Happy New Year! Have you braved the cold and rainy conditions yet to get out and catch a few?
NEWS TO KNOW
- PFA and Lake Record at Dodge County PFA: Thomas Muncher caught a channel catfish weighing 13 lb, 7 oz to set a new lake and PFA record at this PFA. This is the FIRST Angler Award of 2021 – way to kick it off the year Thomas! Check out how to get YOUR Angler Award HERE.
- 2021 Georgia Fishing Regs Available: Have you checked out the new Georgia Fishing Regulations book yet?
This week, we have fishing reports from Southeast and North Georgia. Take some time to go soothe your soul, find your peace, and spend important time with family. Go Fish Georgia.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
I hope that everyone had an awesome New Year! The warm weather over the holiday produced some great catches of crappie and seatrout.
Most rivers are still in their wintertime high and cold stage. Many are well into the floodplain with this week’s rains. I will let you know when I hear good reports from rivers, but let it suffice to say that your time in the winter will usually be best spent on lakes, ponds, and saltwater. In general, crappie fishing and catfishing for white catfish in the lower portions of our rivers are your best options in the winter. You can usually find crappie in slackwater areas of the main river or in oxbow lakes. During warm spells, specks will pull up to shoreline cover, but you will catch them best when it’s cold by drifting or trolling the open-water areas with curly-tailed grubs (Assassin 2-inch Curly Shads and Keitech 2-inch swimbaits are my favorites) or live minnows. Bass fishing in rivers can be decent during warming trends if you know where they lurk in the winter (oxbows are usually good places to start searching). You can try the rivers if you would like, but they are not easy systems to fish in the winter. I will get back to specific river reports when they get right in the spring, but I will focus attention on the prime flat water bites for the next couple months.
Shane and Joshua Barber rung in the New Year by fishing a local pond. They managed a few small bass on topwaters and Christie Craws. A Waycross angler trolled Keitech swimbaits on New Years Day and caught 61 crappie up to 11 inches (he kept 25), 4 bluegills, and an 11-inch bass. The key to his catch was .75 to .9 miles per hour in the deep part of the lake. He caught most of his fish on 2-inch Keitech swimbaits, and the green pumpkin-chartreuse color worked best. Rickey O’Berry caught a 5-pound bass on his favorite ultralight pole and a curly-tailed grub. What a fight for such a light rod! I fished with my daughter at a local lake on Sunday evening, and we trolled up 12 crappie up to 12 inches and a 10-inch bluegill. Keitech 2-inch swimbaits on 1/16-oz. jigheads were the ticket. The best color was electric bluegill. We had a ton of rain the night before, and the upper end of the lake looked like Yoohoo. The lower end of the lake by the dam was still fishable, though.
DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)
The lake record channel catfish was caught on Tuesday by Thomas Muncher. The big whiskerfish measured 29 1/2 inches, weighed 13.48 pound, and ate cut bait fished on the bottom. Crappie also bit at the area. Both minnows and jigs fooled the specks.
The cold had the bite shut down before the recent big rains, but it’s doubly-tough right now. Your best bet if headed to the swamp is to troll in-line spinners for bowfin during a warming trend. The fish will be spread out in the prairies for the next week, at least, after this quick rise. The latest water level was 120.9 feet.
LAURA WALKER STATE PARK
Staff at Laura Walker State Park have completed repairs to the drain structure and the lake filled enough that it is now open to motorboats and business as usual. Check park rules if you do not know them, as all rules and regulations still apply.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
The warming trend around New Year’s Day got the trout biting again after the slow-down. Jim Hickox and Keith Wilkerson fished New Year’s Eve and put it on the trout in the Brunswick area. They caught about 70 trout and kept 28 and a flounder. They threw Saltwater Assassin Sea Shads, and the best colors were salt and pepper-chartreuse tail, copperhead, new penny, and electric chicken. They also caught a few fish on Tsunami chartreuse shrimp under a Cajun Thunder Float. A Brunswick angler fished on Wednesday and caught a dozen trout (half keepers) on Tsunami paddle tails. A Waycross angler fished the Brunswick area on Thursday and caught 15 trout (6 keepers) up to 17 inches and a 27 1/2-inch redfish (released it after a quick photo). The redfish ate a redfish-colored Satilla Spin Magnum Spinnerbait, and the trout ate Keitech saltwater swimbaits (rootbeer, new penny, and electric chicken) rigged on round heads with a spring keeper. Weather for this weekend looks cold and windy, so take care of the honey-do list this weekend so you can fish when it’s nice. 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)
LAKE LANIER IS DOWN 0.47 FEET, CLEAR, AND 50S.
