Tomorrow is National Hunting and Fishing Day, and while this year looks a little different, we can still safely get outside and enjoy everything that this great state has to offer!
News to Know:
- FREE FISHING DAY: Sept. 26, 2020 is a Free Fishing Day in Georgia. What does that mean? On this day, residents do NOT need a fishing license or a trout license to fish on any public waters in the state including lakes, streams, ponds and public fishing areas.
- The Wildlife Resources Division, in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, will stock trout to support excellent fishing opportunities on National Hunting and Fishing Day. Some freshly stocked waterbodies will include Rock Creek in Fannin County, Smith Creek at Unicoi State Park in White County, and Wildcat Creek in Rabun County. Take advantage of the free fishing day and go wet a line!
- Need a video to get you excited? How about this one from Austin Thornton about one of his Georgia Bass Slam catches, or this one from fishing friend Eric and his son Adrian, as they visit the famed Georgia site of the world record largemouth catch.
This week, we have reports from Central, Southeast and North Georgia. Be sure to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day with your family and friends, one way to do that is to Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Steve Schleiger, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant
LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, 80’S
Bass fishing is fair. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. Now is the time to fish the back side of the Rip Rap and the islands with the Rapala Shad Raps in silver, black and gold and fire tiger colors. Switch back and forth between the number Rapala’s #5 and #7. Most of the fish slamming these baits will be spotted bass. Make your casts long and use a slow retrieve. Some bass are in less than three feet of water. Pearl Zoom Super Flukes on a spinning reef and Sufix braid can make the long casts needed to get to the fish.
CLARKS HILL IS 1.26 FEET OVER FULL, 80’S
Bass fishing is fair. Use the Rapala Rattlin’ Rap up in the rivers. Red Crawdad with a chartreuse belly is a local favorite. Locate the small chunk rock and throw the Shad Raps in close. An occasional bump on the bottom during the retrieve will increase the number of strikes. Use ten-pound test Sufix clear test line on a medium to medium heavy action rod. Another excellent bait for fishing during the fall is Storm Wiggle Wart. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. Fish the bank, especially those with a good drop off to deep water, along with those long, run-out points this week with the Warts. A lot of noise and the wide wobble will call the bass in. 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 easier as they move around.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL 80’S
(This Lake Oconee fishing report is by Captain Mark Smith of Reel Time Service. 404-803-0741) —
- Bass: Bass fishing is good. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. As the water temperatures drop the fish are starting to move back into the shallow water. Use the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to find the fish on the summertime holes and along the shoreline. Look for docks where deep water is nearby and fish a small crankbait or Texas rigged worm. There has been a very large mayfly hatch around the lake. If you can find mayflies near deep water, use top water baits in those areas. Scan the sea walls in Richland Creek for an early fall pattern.
- Crappie: Crappie fishing is fair. Fishing with lights at night under the bridges will bring in some good fish. During the day fish with live minnows over the brush in 10 to 15 foot of water. Drop the baits to just on top of the brush and slowly work placing the bait higher and lower in the water until the right depths they are holding on. This is when the Lowrance down Scan technology with Fish Reveal can make spotting these fish easier as they move around.
- Striped Bass: Line side fishing is good. The fish are schooling in the early morning and late in the day all over the lake. Live shad fished down the lake is also bringing in a few fish.
WEST POINT LAKE IS .98 FEET OVER 80’S
Bass fishing is good. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. Have a Pop R and a small Sammy ready on a sinning reel with 10-pound test Sufix Elite line so you make 100-foot casts to the fish. Some line sides are also about to start feeding on the top also. The lake is beginning to transition from its summer pattern to its fall pattern. The fish are scattered as the fall patterns start and they are moving all over the lake, so anglers have to move and fish a lot of places to catch them. Look for largemouth and spots on points, roadbeds and back in the coves. Use the crank baits as the fish chase shad back in the coves. The magic depth is 14 feet; we caught most of our bass at this depth on Rat L Traps.
LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.77 FEET 80’S
Bass fishing is good. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. Fish are on top water baits during early morning mostly in coves from the mouth to about half-way in. Most any shallow cover can hold a fish, but seawalls seem to be best. Pop R’s, Chug Bug’s, Tiny Torpedo’s, or similar baits should produce a fish or two for the angler that concentrates on early morning top water. Docks and boat houses are now the primary places to hunt for bass. Soft plastics and jigs are the most reliable baits, although any of several other choices could produce well on a given day. Lightweight Texas rigs with Zoom Trick or Finesse worms have fooled fish recently. A short leader Carolina rig is another good choice. Use a 6 to 12-inch leader and the lightest weight possible. This rig can be cast underneath docks when the lake is low but is used primarily along the sides and front of docks. Try the Spotsticker and worm combo. Try a 1/8-ounce jig head with a Zoom Finesse worm. The worm can be threaded onto the hook similar to a Texas rig to make it Weedless. The worm can be bent toward the hook shaft and the hook point inserted lower than normal. This will cause the tail of the worm to stand up during retrieve. Try the worm rigs with green pumpkin, natural blue, June bug and black. Also try a jig with a Zoom Salty Chunk trailer.
LAKE JACKSON IS 1,10 FEET OVER FULL, 80’S
Bass fishing is fair. There are a lot of patterns that are catching bass right now, but it’s hard to nail down which is best. As it cools down the fish will be feeding on top. Fish are being caught in a variety of areas and depths, so it’s not just a matter of changing lures. The crankbait bite might be the best with Middle N’s and Fat Free Shad crank baits as good choices. Target the rock walls. Pig and jigs in 10 to 15 feet of water around structure is producing. Try this pattern in shallow brush piles. Some activity has been seen on top water lures. Many docks on the lake have plenty of brush and there is a fast and easy way to find it. The Lowrance down Scan technology with Fish Reveal can make spotting these fish easier as they move around.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Almost all flowing water is high, and most rivers are muddy. This is a great week to spend time at a Public Fishing Area, a pond, lakes, or saltwater. Tides are very fishable this week, and the trout and redfishing should be very good if winds allow.
The Darien area for catfish is your best option if you want to fish the Altamaha. Put a shrimp or piece of cut bait on the bottom for the smaller, but tasty white catfish or channels. For big channels and blues put a large cut bait on the bottom, and for flatheads use a live bait. You may still be able to find an oxbow lake with decent water clarity, but it’s likely that the river level has gotten high enough to wash over the oxbow banks and muddy most of the oxbows. The river level was 10.8 feet and rising (70 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 8.6 feet and rising (76 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on September 24th.
The White Oak Creek area for white catfish is your best option, as the upper river is blown out. For white cats, put a shrimp on the bottom at the mouth of the runouts during outgoing tide, and you will catch them. The river level on September 24th at the Waycross gage was 8.5 feet and falling (72 degrees). The Atkinson gage was 9.1 feet and rising.
ST. MARYS RIVER
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 is still blown out for panfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage on September 24th was 8.7 feet and falling.
The crappie bites have picked up on both of these PFAs. Long-line trolling artificials, drifting minnows, and dropping to deep structure have all worked for crappie. Take your pick on the presentation, and you should catch some fish.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)
The crappie bite has picked up this week. An angler fishing on Thursday morning caught 20 specks up to 13 inches. The bass bite was good this week, also, but I didn’t hear of any fish over 8 pounds. The effort has been high, with a half-dozen or more boats fishing the lake each day – even during the week. Remember bass are catch-and-release……
The crappie bite started this week in Waycross area ponds. It wasn’t hot and heavy, but anglers caught a few by drifting minnows. Bass fishing was decent with plastic worms and frogs around shallow vegetation and wood cover. Early in the morning you can still convince a bass that a buzzbait is a mouse trying to get away from it. This is the time of year that I have had good success drifting worms and a split-shot across offshore structure for big bluegills in Waycross area ponds. If you can safely access a spillway at your favorite pond, the water should still be flowing and the fish should still be sitting in the spillway.
The swamp water level is still high, and the fishing is slow. I took my son and wife riding in the boat on the east side of the swamp checking out the wildflowers and animals and had a blast for a couple hours this weekend. The water level is so high that getting around is no problem. I made a couple dozen casts just to convince myself that it was a slow bite, and I confirmed it to myself. In a couple of my favorite spots I did not get any bites. If you still want to go, your best bet is to cast an in-line spinner down the middle of the canal for bowfin or pickerel (jackfish) or put a shrimp on the bottom for catfish. The water level is 121.6 feet (I like it in the low 120 range for the best fishing).
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Weather was perfect for marsh hen hunting this weekend with the big tides and high winds Capt. Greg Hildreth had a few good marsh hen trips over the weekend. I heard of a few bull redfish being caught off the beaches (surf fishing) and piers in the Brunswick area. The bull redfishing is just getting cranked up, as is the trout fishing in the inshore rivers. This weekend’s tides are going to be great for trout fishing, but check the winds before planning a trip. 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.
