If 2020 was a bag of chips…

Got fish? Do you prefer to fish for a specific species or are you happy with whatever takes a nibble on that hook? Maybe you fish by location or by what tastes best on a dinner plate. Hopefully, no matter your preference, getting out to fish is both a reality and a relief these days. 

News to Know:

  • Thank YOU!: Did you Know that anglers, hunters, recreational shooters and boaters are the driving force that helps maintain fisheries and wildlife management? More info HERE.
  • Improving Access For You: The Georgia DNR Boat Ramp crew was out this week installing a new boat ramp slab on the Alapaha River in Berrien County. Check out the video HERE. Need boating access info? Click HERE.
  • First Fish Celebration: Want to document that special “first fish catch” for someone? Check out the First Fish Certificate (and lots of other “firsts”) HERE.

This week, we have reports from North and Southeast Georgia. Dare we say grab a jacket for you early morning anglers? You might need it as temps start to drift downward. Oh, and Go Fish Georgia!


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

Fall has arrived! The summer slump is gradually leaving us and as we move toward cooler temperatures, the fall frenzy will begin. Fish will start to move out of the depths of rivers and lakes to actively feed in the shallows. The next couple of weeks will have some of the best fishing opportunities of the year. Before you head out though, in addition to bringing us this wonderful cooler weather, Tropical Storm Sally caused temporary closures for some Forest Service roads and facilities. Check HERE for the latest road closure updates and HERE for the Recreation Condition Report. Now to the reports! 


Lake Allatoona: (Report from Joseph Heron of Heron Outdoor Adventures) — Lake Allatoona is fishing excellent and we are so thankful to have this wonderful and thriving fishery in our backyards.  Current water temperatures are in the 83° range lake-wide and cooler weather will bring cooler temps and more activity. We were beginning to see a slight decrease in lake levels and then we received some heavy winds and train. Look for chocolate yohoo water coming downstream.

These past several weeks have shown the Linesides to be schooling up nicely and there is a fantastic topwater bite we hope to enjoy now through the end of October. While this fantastic phenomenon has been prevalently witnessed and enjoyed around the morning and evening ‘golden hours’, the topwater bite can occur at intervals throughout the days and nights. Being on the water will surely increase your chances of being present during some topwater eruptions. We have seen sustained topwater boiling of hybrids, stripers and white bass in intervals up to a full hour during this time of year.  Always stand prepared for some great topwater action. Have a rod ready to cast that has a topwater lure or smaller spoon attached. While they are in a feeding frenzy, most any artificial you can get in front of them could produce. A lot of these fish are chasing and devouring small young-of-year threadfin shad that are still in the 1″-2″ range, though they do not seem to hesitate on striking a larger topwater lure being walked or even up to a 5″ spoon being pulled across the top or worked subsurface through the school.

If you are targeting the bigger hybrids and stripers in these mixed schools, I like to present.a.larger offering. With cooler weather approaching, the big girls will be coming down out that flowing, cooler and highly oxygentated river soon enough.

We keep an assortment of topwater arsenal at our fingertips. While one may not be able to cast a topwater/floating lure out as far as a spoon due to physics of lure design, when you can reach them on one that bite may be the most exciting. The floater let’s you stay in the strike zone much longer than a 1/2 oz. spoon, too. Mix it up as needed and find what works best for you.

Spoon ’em up! We talked about spoons a little, but not their primarily known application of ‘spooning’ up a fish from down under. Currently, spooning has been a very effective method for hooking up with all species of linesides. A lot of good fish are being caught in the heat of the day in water around 20-25 feet deep by spooning, and in the cooler evenings on flats as shallow as 2-8 feet deep. Techniques vary here, but bouncing a spoon of the bottom has worked well for us overall. If you wish to gain some confidence in spoon-fishing, be on the water and near some fishy flats at 730-8 pm. Cast a 3/5 oz Flexi-spoon or a 2″ Foley spoon, and work a slow and bouncing retrieve. They may be visibly feeding on top but if you are in 5′ of water, they are going to hit this at any depth while chasing bait. A lot of strikes here and even out deeper come on the drop or down-flutter.

