Stressed? We have the perfect activity to take your mind off of everything. It’s fishing! Fishing is an escape from life’s daily challenges, and a chance to “catch” memories with those that matter the most to you. Joined by the water, family and friend bonds are strengthened in ways to help sustain you in difficult times.
News to Know:
- Get Started: This page on the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division website is a great starting point for all things angling.
- Get Inspired and Educated: Plan a trip with the kids to the Go Fish Education Center in Perry GA.
- Angler Awards: The deadline to apply for a 2020 Angler Award is rapidly getting closer (all entries must have been received by Jan. 15, 2021). Award categories include adult, youth, public fishing areas and trophy bass!
This week, we have fishing reports from North and Southeast Georgia. Put away the TV remote, get off your computer, grab the family and let’s Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
After a hard week of listening to the never-ending banter of political chatter and election news, I believe there is no better way to unwind and recharge than spending time on the water. This weekend’s awesome weather forecast will certainly tip the odds in your favor of having a great weekend and I certainly believe the fish will be cooperative, too. Here are some tips from our friends and fisheries workers across North Georgia to get you pointed in the right direction.
Delayed Harvest Trout Season Opens: Georgia DNR’s Delayed Harvest (DH) Trout Season is like an early Christmas present that is full of fun and surprises. There are five streams in the DH program that are stocked through the fall and winter months to keep trout in the stream and your chances of success high. In fact, all DH streams were stocked this week and we thank the many volunteers who helped with this effort. There are a few rules you must obey like catch & release only (no harvest), artificial lures, and only single hooks. These restriction are in place so that trout can be recycled throughout the DH season and give other anglers the opportunity to experience all the wonderful things that you enjoy about trout fishing. If you are unfamiliar with the Delayed Harvest program, then check out our website to learn more about the DH program. You will also find maps to help you find these treasured spots. Here is a list with directions to our Delayed Harvest streams:
- Amicalola Creek from County Road 192 (Steele Bridge Road) downstream to GA Hwy 53.
- Chattahoochee River from Sope Creek (off Columns Drive) downstream to US Hwy 41 (Cobb Parkway). Due to high water from recent storm events, stocking in this DH section has been postponed until water levels reach safe levels for anglers.
- Chattooga River from GA Hwy 28 bridge upstream to the mouth of Reed Creek.
- Smith Creek on Unicoi State Park from Unicoi Dam downstream to the Unicoi State Park property boundary.
- Toccoa River on U.S. Forest Service land from 0.4 miles above the Shallowford Bridge upstream to a point 450 feet upstream of the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access.
For the first couple weeks after stocking, Delayed Harvest (DH) trout are transitioning from life in a crowded raceway to unbounded freedom of flowing water. During this transition period, DH fish are naïve and bunched up. To draw their interest in taking your favorite artificial, try something flashy and/or with movement to attract their attention (small buggers, squirmies, and Pat’s rubberlegs are good). Also, don’t be afraid to move quickly from one pool to the next until you find the honey hole. Toss a few casts into each pool. If no luck and no lookers, even after a split shot or two is added to your line to get your fly on the stream bottom, then move to the next pool. If you see or catch one, stick around and cast a few more times because a bunch of his buddies will be right behind him.
Outside of Delayed Harvest, the peak of spawning season for wild brook and brown trout is here. This is the time of year when the males have their most vibrant colors (brook trout photo) and are a little less weary of outsiders. You’ve got to get off the beaten path to find wild trout streams, but the hike is part of the reward. The tributary streams that feed our major trout waterways are a good place to start your search. So, take the “Wild Trout Challenge” by taking a hike upstream from your normal stocked trout fishing spots and see if you can fool a wild brook or brown (brown trout sampling photo).
Reservoir Fishing News: On our North Georgia reservoirs, fish are putting on the feedbag as they build up energy reserves for the long winter months. Here are a couple of tips that may help you have fishing success this fall.
Tip #1: Follow the Shad/Herring: During the fall, days shorten, nights lengthen, and waters cool. This has big impacts upon the food chain dynamic in our Georgia Reservoirs. Simply put, less sunlight and cooler water temperatures make the main lake less productive and forces baitfish like shad and herring to move into the backs of coves and creeks to find food and warmer water. Hot on their tails are largemouths, spots, stripers and hybrids. Catch these hungry fish in the morning on primary or secondary points with a walk-the-dog topwater, fluke, or spinnerbait. During the day, move to the creek channel and use a mid-depth diving crankbait in a shad color to search for actively feeding fish. Make sure your crankbait is a similar size as the shad fish are eating and it is hitting the bottom. A steady retrieve is recommended with momentary pauses when the bait hits a stump or rock. This imitates a shad feeding on the bottom.