(Fishing report courtesy of Hunter Roop, fisheries biologist, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Cooling fall weather will change many fishes’ daily patterns and likely how you fish for them in any one of Georgia’s diverse river and reservoir resources. As such, consider visiting or perhaps revisiting Georgia’s annual reservoir and river Fishing Forecasts before you hit the water. Forecasts contain information on fishing hot spots, target species, fishing techniques, detailed interactive maps, boating and angling access points, fish attractor locations, stream gauge data and more. Let our forecasts help personally guide you to some successful fishing action this fall!
WEISS LAKE IS AT 1 Foot 1 INCHES BELOW FULL POOL AND CLEAR AND 70s: (by Mark Collins Guide Service) — With the cooler weather coming in look for the Bass and Crappie fishing to really get better. Bass fishing is good. Most are on off shore structure, and the river and creek channel ledges, spinner baits, Carolina rigs and medium to deep running crank baits are working well, a lot of fish are starting to move shallow as the water cools down. Crappie fishing is fair. The bite is starting to get better. They are on deeper cover 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. Book your fall trip now, to get the best dates. Striper fishing is poor. Fish are being caught in the upper Chattooga River, the Cave Hole and Little Spring Creek on live shad, down lined about 8 feet deep and free lined.
LAKE HARTWELL IS FULL 70S: Bass fishing is fair. The fish are starting to move to the banks. They are also starting to school in the mouths of the major creeks. Find the larger schools of bait with the Lowrance Structure Scan side scan technology and this will make this process faster. There is still a good pattern on and under the docks with a shakey head worm the Zoom watermelon seed or a green pumpkin worm. The schooling bite looks like it is starting up as the water temperatures drop. Locate some large schools on the south end of the lake and be sure to find the bait schools. Have the medium running crank baits ready. The Rapala DT10 and the Normans Deep Little N in a shad pattern have been the best producers. As the water cools down the buzz bait bite should start up any day as the fish move to the back of the creeks. A Ned rig and a Fluke isn’t often found 15 feet deep but the baitfish it’s made to imitate are certainly prevalent there. Rigging this rig is a Fluke and a nail weight and sliding it into the nose of the Fluke.
LAKE ALLATOONA IS DOWN 1.22 FEET, CLEAR 70S:
- Bass: Bass fishing is good. Fish are beginning to concentrate near shallow cover lake wide. Cover water with shallow crankbaits until fisherman approach cover such as a lay down or brush pile. The best crank bait has been Bandit 200 series in a shad pattern of any type. A smaller Rat L Trap in silver blue back is a good fast moving bait that matches the hatch. On the bank cover switch to a shaky head rigged with a Zoom green pumpkin finesse worm. This little worm can truly catch big fish that have been pressured. Over the next few weeks look to see spinnerbaits and top water come into play with cooler temperatures roll in.
- Striped Bass: (by Robert Edison with First Bite Guide Service) — Lineside fishing is fair. The bite has slowed down a lot since last month but it is still better than normal for this time of year on Lake Allatoona. We have caught fish on all method’s this passed month using down lines, free lines, top water, spooning and trolling). Look for this pattern to stay stable into late October. The top water bite has been the overall best producer, with trolling umbrella rigs and down lining live bait running a close second. Mid Lake South has been producing best for the bigger hybrids if its numbers, the white bass bite is hard to beat on the north end of the lake. This is the time of year that you need to be universal and not one dimensional on techniques. Any of these method’s including live bait, down lines and free lines. Top water and spooning and trolling will catch on any given day. We look for the bite to pick up in the next few weeks with these cooler temperatures.
G-O-Nteresting catch: Do you know your carp species? It may be time to take a look in mirror, and find out.
Allatoona Gets Water Willow Planting: (from Senior Fisheries Biologist John Damer) — WRD Fisheries staff from Armuchee and Summerville spent the day planting 1,000 water willow plants in the Tanyard Creek area of Lake Allatoona on Wednesday. These plants were grown at the WRD greenhouse at the Walton office in Social Circle. Water willow is a native aquatic plant that can live in shallow water or on dry land, and provides great fish habitat in reservoirs with large annual drawdowns such as Allatoona. This was the fourth consecutive year we have planted water willow at Lake Allatoona.