Downlining: For the most part, the target start depth for downlining has been at around 15 feet down with live threadfins on a #2 octopus or mosquito hook. Frisky bait can be hard to top at most times, but we have witnessed that spoons worked through these same fish might produce equally well (if not better) at select times. Fresh bait may only last a few minutes on the hook with the current temperatures.

It is highly recommended to keep a freeline or two out with a frisky threadfin or small gizzard gizzard shad. Sometimes, this is the best technique and is proven to be effective nearly year-round. This is excercised easily in conjunction with fishing livebait on the downlines.

While the U-rig bite is always an effective method of locating and triggering bites from fish across points, humps and deep banks. When applied, we have had success pulling a mini-Mack about 100′ behind the boat .For us, this method is primarily being applied when scouting only or when higher wind speeds decrease the effectiveness of the other proven and currently effective techniques.

We have caught some nice Spotted Bass working primary and secondary points with a 4″ soft swimming-shad imitation in all white and gray/silver with black back produced well as did an all white and white/chart fluke rigged with a light 1/8 bullet weight.

Tightlines, friends!

Lake Nottely Water Quality: (From Senior Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — Water quality profiles were collected on Lake Nottely this week to assess habitat availability for coolerwater species like striped bass. These data can be viewed on Nottely’s Fishing Forecast map. While other popular sportfish on Nottely like black bass and crappie easily tolerate warm water temperatures, stripers prefer cooler waters (generally less than 80 F) which can become oxygen deficient during summer stratification. Thankfully TVA’s oxygen injection system, intended to improve water quality in Nottely’s tailwater, increases dissolved oxygen in Nottely’s forebay which attracts stripers and other species to the seasonal “bubble party.” Target offshore features like points and humps within proximity of these bubbles to improve your chances of fishing success. 

Lake Lanier Stripers: (From Senior Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) —  Captain Clay Cunningham was catchin’ this week, and reported Lanier’s stripers have made an unseasonably shallow migration recently thanks to the thick overcast and cooler air temperatures brought on by Hurricane Sally. They say every cloud has a silver lining, and while our foremost thoughts, hopes, and prayers are with those on the Gulf coast recovering from Sally’s destruction (including my Roop relatives in Perdido Key), one of Sally’s silver linings is the acceleration of fall-like temperatures here in North Georgia. These cooler surface temperatures move stripers shallow and have turned on an aggressive bite. Capt. Clay reported most of his fish were caught on artificial lures this week and sometimes in less than 10 feet of water.

Lake Weiss: (Report from Mark Collins) – “With the cooler weather coming in, look for the Bass and Crappie fishing to really get better. Bass fishing is fair, and most are on offshore structure, and the river and creek channel ledges. Spinner baits, Carolina rigs and medium to deep running crank baits are working well. Spotted Bass are doing well on main lake points and the creek channel ledges. Carolina rigs and crank baits are working well. Look for the fishing to be slow until the first cooling trend hits.

Crappie fishing is fair, and the bite is starting to get better. They are on deeper cover in the main lake and bays, and on the main Coosa river channel ledges from Cedar Bluff to Leesburg. Spider rigging, over brush, with live minnows and jigs is catching fish. Look for the fishing to get better over the next few weeks. Striper fishing is poor, and fish are being caught in the upper Chattooga River, the Cave Hole and Little Spring Creek on live shad, down lined about 8ft deep and free lined. Catfish are biting good, in the bays and creeks in 8-15 feet of water. Cut bait is working best.”

Lake Hartwell: (Report from Ken Sturdivant at Southern Fishing With Ken Sturdivant) — “Expect lake water levels to change quickly after the storm. Many lakes will be covered with all sorts of floating debris so be aware. Bass fishing is fair. Surface temperatures across the lake are dropping and this is bringing the Bass up to the shallower water to feed. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. An early fall pattern is just now starting so get out the crank baits and jerk baits ready. These are smaller bass but an occasional two or three pounder will show up. Fish the main lake points back to the secondary points in some coves. Many docks on the lake have plenty of brush and there is a fast, easy way to find it. Use the Lowrance down Scan technology with Fish Reveal can make spotting these fish as they move around. Use a Rapala Fire Tiger color Rapala DT6 and a Jointed or RS Shad Rap. Look for plenty of rock with brush piles or timber in the same area. Early morning, until about noon is the best time to fish this week.”

