Make sure, as you head out for this holiday weekend, that you take some time to remember what this holiday means. Memorial Day was established to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. We are humbled and grateful to these servicemen and women for their willingness to serve and give their lives defending this country!
News to Know:
- That is quite an unusual catfish! The Jones family caught this catfish with strange looking “whiskers,” and reached out to WRD for more information. Catfish barbels are packed with taste buds and sensory nerves helping them find food using touch and taste in murky water. This very unique barbel (catfish whisker) is likely the result of a prior injury that caused an abnormal growth or a birth defect.
- Staying safe on Memorial Day Weekend: As we approach a busy Memorial Day weekend during the COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever that all Georgians and our visitors follow all health and safety protocols at all times while at our parks and beaches and on our state waterways and properties. The state’s social distancing directives remain in effect, and for Georgia boaters, remember to have a designated skipper and wear a life jacket. These guidelines and the procedures put in place by the state and DNR are designed to provide an enjoyable experience out among our natural resources while assuring a safe environment for everyone. Have a safe holiday weekend.
This week, we have reports from Southeast and North Georgia. We appreciate you and hope you find time to enjoy some family and friend time on the water this weekend. Now, Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Southeast Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The rivers have been the place to be this week (all but the Altamaha). The panfish and bass bites have been great for most folks. Ponds, saltwater, and the Okefenokee are still good options for the holiday weekend, as well. Be safe, and catch ‘em up this weekend!
The upper river was perfect for floating this week, and the middle and lower river sections were in good shape for motorboat fishing. Several folks I talked with this week did very well, especially in the upper river. Chris Nugent floated the upper river on Saturday with a friend, and they caught 39 panfish – mostly big rooster redbreasts. They caught them on several colors of Satilla Spins, and he said that the fish didn’t seem to have a color preference that day. Another angler I talked with got into a bunch of big shellcrackers and some nice warmouth on Friday and Saturday. I floated with my daughter on Sunday evening for a few hours, and I caught (and released) 52 panfish and small bass on Satilla Spins. The bite was slow until 5pm, then it fired off. Our biggest redbreast was 9 1/2 inches and biggest bluegill was 10 inches. We also had a fat 10-inch warmouth. We caught fish on stumpknocker, bruised banana gold, copperfield, bruiser, and electric chicken, but it was a 1/16-oz cracklehead crawfish that stole the show during the hot bite from 5 to 6. On Tuesday, I took off work and floated the upper river with Don Harrison and Ed Zmarzly. We got a mid-morning start and still ended up catching 109 fish. We released all but 2 meals-worth. Ed fished for bass most of the day and caught about a half-dozen on Whopper Plopper topwaters. Don and I flung Satilla Spins and caught fish on all the colors we threw (about 10 colors). The top color in the morning was a 1/16-oz. crawfish. In the middle of the day, I slow-rolled a slaw (white/chartreuse/orange) 1/8-oz. and did well. Late in the day, a 1/8-oz. fire tiger was drawing the most strikes, by far. Our biggest redbreasts were right at 10 inches. We had a big crappie, as well. The bluegills were mostly small, but was had a couple 9-inchers. Chuck Deen fished Thursday on the lower river and caught 4 nice bass on Capt. Bert’s black/gold buzzbaits. He and his friend also had 7 panfish and a small bass on beetlespins. Jonathan Guy and Gary Ware fished the middle river on Tuesday and worked for them, but they were good fish when they caught them. They had 65 fish total of about 9 species. Most of their fish ate Satilla Spins, but a few hit crickets. Crawfish was their best color, while bruiser, bus stop, and electric chicken also produced some. Take note of the Highway 158 Bridge landing being closed due to construction of the replacement Hwy 158 Bridge. This will affect anglers fishing that upper river area this spring, so plan accordingly. The river level on May 21st at the Waycross gage was 5.7 feet and falling (75 degrees), and the Atkinson gage was 5.2 feet and steady.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Ronnie Kemp paddled the upper river on Saturday and flung a crawfish Satilla Spin for a couple hours. It was his first time on the river, and he loved it. He ended up catching about 18 panfish – mostly redbreasts and bluegill. He found his fish mostly in the deeper holes. The catfish bite was good again this week for anglers putting shrimp or worms on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage on May 21st was 2.0 feet and falling.
