YOU. You need to get outdoors. Yes, I am talking to you. Whether it is a solo trip or a full-fledged family “staycation” trip, go get outside. Georgia is home to so many opportunities, including Public Fishing Areas, Wildlife Management Areas and more (looking at you Georgia State Parks) where you can hike, fish, camp, wildlife watch and so much more. Check out some things to do when you are outside HERE.
News to Know:
- Take a Kid Fishing: It may be no surprise to many of you – but kids love to fish! Headed out for your first fishing excursion with a young’un? Check out some great info and resources HERE and HERE.
- Are you even Southern if you haven’t indulged in a “mess o’catfish” for dinner? Make sure to make that happen this summer! Tips on catfishing HERE.
- Bass Slammers are Slamming! We recently added 4 new anglers, including Austin Thornton (check out one of his bass in the blog header!), to the Georgia Bass Slam list. Will your name be on there this year? More info HERE.
- Flint River Striped Bass Research: Now, this is one way to get out of the Georgia sun, go underwater for some research! More info HERE.
- What Might You Need? Find out what you might like to have on hand for a fishing trip HERE.
Fishing reports this week come from North and Southeast Georgia. Make those plans to social distance and get outside (bring a mask for busy areas like boat ramps or trailheads) and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The peak of the summer usually calls for a major change in fishing strategy. A change that is different as day and night, literally. I have fond memories of “stellar” fishing trips to farm ponds during the mid-summer full moon. My goal was to cast topwater chuggers into the center of the rising moon so that I could see the explosion of water when a bass snatched my plug. And when my arm got tired of casting, my buddy Mark and I would grab our homemade frog gigging poles (a.k.a. broomstick with a nail on the end) and take another lap around the pond. Talk about good times and good eats! Well, apparently I’m not the only one who recommends summertime night fishing. GON contributor, Jeremiah, also agrees that night fishing is “stellar” across many North Georgia lakes and reservoirs. You can read his fantastic fishing report that is chocked full of tidbits of information on the GON fishing forum. Thanks, Jeremiah, for sharing your pearls of wisdom with the multitude of boatless anglers who have limited time and opportunity. Fish on, Jeremiah, and please continue to share your story.
Fishing reports from across North Georgia revealed typical summertime patterns for spotted bass on topwater in the early mornings and then retreating to cover during the daylight hours. Stripers and hybrids are headed further down lake in most reservoirs or retreating to the river headwaters in hopes of finding cooler water, so be ready for some striped surprises in the upper Hooch, Morgan Falls Tailwater, Yonah Dam Tailrace, and the Etowah. Small lake fishing is holding its own during the hot weather but concentrate your efforts on the shady side of the lake in the early evening hours. For bass, work a soft plastic bait slowly around visible structure (see Unicoi Lake Bass Photo). Around sunset, cast a small floating stick bait next to the bank (see Lanier Bass Photo). Hopefully, a few twitches is all it will take to draw a strike. For bream, toss a popper near the shoreline (see Bream Popper Photo). As evening approaches, cast poppers, rubber spiders and rubber ants to those small ripples of water where bream are feeding on insects at the surface.
Warming temperatures in the mountain trout streams coupled with parents getting ready to send their kiddos back to school reduces the trout fishing pressure substantially and allows the trout stocking program to throttle down a bit. Good trout fishing opportunities persist in the higher elevation streams and big reservoir tailwaters. Careful scrutiny of WRD’s weekly stocking lists will keep trout anglers in the game. Long-time fishing enthusiast and regular contributor to this fishing report, Academy Jack, perused the weekly fishing report and decided to take a buddy trout fishing on the Tallulah River near Clayton (Rabun County) this week. In Jack’s own words, “We started at the US Forest Service Campground on FS Road 70 and fished upstream to the first bridge. The road is very close to the water along this section. I saw several places along the road to park with access to the water for bank fisherman. We caught 6 rainbows on inline spinners (see Jack’s Trout Photo). Joes Flies and Panther Martins worked the best.”