Tip #2 Fish Some Rocks: Serious fisherman know that rocks, especially rip-rap can be productive for bass, crappie, and catfish. Rocks are so effective to fish in the fall because they absorb heat during the day and warm the surrounding water. This warmer water supports vegetation growth later into the year than other habitat types which attracts baitfish and crayfish. Predatory fish are therefore attracted to rocks because of the warmer water and the abundant forage. Fish around riprap and rocks using a crankbait or jig. Best colors are those that imitate a crayfish or bluegill. Crappie can be caught around riprap using live minnows baited on a slip bobber. Use your electronics to determine what depth fish are using to set your bobber stop. Bites will be very light so pay close attention to your bobbers.
Below are some of the fishing highlights from our major North Georgia reservoirs courtesy of Ken Sturdivant and his host of fishing guides and friends. Find out more, request Ken’s weekly report or register for workshops HERE.
- The striper bite is definitely picking up as the surface temperatures cool down. Ditto for the bass fishing. Rocky areas at the mouths of creeks and main river points are holding bass right now. Moving baits are the ticket for the early morning topwater bite. Humps, brush piles and deep points are productive all day. Crank baits like the Rapala DT 6 in shad and the under spins are working well. Zara Spooks and Chug Bugs along with Sammy’s are working mid-day. Schools of spotted bass are chasing tiny baits right on the bank around the mouth of the major creeks. Early and late each day, the main lake reef marker points, especially on the east side of Shady Grove Park, are holding some good fish.
- Fishing guide, Buck Cannon of Buck Tails Guide Service (404) 510 1778 reports that Lanier striper fishing is really good. His clients are catching good numbers of fish before 10 a.m. on downlines over 30 to 50 ft bottom.
- Captain Josh Thornton (770) 530-6493 reports that crappie fishing is excellent. Fish brushpiles in 10 feet to 20 feet of water, but plan on losing several jigs and minnows in the process. Also, look under docks that are in 15 to 30 feet of water and have brush or structure nearby. Downlining small crappie minnows with a BB-sized sinker or try a free line minnow without a sinker. Jigs are also producing, especially in the baby shad green over chartreuse color pattern or baby shad white with a chartreuse spit tail.
- Ken Sturdivant reports that bass fishing is good. Bass are targeting shad as they a school into the creeks. Good numbers are being caught on a drop shot in brush along creek channel ledges in 20 to 30-ft of water. In the afternoon, switch over to a short Carolina rig with a six-inch Zoom finesse worm in the red bug color. Also, be sure to have a Rat L Trap and a Shad Rap rigged and cast them up on the banks on the upper end of the lake. Also work the shallow flats and any visible cover on those flats with the Mini Me. Retrieve the Mini Me with a very fast retrieve to trigger the strikes. Don’t forget to use a trailer hook.
- Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service (770 827 6282) reported that striper fishing is good. A variety of techniques are working right now including live bait, spoons, umbrella rigs and Alabama rigs. The north end of the lake from the mouth of Kellogg’s to as far north as Fields Landing offers the best bite.
Weiss Lake: Mark Collins Guide Service (256-779-3387) reports that bass fishing is good. Fish have moved shallow as the water cooled down. Spinner Baits, flat crankbaits and Rat L Traps are working well anywhere you can find bait in the shallow pockets. Crappie fishing is also good. The fish are hiding in deeper cover at 14 to 20 feet on the main Coosa River channel ledges from Cedar Bluff to Leesburg. Spider rigging over brush and river channel ledges with live minnows and jigs is catching fish. Shooting docks with Jigs is also producing some fish.
Lake Hartwell: Ken Sturdivant reports that bass fishing is good. Target the points on the upper end of the lake. Start off the morning with a blue and chrome Chug Bug or hot mustard Rapala DT10. Fish both sides of the points while making long casts. In the afternoons, switch to a ¼-ounce jig and fish the rock wall and all of the lay downs.
