Need a quarantine break? Georgia DNR Wildlife Management Areas, Public Fishing Areas, Shooting Ranges are open and give you a great opportunity to breathe some fresh air and spend some time doing the things you love (fishing, hunting, shooting, wildlife watching).
News to Know:
- Need some more ideas about what you can do outdoors in Georgia? Check out this blog post!
- Don’t fall for it! Scam fishing license websites continue to be found. Purchase your license only through the official www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com site!
- Fisheries Management staff have been hard at work hauling and stocking fish all over the state. From Lake Seminole to Lake Chatuge and everywhere in between, hatcheries have stocked a combined 2+ million white bass, largemouth bass, and hybrid striped bass fingerlings over the last week.
This week, we have reports from Southeast and North Georgia. Read up, gear up, 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)
As you are probably aware of by now, under Governor Kemp’s stay-at-home order, outdoor recreation (including fishing) is still allowed. While it is allowed (within the order’s guidelines of distancing, etc.), there are a few things you can do to make a more enjoyable and safe trip. For one, obviously stay a good distance from folks launching or taking out their boats. I’ve had good success by fishing the late afternoon or evening bite, as most folks have been going earlier in the day. I have fished some high-use ramps without a bunch of folks by choosing a weekday or evening instead of morning on the weekend. Private ponds are also a great place to get away from crowds if you have access to them. Take all your food and drinks with you so you can limit your exposure at commercial establishments. I have fished with everyone in my immediate family during the last month, and we have made some really fun memories and have reduced the stress of sitting on the couch getting on each other’s nerves.
The rivers are all in the floodplains now, so fishing ponds, the Okefenokee, or saltwater will likely produce the best bites.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The river is stained. I heard from a couple anglers this week that fished the tidal river but only caught a few panfish per trip. With the additional rains we have gotten this week, I don’t see the panfishing improving there for this weekend, but try it if you want. The tidal river is the only section worth fishing. Catfishing provided the best reports this week, as anglers reported that they bit well. Put a piece of shrimp or worm on the bottom if you want to fish a river. The river level at the Macclenny gage on April 23rd was 6.0 feet and falling.
The post-spawn bass bite has been outstanding again this week in area ponds. Bass are feeding up with reckless abandon and will continue until summer heat arrives. An angler fished a Blackshear pond over the weekend and caught 7 bass up to 5 pounds on several different colors of Senkos. He fished for about 3 hours. Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson put it on the bass again this weekend, catching more than 30 up to 3 1/2 pounds. Most of their fish were in the 1 to 2-pound range, and Christie Craws and Pop-R’s were their top baits. Spillways produced some great catches this week. Bucky Buckner of Waycross fished a spillway and caught 31 warmouth on worms and minnows. Another angler fishing a spillway caught some brown bullheads (speckled cats) on crawfish and a big gar on a minnows. With today’s rains, the spillway bite should do nothing but improve. Try it if you can safely access a spillway at a pond you have permission to fish.
The adjusted refuge hours at the time of writing this are 8am to 4pm. Okefenokee Adventures is closed but the café will make take-out lunches available during lunch hours (check their website for details- okefenokeeadventures.com). Because of the later start, you will miss much of the good warmouth bite each morning. Jackfishing should be good using in-line spinners and minnow plugs. You can catch fliers by pitching sallies around shoreline vegetation. Catfishing is tops on the west side. Put shrimp or worms on the bottom for whiskerfish.
DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)
The bass bite has been good. Anglers have been catching active post-spawn bass on plastics, spinnerbaits, and even a few fish on topwaters. The crappie bite has slowed down and the temperatures have risen. Panfishing has been good, with some nice bluegills and shellcrackers caught this week by anglers using worms and crickets.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)
The biggest bass reported this week was just over 10 pounds on digital scales. The same angler also caught a 9-pounder this week. He was throwing artificials, but I didn’t get which style lure.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
The whiting bite was tops this week on days when the wind and storms allowed folks to get out to the sounds. The Staton family from Tifton fished the St. Marys Jetties this week and caught a mess of whiting on shrimp, but the real stars were the hard-pulling sharks and even a ray that jumped while hooked. I heard my first report of tripletail caught this week, but they were all throwbacks. That bite will pick up over the next month. I heard some good trout reports from Crooked River. Folks caught them on both live shrimp and artificials. A few bull redfish should start showing up around the St. Marys Jetties, but I haven’t heard of any specific reports. I love pitching bucktail jigs to them! 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 Jim Hakala, fisheries biologist and Northwest Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Lake Lanier Striper Reports: (courtesy of Striper Steve of Striper Steve Fishing Charters): Striped bass fishing has been great since coming back from the FL Keys for about a week now. Fishing for stripers with large bluebacks and shad has been the ticket so far. We caught this 45”, 34 pound female striper (pictured) on a large shad yesterday, and what a fight that was!