The following snippets from across North Georgia are brought to you this week courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant, the Cohutta Fishing Company, local fishing guides and other avid fishing enthusiasts.
Lake Lanier is 0.37 feet over full pool. The main lake and creeks are stained and surface temps are in the mid-80s: Jimbo Mathley reports, “The majority of our fish this week have come from 25 to 30 feet of water. We have focused mainly on points and humps with brush for the majority of our fish. The brush in 25 to 30 feet is still holding fish and there has been some decent schooling action this week as well, especially in the mornings. The Drop Shot Bite has really been improving as well, so stay on the move and remain versatile with your lure choices to see what level of the water column in which the fish are willing to feed.”
Stripers: Buck Cannon Buck Tails Guide Service reports, “Stripers fishing is good. The fish have been active from Gainesville to the dam using the seasonal methods like down line, spoons, trolling umbrella rigs and lead core. There are pockets of schools in and around the creek channels. Using your electronics to search for the schools and once you have the fish under your boat use the drumming methods to activate the bite. The herring is the live bait of choice but they won’t last long in this hot water so change often, after ten or so minutes you need to check out the bait. When you put fresh bait down is when the fish seems to be working. Lead core has been very good using 1 and 2 ounce chipmunk jigs and a variety of trailers have been working. Try a variety of colors trolling 3 mph and 250 to 300 feet behind the boat or 7 to 9 colors if you don’t have line counter reels. The fish have been in the river channel breaks or when they change direction look to the points and underwater humps. Lead core sinks around 4 feet per color so watch your electronics to avoid hanging on the trees.”
Lanier water quality: This is a repeat from last week’s report but worth mentioning again (brought to you by Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop): Vertical temperature and oxygen profiles were collected on Tuesday this week at four locations from Browns Bridge down to Buford Dam. Figures of these profiles can be accessed on Lake Lanier’s Fishing Forecast Map (click the most recent attachment on each temperature icon throughout the lake). This information helps resource managers gather information about suitable striper habitat during stressful summer periods, and also helps anglers pursuing summer stripers. The vast majority of Lanier’s stripers (especially larger stripers) are now confined to the lower reservoir from Brown’s bridge to Buford Dam. Target main stem and major creek channels from the Flowery Branch to the dam at depths of 25’ – 40’ to target stripers feeding at the thermocline, and down to 90’ if you see stripers in the deep timber. The best habitat for deep stripers right now will be 80’ – 90’ of water near Flowery Branch. Trolling artificial lures or downlines with live bait (blueback herring or gizzard shad for bigger fish) will work. Vertically working a big spoon can also be productive. Remember that, unless you plan to harvest your catch, minimal handling of stripers and quick releases will better ensure your catch-and-release efforts are successful.
Lake Hartwell is full and clear. Water temps are in the low-80s:
- Bass: Ken Sturdivant reports that “Bass fishing is fair until mid-morning. The rock ledges where the channel comes in really tight is a favorite during the summer months. These areas hold a little bit cooler water and plenty of places for bass to hide along with good amounts of oxygen. A 1/8 ounce or ¼ finesse style jig with a twin trailer or a six inch finesse worm will work. Also use a very short Carolina rig with no more than ten pound test line and a very light weight. The bigger the rock and steeper the bank, the better the fishing will be. Vertical jigging bridge pylons is another good hot weather technique to use but downsizing is the key. It is hot and the bass are going to be sluggish so fish really slowly.”