Mountain Lakes: In the North Georgia mountain lakes where water temperatures are touching the high-50s, big bass are holding tight and deep on woody cover for most of the daylight hours in hopes of ambushing a passing blueback or bream. Our DNR Fisheries sampling team collected a number of trophy fish this week, including walleye and crappie. Anglers are also catching some trophy crappies wherever they can locate downed trees in 15-30 feet of water. Don’t be surprised if walleye are hanging out in the same places as crappie. This is also a great time to catch trout on Lake Burton. In addition to several thousand brown trout being stocked into the lake, there are also some holdovers, like the one collected last week by our fish sampling crew. Browns are also pushing into Burton’s tributaries to spawn.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Good luck on the water this week.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
I didn’t receive any reports this week. With the higher water upstream, your best bet is to fish cut bait for big channel catfish in the Darien area or shrimp for white catfish in the lower river. The river level was 6.9 feet and falling (63 degrees – 10 degrees colder than last week!) at the Baxley gage, and 8.4 feet and steady at the Doctortown gage on November 5th.
The upper river came up this week and is fishable by boat. With the stained water and cooler temperatures, expect catfish to be your best bite. The middle river will be the place to catch catfish, as it’s just starting to rise there. The river level on November 5th at the Waycross gage was 7.9 feet and falling (64 degrees – 11 degrees colder than last week!). The Atkinson gage was 4.3 feet and rising.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Matt Rouse said that the bite in the upper river has been very slow even though the level is good. He and his friends have done essentially nothing during their trips for crappie and catfish this week. Reports were a little better below the Folkston area, but the bite has not been hot anywhere on the river. Catfishing in the lower river is the best option if you want to try it, and shrimp or worms would be the best bait to try. The river level at the MacClenny gage on November 5th was 3.7 feet and falling.
The best report I had for bream this week was a couple of Waycross anglers who used crickets in a Blackshear area pond for an hour. They managed to catch 27 bluegills up to 3/4 of a pound, a couple nice channel catfish, and even had a 10-pound grass carp that inhaled a Fake Fish Food Fly and gave them a great battle. A couple of Waycross anglers ran trotlines and fished with rod-and-reel on Sunday afternoon for a few hours and landed 77 catfish up to 4.25 pounds. On the rods, they used Catfish Catcher Jigheads and cut bluegill for bait. They tried other baits, but the cut bluegill was the ticket on both the trot lines and rod-and-reel. The same duo returned on Wednesday and could only manage 23 channel cats up to 4.65 pounds. Again, cut bluegill was the bait preference of the whiskerfish. I don’t have any specific reports this week, but I imagine the crappie have started biting in area ponds.
Okefenokee Swamp staff said that nobody reported catching anything this week and very few went because of the high water level. The current level is 121.18 feet (I like it in the low 120 range for the best fishing).
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Jim and Garrett Page took their friend Rhett Godwin fishing last week in the Brunswick area. The trio fought the wind early but found a window the last hour of the day where they could fish effectively. The ended up using electric chicken Sea Shads under Cajun Thunder Floats and catching 8 trout (1 keeper) over shell mounds and around grass edges during that last hour of daylight. From my reports, Crooked River was the place to be this week for trout. Ed Zmarzly and Justin Bythwood fished there on Saturday and caught 53 trout (15 keepers) and a nice tripletail. They caught most of their fish on slammin’ chicken, Mississippi hippie, fire tiger, and chartreuse Sea Shads under Equalizer Floats. They tried natural colors and couldn’t get any takers. A group of anglers fished the ICW out of Crooked River on Tuesday and caught 18 trout (4 keepers) on Sea Shad/Equalizer rigs and live shrimp. They also went 1 for 4 on redfish (the 3 that got away broke them off in shells). The redfish wouldn’t touch artificials but inhaled live shrimp. On Wednesday, Brentz McGhin fished Crooked River by himself and ended up catching 52 trout (10 keepers up to about 20 inches). He tried lots of combinations, but his go-to bait of the day was a new penny Sea Shad suspended under a Cajun Thunder Float. He fooled almost all of them on that rig. He also caught and released an oversized redfish. The Brunswick area produced some good trout catches also. Brentz McGhin and Greg Nelms fished on Sunday and caught 16 trout (3 keeepers) using chicken-on-a-chain and new penny Sea Shads suspended under Cajun Thunder Floats. Also on Wednesday a group of anglers in the Brunswick area landed 8 trout (3 keepers). They caught 3 of them on Calcasieu brew Sea Shads on a Flashy Jighead and suspended underneath Equalizer Floats. They had 5 of the trout on live shrimp.
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.