Bass: (This report courtesy of Phil Johnson): Bass fishing is good. The fish are biting but the fish are deep on and over natural structure mid lake. There are a lot of fish scattered all over the lake. Depths can to start at 15 feet and go all the way out to 55 feet. The water temperatures are still dropping and the deep fish are still schooling over deep structure. The best locations will be on the main lake point’s rocky points up and down lake. Afternoons the fish are on or close to main lake points and in the natural or man-made structure. The lake has some stained in unusual places down lake after the runoff from last week’s rain. Drop shot rigs and a small Zoom min lizard on the humps in these creeks will work. Never overlook deep main lake docks. Find the fish on the Lowrance Down Scan technology and if have Fish Reveal use it on the DOWN Scan so the fish appear like on regular Sonar. Use the vertical jig in a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce spoon. The green Zoom finesse worms and jigs slowly worked deep will produce a quality fish. The Zoom finesse worms in green and a finesse smoky Joe worm is fair. This time of year the small spoon is working deep on structure near creek channels. The water temperatures are still dropping and the deep fish are still schooling over deep structure. The best locations will be on the main lake point’s rocky points up and down lake. Afternoons the fish are on or close to main lake points and in the natural or man-made structure. Find the trees on the Lowrance and work the spoon right into the brush. The fish may not show up on the sonar but a few drops will make them pop up. Drop shot rigs and a small Zoom min lizard on the humps in these creeks will work. The pilings on the bride are never fished with a spoon. The 3/8 ounce Stanley jig and a small #101 Uncle Josh pork trailer will work almost all day. Spoons are working in the mouths of the lower lake creeks and depths are almost 40 feet in the center of the creek channels. Let the spoon go all the way to the bottom and work it up slowly. The fish are feeding on smaller baits. Jigs and spoons are the typical winter lures and many anglers are really struggling to find and catch bass with these conditions. Look on and in the old creek bends and ditches for the bass. Docks around mid lake around Browns Bridge on the north side of the river are good docks all month. Many anglers ignore the marina docks. Most of the fish will be very inactive except on major or minor feeding periods so watch the Fish and Game Forecaster the rest of the month. The water down deep is very cold so slow down and work baits almost dead stick with any plastic. Avoid the muddy waters up both the rivers until the water warms.
Bass (This report courtesy of Captain Mack Farr): Bass fishing has also been good, and the patterns have remained stable. With that being said, there are several patterns to choose from. The deep bite continues to produce well, spoons, worms and jigs in the ditches are still accounting for some good catches, and this deep bite is probably best for numbers and consistency. No big changes here, target ditches and drains in 15 to 50, at least with the onshore ditches, with some fish moving shallow in these areas especially early. Offshore ditches in 35 to 50 continue to produce well and finding the ditches with bait is a big plus. Finesse worms on the Shakey, Drop shot, or the Texas Rig will all get the bite, and a vertical presentation is very good when fishing the worm. In depths of 30 feet plus, vertical fishing makes for better hook sets, increasing your strikes to hook up ratio. Dragging a jig and dropping spoons will also be effective, although I think the worm is the best overall producer. Morning Dawn Red Flake and Aarons Magic have been good color patterns, Prizm Kraw and Chartreuse Magic are good patterns with plenty of sunlight. Read the rest of Captain Mack’s report HERE.
