) Shady Bream Tournament of the season was held March 13th out of the Kings Ferry ramp in the lower river area. Only artificial lures are allowed in their tournaments. First place was Dale and Emma Anderson with 6.45 pounds. Daniel and Tamara Gullion caught 6.32 pounds, good enough for second, and Bo Bright’s 0.92-pound crappie was big fish. The trail will be starting up regular Friday evening tournaments about every other week along with the monthly Saturday tournaments. Check out the Shady Bream Tournament trail on Facebook for more information. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 19th was 3.9 feet and falling.
Bucky Buckner fished Thursday at a spillway behind a pond and landed 20 warmouth and bluegills and a bass. On Tuesday a couple of anglers fished a Brunswick pond with cut bluegill on Catfish Catcher Jigheads and landed 2 dozen nice channel catfish. They also caught 4 bass up to 4 pounds on the setup. The bass must have been hungry (or blind) that day. I think we often give bass more credit than they deserve – heeheehee. I heard reports of spawning bass this week all over our area. The biggest I saw photos of was a 7-pounder caught in an Alma area pond by David Johnson. Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson fished over the weekend and landed a dozen bass up to 3 pounds. Chad also missed several good bites. They landed most of their fish on lizards and Trick Worms, but they caught a few punching beaver and crawfish plastics through lily pads.
Boy Scout Troop 469 from Canton fished the swamp on the east side on Saturday. They had a blast camping at Traders Hill Campground and fishing in the boat basin. They landed a half-dozen bowfin up to 7 pounds that they caught on Dura-Spins. Most ate the fire tiger color, but some bit black-chartreuse, and the chartreuse blade versions produced better than shiny blades. They also had a feisty chain pickerel on the spinners. Brentz and Alex McGhin fished the east side on Saturday and ended up with a nice mess of fliers, warmouth, and bluegill. They caught their fliers on yellow sallies. Another angler fishing from a boat that afternoon caught a bunch of fliers and just one warmouth. He was pitching crickets. The water level is good for fishing, and the water is warming. The warmouth bite should fire off any day now.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
I had a couple reports of folks not finding many fish this Saturday. One angler managed to catch about a dozen redfish in the creeks around Brunswick the middle of this week, but it was slower than most trips this past month. He caught his fish on shrimp and plastics. The whiting bite has been the best in saltwater. I’ve heard of folks catching them from the beach, piers, and in the sounds. Anglers reported catching whiting, seatrout, and black drum from the St. Simons Pier. Check with Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.
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