- Linesides: Hartwell Striper Guide, Cefus McRae reports, “The stripers and hybrids have settled into their typical summer pattern, meaning they’ve moved to the south end of the lake and for the most part…they have gone deep. Although you might find them feeding throughout the water column during the heat of the day, the best time to catch lineside now is going to be early morning or just as the sun touches the treetops in the evening. By the way, if you choose to fish into the evening, be sure to drop a HydroGlow underwater light over the side to attract baitfish…and it won’t be long until the stripers show up. Start your search in the morning from the Seneca River Tugaloo River fork and work your way south on the river, all the way to the dam. Creek mouths and mid lake humps that rise to 25 feet, which also have a main creek arm nearby would be good places to drop a live herring on a #1 or #2 Gamakatsu octopus hook with a 3 to 4 foot fluorocarbon leader. We typically spool reels with 17 to 20 pound Stren mono and use 10 to 12 pound fluorocarbon leader. That way if a fish gets hung up in the standing timber, the leader will break below the egg sinker and the fish can swim away. Also be sure to have a MirroLure Top Dog rigged for top water just in case a school of hybrids comes up to munch on a wad of baitfish. If you want to fish mid day, pull out your lead core rods. Run 8 colors of lead core with 30 feet of 15 pound mono as a leader. Tie on a 2 ounce WhoopAss Buck tail jig that is tipped with an expired herring, and pull the rig along the edges of the river channel and deep creek channels. If you get hung up in the trees occasionally, then you know you are fishing in the right spots. Capt. Mack’s Pro Briella rigs are also catching fish in the river channels. Be sure you have an Umbrella Retriever, because you will definitely catch a tree, and you don’t want to leave your umbrella rig to the murky depths. SideScan technology by Lowrance/Simrad is a huge help when trolling, to let you see the schools that may be just beyond your trolling spread. Make a wide turn to move laterally toward the schools and you should have rods bending in a few minutes. Set the drags on your reels a little past the point where no line leaves the reel at your trolling speed. With too much drag, you may get a bite but the speed/power of the boat pulls the hook from the fish’s mouth. And a screaming drag also sounds cool! The Power Reeling bite is starting to fire up as well. You’ll be fishing in 60 to 90 feet of water that’s close to standing timber. Again, a 2 ounce WhoopAss buck tail with a Project X Pearl Saucertail will trigger the reaction strike. Free spool the jig to the bottom and then wind up at a reasonably fast retrieve rate. The key to catching here is you need to see fish on your sonar. This is a great way to put some extra fish in the box once the trolling or live bait bite has slowed down. Stay safe on the water. Use your SiriusXM Marine weather app to keep you informed on the afternoon pop up storms so you don’t get caught in them. And be sure to stay hydrated. Tight lines, Captain Cefus McRae and Buck, The Wonder Dog”
Lake Allatoona is 0.7 over full and clear. Water temps are in the low-80s:
- Bass: Ken Sturdivant reports, “Bass fishing is fair. Small keeper fish are being caught. The best bet for spots are brush piles in the 20 25 feet range where the thermocline now resides. The Lucky Craft CB D 20 deep diving crankbait in any shad color is working well after dark. Small jigs such as the ¼ ounce in a solid brown color and a also a ¼ ounce jig head tipped with a Yamamoto Cut tail worm in green pumpkin is working during the day. The drop shot tipped with a 3 ½ or a 4 inch Cut tail worm in a blue pearl color is also a very good choice. Sit on these deep off shore brush piles. The top water bite is very slow. Try the up lake creeks and try the river bite. Go into the backs of the river creeks and rivers and fish the creek heads that have cooler water running into the lake. Try the Flash Minnow 95 by Lucky Craft in Nishiki color on these fish in the backs of the creeks and rivers.”
- Linesides: Joseph Heron of Heron Outdoor Adventures reports, “Down-lining threadfin and gizzard shad has been the most productive technique but we are also hooking a lot of good quality fish on freelines. Our biggest fish this week (a beauty at ~20lbs. caught by young Corbin) took a 3.5″ threadfin dropped at 13′ down and ran like a bandit for another 250! The early morning working of a large topwater has also been showing us some love with quality fish. Those these are fewer and further between opportunities but the “swirl” is worth the time spent. Spooning has its moments too – it’s a lot of work though. With a lot of the bait holding on the upper 20 feet of water, trolling a u-rig or casting the Alabama rig/mini Mack’s across points has also begun producing. This pattern will continue to increase in effectiveness as we transition into a late summer striper pattern.
