Here we are at the end of the first month of 2021. Were you able to take time to get out to a favorite pond, river or lake this month? Braving the cold can bring some good rewards in the form of a hot dinner if you land some good ones!
NEWS TO KNOW
- Fish and Learn Class Alert: The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center is hosting a Level 2 Fish and Learn class April 9-11. This intermediate level class will teach participants the art of bass fishing and different lure types. Space is limited, deadline to register is April 1.
- Sturgeon Update: WRD staff from Armuchee captured the first lake sturgeon of 2021 on the Coosawattee River last week, and it is one with an interesting history. Find out more HERE.
This week, we have reports from Southeast, Central and North Georgia. Don’t let January get gone without wetting a line – let’s Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, Fisheries Biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from WRD Staff and Local Experts)
The warm-up this week let some folks get out and shake off some of the cabin fever from the last couple weeks of cold. The crappie bite was impressive early this week before the front. Pond reports were also good.
Most rivers are still in their wintertime high and cold stage. Some areas are still flooded out into the floodplain, but other stretches are back within the banks. 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.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The river had been in good shape before this week’s rains. Matt Rouse got back out on the water in an oxbow lake in the upper river last week. He trolled red/white Satilla Spins and caught several nice crappie all around a pound. He also had reports of some largemouth bass being caught on plastic worms and catfish being caught in very good numbers by anglers fishing bush hooks baited with shrimp. He and a friend, Brant) fished an oxbow again on Tuesday before the front and had another good trip. They caught lots of crappie by trolling spinnerbaits and jigs (white worked well) and ended up keeping 5 of the specks and a couple big bluegills. Unfortunately, the river will likely jump back up and muddy due to Wednesday’s rains. The river level at the Macclenny gage on January 28th was 5.6 feet and rising.
An angler fished a Blackshear pond on Sunday afternoon for about 2 hours and landed 9 bass up to 3 pounds by flinging Senkos. An angler fished a Savannah area pond on Tuesday evening for a couple hours and landed a couple dozen bass up to 4 pounds by throwing small Keitech swimbaits on small jigheads. Green pumpkin produced the most fish. Todd Kennedy had another impressive trip this week in a Brunswick area pond. He fished from his kayak on Monday evening and caught 36 bass up to 4 pounds. He used NED heads and pumpkin Z-Man TRD Bangz worms for his fish. He said that he saw fish busting bait in the shallows and he cast to those areas and sometimes caught as many as 6 or 7 fish in that area. At one spot he had over half a dozen 3-pounders in a row when they crashed the bait schools.
The cold and high water have the swamp tough to fish right now. On a warm afternoon, your best bet is to pitch sallies (under a small balsa float) for flier or troll in-line spinners for bowfin during a warming trend. The latest water level was 120.8 feet.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)
An angler fishing on Monday had a good day for bass. He landed 3 bass up to 7 1/2 pounds, but would not share details. Anglers caught a few crappie per trip this week, but the bite has not fired off great yet.
PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)
The crappie fishing has been the best bite lately on the area. Some fish moved shallow during this latest warm spell, but most fish are still suspended offshore. James Overstreet of Nashville had a very memorable trip on Monday. He caught a 2-lb., 3-oz. AND 2-lb., 15-oz crappie while fishing minnows. Both of those fish were large enough to earn him angler awards from the GA Wildlife Resources Division.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Surprisingly, I didn’t get many reports from the brine during this latest warm-up, but I’m sure folks found some trout, reds, and sheepshead. A couple of Brunswick anglers fished the Brunswick area on Monday for just an hour and caught a 31-inch redfish and keeper trout by bouncing plastics around rocks. 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 Steve Schleiger, Fisheries Biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from WRD Staff and Local Experts)
Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.
LAKE RUSSELL IS DOWN 1.2 FEET, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. The lack of wind on some days put a damper on the bigger bass moving up to the shallow water in numbers. Look is the shallows on the windy days. The shad and silver color Rapala DT10 will work on the shallow rocky points. The best results are coming during the first half of the day. Up the Savannah River and down towards the dam are producing as well as Beverdam Creek. Down towards the dam try cranking the Rapala DT10 and use the Shad Raps as well. The bigger baits like the #7 Shad Rap will catch bigger bass. This is a really good time to fish as many points as you can for a trophy spot. Several in the four-pound range have been caught over the last couple of weeks. The Carolina rig and the drop shot rig is working fair on those days the wind isn’t blowing. Anglers are finding bass in the two-pound range in water depths anywhere from 15 to 25 feet deep. Green pumpkin and watermelon colors are the favorite for the deep water. Don’t expect to fill the live well really quick with these methods.
CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 2.1 FEET 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. Bass are on the deeper main lake points early. Reese Branch is producing some quality bass. Good roadbeds with plenty of rock are holding the bass here. The water is deep enough for the bass to go and hide and the points are providing an ample supply of herring for them to feed on. Fish the Rapala DT10 in the shad color and the Glass Shad Rap in the glass shad color. For the ledges and deeper water, use the Rapala #7 and the #5 will work fishing shallow. The Carolina rig can catch the cold-water fish in the deeper water up the lake near the Little River area. Use a small Zoom lizard in dark colors with a ½ ounce weight and work the ledges with this rig. Try to find brush piles is the fifteen to twenty-foot range. These areas are where the bass like to hang around this time of the year. Find the fish on the Lowrance Down Scan technology with Fish Reveal on so the fish appear like on regular Sonar. Use the vertical jigging technique with the 1/2 to ¾-ounce spoon.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL 50’S
(This Lake Oconee fishing report is by Captain Mark Smith of Reel Time Guide Service. 404-803-0741) —
- Bass: Bass fishing is fair. The temperature is 48 to 52 degrees. Lick Creek north, up to I-20 is stained. The rivers are a heavy stain. The main lake is clear. Fish spinner baits in white in clear water, chartreuse in stained water along the bridge rip rap. This has been especially good when Georgia Power is pulling water. The jig bite is starting to pick up on wood structure from Sugar Creek north. Docks as well as down trees will produce with the jigs. You will want to slow down your fishing as the water continues to cool.
- Striped Bass: Striper fishing is fair. Look for the birds and the fish will be close by. When you find the birds use your Lowrance to locate the schools of bait with some fish around the bait and drop a minnow into the school. The spoon bite is also good with a white or silver spoon working best.
- Crappie: Crappie fishing is fair. Long lining has been the best producer over the past week. Look for fish staging in the mouths of the creeks and large coves all over the main lake. The Oconee side has been the best producer.
WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 6.8 FEET CLEAR 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. Expect a lot of rain and runoff to work its way into the lake. Spoons, jigs, and Carolina rigs are the best baits with the cold weather. The weather usually gets these fish active but this week it’s been off after a cold week. Expect only a warming trend to get them going. There are some fish shallow in the creeks, but they are under the grass beds. Zoom Baby Bush Hogs in green pumpkin on a pegged Texas rig may work on the grass beds but be sure to use a heavy weight to get though the grass. If there is a warmup this week, get the weights off the baits and look in the sandy areas for small bass to start roaming around.
LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.5 STAINED 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. The number of bites you get in a day has decreased but the size of fish seems to have increased. The recent rains have dirtied up the water particularly on the upper ends of the lake and creeks. The influx of fresh water has also caused rapid changes in water temperatures in a short period of time. Water temperatures in any given area can fluctuate up to 10 degrees in just one day. Keep an eye on your water temperature when fishing new water and try to stay around the warmest water you can find. Crank baits, big-bladed spinner baits, and jigs have been best this week when fishing for shallow fish. The Spro Little John MD 50 in the fire craw color will get a bite when fished extremely slowly over primary and secondary points in the rivers, as well as short pockets located near deep water. A chartreuse and white spinner bait with a large gold #7 willow leaf blade slow rolled around laydown trees on the main riverbank will get fewer bites but look for them to be big fish. A black and blue ¼ ounce Buckeye Mop Jig is great for flipping docks in short pockets or docks that have brush around them. Many fish can be caught deep right now as well with most of the deep fish in 28 to 40 feet of water. A gold Buckeye Jiggin’ Blade or a gold spoon will catch these fish that are relating to bait schools in deep water. Try to find structure in the same depth the fish are holding. The Lowrance HDS Structure Scan system is very helpful for finding the fish and the fish holding structure.