Stripers: (This report courtesy of Captain Mack Farr): Striper fishing is still very good, although the fish may be a little more finicky than they were in the past couple weeks. The patterns that have been productive in December still remain strong. Live baits around the deep bait, with some umbrella patterns mixed in, remain solid techniques. There have been a few surfacing fish, mostly early and late, but at this point that pattern remains secondary but on the radar enough that you need to be prepared for it. Herring, Trout, Shiners and Shad have been good baits, so keep a few of all in the well and mix and match to find the best choice on a given day. FYI, Herring availability has been inconsistent due to water conditions that are making it difficult for the catchers to get bait, but the above mentioned options have produced well and if I had to pick a best I think the Trout are the best choice right now. Read the rest of Captain Mack’s report HERE.
Crappie: (This report courtesy of Captain Josh Thornton): Crappie fishing is great. The hot bite target zone is 10 to 20 feet. Look around your normal fishing spots search the whole cove if you have time. I have been fishing a dock for 3 years this week while trolling from normal spot to normal spot 3 docks away I found a new honey hole I have been over it a thousand times I just had never had scanned the cove before because I knew where I was going to go. Be flexible in you technique figure out what depth the crappie are biting and what they want to eat jigs or minnows. When using jigs try putting two different colors on one line about 16 feet apart to see what color they are hitting. Then concentrate on what they want no need in throwing all jigs if they only want minnows that day. This week has been heavy minnows. Look for open water deep brush piles in 30 to 45 feet of water use a heavy jig head to get you down there quickly. Look under docks that are in 20 to 40 feet of water and have brush or structure use your electronic charts to locate these areas. Try down lining a Crappie minnows with a sinker or set up a slip bobber. Jigs have been producing some big numbers. My Jig recommendation is a baby shad green over chartreuse or a red over white. Jigs can be used for short casting, vertical jigging or dock shooting. I’m using ATX lure company’s jigs on 5-lb. test, high-visibility yellow K9 braid for my line (unless I am using a bobber) and a Piscifun reel on a light action 6’ B&M rod. 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, Humminbird 360 or Lowrance Active Imaging LIVE Sonar or their LiveSight). Set waypoints on your electronic charts so that you can quickly return to productive locations. You can do this on a smartphone using the Navionics Boating app.
Dock Light Bass (this report courtesy of “Academy” Jack Becker): I spent a couple hours fishing our green lights. 2 weeks ago I caught small Stripers and some spots all on a 1/4 oz. Spro Bucktail Jig. I started with the same jig after 30 minutes without a bite I tried a jerk-bait, Kietec Swim-bait and an under-spin With a fluke trailer. Still nothing. I noticed Smaller than normal size baitfish in the lights and they were moving slow. I had a pack of 2” Crappie Magnets and gave one a try on 6 pound test Flurocarbon line and a 1/8 oz jig head. This allowed the lure to sink very slow. I also slowed down my retrieve speed and it was just what they wanted. In the next 20 minutes I caught 2 Stripers and had a Spot come off at the net. I usually fish larger baits but this time matching the hatch worked great. Fishing the shadows rather than in the light always works better for me too. Academy Jack.
Lanier’s Latest Carp Record: On June 6th Gainesville’s James Martin established Lanier’s first record carp by landing a 9 lb 3.2 oz Common Carp. James often fishes with his wife Amber and she supported his endeavor to establish a carp record on Lanier. Just six months later, on Saturday, January 2nd 2021, angler Dustin Ray was fishing a tiny hair jig on Lanier and hooked up with an impressive 12 lb 6 oz carp that took 20 minutes for him to coax to the boat on the fragile 4 lb test line they were using. Dustin and his son reported the catch to WRD Fisheries Region 2 supervisor Anthony Rabern, who identified and weighed the new record fish. Fishing is a great opportunity to create meaningful, lasting memories as both James and Dustin will surely attest!
LAKE ALLATOONA IS DOWN 15 FEET, CLEAR, AND 50S.