The bass bite was really good this week. Davis Summerlin landed the biggest bass I heard of this week – a 11.30-pound monster! He caught it on a black plastic worm. Another angler fishing on Saturday whacked the bass on a vibrating jig (black/gold/orange) and beat some of his buddies in a grudge match tournament in a local lake. Chad Lee didn’t catch as many bass as he has been catching, but he had some quality fish. He fooled a pair of 5-pounders on a big bluegill crankbait this weekend, and had a 3-pounder on a Rat-L-trap on Thursday evening. I only had a couple bluegill reports, but those anglers caught some nice ones by pitching crickets in Waycross area ponds.
The adjusted refuge and Okefenokee Adventures hours at the time of writing this are 7am to 4pm (closed Mondays). Okefenokee Adventures will also provide take-out lunches at the café during lunch hours (check their website for the latest details- okefenokeeadventures.com). The warmouth bite picked up this week, and I heard of several folks making good catches early in the morning. Most caught them on crawfish – both natural and plastic. I haven’t received any reports of it yet, but the topwater bug bite for warmouth should fire off soon, if it hasn’t already. On the west side, catfish in the boat basin were the best bite. A few anglers fooled fliers by pitching sallies. Bowfin bit on both sides this week in the warmer weather. Expect the bigger bowfin on the east side. The water level is still good for getting around, and the yellow flies aren’t too bad yet.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)
I talked with an angler fishing live bait for bass on Friday, and he caught 3 fish over 8 pounds, with the largest at 9-lb., 12-oz. Lots of quality bass in the 5 to 8-pound range were caught this week. Bank anglers have been catching bream on crickets. The crappie bite has slowed for now. Remember, bass must be released, but there is a holding cage on the boat dock in case you catch a potential record fish so that you can get it certified.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
The whiting and sheepshead bites were the best I heard of again this week. Brentz and Claudia McGhin fished the Crooked River area on Saturday and caught 25 short sheepshead and 8 keepers by dabbing fiddler crabs. They also brought home 4 whiting and a bluefish. They caught 8 sharks, as well. Expect the flounder to show up any time at the St. Marys Jetties. 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 John Damer, fisheries biologist, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Carters Lake Striped Bass Report: (This report Courtesy of Carters Lake Guide Service) — Fish are scattered throughout the lake. We have been catching them from the dam to the river, from mouths of creeks to the very back of creeks. The key is to find & follow the bait and the fish will be nearby – just be patient. Down-lines baited with live shad fished 15-18ft deep have been very effective. Having a free-line live shad trailing behind the boat might get you a drag screamer too!
Lake Lanier Report: (This report courtesy of “Academy Jack” Becker) — We had a great day on Lake Lanier last week but found several of our favorite places already had boats on them and we had to cover a lot of water to find places to fish. Needless to say, they are what we call Community Holes but if your timing is right you will find they will often be holding fish. This week we were on the water at Balus ramp at 6:05am. It was 53 degrees, cloudy skies and a light wind as we again headed South. Our first stop, a long shallow 100-yard point was occupied by a lone Heron which we could see was feeding on baitfish that was being pushed up into shallow 1 to 2 foot of water. While we positioned the boat to drop our power pole and fish the leading edge of the drop off into deep water we saw several fish chasing bait close to where the Heron was feeding. Using Spinning Tackle with 18lb. Braid & 10 lb Flurocarbon leader allowed us to make extremely long casts without having to move the boat and spook the feeding fish. We could see an occasional fish chasing bait and sometimes as many as a half dozen fish were feeding. The key was keeping a bait in the water along the leading edge where the bait was being pushed up into shallow water. This was one of our best mornings of the year for Stripers, Spots and Largemouth. Shallow running jerk-baits and 3” Kietech Swim-baits were all we needed to use. Good Luck & Good Fishing.