More Striper Info: (courtesy of Buck Cannon Buck Tails Guide Service) — Stripers fishing is good. The better fishing is up the lake and when you mark fish with your electronics put out a spread of planer boards flat lines and down lines using bluebacks. Add a split shot to half of the lines. The points and short coves have been productive. The mini Mac has been working and be ready for multiple fish on a single cast and re-tie after you catch a couple of fish and refresh your knots. We are fishing on the Chattahoochee River above Highway 53 Bridge Sardis. Fish the up lake creeks like Ada Creek and Wahoo Creek. Remember Buck Tales it like it is.
Lanier Bass: (courtesy of Jimbo Mathley, Jimbo on Lanier) — Currently the lake stands at 1.0 feet above full pool and continuing to fall. The surface temperatures have been around 64 degrees. The backs of the major creeks, as well as the rivers, are still slightly stained and there is some pollen-related stain in the pockets, but overall the lake looks good. The rain we had today may change those conditions however. The majority of our fish again this week have come from 10 feet or less. You will find the fish are now shallow all over the lake. Points, secondary points, shallow humps, rocks, docks, backs of pockets they are all holding fish. We are at the point of the year where you can throw practically anything you want and catch fish top water, underspin’s, swimbaits, flukes, and shaky heads will all catch ‘me right now, along with plenty of other baits as well. The cold front knocked me back a bit and they are not as willing to chase, but they will still bite. Look for the aggressive bite to return as the weather warms over the weekend. Stay shallow and versatile to find the best options each day, and switch to a shaky head or Ned rig presentation if the moving bait bite is tough. Stay safe out there!
GON-tel – Lanier striper and cats:
GON-tel – Lanier bass: Click HERE.
Lake Allatoona Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Armuchee fisheries staff sampled Lake Allatoona this week. Water temperatures were in the mid-60s, except in the uppermost section near Knox Bridge, which was cooler. Spotted bass dominate the black bass fishery at Allatoona, and they were certainly plentiful in our sampling. High numbers were seen just about everywhere, but were especially thick on mid-lake rocky points, ledges, and drop-offs. We found some good largemouth and crappie in the debris jams from the S-bends up to around Little River. Some really nice shellcrackers, like the 1.5 pounder one pictured, were getting ready to spawn way in the backs of the small creek mouths. Expect to not have the lake to yourself wherever you go right now. Boat traffic was extremely high near the dam and around Red Top, but not as bad in the upper sections. Just remember to be courteous and give everyone else plenty of space.
Lake Allatoona Bass: (courtesy of angler Matt Driver) — Bass fishing is great. The top water bite is picking up. The bass spawn is coming to an end and shad spawn is starting. When targeting bass, fish the mouths of the protected coves with a shaky head tipped with a Big Bite 6 inch Shaky Squirrel 8-inch finesse worm or jig. Work it slow. Bass love the soft plastic jerk bait like the Big Bite Jerk Minnow worked quickly and this is a great way to catch good numbers. For the windy days, run mid lake points with a white spinnerbait with white blades, Alabama rig or a Carolina rigged Zoom green pumpkin finesse worm.
Lake Allatoona Linesides: (courtesy of First Bite Guide Service) — Lineside fishing is great! The spring bite is in full swing. The fish are coming back down out of the rivers and are feeding. Most mornings our boats are averaging 30+ fish. Threadfins and shiners are working well on both free lines and down lines. All the major creeks are holding fish right now. Fishing just doesn’t get any better than it is right now. Cut bait will also work when the water is a little dirty. If the river isn’t your thing then remember to be universal in your techniques on the main lake. This is the time of the year you can catch fish on flat lines planner boards down lines and trolling.
Carters Lake Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Staff from Armuchee WRD office sampled the main lake at Carters on Monday. Temps were similar to Allatoona (mid-60s). Carters Lake is known for its trophy spotted bass fishing, and we found some good ones on the rocky points. We also saw a few striped bass cruising the shallow areas in standing timber. Stripers may also orient themselves to the red clay banks looking for warmer water where alewives congregate. Water temperatures in these areas can be significantly warmer on bright sunny days.