LAKE LANIER IS .49 FEET OVER FULL THE MAIN LAKE AND CREEKS ARE STAINED & 70S: (by Jimbo Mathley with Jimbo on Lanier) Currently the lake stands at .5 feet over full pool and the surface temps have been around 74 degrees. The lake has risen .2 feet and cooled 5 degrees since last week’s report. The majority of our fish this week have again come from 15 to 25 feet of water. We have focused mainly on points and humps for the majority of our fish. There has continued to be some schooling action this week as well, typically in the mornings. Topwater and swimbait variations have been working well recently but stay on the move and remain versatile with your lure choices to see what level of the water column the fish are willing to feed. Walking baits and Swimbaits have dominated our fish catches this week. The fish have come shallow at times with the recent cooler weather and windy conditions, so keep an eye out for shallow schooling activity as well. Want more detailed information on the bite this week including a detailed review of the baits I have been using, presentation keys, and the specific locations I have been targeting?
Lanier Stripers: (by Guide Buck Cannon with Buck Tales Guide Service) — Stripers have been caught up and down the lake from six mile up to Gainesville marina. Down line blue backs in the 30 to 45 feet deep over a 60 to 100 foot bottom. We have scattered top water bite going on with a mix of stripers and spots. Throw a Sebile or popper bait or try a free line with a blue back to points.
Lanier Crappie: (by Guide and Captain Josh Thornton) — Crappie are biting under docks that are in 15to 30feet of water, so use your electronic charts to locate these areas. Down lining small minnows with bb sized sinker and jigs are both producing very well. Our jig recommendations are any color and chartreuse. The ATX lures jigs can be used equally well for short casting, vertical jigging or dock shooting. We are using 6 pound test high visibility yellow K9 braid. For dock shooting use a one piece rod medium light (not ultralight) and a spinning reel. For first timers use a 1000 series reel with a B’n’M Sharpshooter Six rod. YouTube has many videos demonstrating this. Watch your sonar carefully for bait, crappie like to live near their food source. Use scanning type sonar (e.g. Down and Side Imaging) to locate schooling fish, and complement this with the latest in live scanning sonar technology (e.g. Garmin’s LiveScope or Lowrance LiveSight). Set waypoints on your electronic charts so that you can quickly return to productive locations. Note that you can do this on a smartphone or tablet using the Navionics “Boating application.
LAKE CHATUGE IS 3 FEET BELOW FULL AND 70S: Bass: Guide Eric Welch reports, “The bait is still hanging deep. We have been seeing and catching some fish on topwater, but you have to be fast and hit it in the circle where they just busted, or they are gone. Sometimes you can follow it up with a Strike King 3.25-inch Rage Swimmer on a 1/8-oz. swimbait hook. My bait of choice for topwater has been a Strike King Sexy Dawg Jr. and a Whopper Plooper on flats and off points. After the sun gets up, it’s time to start fishing deep with a drop shot using a 6-inch Roboworm or a shaky head with a Strike King 6.5-inch finesse worm around brush or off deep banks and drops. This time of year I like to throw a wacky rig with a Strike King Ocho or a Yum Dinger around docks or brush. This month we should start seeing more fish moving up and feeding. Mid-September is when we start having a good topwater bite, but until that starts you need to use your electronics and see if you mark any fish around the areas you’re fishing. If you’re going to fish a jig, fish it slow and work the area real good. The bigger spots right now are needing coached into biting.”
LAKE NOTTELY IS 6 FEET BELOW FULL AND 70S: Linesides: Guide Jeremy Seabolt reports, “We have been catching lots fish from Point 7 to the dam. There are some big schools of fish holding on a 50-foot bottom. We are catching fish about every way you can. The herring bite is the best for numbers, but trolling u-rigs midday pulled 135 feet back is also working. We have also been catching a lot of small fish on top early morning and in the afternoon. They have been busting on top in 1/2-acre spots and hitting 3/8-oz. bucktails and flukes. September is one of my favorite times of the year to fish Nottely. The water is starting to cool down, and the stripers are starting to eat everything around to fatten up for the winter. Look for fish in main-lake coves and deep points, and keep an eye out for schooling fish. The Bait Shack on Nottely has all your live herring needs.”
LAKE BLUE RIDGE IS 3 FEET BELOW FULL AND 70S:
- Bass:Guide Eric Welch reports, “Fishing has been fair, we’ve been having some crazy weather—cool nights, hot days and thunderstorms in the afternoon. This has kept the baitfish scattered and hanging around 15 feet and deeper. We are starting the morning out throwing topwater baits like the Strike King Sexy Dawg Jr., Whopper Plopper or a Rebel Pop-R. After the first hour or so, I start throwing a Z-Man Ned rig with a TRD, 3.5-inch tube bait and a drop shot. I’m targeting main-body flats, points and docks that may have some brush around them. I’ve also been catching some fish on a Strike King 3.25-inch Rage Swimmer on a 1/8-oz. swimbait head. You can also use the same baits up the river on the deep rocky banks or areas where the river turns in and hits the bank. We should start seeing more topwater action next month. I’m hoping we have a cold winter. We’re needing a big shad kill in our north Georgia mountain lakes. We’ve not had a good one in about eight years, and our lakes seem to be starting to get out of balance.”