Lake Yonah: (Report courtesy of “Academy” Jack Becker) — I decided to head back up to the North Georgia Mountains to cooler water in search of Largemouth Bass this week. Water temperature was 75.7 degrees in this small 325-acre Georgia Power Lake. Cooler air temperature and the beautiful scenery made for a great day.  I was struggling until I heard the sirens and knew they were getting ready to release water.  I motored up near the headwaters and fished downed trees in pockets along the bank where I was out of the main current in 8 to 10 feet of water. I caught 6 Bass, all Largemouth, with 2 slightly over 3 lbs.  All of the bites were on a Texas Rigged Strike King Ocho and Kietech Swing Impact Swimbaits fished on Dirty Jigs Guppy Heads.  Another plus was I only saw 1 other boat all day. – Academy Jack

Kids Fishing Event (KFE): Bring your family to a fun, free Kids Fishing Event at Buck Shoals WMA tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 19th) from 8:00am -12:00pm. Kids can bring their special big person to help them catch and keep fish according to fishing limits (5 bream, 3 bass, 3 catfish). All you need to bring are your pole, bait (no bread or corn please), and your spirit of excitement! Other items you may want to include are water, bug spray, & a folding chair to sit on. This is the last KFE at Buck Shoals until May 2021! Register HERE. Hope to see you there!


‘Hooch Trout: (From Senior Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — Chris Scalley with River Through Atlanta reports that the Chattahoochee River below Lanier has been fishing really well lately. First, don’t be alarmed by the yellow-greenish discoloration of the water—this phenomenon occurs like clockwork during late summer each year. Why? Lanier has been stratified (i.e., layers of water are separated according to temperature-driven density differences) since early summer, and the oxygen-deficient lake bottom causes solid forms of natural metals (like iron and manganese) to dissolve and go into solution. The resulting outflows are distinctly discolored, reflecting high concentrations of chemically reduced compounds in the water. Ok, science lesson over, back to fishin’. Chris reports that a precisely placed and dead drifted dry-dropper combo has been very productive recently, but with the reduced visibility the key is to get your presentation right in front of the fish. Other productive artificial presentations have been in-line spinners like Panther Martins or large black rooster tails. A well-presented black rooster tail was enough to entice this stocky male brown to take a bite recently. Look for pre-spawn trout like these to be staging shallower as the cooler weather sets in. Setting up fishing lanes in a shallow run can be great a target this time of year. The shorter photoperiod signals the ‘Hooch browns to begin readying for the great fall dance, so expect an aggressive bite and challenging fight to the boat. Given all the recent rain Sally brought with her, be sure to check Buford Dam’s generation schedule before you go.

Bass Slam Challenge: The idea behind the Georgia Bass Slam is to recognize anglers with the knowledge and skill to catch five different species of black bass in a variety of habitats across the state, and to stimulate interest in the conservation and management of black bass and their habitats. We’ve even created this great map to help you narrow in on which species you’d like to chase after. An even bigger challenge – catch all 10 black bass species like Jeremy Holland, and Fred Wammock! For more inspiration, follow this great NGTO post. 

Preparing for DH Season: Cooler temperatures and much needed rain were bestowed to us through Sally. I was giddy as I drove through the Georgia mountains this week- brisk air and trees dropping leaves- it feels like fall! As the cooler air temperatures arrive, the mountains will turn gold, and the trout fishing will get better. With cooler than normal early fall temperatures, some of the fall hatches may appear on the rivers a little earlier than most years. Hopefully that’s the case as we all love swinging nymphs and soft hackles on a dead-drift. Delayed Harvest (DH) season starts on the Georgia rivers November 1st. DH streams are: Amicalola Creek, Chattahoochee River, Chattooga River, Smith Creek, and the Toccoa River. As you prepare for the DH season, check out this great resource by Jeff Durniak, for some helpful tips and more information.  Want more trout fishing information, click HERE.


