Do you keep fishing, even when the trip does not go as planned? My son recently had that kind of trip. He left early to spend the day testing out different ponds at a nearby Georgia Public Fishing Area. Upon arrival, he realized that his dog had chewed up part of his reel on his favorite (and most expensive-of course) pole. Luckily, he had backup gear. He lost one lure after another as he got snagged on various things. Then, as he was watching the water, and not the bank he was walking along, he managed to step into some (very) deep marshy-type mud. Pulled his feet out of the mud – lost a shoe. Instead of admitting defeat, he kept on fishing purely for the joy of being outside and doing what he loved. #justkeepfishing
News to Know
- Go Draw a Fish! The deadline of March 31 is approaching so encourage your child to participate in the Georgia Fish Art Contest. Find out more HERE.
- Surprise! This video has nothing to do with fishing – other than the surprise critter that leaps into the water swims pretty good for a land animal.
This week we have reports from North and Southeast Georgia. I hope you find joy on your next fishing trip – no matter what your current circumstances. Oh, and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Jackson Sibley, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
It may be the coldest time of the year, but don’t let that keep you huddled up inside! Guides, fisheries workers, and anglers are all reporting some great fishing in the region, and this report will give you plenty of reasons to get out and wet a line this week.
Allatoona Bass (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is fair. Start the day by fishing main lake points and flats with a Spro McStick jerk bait in Spooky Shad Color. Be sure to fish the bait very slowly to attract bites. As the day gets warmer, move to the backs of creeks and coves and cast a jig to any cover. A black and blue jig with a blue chunk seems to be working well. If the fish are not on the banks in the creeks, fish the middle of the creek with a Fish Head Spin or a Bandit 300 Crankbait. Use a slow stop and go retrieve. The best crank bait colors seem to be in crawfish or chartreuse and blue patterns. Allatoona bass are still being caught on the Float n Fly as well. If the weather pattern changes toward the end of the month and water temperatures drop, expect bass to pull out to deeper water and suspend until conditions stabilize. If this happens the drop shot and a Big Bite Shaky Squirrel jig head and the Alabama rig bite will pick up.
Allatoona Lake Levels: Keep track of daily lake level changes HERE.
Lanier Crappie (Report courtesy of Captain Josh Thornton) — Crappie fishing is good. The water temperatures are in the low to mid 40s. The hot bite target zone is 12 to 15 feet deep. I want to give a shout out to Hennessey Outdoor Electronics I ordered my new 12 inch screen from them and I got it in 2 days I’ll have to on the boat and ready for action tomorrow. If you’re in the market for any new electronics mention my page Captain Josh and you will save money. We have had some wild weather as far as temperature swings and strong winds this does affect the bite. The fish are easy to find and even see with today’s electronics but just because you can see them doesn’t mean they’re going to bite. The bite is supper soft keep your pole in your hands and fill for the slightest bump. 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 can be used for short casting, vertical jigging or dock shooting. If you are not dock shooting right now you are missing out on some slabs (let your jig sink give it time). This week has been 60/40 minnows to jigs. The most productive jigs have been milk with green tail or a chartreuse hair jig. I’m using ATX lure companies plastics on k9 5 pound test high visibility yellow braid for my line (unless I am using a bobber) and a Piscifun reel on a light action 5’ B&M rod. I use Garmin livescope and the Navionics Boating app. Find me on Facebook and like my page @crappieonlanier
Lanier Bass (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is slow. They are feeding well but the bite is super soft. With the fish deep almost all the action has been in the afternoons. Brush and any kind of cover are keys and there are also some spots biting on manmade brush on the deeper banks. In the cold months fish travel only short distances for food and fishing in the heavy cover as long as possible increase strike possibilities. Zoom’s natural green and the green pumpkin worms in the finesse styles are being used on a Texas rig. A Bitsey Bug jig in browns and blacks are fair and use the smaller #101 Uncle Josh trailer. Dark colors are best in the deeper waters and stay with light 8 pound test lines on spinning reels. A 6 foot rod with a medium tip will allow soft strikes to be felt and don’t wait to set the hook. Use the standard 3/16 ounce weight and add a small green or red bead to create the clicking sounds. Spots are curious and will come to investigate. The #1/0 Mustad hooks are strong and but light enough allow to fish to take the worm. Also drag a Zoom all white Super Fluke over the bottom like a worm. Add a pencil lead into the Super Fluke and dip the tail in a red or chartreuse dye. Fish the bait just like a worm. Drop shot rigs and a relay short leader no longer than 5 inches will temp t a spot. 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.