LAKE JACKSON IS FULL, CLEAR 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. But a double blast of cold weather is coming. Use a brown jig in clear water and a black and blue jig in any stained water. Go with a brown or green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk Jr. on the natural color jig and a green pumpkin or black Super Chunk Jr on the black and blue jig. Shaky heads will also work on the docks and deep-water structure. Rig them with trick worms, finesse worms and Senko’s. Shorter finesse worms or shortened trick worms will get more hook ups when the bite turns slow, short, and subtle. Slow down your presentations and fish a 1/8-ounce head when you can get away with it. Spoons are also picking up deep bass relating to bottom and bait. A relatively subtle soft raise and lower action should perform best when fished just above the bottom or to fish elevated in the water column. Fish spoons 16 feet and deeper and stick to clear water for best results in spooning. Be sure to watch the Fish and Game Forecaster to use the right baits during the day. This is when the Lowrance Structure Scan technology can help scout for the bait schools, and this is key in the winter to find bait.
FLAT CREEK PUBLIC FISHING AREA (More Info HERE)
- Surface Temperature: 58.6˚ F (14.8˚ C)
- Water Level: 26” Below Full Pool
- Water Visibility: 22”
- Flat Creek PFA Fishing Guide
The water level is up at Flat Creek, but the mix of warmer and cold days have caused many anglers to target the warmer days or spend a very short time trying their luck fishing the colder days. The anglers that were out fishing were reporting catches of largemouth bass with deep diving lures, trolling for crappie or casting jigs or fishing minnows in cover around the submersed brush piles. Most of the bream caught were on the warmer days by bank fishermen. Here’s a list of what the anglers are reporting to have had good success using for each of the following:
Bass: A Norman DD 22 Nutter Shad or other Deep Diver type plugs; Tail Craw in a Pumpkinseed, Plum or June Bug colored worms. Buzz bait. Jitterbug. Minnows.
Bream: Red Wigglers or Pinks
Channel Catfish: The last anglers that were catching catfish used the following: chicken livers.
Crappie: Trolling seems to be producing the best fish, we have not seen large numbers but have seen nice catches, with Mister Twister Curly Tail Grubs in bright colors; or Strike King Mr. Crappie Shad Jig in any of the four available colors. Minnows have been productive off the fishing pier.
MARBEN Public Fishing Area (More Info HERE)
- Water level: All ponds and lakes are full except Shepherd. Shepherd is drawn down for habitat work and fisheries management.
- Water clarity: Expect the smaller ponds to become stained after heavy rains. The larger lakes are clear with up to 36” visibility.
- Surface temperature: 48-54 degrees F
- Marben PFA Fishing Guide
Bass: Threadfin shad suffer from cold water temps and become lethargic. Often seagulls will feed on these struggling fish. So, when you see gulls feeding there is a good chance bass are feeding too. Bait that look like shad are a good choice. Many anglers look for this activity across the area before deciding where to fish.
Crappie: Expect the crappie to get cranked up after a few days of warmer temperatures. Minnow and jigs tipped with minnows are the best bet. Try fishing different depths to find the crappie.
Bream: The bluegill and shellcracker bite for February will be slow. Try fishing on or near the bottom with worms.
(Fishing report courtesy of Jim Hakala Region Supervisor with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Lanier Bass (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is barely fair. It’s a tough deep bite for most of the lake. Bass are on the deep docks mid lake. These fish are very fat as they have been gorging on tiny shad. The fish are under the deeper docks, ditches and in the deep to 35 feet man made and natural brush piles. Find them with the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology are not moving around. The fish seem to be waiting for a warm up to try and move shallow. Use the small spoons, small jigs and small worms all with little success. Try and scaled down baits to the 2 inch Bass Pro Shop Squirt jigs in multiple colors. Use a small 1/8 ounce Bass Pro Shops jig head in a lead color and add some Jacks Juice to the bag of baits. Fishing these baits is a real chore in any wind so pick some creeks down lake with larger docks to try this. Large marina docks are also holding some really big fish. We have been on three marinas on the main lake and the fish are anywhere from 20 to as deep as 45 feet. Without the Lowrance it is hard to see these fish. They are up under the docks and Structure Scan is the way to see them. Use small 6 pound test Sufix line on a medium action spinning reel and drop baits straight down. This week the road beds, humps and deep ledges were almost barren of fish until we hit the right place. There were no fish in the docks in the backs of the creeks if the water was dirty. It’s still very cold down deep and it looks like it may be another ten days before any warm up. Take some small spoons in sizes no larger than half an ounce or smaller and use 8 Sufix Siege pound line on a medium heavy spinning reel. Find the fish on the Lowrance Down Scan technology with the Fish Reveal and 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.