Bass (This report courtesy of Matt Driver): Bass fishing is good. January on Allatoona is typically the toughest month of the year. It usually gets super cold and we see the water temperatures drop into the low 40s which in years past has caused a shad kill. Our prediction for this January is that conditions will be better than in years past. We may have some more cold weather but it will be short lived. As long as the water temperature stays in the mid 40s and up we will continue to see a good bite and some really good fish being weighed in. This month we typically key on two different patterns: suspended fish and deep bottom fish. For suspended bass use the jerkbait and the Float n Fly. My go to jerkbait is a Jackal DD Squirrel in white or threadfin. Slow is key. Try the Megabass Vision One Ten and a Lucky Craft Pointer 95. This time of year the bite is subtle and not as aggressive. Pattern two is the jig on deep rock/bluff walls. Use crawfish colors with a compact trailer that has little movement. On the jig Use a medium heavy Shimano Expired and 16 pound test Sunline fluorocarbon. Feel is very important to catching bass on the jig. Now we are using the Picasso 1/2 ounce football head and a Picasso Little Spotty. Both of these jigs are tungsten and the tungsten does not get hung up as bad in the rock and also has good feeling. If the water is stained and we get a warmer day with the sun out the muddy water warms much quicker and bass will move shallow for short periods to feed. Square bill crankbait or a medium diving bait such as a Spro Little John can be a great way to catch a big fish when the go shallow to feed. This is a better late day pattern. Areas of the lake to key on will be from Red Top to just north of Galts Ferry. Find the fish on the Lowrance Down Scan technology and if have Fish Reveal use it on the DOWN Scan so the fish appear like on regular Sonar. Use the vertical jig in a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce spoon. If all else fails pull out a drop shot with a No. 4 Gamakatsu tipped with a 4 inch Big Bite Baits Jeff Kriet Shaking Squirrel and 3/16 ounce weight.
Linesides: (This report courtesy of Matt Driver): Line sides fishing is fair. Finding clear water is the ticket. The backs of the creeks are holding fish early. Free lines and planner boards in the morning and late afternoon in mid to south end creeks will be your best bet until the main lake clears up. After the sun comes up, switch to down lines, and ease your way out to the middle of the creeks. As the water starts to clear, fishing should get better on the main lake. We are by no means loading the boat right now, but the fish we are catching are good fish. Trolling is still slow but is getting better. The best time seems to be midday. Pull the rigs at 2.4 to 3.3 mph 100 feet behind the boat. The trolling bite is just around the corner. I really think once the lake clears, the trolling bite will get as good as the live bait bite. The top water bite was close to breaking loose before we got all the rain. I look for it to return as the lake starts to clear.
LAKE HARTWELL IS DOWN 1.3 FEET, 50S.
Bass: Bass fishing is fair. The fish are heading up on the humps and points out deep. Use a Spro Little John in spring craw, Stanford Lures Patriot Shad in summer shad and a Stanford Lures Razor Shad in chartreuse Tennessee. Throw a 3/8 ounce Picasso jig or 3/8 ounce Strike King Spinnerbait. Fishing the Texas rig use the Catchin Fool tungsten weight and fish any dock post or brush that the Lowrance Structure Scan shows off. The bite may slow down some with another cold front of two but it will heat up again. The Aruku Shad bite will be back on at this time as well as a good spinnerbait bite. Throw a 3/8 ounce chartreuse and white Picasso spinnerbait around the dead grass and docks around spawning pockets. Use an Aruku Shad in the middle of the pockets to target the fish that are out in the middle chasing bait around. The other option is targeting the fish that are still out on the main lake and haven’t begun to move in yet. Fish main lake points and humps with a green pumpkin Picasso football jig and a green pumpkin Carolina rigged Big Bite Baits finesse worm teamed up with a 3/4 ounce. Fish Catchin Fool tungsten weight. Find the fish on the Lowrance DOWN SCAN technology and if have Fish Reveal use it on the DOWN Scan so the fish appear like on regular Sonar. Use the vertical jig in a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce spoon.
LAKE CHATUGE IS DOWN 7 FEET, CLEAR, AND MID-50S.