Lanier Walleye (Report courtesy of Fisheries Supervisor Anthony Rabern) — Hunter Roop and Mark Rigglesford did some scouting this week for walleye in the headwaters of Lake Lanier and located a couple of pre-season young bucks. During February, anglers can catch walleye in the upper ends of our North Georgia lakes along the river channel ledge using vertical jigging techniques. A little bird told me that a ¾-ounce Hopkins Spoon bounced on the bottom was a pretty good choice, especially if there are rock outcroppings along the river channel. If the water is stained, walleye will move closer to the shoreline to find refuge on the lake bottom in shady hideouts under a dock or underneath the limbs of a downed tree. When they are hiding in cover, working crappie jigs tipped with a minnow is an effective technique. February is typically the best month to catch trophy walleyes. It was just five years ago this month when Wes Carlton set a new state record for walleye with his 14 lb 2 oz catch from Lake Rabun. Who knows, there could be a 16 lber out there.
Nottely Habitat Enhancement (Report courtesy of Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — On Wednesday 2/3/21, the Gainesville Fisheries crew (Hunter and Mark) deployed 59 pallet tent fish attractors near Eagle’s Bend on Lake Nottely. This project was done in cooperation with TVA and with the helpful hands of US Forest Service biologists and technicians from the Blue Ridge and Chattooga River Ranger Districts. Submerged physical structure is highly sought by littoral warmwater fishes like Largemouth Bass, Black Crappie (pictured), and various species of bream that inhabit Lake Nottely. These new, long-lasting fish attractors will be productive targets for fish and their pursuing anglers once the reservoir refills in the coming spring and summer. If you want to check out the location of these new fish attractors, visit Lake Nottely’s Fishing Forecast Storymap, and set your sights to site #16. While you’re there, you can freshen up on the latest fishing prospects for 2021, which will help you prepare for spring fishing opportunities just on the horizon.
Hartwell Bass: (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant www.southernfishing.com) Bass fishing is slow. Fronts continue to move across Northeast Georgia keeping the majority of the anglers off of the lake. Use the igging spoons over deep water structure. Up in the river in the coves some are catching small spotted bass on shallow to medium diving crank baits. Most of these bass were around the docks or underneath them. Jigs and worms on the docks also were used to pick up an occasional bass. With the weather still unstable and some drastic changes in the forecast, check the local weather and feeding tables before going out. Rapala DT Flat Baits, Shad Raps along with 1/4 ounce jigs and six inch finesse worms are working in the coves and around those docks.
Lake Weiss Mixed Bag (Report courtesy of Mark Collins Guide Service)–
- Bass: Bass fishing is fair, and most fish are on a winter pattern, on the creek and river channel ledges. Spinner baits and crank baits 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, my best colors this past week have been JJ13, JJ17 and Mark’s special blue. They are suspended in the river and creek channels 7-10 feed deep, some fish are still being caught spider rigging with minnows on river channel ledges.
- Striped Bass: Striper fishing is poor, and no reports on any fish being caught in the last few weeks. Catfish are biting good, in the bays and creeks in 8-15 feet of water. Cut bait is working best.
Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area (Report courtesy of PFA Manager Dennis Shiley) — Heath Lake AT Rocky Mountain PFA is managed for trophy bass, and is open from the 1st to the 10th of each month and should be producing some dandies right now. Good ones are biting elsewhere at Rocky, this one went 7.82 lb.
Check Your Knots! (Courtesy of Tammy Hopton) — When my husband, Patrick and I got to the stream, we found the water was gin-clear, cold, and fast. I immediately went to one of my favorite spots on the stream and got down to business. It is a long deep run that is best fished using nymphs and streamers heavily weighted to get them down deep. I was using my 4 weight fly rod, rigged with a #14 black Wooly Booger on 3x tippet. I put 3 split shot weights on the tippet and was using a strike indicator.
I started at the bottom of the run and slowly worked my way up, getting no strikes. Bummer. So, I took a break to let the run rest a bit while I changed flies, changing the Booger to a #16 Zug Bug. I started back fishing the head of the run and letting it drift down the run nice and deep. I see the strike indicator pause and I set the hook! I can tell it’s a big’un. It jumps! I let out a surprised “Waahoo!” After playing the fish for a few minutes I get my net out to scoop it up and…. Dang! The line goes limp. It is gone!
Pat is behind me, grinning and shaking of his head… he had seen the whole thing. What happened?? I checked my tippet and found a little curly-que at the end. My knot did not hold! How embarrassing. I can almost hear my friend Doug Adams saying “Always check your knots!” Well, I didn’t give up. I fished for a few hours in other parts of the stream, caught a few smaller fish, then came back to the same run where I had lost the big ‘un earlier. Using the same set up of a Zug Bug fished deep and slow, I found redemption. I hooked, played and landed this nice big 18” rainbow trout! (See photo) He jumped a couple of times clear out of the water, put up a grueling fight to the point my arms and hands were tired, but this time my knots held.