Lanier Crappie (Report courtesy of Captain Josh Thornton) — Crappie fishing is good. The hot bite target zone is 15 to 20 feet. The bite is supper soft keep your pole in your hands and fill for the slightest bump. When using jigs try putting two different colors on one line about 16” apart 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 80% minnows and 20% jigs. I have had the best luck with a clear to milky jig and a red and black hair jig. 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. I’m using ATX lure companies jigs on 5 pound test, high visibility yellow K9 braid for my line (unless I am using a bobber) and a Piscifun reel on a light action 6 foot 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’s 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.
Allatoona Crappie (Report courtesy of Jeff “Crappieman” Albright) — It’s been a strange month, with the weather being up and down and plenty of dirty water! We are not catching any big numbers, BUT we are catching quality fish like this 16” 2lb 4oz slab. We fished Sunday and had around 18, with 12 nice keepers. Most of the fish we are seeing are in the 10-20 ft depth range, so we slowed the troll speed down to .5-.8 mph, to get them a little deeper. It’s just a matter of time before things go crazy. Red Rooster Custom Baits are doing their job. Colors we’ve been doing best on are blue/orange( Albright Special ), pink/chartreuse tail , purple clear metalflake tail, purple/chartreuse tail, green/gold tail, and black/blue tail. Water temps Sunday were 42-45F. Water is stained and I am sure after all the rain it will look like chocolate milk. Best of luck out there!
Allatoona Bass (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is slow. Water temperatures are 45 to 46 degrees and the lake is stained to muddy from the dam north. The floating fly and drop shot bite is still good in between Iron Hill and Red Top where the water is clear. Size has been down for me on the drop shot, most of the larger fish are coming north of Galt’s Ferry on a crank bait in depth between eight and 15 foot. This Spro fat papa and Little John DD in red and copper colors have been working best. There is lots of bait in the main channel and at the mouth of the creeks and coves. With rains the lake has to clear up for fishing to improve. Days with good sunshine will find that bass move up shallow in the stain water for short periods of time to feed. If these areas for the afternoon. As the water clears up we will see the A rig and jig bite get much better.
Allatoona Linesides (Courtesy of First Bite Guide Service) — Good! Temp. 45 degrees. Mid-lake is still the place to be, despite the stained water right now. All of our stripers are coming on trout and shad fished on planer boards or free lines out over open water. All of our hybrids are coming on trout and shiners fished on down lines 20 – 30 feet deep on humps and points. The u-rig bite has picked back up as well. We are using a Mack Farr 4-arm rig loaded with pink trailers. Our better bite is coming in eyesight of the dam. We are pulling our u-rigs at 3 mph and a 100 feet back just off the river channels. Overall I am pleased with what I am seeing out there right now. Let’s hope these cold temperatures don’t start a shad kill.
Allatoona’s Newest Fish Attractors (Report courtesy of Fisheries Biologist Jackson Sibley) — Check out these before and after pictures of the Galt’s Ferry Fishing Jetty at Lake Allatoona! Armuchee Fisheries staff partnered with the US Army Corps of Engineers, Marietta BassMasters, Bartow County Department of Community Development, Keep Bartow Beautiful and Amateur High School Bass Anglers to improve fish habitat at the Galt’s Ferry Fishing Jetty this past weekend. Together, the group of 30 individuals added 250 recycled Christmas trees to existing anchor points around the jetty at this popular fishing spot. When water levels rise this spring, the trees will be inundated and will provide cover for sportfish like bass, bream and catfish. Over the last 11 years this partnership has added over 2,800 recycled Christmas trees to Lake Allatoona to the benefit of both sportfish and anglers. Find other fish attractors locations at Lake Allatoona HERE.
Allatoona Lake Levels: Keep track of daily lake level changes HERE.