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

First quarter moon is September 23rd. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE. For the latest marine forecast, click HERE.


The river was getting right before the rains. It will be blown out from the storm in the coming weeks, though. Catfishing will be your best bet with the rising river. You can also catch some panfish back in the lakes over the next few days while the water in the oxbows is still clear. Once the level gets high enough to wash over the oxbow banks, the entire lake will be as muddy as the main river. The river level was 3.7 feet and steady (78 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 5.3 feet and rising (80 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on September 17th.


Danny Brown and Scotty Harper had a great day on the river this Saturday. They flung bruiser Satilla Spins to catch a bunch of panfish. They ended up keeping 28 panfish and a nice bass, but caught lots more than that. A few of their bluegills were pushing a pound. The river level at the Eden gage on September 17th was 3.6 feet and rising.


The upper river was great for panfishing until the storm’s rains. Now it will be a few weeks until it’s worth going again. You can catch catfish on the rising river, but expect the bite for other species to be tough. The river level on September 17th at the Waycross gage was 10.3 feet (it rose over 3 feet in the previous 24 hours) and rising (78 degrees). The Atkinson gage was 7.6 feet and rising.


Catfish are your best bet in the tidal portion of the river. Put cut bait, shrimp, or worms on the bottom to catch a mixed bag of channels and white catfish. The upper river was decent for panfish until the recent rains. The river level at the MacClenny gage on September 17th was 9.3 feet and rising.


Catfishing has been excellent on the Suwannee River near Fargo before the recent rains. Chubbs and Bailey fished with their mom (Alisha) and dad (Josh-the photographer) on Labor Day and caught about 50 yellow bullhead catfish on shrimp. Their poles were bent almost the entire trip. What a great family outing!

Catfishing has been very good, with lots of yellow bullheads caught. Josh, Alisha, Bailey, and Chubbs went to the Fargo area on Labor Day and used shrimp to fool 50 yellow bullhead catfish. They had a blast spending quality family time on the river and making memories. The fall chain pickerel (jackfish) and warmouth bites should be good again when the river level gets back in good shape. Until then, catfish will be your best bet. The river level at the Fargo gage on September 17th was 9.7 feet and rising (77 degrees).

OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE

The bass bite has been good, and the lines to use the boat ramp have been commensurate with the bite. There were 7 boats in line Sunday morning waiting to launch and try their hand at the red-hot lake. The biggest bass I heard of being caught this week was an 8-lb., 11-oz. trophy, and it was caught on an artificial. Remember bass are catch-and-release……


The bite has been relatively slow in most of the ponds, but the number of reports I received was low this week. I’m sure someone figured them out well, but they didn’t send me a report. Plastic worms produced the bass I heard about, while crickets accounted for most of the bream. Catfishing was solid for the couple folks I talked with. Shrimp on the bottom was the way to go. The water will cool down this weekend, so look for the crappie bite to pick up some. Right now fish in the deepest water in the pond early in the day to catch specks. If you can safely access a spillway at your favorite pond, that is the place to be. The high flows will attract fish by the weekend, and they should be just sitting in the plunge pool waiting to be caught.


According to Okefenokee Adventures staff, the swamp water level is still high and the fishing on the slow side. Bowfin fishing by casting an in-line spinner down the middle of the canal is still your best bet right now. The water level was 121.5 feet (I like it in the low 120 range for the best fishing).


Capt. Greg Hildreth fished with the Bob McNally family on Friday and had a great day for silver kings. They went 2 for 7 while throwing artificials. The inshore bite around Crooked River has improved. The fish are still scattered, but you can end up with a nice mess during a trip. You will catch about 4 or more throwbacks for every keeper, but it’s fun setting the hook. When you see a shrimp kicking at the surface, cast to it. If you can get a lure on them quickly, you can usually catch that trout this time of year. I haven’t heard reports, but the bull redfish bite is usually in full swing by now at the St Marys Jetties. Put a hunk of cut mullet on the bottom and hold on. I prefer to pitch bucktail jigs at them (electric chicken and white are usually my most productive colors). That bite should be great for the next 2 months. 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.