Walleye are now coming back down from the spawning grounds on the upper end of the lake, and can be found in the main lake at Carters. Standing timber or blowdowns are likely spots along with steep banks. Angler Dave MacDonald and his son (pictured) have been catching good numbers for dinner by slow trolling spoons or crankbaits at about 2 mph.
Walleye Stocking: Summerville Hatchery and Armuchee staff harvested 80,000 fingerling walleye from Summerville’s two walleye ponds this week. These fish were stocked in Antioch Lake at Rocky Mountain PFA and Carters Lake to maintain the walleye fisheries at these popular lakes.
Lake Chatuge Bass Report: (From Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — Chatuge bass are moving shallow right now as water temperatures are approaching the mid 60’s. Largemouth like the pair pictured here were shallow in the back of Bell Creek and feeding on bluegill, while pre-spawn spotted bass were found just off the banks, often in 6′ – 8′ of water, on rocky shorelines like those encompassing Burrell Cove and Woods Creek. This was my first visit up to Chatuge for spring electrofishing, and I was surprised to see a clear, high elevation reservoir with so much structure–kudos to TVA, Chatuge anglers, and the other lake partners for the all structures and fish attractors we observed throughout the lake that serve as habitat for Chatuge’s sportfish. Lots of different techniques are going to work this time of year, so focus on fishing the right habitat over tackle selection. Baitfish were abundant in “green” coves showing signs of productivity, and if you can find the bait you can bet the predators are hot in pursuit.
North Georgia Mountain Lakes: (From Fisheries Biologist Anthony Rabern) — The North Georgia mountain lakes are the last part of the state to heat up for some outstanding shallow water fishing. Bass, bream and crappie are in the shallows holding tight to cover. Here are some pictures from our recent sampling of lakes Chatuge, Tugalo and Hartwell. Note, the redear sunfish weighed 3 pounds and came from Lake Tugalo.
SMALL LAKE REPORTS
Spring small lake and pond fishing overview (From Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver) — State operated lakes remain open, but many county lakes are closed so check before you head out. As restrictions are lifted, hopefully these county impoundments will be opening soon! Anglers will find most water temperatures hovering in the high 60’s to lower 70’s this time year. Expect these temperatures to fluctuate as rain and ambient temperatures will impact these waters much differently than a larger reservoir. A recent cold snap may have impacted some of the smaller impoundments so be prepared to change fishing techniques and depths depending on what time of day you are fishing. These are a few species and some techniques anglers may find useful when visiting smaller water bodies or private ponds:
- Largemouth Bass – Late April and early May weather can be a little unstable at times. Afternoon showers can bring sudden changes to bass feeding behavior. The bass spawn is mostly over in central Georgia so look for bass feeding in early morning and late evening on schooling shad. Threadfin are spawning this time of year so especially look for bass in early morning schools of shad. Successful anglers mimic lethargic shad by casting jerk baits and crank baits. Mid-day can produce some big bass, but look for these big fish in deeper water (10-15 ft.). Submerged timber and rock beds are popular targets when seeking bass. Remember bass are extremely aggressive this time of year. This aggressiveness is very beneficial for anglers seeking “lunkers.” Many techniques can be used this time of year. Texas rigs, crankbaits, slow and fast fishing, shallow and deep just about everything is working this time of year! Look for bass to mainly be in 5 to 10 feet of water. Bass will be occupying a variety of habitat from flooded timber to shallow points. REMEMBER – Schooling shad in the morning are often good targets while targeting rocky banks and points on windy days. Anglers should also consider targeting big bass after rain events. Muddy water typically will move bass into shallow water looking for forage fish.
- Crappie – The crappie are now most aggressive in early evening, crowded around submerged timber in deeper water. Anglers should see a slight change as crappie become a little less aggressive the later part of April. Flooded timber is the preferred habitat and the most popular bait is live minnows and yellow jigs. Try fishing cover approximately 10-12 feet throughout the day, especially in the evening. However, crappie can also be found hanging around rock piles and edges. Reports of anglers catching crappie ranging in size from one to two pounds are numerous this time of year. Yellow jigs and live minnows remain the most popular baits for anglers targeting crappie. The best thing about crappie this time of year is they remain aggressive throughout the day. Crappie will remain one of the most sought after fish – at least through April. Do not be surprised if the stringer fills quickly!