Bass: Guide Eric Welch reports, “We’ve finally been getting some cooler weather, which is helping bring the water temps down. Still not seeing any topwater action, and the bait we’ve been marking is still deep. It’s that time of year to get out the 1/2-oz. spoons and start dropping down on fish you mark on your depthfinder. I’m still catching fish on a 3/16-oz. shaky head with either a Zoom or Strike King finesse worm. This time of year it’s also hard to beat a Ned rig with a Z-Man TRD. On sunny days, the fish will pull up on any type of rock or laydowns due to these areas warming up quicker. You can still catch fish on a drop shot with a 4.5-inch Roboworm and on a Texas rig. You just want to slow down on how you work it. This time of year I like a 3/8-oz. jig. My three colors are black/blue, pb/j and green pumpkin. I play around with different trailers, like a twin-tail grub, craw and a chunk. It just depends on how cold and what kind of action I think they’re looking for. Wintertime is always a good time the throw a crankbait, like a Rapala No. 5 Shad Rap, a DT6, a Bandit 300 and a Strike King 1.5 deep squarebill. Once the water gets down in the mid 50s, it’s a good time to throw the A-rig. Now’s a good time to fish the Float-n-Fly around deep, rocky banks and points. I always downsize on my line in the winter months. I like 7-lb. Gamma Touch fluorocarbon for the shaky head, Ned rig, Texas rig and tube. I like 10-lb. Gamma Edge fluorocarbon for jigs, 14-lb. Edge for the A-rig and 12-lb., 10-lb. and 8-lb. mono for crankbaits.”
LAKE NOTTELY IS DOWN 13.5 FEET, STAINED, AND MID-50S.
Stripers: Guide Jeremy Seabolt reports, “Fishing has been average so far. We have been on some nice schools of fish, and they have been hungry. Most of our fish have been coming from downlines over a 40-foot bottom, but we have also been catching some nice fish up shallower in the afternoons pulling large herring and trout. The key is having a good fish finder. Find the bait and the fish will not be far behind. Fish have been schooling up from Point 9 to the dam. Going in to January, we will start looking for the birds to move in. The way the weather is looking, I’m thinking we may have a good threadfin kill. We are overrun with threadfins. January is a good month to throw bucktails on points and work them back slowly. Just remember we are in the colder parts of fishing, so always be safe when out on the water. The Bait Shack is always stocked up with your striper candy.”
LAKE BLUE RIDGE IS DOWN 15 FEET, CLEAR, AND MID-50S.
Bass: Guide Eric Welch reports, “Fishing has been up and down the past couple of months, but the water temps are now down where they need to be. We’ve been catching bass on deep, rocky banks and long points using the Z-man Ned rig with a TRD in green pumpkin, a 3.5-inch tube, a 3/16-oz. shaky head with Strike King 5-inch finesse worm. I also like throwing a 3/8-oz. jig around rocky banks and any brush you can find. If you mark fish on your depthfinder, try throwing a Flex-it spoon or a drop shot with a 4.5-inch Roboworm. This time of year is also a good time to throw a small crankbait like a Shad Rap, a Strike King 3X and a Bandit 200. Also try throwing a jerkbait like a Lucky Craft Pointer in a shad pattern. If you have never tried fishing the Float-n-Fly, now is a good time to throw it around deep, rocky banks. Fishing should be good all month. Good luck.”
Stripers: Guide Capt. Eric Crowley reports, “Blue Ridge is cooled off, and the fish are feeding. The bass bite has been on and steady for a few weeks now. Schools of fish are cruising in 20 to 30 feet of water looking for pods of baitfish. Our best bite has been on the edges of the creek and river channels in 40 feet of water. Live bait has been putting good numbers in the boat, as well as some quality spots and a few smallmouth mixed in. The spoon bite is still solid, as well. Two to 4-inch spoons dropped right in the school has been the deal. Be ready to drop the spoon as soon as you mark the fish. Work the spoon for a few minutes, and if nothing bites, keep it moving and find the next school. The bait is moving in and out of the pockets and creeks at night, so look in these areas at first light and locate the big schools of herring. Some days you can fish one school for hours and never have to move. Other days it’s one and done on each school as the fish seem to scatter after the first bite or two.”