- Walleye:Guide Eric Crowley reports, “Blue Ridge has been about one fish for us in the last month, and that’s the walleye. Targeting and catching these picky fish can be lots of fun right now with the fish schooled up in deeper water. Various trolling applications are putting fish in the boat early and late in the day. It’s totally a speed versus depth combination here versus lure selection. Anywhere from 2 to 3 mph is a good place to start working deep water with structure. If you’re looking to cast to them, big jerkbaits like Rapalas, ThunderSticks or Berkley Flicker Minnows fished early and late near rocky shoreline that’s holding bait nearby is the ticket. The midday bite has been best on vertical spoons. Select your favorite vertical presentation, and keep it in their face for a few minutes. If they won’t eat, go find different fish and come back, as they can turn on at any time. Big points or the edges of some flats or grasslines have been the best areas. The key is to keep fishing. Each walleye caught gives you a little bit more info to find the next one and the one after that. Spend some time experimenting, and you will see your catch rates steadily increase.”
CARTERS LAKE IS 5 FEET BELOW FULL, 70S, AND CLEAR:
- Bass:Guide Louie Bartenfield reports, “Spotted bass are starting to spread out from main-lake humps and points closer to creek mouths and channel swings. Expect lots of surface schooling throughout the day as we move into fall. Flukes and topwater baits like Pop-Rs and smaller walking baits will be my primary weapons. If you follow wind and bait, you’ll consistently find large groups of spots in October.”
- Spotted Bass: Eric Crowley reports, “Spots are starting to feed on the giant schools of bait. We have been catching busting fish with the flutter spoons. Just get it close and let it sink on a slack line. I like the Blue Fox spoons in chrome and green for casting. Anywhere you see bait up shallow is where you need to be fishing.”
- Stripers: Eric Crowley reports, “The month of October can bring the change we have all been looking for. Cooler temps, shorter days and lake turnover are all in play this month. That doesn’t mean look for a fall pattern just yet, but it’s coming. Turnover can be problematic until you find feeding fish that have moved to more stable water. As far as the stripers go, don’t expect a big change until about the end of the month or early November. They are still holding deep in the creek mouths, but in the last couple of weeks, we have been seeing some fish being caught in 40 feet of water. The hybrids have moved back in the creeks with the bait or into the lower part of the main river under huge schools of small bait. Jigging spoons, Captain Mack’s umbrella rigs and live bait are all good options this month. Take advantage of the diversity of tactics. Worley and Fisher are good starting points.”
- Walleye: Eric Crowley reports, “The walleye bite continues to be good early in the morning and right at dark. Spoons have been our top producers in recent weeks, even out fishing live bait. We have had some six and seven fish days recently, all on artificial while targeting fish in the 60- to 80-foot range. After sundown, you want flashy and noisy baits. Deep water adjacent to any shallow humps or shoals that the fish use to corral bait are key locations.”
Lake Seed (courtesy of Jack Becker AKA Academy Jack): This week found me back up in the North Georgia Mountains fishing Lake Seed which is another Georgia Power Company Lake located between Lake Burton and Lake Rabun. With only one launch ramp and very limited trailer parking it still ranks as one of my favorite places to fish. Water temperature was 71.5 F. I started fishing the headwaters as I normally do but could not get a bite. I moved down the lake and began fishing deep water docks off the main river channel and found active fish, both spots and largemouth willing to chase a spinnerbait. I caught five fish within a couple of hours. The largest was 3.25 lb. Not big fish, but again the beautiful scenery and lack of boat traffic reminded me why I keep coming back. –Academy Jack
Stocking Report (courtesy of WRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thompson) — September 26th 2020 is National Hunting and Fishing Day and it is time to celebrate. The Wildlife Resource Division, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be stocking trout to support excellent fishing opportunities this Saturday. This special day is also a FREE Fishing Day! Georgia residents are not required to purchase a fishing license or trout stamp to fish in public waters. Some freshly stocked waterbodies will include Rock Creek in Fannin County, Smith Creek at Unicoi State Park in White County, and Wildcat Creek in Rabun County. Take advantage of this free fishing day and go and wet a line.