Carters Lake is full and clear. Water temps are in the low 80s:
- Bass: Like many lakes, schools of spotted bass are attacking bait at the surface in the early-morning hours so this is prime time for topwater presentations. When the sun’s rays hit the water, that’s the signal to switch over to jiggling soft plastics in the brush piles, over humps and along points in 20-25ft of water.
- Linesides: Carters Lake Guide Service reports that stripers are being caught at 40-50 ft during the first hour of daylight. Down-lines seem to be the ticket. Trolling umbrella rigs is another great technique, which allows you to cover a lot of water. When the sun gets up the fish seem to move deeper around steep edges, long tapering points, and trees.
Lake Weiss at full pool, mid 80s, and clear: Guide Mark Collins reports:
- Bass: “Bass fishing is barely fair. Bass have moved off shore to the old channels and creeks bends. Small Ra L Traps in chrome black back and chrome blue backs slowly cranked will get a few bites. Also try the Bagley baby bass crank baits as well as the green trick worms and be patient. The crank Rapala DT 10 and Fat Free Shad baits are good deep runners also.
- Crappie: Crappie fishing is poor and a few fish are being caught on the river ledges in 14 25 feet of water bumping bottom with minnows and Jiffy Jigs on the ledges of the old Coosa River channel. Fish are being caught shooting docks with 8 feet of water or more under them with the chenille Jiffy Jig. Crappie will tend to be schooled tightly and in only one small location under the dock, pay most attention to the darkest shaded areas.
- Striped Bass: Striper fishing is good and fish are being caught in the upper Chattooga River, the Cave Hole and Little Spring Creek on live shad, down-lined about 8 ft deep and free lined.”
West Point is full and clear. Water temp is in the low-80s:
- Bass: Ken Sturdivant reports that “Bass fishing is slow. Up lake the water is slightly stained and fish are holding in 12 to 15 feet of water. Use a Shakey head rigged with a small 3/8 ounce jig and a Bama Bug color trailer can work. Fish around deep blow downs on the main river and also target rock piles with bait suspended around them. Deep crank baits work and a Bill Norman DD 22 or the Lucky Craft D 20 crank baits are good choices. There also has been a fair morning top water bite on a Rico or Pop R but the fish have been blowing up and missing the bait. Try a stinger hook if this happen and follow up any missis with a Scrounger head and a bay pearl Fluke.”
- Linesides: Guide Keith Hudson reports, “I am expecting a really good topwater bite this summer because of all the newly hatched shad. Have a popping cork ready, and watch for schools of fish on the surface. Trolling, especially in the late afternoons, during periods of water generation, can be very effective.”
Burton is at full pool and the water is clear. The water temp is in in the hight-70s:
- Bass: Wes Carlton reports, “The Largemouth bite has been good the last few days. Seems to be an early-morning to mid-morning bite. Frogs in pockets have been working well. We have also been catching some nice bass on Sinkos working these in and around logs and rocks. The Spotted Bass bite has been great the last week or so. We have been catching most of our fish on a 25 to 30ft bottom. Underspins tipped with Arkansas Shiner flukes seem to be working best. We have caught some really big Spots trolling Lucky Craft Staysees 90’s while trolling for trout. This pattern should continue for the next few weeks as we head into September.
- Trout: The Brown Trout bite has been a little tough lately. We have caught a few fish trolling mid lake on spoons. I have been using Luhr Jenson Locos #2 spoons from my archive collection. Any color spoon should work this time of year. Catching these fish early in the morning at daylight seems to be the ticket.
- Yellow Perch: The Yellow Perch bite on! These fish seem to be everywhere in the lake this year. We have caught some healthy 14 to 16inchers in the last few days. Look for the Perch in 15 to 20ft of water close to structure especially grass. Panfish jigs seem to work good this time of year.