Smith Creek DH (Report courtesy of Jeff Durniak) — Caught two trout on a squirmy worm from a deep hole where a pod of fish were stacked up. Also caught 2 on pink/orange eggs in semi-fast water just below a couple different pools. Had to leave at 1:00 before the fish really started getting active. People were starting to pile into the parking lot when I left, but only 3 or 4 cars when I got there at 10. Not much else beyond that…just staying stealthy as I’m sure these fish are seeing a lot of flies! Talked to a couple of other guys and they both had only caught 1 fish.
Holly Creek (Report courtesy of Fisheries Biologist Jackson Sibley) — Trout anglers in northwest and northcentral Georgia do not have to drive to the Blue Ridge to have a memorable “trouting”! Last Saturday, Steve Curry and I got an early start fly fishing the upper reaches of Holly Creek in Murray County targeting small, wild rainbows. After nymphing pockets and deep runs for 30 minutes with no success, Steve presented me with a beautiful wild rainbow which had risen to a spruce moth offering and recommended that I switch to dries. His advice was appreciated as my elk hair caddis/pheasant tail dropper combo quickly began producing several 5-6” rainbows. As they day continued, we relocated a few miles downstream to the Emery Creek Trailhead area, where Holly is characterized by high gradient, cascades, and deep plunge pools. Deep nymphing was the key in this section, and 8-10” fish took a variety of patterns. Fish the eddies with a nymph under a strike indicator or dropper. If there’s no obvious hatch occurring, use larger patterns like a size 12 stonefly or try throwing streamers. Wooly buggers and clouser minnows are great options.
If you’re not into fly fishing, spin fisherman in this stretch report good catch rates of 10” + fish on rooster tails and spinners, such as the Rapala “Blue Fox” Vibrax. Larger trout prefer the deeper plunge pools of the lower section as the expansive habitat provides the ability to ambush small fish. This time of year, use a slow retrieve in deep pools below cascades and focus on the edges or “seams” of the eddies, where these larger fish are often scouting out their next meal.
General North Georgia Delayed Harvest: (Report courtesy of Trout Stocking Coordinator John Lee Thomson) — Trout anglers should take advantage of the good weekend weather at the Delayed Harvest sections found in the North Georgia mountains. The Wildlife Resource Division, in cooperation with the USFWS completed a restocking of those sections this week so the action should be good. To confirm your favorite section was stocked check out the weekly stocking report. Remember Delayed Harvest areas are artificial lure only and catch and release. Good luck.
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.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
It was slow but steady this week from the reports I received. There were some really good fish caught, but not as many big numbers trips in the cold and wind this week.
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.
Todd Kennedy switched gears at a different pond this weekend and only caught one fish, unlike the dozens per trip he’s been catching in other ponds. BUT…..that one bass weighed 9 3/4 pounds!!!!! It inhaled a vibrating jig. I would give up a few medium-sized bites for a fish of that quality! He fished from his kayak (or should I say, was dragged around by that fish in his kayak). Crappie fishing around Waycross was ok but not on fire by most reports I received. Anglers caught a few fish between the cold fronts. Trey Lee fished this weekend and caught a nice mess of crappie in an Alma area pond. His biggest was a 15 inch fish pushing 2 pounds, and it ate a shad colored curly-tail grub. That bite should really improve during the forecasted warm-up next week.
The flier bite fired off this week before the most recent cold front. Cleveland Register and Bartey Nugent fished the east side during the week and caught 66 fliers on pink sallies. They had so much fun that Bartey brought his wife (Gloria) back on Saturday and ended up catching 87 fliers. Pink sallies were the ticket for both of those trips, and they caught them on both #10 and #8 sallies. Their fish were about half males and half females. This is the time of year to catch the big females while they are still pre-spawn. Mike Paulk from Willacoochee also fished on Saturday and was able to get the fliers to eat a yellow sally. He kept 24, and they were big, fat fish – some of the biggest I’ve seen in over a year. It is time to try to catch a warm spell and head to the swamp with your bream buster and some sallies. I’ve done best by fishing the day when a cold front is approaching. The latest water level was 120.9 feet.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, click HERE)
Crappie anglers reported catching about a half-dozen to 10 fish per trip this week on both minnows and jigs. The biggest bass caught that I heard of was a 6 ½-pounder.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
A Waycross angler fished the Brunswick area for his birthday on Friday and caught 16 trout and a 20-inch redfish. He had 3 keeper trout up to 17 inches, but he released everything. He caught the redfish by dabbling a small piece of shrimp while trying for sheepshead. All of the trout were on 2 ½ and 3-inch Keitech swimbaits and Capt. Bert’s Jigheads with spring keepers. Another group fished on Tuesday in the Brunswick area and caught and released 9 redfish by pitching shrimp threaded on a jighead with Gamakatsu hooks. Their catch included a tagged redfish. 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.