Walleye: Guide Capt. Eric Crowley reports, “The walleye are a bit more scattered this year than normal and seem to be in pods of less than a dozen fish. This not only makes them harder to find but harder to stay on top of. Live minnows are the go-to right now on 8-lb. leaders and small circle hooks. Small spoons and other vertical-type lures are working, as well. I like chrome, white or a combination of either with green. Most of the bigger fish seem to still be in 40-plus feet during the day holding on the drop-offs. With either species of fish, the nastier the day is the better the bite. Unfortunately this time of year that’s the case. Cloudy, rainy days seem to produce more fish, while the windy days have put the bigger fish in the boat working the same areas.”
LAKE WEISS IS DOWN 6.2 FEET, CLEAR, AND MID-40S.
Bass: (This report courtesy of Mark Collins): Bass fishing is good and most fish have moved to a deep winter pattern, on the creek and river channel ledges. Spinner Baits and Crank Baits working well, jigs and Carolina rigs are catching fish also.
Crappie: (This report courtesy of Mark Collins): Crappie fishing is good they are on deeper cover 18 to 22 feet, on the main Coosa river channel ledges from Cedar Bluff to Leesburg. Spider rigging, over brush, and the river channel ledges with live minnows and jigs is catching fish. Long line trolling with jigs is starting to turn on, as some fish are starting to suspend in the river and creek channels.
Warmwater GON-tel: Many anglers take advantage of holiday “wish lists” and gift cards to find a friend for the rectangular voids in their tackle box. GON’s Jeremiah provides an excellent list of ranked artificial lures that will help you put fish in the boat in 2021.
If Santa’s gifts this year resulted in slightly deeper pockets for you good girls and boys, you may be inclined to stock up on some fly fishing “extras” in preparation for the upcoming spring. Consider reading UO’s in-depth list of strike indicators to ensure that those subtle nibbles result in more fish added to the “in-hand” column of your fishing scoreboard.
Dredger rings in the New Year with some excellent and up-to-date 2021 trout fishing and striper intel in this UO Facebook post.
DH Updates: Quality fishing reports from Smith Creek DH (below Unicoi lake in Unicoi State Park) have been consistent. Hillis Lanier presented exhibits A-D of some released bows from earlier this week on the Fly Fishing NoGA FB page. Xmas stockers once easily fooled by buggers & junk flies have graduated and are hence a bit pickier, so drop and bump a bright nymph or go with a softer, natural pattern to continue fooling these fish throughout the month. Match the hatch throughout January, and remember those warm, sunny days are best fished midday when a slight increase in water temperature stimulates the bite. Keep an eye on your USGS gauges, especially before fishing Toccoa, ‘Hooch, and Chattooga. Most of our streams and rivers have returned near base flows from the Jan 1st downpours, but last night’s rain may have centered in on your favorite fishing hole.
Winter Trout Fishing Ain’t Easy (courtesy of Trout Biologist Sarah Baker): While you wait until the water levels drop down, and/or the snow flurries let up, give Domenick Swentosky’s four-part series about fishing in the winter a read.
- Part 1: Your Hands
- Part 2: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes(We’re not in Pennsylvania, so we don’t have to go quite as hard on the warm clothes, but I’d rather be fishing longer instead of throwing in the towel early because my toes are too cold…)
- Part 3: The System– Find Feeding Fish With Nymphs & Streamers
- Part 4: The Go-To Nymphing Rig(You may have some questions about his Split shot method so check out Split Shot Slide and Split Shot vs. Weighted Flies.)
8 Tips: Also, check out Katie Burgert’s 8 Tips for Winter Trout Fishing from Fish Untamed.
- Slow Down
- Look for slow deep water
- Size down
- Fish tailwaters
- Know your winter dry flies
- Sleep in
- Target warm days
- Try dead drifting a streamer
Or tie some flies for your spring and summer adventures.