Wes definitely knows his stuff, but it was my old fishing buddy, Paul Turman, who taught me almost everything I know about catching yellow perch. Paul typically trolled for perch using a homemade version of the Lindy rig and for bait, he threaded a small piece of nightcrawler onto the hook. Paul’s “secret tip” was incorporating a chartreuse in-line spinner in front of the bait. This time of year, Paul and I would usually drag our baits near hard bottoms along the main lake channel in the mid-section of the lake in 30 to 35-feet of water. R.I.P., Paul, and thanks for the great memories.
RIVER STRIPERS & TROUT FISHING INFORMATION
Etowah River (by Cohutta Fishing Co.): “The Etowah River is fishing well for Spotted Bass and Striper, but the storm from yesterday/last night has blown out the river for a day or two at least. The current flow from Allatoona Dam is 958 cFs. As with anywhere you go right now, fish as early as you can or late in the evening. As soon as the sun gets over the water and the air temperature heats up, the fishing slows down. For spotted bass, bring a 9 foot, 6 or 7 weight fly rod with a matching, floating tropical or warmwater core fly line. Boogle Bugs and Gurglers are working well, but if topwater doesn’t produce for you, switch over to small 2.5-3 inch baitfish imitations like Lunch $’s, Clouser Minnows, and EP flies. For the striped bass, I typically bring a 9 weight rigged with a tropical clear tip intermediate fly line and a tapered, 20lb striper leader or I build my own leaders. I use 40lb, 30lb, and 20lb fluorocarbon to build these leaders.”
Toccoa Tailwater (by Cohutta Fishing Co.): below Blue Ridge Dam is generating from 10 AM – Noon and again from 8 PM – Midnight. Hemptown Creek is blown out. Water clarity may settle by Saturday if the rain holds off, but a little bit of color may help the fishing! Try smaller natural patterns: WD-40’s, Disco Midges, Zebra Midges, small soft hackle Blue Winged Olives, unweightwed hare’s ears and pheasant tails, and clear water emergers under a medium sized dry fly with enough split shot to get the flies down. 5x tippet should work well in the clear water up towards the dam, but you can probably get away with 3x and bigger streamers and nymphs in the dirtier water downstream!
Trout Streams (by Cohutta Fishing Co.): Small Streams in the area received a little bit of welcome rain this week and should fish phenomenally this weekend! These streams flush out quickly and can be fished all day long with success in the higher elevations where they’re canopied heavily. Some of my best creek trout have been caught on slightly stained and higher water, so if you can hit the creeks before they flush out, try fishing dry droppers with big dries, pat’s rubber legs, wooly buggers, and San Juan worms and don’t leave the big net at home!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Brentz McGhin fished the tidal portion of the river on Saturday and had a fun day. He landed 5 keeper bass, threw back 2 short bass, and broke off 3 times, as well. His bass and a bowfin (mudfish) ate Texas-rigged plastic crayfish. He also managed to catch some warmouth, bluegill, and fliers by pitching crickets. The mullet bite should take off with the dropping river, especially once it starts clearing up. Catfishing has been good for anglers putting worms, shrimp, and cut bait on the bottom. Flatheads were caught on limb lines baited with live fish. The river level was 3.8 feet and falling (87 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 5.3 feet and falling (90 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 23rd.
Ray and Easton Malone fished the river over the weekend and caught some really nice redbreasts, bluegills, and chain pickerel (jackfish). Bruiser Satilla Spins worked best for them. Some of the redbreasts looked from the photos as if they were approaching a pound, true roosters! The river level at the Eden gage on July 23rd was 4.2 feet and falling.
The river has dropped through the boatable stage this week, and floating is going to be the way to approach it this weekend in the upper river. The middle and lower river sections are still fishable from a boat, and the redbreasts and bluegills should be taking bugs, spinnerbaits, or crickets. With the water approaching 90 degrees, they will be a little sluggish, but you can still catch a nice mess. 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, so plan accordingly. The river level on July 23rd at the Waycross gage was 5.6 feet and falling (85 degrees). The Atkinson gage was 4.9 feet and falling.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The river is in good shape again, but it’s hot. Pitching bugs early in the day is the way to go for panfish, but catfish will be your best bet. You can still catch white and channel cats in really good numbers by putting shrimp on the bottom. In the upper river, a local angler told me that the level is perfect right now to fish limb lines for catfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage on July 23rd was 6.3 feet and falling.