Northeast Georgia Walleye Report: (This report courtesy of Follow the Son Guide Service) –Walleye are starting to head to deep water. Found a few fish feeding early in the morning on a steep drop off with a few trees on the drop. Fish are still scattered but should group up as the water temp rise. Rain and heavy boat traffic may hurt the fishing effort for this holiday weekend but it’s always worth the effort
Lake Lanier Bass Report: (This report Courtesy of Jimbo Mathley, www.jimboonlanier.com ) —Lake Lanier is .59 feet over full the main lake and creeks are stained and 60s. Bass fishing is fair. 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 from top water lures, under spins, swimbaits, flukes and shaky heads will all catch ’em right now, along with plenty of other baits as well. The cold front knocked the fish back a little earlier in the week but we look for the aggressive bite to return as the weather warms through 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. Also, fish are starting to gather in the brush in 15 to 20 feet of water. A shaky head/worm combo is a good bet to catch those fish as well as a jerkbait.
Lake Lanier Striper Report: (This report Courtesy of Buck Cannon at Buck Tales Guide Service ) — Striper fishing is good. Fishing has been stabilizing because of the weather. Temperature of 65 to 68 degrees north of Gainesville. Using your electronics and search for bait in the creek channels and over points in 30 to 50 feet deep. You may not mark many fish but using the drumming stick will draw the fish in. Blue backs on down lines are working so vary the depth of the bait 15 to 35 feet deep. The Mini Mac being used as a down line has in the same way has produced some fish as well. The white bass and catfish will bite using the same methods. Remember Buck Tales it like it is.
Lake Hartwell Bass Report: (This report Courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, www.southernfishing.com) — Lake Hartwell is 1.27 feet over full, 60s. Bass fishing is good. Rapala Shad Raps and Rapala DT6 crank baits are excellent baits to use during the times that water is being pulled. Also use the Berkley Square Bill 7.5 and 8.5 Special Craw 2 Brown Craw. Fish the back side of main lake points and the corners of the rip rap with these baits during these times. The small cuts and bowls and small secondary points have been paying off better than the docks. Expect the boat docks to start paying off soon. This is when the Lowrance Structure Scan technology can find the fish on the docks. Ride by them and scan out 80 feet with the blue palette. Use the 455 kHz to spot the fish. Mark the spot and then come back. Use the Strike King KVD Splash Bone Sexy Shad and Chrome Blue and the Bomber Model A shallow and Deep Model A.
Lake Allatoona Bass Report: (This report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, www.southernfishing.com ) — Lake Allatoona is .41 feet over full, stained and in the 60s. Bass fishing is good. Fish are roaming around looking for food. They are on the docks, wood and points in the creeks. Fish the wood cover and fish very tight with spinner baits with bright blades and floating lizards. Crank baits have been fair on the banks and Rebel Deep Wee R’s and #7 Shad Raps can find the fish and keep moving. Up the lake even in the off colored use the fire tiger and crawfish 7A Bomber and strikes will be very tight on any cover. Main lake points right next to the river points with a lot of rocks are the better areas. Expect the boat docks to start paying off soon. This is when the Lowrance Structure Scan technology can find the fish on the docks. Ride by them and scan out 80 feet with the blue palette. Use the 455 kHz to spot the fish. Mark the spot and then come back.
Weiss Lake Report: (This report Courtesy of Mark Collins Service, 256-779-3387) — Weis Lake is at 0 feet 2 inches below full pool and light stained to clear and 70-74 degrees. Bass fishing is fair and the fish are on the beds. The Spotted Bass are doing well. Expect the boat docks to start paying off soon. This is when the Lowrance Structure Scan technology can find the fish on the docks. Ride by them and scan out 60 feet with the blue palette. Use the 455 kHz to spot the fish. Mark the spot and then come back. Crappie fishing is fair. The fish have spawned and are moving to deeper cover near the spawning areas. Striper fishing is fair. Some fish are starting to be caught in the upper Chattooga River on live shad.
SMALL LAKE REPORTS
Arrowhead WMA Lake Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Bream fishing is really good right now at Arrowhead WMA Lake. A container of red wigglers only lasted a little over an hour for my family last Sunday, as the bluegill were very hungry. My girls caught several hand-sized bull ‘gills by hanging their worms/splitshot about 24” under a bobber. The feeding/fertilization program in this lake really is paying off with some big hand-sized bream being caught lately, including the twin half-pounders pictured. Other families seemed to be having good success as well. Don’t overlook the small lake too. I saw many bass cruising the shoreline and the brush piles. One of them looked to be in the 5-6 pound range! Just be sure to get out there early to beat the heat and crowds when the weather is nice.