Hartwell Bass: (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is fair. If the wind is up, so expect the fish to turn on the main lake points. The Rapala DT10 and Rapala DT6 will be fair mid-day and later on the points. The better points to fish are the one with the most structure on them. This structure needs to be located in the three to five foot range. Find the ones with the larger rock on them and fish the entire point with either a DT10 or DT6. Shad and silver seem to be the colors that are working the best. At the northern part of the Tugaloo River past the last channel marker is a great place to work rocky points. Stay and fish only the side of the river that the wind is blowing on. Expect the same to work on the Seneca River as well. From the Fair Play ramp and north is the best areas to fish. If the sun comes out the Shad Raps and Rapala DT6 and fish the rock. Once again, let the sun shine on the rocks for at least forty five minutes before fishing these areas. Small shad and bait fish are moving up on the warmer days and the bass are following right behind. Worms and drop shot rigs are still working along with jigs but these methods of fishing are slow and only catching two good keepers out of five on a daily basis. Watch out for the cold fronts that might approach and use a rod with some fiberglass in it while cranking.
Lake Weiss Mixed Bag (Report courtesy of Mark Collins Guide Service) —
- Bass fishing is fair and most fish are on a winter pattern on the creek and river channel ledges. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are working well. Jigs and Carolina rigs are catching fish also.
- Crappie fishing is good and they are being caught long-line trolling with Jiffy Jigs. They are suspended in the river and creek channels 7 to 10 feet deep. Some fish are still being caught spider rigging with minnows on the river channel ledges.
SMALL LAKE REPORT
Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area (Courtesy of PFA Manager Dennis Shiley) – Here is a short and sweet report from Rocky Mountain PFA, Water temp. mid-40’s. The bass and catfish are biting! Follow the shad schools and slow-roll small swimbaits. Check out this new Rocky PFA channel catfish record set by Marshall Leath of Acworth last week. The 15 pound 13 oz. giant hit a jigging spoon. The fish was weighed on a certified scale, photographed, and released back into the lake. Great job Marshall!
Lanier Tailwater (Courtesy of Upper Chattahoochee Trout Unlimited Chapter) — Winter hatches on the Chattahoochee tailwater are underrated and overlooked. Remember the river remains in the ’50s as it exits Buford Dam, so the air temperature can be much cooler than the river temperature. As long as the wind is not too strong, hatching insects will simply stay on the surface longer, making them more readily available to the fish. If it is windy, whatever is hatching gets swept off the surface. If you have excessive winds (15plus mph) try nymphs or streamers. Hatches to look for are small Blue-winged-olives, cream midges, and little winter stoneflies. All of these insects range in hook sizes from #26 up to a whopping #18 both surface and subsurface patterns are best so bring the small box of flies. “Head-hunting” is the best approach if you want to target rising fish on dries. It is better to be observant and wait for rising fish that can be seen rising multiple times so you have an accurate location to place your fly and drift. The water in the wintertime is “gin clear” and randomly working seams and bubble-lines is not effective with dry flies. Waiting for “the rise” is worth the wait instead of prospecting likely holding water risking spooking fish with the line. Be sure to gink your fly, tippet, leader, and line for maximum mending capabilities.
Trout Adventure Story: Get Inspired to Get Out There – click HERE!
Unicoi Outfitters Report: The trout fishing experts at Unicoi Outfitters report that cold, cloudy days dampened last week’s success rates, while the few sunny afternoons warmed the waters, enhanced bug and trout activity, and boosted angler catches a bit. Going forward, let the weather be your guide. If you can, aim your trips for sunny, warmer afternoons. Forecasted air temps that exceed 50 degrees will push water temps into the mid- to upper 40’s and enhance your hookup rates. The weekend forecast is promising! Be on the lookout for midges, blue wing olives, and little black stoneflies and be ready with those dry fly patterns. Best bugs for your nymph box right now are rubberleg stones, peach eggs, RS2’s, root beer midges, sexy Walts worms, and pheasant tails in both nymph and soft hackle forms. For more tips from Unicoi Outfitters, you can read their fishing report on their Facebook page.
Parting Trout Note: Want to do more to support trout fishing in Georgia? Consider upgrading to a Trout Unlimited license plate this year. Aside from being a great looking tag, each purchase or renewal of a Trout Unlimited license plate directly supports Georgia’s trout conservation and management programs. Hatcheries and wild trout efforts both benefit from the trout tag.