Wyatt Crews and Katie Spires fished a Waycross area pond on Friday evening and had a blast. They caught 9 giant coppernose bluegill and a nice crappie on crawfish and firecracker Satilla Spins (about half on each color). They also had a small bass crash a buzzbait right before dark. They only fished a little over an hour for their fish. Chad Lee flung a chartreuse Bert’s Bug on a fly rod Saturday morning and landed 10 bigger-than-hand-sized bluegills. He also fished early Sunday morning and landed 4 hard-fighting 2-pound bass on poppers. Catfish bit best at night in this week’s heat. With temps approaching triple-digits, nighttime fishing is the way to go for whiskerfish (and our comfort)!
The water level is still a little high and the fish are still spread out on the prairies. Very few folks fished this week, but they did catch some bowfin (mudfish). One of the Okefenokee Adventures staff members is taking a guide trip this week fishing for bowfin. They are great fighters and very easy to catch during summer. All you have to do is wait for the sun to get up (they bite best the more uncomfortable the temperature is….) and cast an in-line spinner down the middle of the canal. I’ve caught over 100 fish per trip several times. It usually takes longer to get the fish off the hook than to catch another one. The refuge and Okefenokee Adventures have returned to their usual summertime hours (1/2 hour before sunrise until 7:30pm). Check the Okefenokee Adventures website for the latest on their services.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Capt. Greg Hildreth reported that the tarpon fishing slowed this week as fish dispersed into inland rivers and up the coast. There are still fish on the beaches, but they are more spread out than they were when they first arrived. He has been catching tripletail off the beaches well this week. The inshore trout bite has been good, but lots of the fish are undersized. Cason Kinstle, Justin Bythwood, and Dillon Metz fished the St Marys Jetties on Sunday and pulled out a good day at the end. They had a slow start, only catching a couple keeper trout and flounder, but as the day progressed the bite picked up for them. They ended up finding the bull reds around low tide. They put their hands on (and released) 5 redfish up to 39 inches. They also had a couple fish break them off in the rocks. Their “baby” was 28 inches, but all but that smaller one were between 34 and 39 inches. They pitched Capt. Bert’s bucktail jigs and Jetty Jigs rigged with Z-Man paddle tails and live mudminnows to the rocks for their fish. By the end of the day, they kept 3 flounder to 16 inches, 3 trout to 16 inches and had 6 throwback trout. Inshore, the bottom fishing has been good. I got a chance to go to the Brunswick area and St Marys Jetties this week. I tried to feed creek-bound redfish artificials and got 3 sight-fish and a blind-cast fish to hit Satilla Spin Magnum Spinnerbaits (redfish color) and Keitech Swing Impacts (figichix and rootbeer colors), but they just didn’t want to commit to them. They only half-heartedly bit. When I switched to bottom fishing around hard structure (rocks and pilings) I caught lots of fish. The best tasting were the black drum, and I caught about a dozen of them up to 20 inches. They are HARD fighters and great on the plate! The croaker, spot, yellowtails, and whiting also bit well. On the best day, I caught about 60 bottom fish, and incoming tide was best. I used dead shrimp threaded on a Catfish Catcher Jighead for all the bottom fish. It’s so much easier to re-rig by just tying on a jighead than fooling with rigging a Carolina rig! At the St Marys Jetties I used live mudminnows to catch 5 flounder up to 19 inches and a 19-inch seatrout. I also managed some throwback redfish, black sea bass, mangrove snapper, and lots of other bottom grubbers. For guide trip information, call Capt. Greg Hildreth at (912) 617-1980 or check out his website. Check with the Jekyll Island Fishing Center (912-635-3556) for the latest on the Jekyll Island Pier or St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.