Bear Creek Reservoir Report: (From Fisheries Biologist Sarah Baker) — If you want to catch a lot of fish, head to Bear Creek Reservoir this weekend. Fish for largemouth bass using post-spawn patterns. Square-bill crankbait, flukes fished aggressively, topwaters like buzzbaits are deadly, and of course, frogs. There is an access fee (per person), and hours are 6:00am until 8:00pm Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, and Memorial Day. Be sure to check out their rules & regulations HERE.
Lower Etowah Report: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — The Etowah River is fishing well right now. According to the Corps of Engineers, Allatoona Dam won’t be generating for the summer due to maintenance. What this means, is that we will have continuous flow out of the dam, but instead of short pulses at 7000/8000 cfs, we will see a slightly higher than average “low” flow maintained over a longer period of time to control the lake level. Instead of calling the Corps for flows, it may be best this summer to keep an eye on the USGS gauge for Allatoona Dam to check the flow coming from the dam. What this means for the fishing is that your choice of gear should vary based on the flow: full sink, intermediate, and floating lines all will have their place. I’m swapping my lines to tropical core this week. Fish heavier 20lb + leader for striper, but let the approach and technique decide your leader size for the Spotted Bass (as light as 8lb and as heavy as 16lb). Keep your boxes stocked with flies of every weight variety. For Striper, I like have clouser minnows/Flashtail Whistlers tied with medium, large, and extra large eyes, unweighted patterns like flashfire mushies, hollow fleyes, and EP Patterns. The only thing I would do differently for bass, is to carry a few topwater patterns like Swim Frogs, Flat Fred’s, and Gurglers for early morning and late afternoon. Book your Etowah trip by calling us here at the shop: 706-946-3044.
Northwest Georgia River Striper Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Striped bass spawning is pretty much done for the year. Nearly all the females are spent, and though they may weigh less than they did a month or two ago, they are also hungrier and ready to eat your bait! Spawning run fish are now heading back downstream out of the Oostanaula looking for summer habitat. Normally, many of these fish would hang a left and head up the Etowah. However, the maintenance project at Allatoona Dam means water temps in the Etowah are warmer than normal for now, and we are seeing far fewer numbers of fish in the Etowah compared to past years. We sampled the Hardin Bridge to 411 section this week and found a few around the rock garden up to 30 pounds (sorry no pics this time!). Look for water temps to cool off soon as the Corps begins to release more water from the bottom of the lake rather than the surface gates. In the meantime, we are seeing high numbers of stripers on the Coosa starting at the confluence and continuing downstream. Most of these are small fish less then 8 pounds, but they are still feisty and relatively easy to catch.
Northeast Georgia River Bass Report: (From Retired Fisheries Supervisor Jeff “Dredger” Durniak) — Dredger hit one of the larger rivers in NE Georgia this week. He said there were tons of gar, but he could not get them to take, given that they had romance (not eating) on their minds. He did fool this nice shoal bass on a Hairy Fodder. Dredger was nice enough to post the tying recipe on NGTO with the following instructions. “Fish on a long leader. Cast up and bounce it back down to you. Also cast quartering down and twitch it right in front of the bass addy (ledge or log). This isn’t fru-fru salmonids, so try a stout 9 foot, 0X leader and cross the river bass eyes with A hookset from your fast-action 6 or 7 weight. If you’re a greedy Rabunite, drop a size 4 black bugger or leech off the back of your Fodder. Soon the rivers will drop and warm and the predators will look up at dusk. It will then be popper and bomber time (a future thread installment) Right now, feed ‘em lobster!”