- Bream – Look for bream fishing to really pick up, especially as water temperatures rise. Typically, anglers will notice shellcracker being the most dominant catch followed by bluegill. But if you are like me, any big bream is good!! Look for these fish in 5 to 7 feet on sandy bottoms. Anglers can find this easily by walking the banks. Worms and crickets remain the bait of choice by most anglers. Bream can be caught throughout the day, but most anglers find midday typically the best time. Look for bream to be the most aggressive during the spawn while protecting their territory. Reports of shellcracker weighing over a pound are not uncommon this time of year. If it is quiet on the lake, that means the fish are biting. Rarely does one give up their favorite fishing spot!!
Everyone be safe and GOOD FISHING!
Lower Etowah Report: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — River is probably going to be blown out from the rain this week, but if generation allows, I would bring a 6-8 weight rigged with a floating or intermediate line on 12-16 lb leader. Fish flies that push water or put off a lot of flash – Kreelex’s, sparkle minnows, Cowen’s Coyote, Schmidterbaits, and Bulkheads will all produce spotted bass right now. The striper aren’t in yet, but we’re booking up our May and June calendar for float trips now. Call us if you have questions about Bass or Striper fly fishing – we’ve hung our hat on chasing these river bass for 10 years, and we keep a full stock of everything you need.
Lower Coosawattee River Sturgeon: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — WRD has received many recent reports of anglers catching lake sturgeon on the Coosawattee River just below the Carters Re-regulation Dam. Angler Craig Mealor is pictured with the one he caught last week. Remember that all lake sturgeon caught must be released unharmed as we continue to rebuild this population. If you catch one, it is okay to snap a quick picture, then please call our office at 706-295-6102 to let us know the details. Find more info about the Coosa Basin lake sturgeon re-introduction program HERE.
Toccoa Tailwater Report: (Report brought to you by Cohutta Fishing Company) — The tailwater has been fishing well outside of generation. The rain Thursday may have blown out tributary streams, but Tammen Park should still be clear. We’ve been flipping over rocks and finding big case caddis, golden stoneflies, hellgrammites, and plenty of different mayfly nymphs. I would try throwing some sexy Walt’s, Pat’s Rubber Legs in the variegated varieties, tan or chartreuse mop flies, holy grails in olive, and pheasant tail soft hackles under a strike indicator or large Chubby Cherynobyls. For hatches, have some Tan and Olive X-caddis and Parachute Adams in a few sizes. I keep a few Light Cahills and Sulphurs in my box this time of year just in case.
Upper Toccoa Report: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — As of 4/23, the river is flowing at 1,100 cfs and still hasn’t spiked out on the graph, so go somewhere else this weekend.
Small Streams Report: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — Small streams in the area should be fishing well. I would expect them to be higher than normal, so utilize split shot and high stick techniques to fish pocket water outside of heavy current. I would throw some larger stoneflies, wooly buggers, and San Juan worms in addition to some large Walt’s worms and tan or chartreuse mop flies. Flip over rocks and see what you find and match accordingly.
National Forest Area Closures: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — If you head through the Chattahoochee National Forest, there have been a few closings in group areas and campsites. I would call the Blue Ridge District office to make sure that the stream you plan on fishing is accessible. The number for their office is 706-745-6928. According to the Chattahoochee National Forest website as of April 10th, all national forest developed campgrounds, group recreation sites, picnic pavilions and all restrooms, as well as many trails, dispersed recreation sites and roads are temporarily shut down. This is a list of all the closings.
Trout Hatcheries Still Stocking: (From Trout Stocking Coordinator John Lee Thomson) — WRD and the USFWS continue trout stocking all over North Georgia. Expect high flows associated with recent rains so extra split shot is a must. Look for trout holding close to the banks to avoid heavy current. Additionally, high creek flow will have stocked trout spread downstream from traditional stocking locations. Check our weekly trout stocking report for the latest intel and remember to practice social distancing while trying to round up some nice table fare.
Want to do more to support trout fishing in Georgia? Consider upgrading to a Trout Unlimited license plate this year. Aside from being a great looking tag, each purchase or renewal of a Trout Unlimited license plate supports Georgia’s trout conservation and management programs. Hatcheries and wild trout efforts both benefit from the trout tag.