Trouting Tips: (From Fisheries Biologist Sarah Baker) — It’s not so much what you fish with, but how you fish. Try giving a little attention to stream substrate. Check out this great article by Jason Tucker to learn more about what’s on the bottom of a stream, and how trout and their prey relate to it. Hatchery staff have stocked some beautiful Rainbows all throughout North Georgia, so be sure to check out the Stocking Report to find a stream to explore in your county. For headwater streams, I’ve been doing my research, and May means Dark30 time; so be sure to get up real early or stay until sundown. Best bets are beetles, ants, caddis, cahills, and yellows (sallies and stones).
Summerville Stocking Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — Summerville Hatchery staff stocked more than 5,000 trout in 20 northwest Georgia streams this week in preparation for the holiday weekend. All the most popular spots received fish, like Johns, West Armuchee, and Little Cedar, but you might try some of the smaller streams with less pressure to get away from crowds. Remember, you can find out all the streams that were stocked this week (and every week) by going to the Trout Fishing page on our website. You can also sign up to receive these updates automatically while on that page.
Small Stream Report: (From Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — My oldest daughter and I tried out one of our local stocked streams last weekend. We got a late start, and the lower access areas were already packed with anglers, so we decided to wade upstream from the uppermost access. We caught a couple trout and missed several more on a homemade inline spinner. I also tried using the flyrod, but the fish were after something meatier than my small dries and terrestrials. We also caught a bunch of beautiful redeye bass, including the 9-incher pictured. Redeye (Coosa) bass are native to the smaller rivers and streams in the Coosa basin and can often be caught where we stock trout, though they tend to be less spooky as you get away from the most popular spots.
Toccoa Tailwater Report: (Cohutta Fishing Company) — The Toccoa Tailwater is fishing well, but rain in the forecast may blow out the tributaries downstream of Tammen Park this weekend. If the rain holds off or is light enough to keep things clear, I would recommend bringing both a 5/6 weight rod rigged with a dry/dropper and a 4 weight dry fly rod to the river if you are floating. For the wade fisherman, an 8 ft 6 inch 4 weight or 9ft 5 weight will cover all of your needs, but be prepared to change out your rig quickly if fish become surface oriented. I start with a 7.5 ft 4x/5x leader on my dry droppers, but I fish a straight 9ft 5x leader with dry flies. Sulpurs, Light Cahills, and Blue Winged Olives all hatch this time of year, so carry a box full of dries and emergers to imitate. For subsurface rigs, I like to fish a large dry fly instead of a bobber this time of year, and I drop one or two flies off the back. Try some stonefly imitations (pat’s rubber legs, double bead stones) and wooly buggers for the lead fly. For the dropper, I would have some smaller 16-18 soft hackle pheasant tails, Split Case PMD’s, El Diablos, Red Alerts, and Batman Nymphs in blue.
Dredger Small Stream B&B: (From Retired Fisheries Supervisor Jeff “Dredger” Durniak) — Dredger told us that now is a great time to hit the small wild trout streams looking for “B&B”. Nope that’s not bed and breakfast, but bugs and brookies. He sent several pics of big mayflies and stoneflies and several nice brookies landed on a recent trip with another recent WRD retiree “Sautee”. Experienced anglers know that mid/late spring is often the best small stream trout fishing of the year, as that is when the big bugs are hatching and trout are looking for them.
Small Streams Report: (This report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — Small streams in the area may rise this weekend and then stabilize quickly, so be prepared to change techniques as the conditions fluctuate. I like to high stick bigger patterns like wooly buggers and stonefly nymphs with split shot in the higher, off color water, but I will change to a dry/dropper consisting of either a light parachute adams/purple haze/Mr. Rapidan with a soft hackle dropper or a small PMX/Chubby with a lighter stonefly nymph dropper when flows stabilize. Anything yellow this time of year is a good bet, but as the sourwood worms come out of the trees, a bright chartreuse mop fly or greenie weenie below a Chubby Chernobyl will work well. In lower water conditions, stay back off the pools and fish lighter 5x tippet.
Lower Pool Park Scheduled to Re-Open: Beginning this Saturday, May 23rd, the Corps of Engineers at the Lake Lanier Project office plans to open Lower Pool Park (west) again. DNR has resumed stocking of rainbow trout on the Lanier tailwater as these public access locations have been re-opened. After a two-month breather on fishing pressure, expect good fishing opportunities at Lower Pool Park and along the Lanier tailwater this weekend!