Heard this straight from someone “in the know” about all things fisheries….”it’s about to bust wide open.” You heard it here first. Time to get those rods re-lined, organize that tackle box, and watch the weather reports to see how many layers you need to wear. It’s hard to contain the excitement, right? Knowing that some really good fishing is just out there waiting for you.
NEWS TO KNOW
- Lunker Alert: Who wants to see a big fish? Oh, let me see – all of you? Check out this blog post to hear about the first sampling trip of the year at Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area.
- Making Plans for Summer Camps: It’s hard to believe, in all the rain and cold, but summer is coming – and that means summer camp time. Sign up your kids for a great adventure at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center Summer Camps.
- New Chief of Fisheries: We are welcoming Scott Robinson to the position of Chief of Fisheries Management. Find out more about Scott HERE.
This week, we have great reports from Southeast and North Georgia. And remember, it’s never too early to start getting the gear ready to go and plan those fishing trips, let’s GO Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The weather was awful this week, but the few folks who went still caught fish well, especially in ponds and lakes.
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.
Wyatt Crews pitched a Fish Food Fly to the bream in his pond and caught a half-dozen hand-sized bluegills on Friday. Also on Friday, Chad Lee fished an Alma are pond and caught a giant bluegill that inhaled an albino Assassin Tiny Shad fished on a jighead with gold sickle hooks. Todd Kennedy fished a Brunswick area pond on Monday and caught 40 bass between 2 and 4 pounds in just 3 hours of fishing. The key was to catch the bite just ahead of the thunderstorms. ZOOM Flukes were the ticket for him. Crappie fishing around Waycross was good during stable weather but slowed after the fronts this week. On Thursday, Mike Czaplinski and Dave Maiorano fished with a friend at a Brunswick area lake and landed 23 bass between 2 and 5 pounds, and several channel catfish. They caught one bass on a vibrating jig and a few on a Satilla Spin Magnum Spinnerbait (blue glimmer shad), but the rest were on Keitech Mad Wag Worms (Texas-rigged with 3/16 to 1/4-oz. weights). Their best worm colors were black-blue flake and midnight blue. An angler fished a Brunswick pond on Thursday evening for 2 hours and caught 43 channel catfish up to 3 pounds on cut bluegill threaded on a Catfish Catcher Jighead and fished on the bottom.
Staff from Okefenokee Adventures said that a few folks got out in the swamp between the rains this week and a few fliers bit for them. This coming week’s weather forecast is exactly what is needed to spur the bite. The flier fishing should be off the chain this coming week. Yellow and pink sallies fished under small balsa floats should fool them well if they bite what has been working well over the last month. You may be able to fool a chain pickerel (jackfish) with an in-line spinner or minnow plug on a warm afternoon. The latest water level was 121.0 feet.
DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)
Bass and crappie fishing have been great over the last couple weeks, but the cold, rainy, windy weather reduced the effort this week. The bite will really pick up this coming week with the forecasted warming trend.
OCMULGEE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Hawkinsville, more info HERE)
Andrew Laney fished Wednesday and was targeting crappie with jigs tipped with minnows. He caught and released 15 slabs up to 2 pounds, but he also caught 3 big bass up to 9 pounds with the miniscule rig. That’s a hoot to hook a big bass on light tackle! If you want to catch a trophy bass, this is a great place to fish. Remember, bass are catch-and-release only at the area.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Between the wind, rain, fog (and there was LOTS of it this week), and cold fronts, I did not get any reports from the brine this week. 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 Sarah Baker, fisheries biologist, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Although it’ll still be chilly, I urge you to get out and soak up some sunshine this weekend as more rain is expected next week. As always, be sure to check USGS stream gauges and call local tackle shops before making your way to your anticipated fishing spot.
Lake Lanier: (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) — LAKE LANIER IS DOWN 1.2 FEET, CLEAR, CREEKS STAINED, 50S
- Spotted bass (Report Courtesy of Phil Johnson, 770-366-8845) — Spotted bass fishing has been fair and spots are being caught on points, just within the points, main lake humps, and ditches of the last deep water going up into coves. Look at deep brush piles and find some bait at depths of 25 to 35 feet deep. The cold fronts are still a problem but as soon as the warm weather settles in, some spotted bass will be moving up into areas of warming water. Look right now for the main lake fish to be the best bet. Spotted bass will bite jigging spoons with a small profile and a slow flutter. Some jig fish are also biting and a Strike King ¼ ounce Bitsey Bug with a Yamamoto twin tail trailer in greens is working. Look for the deeper docks half way into the creeks to be good areas. Also main lake ledges at the creek moths are good areas for a jig and a spoon. Spots like the deep rocky banks and if it is out of the wind, these are key areas that will warm up sooner than the wind-blown banks. Also use the Lucky Craft suspending jerk baits. Colors need to be silver and blue combinations. 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.
- Crappie fishing is good (Report From Captain Josh Thornton, 770-530-6493) — The water temperatures are in the low to mid 40s. The hot bite target zone is 12 to 15 feet. The crappie are getting fat. 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 under docks that are in 20 to 40 feet of water and have brush or structure use your electronic charts to locate these areas. Remember crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows of a dock. 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 jigs beat minnows. The most productive jig color was amber 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.
Lake Weiss: (Mark Collins reports) —
- Bass fishing is fair. Our bass 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. They are being caught long line trolling, with Jiffy Jigs, JJ13, JJ17 and JJ20 are the colors that have been catching fish for me, they are suspended in the river and creek channels 7 to 10 feet deep, some fish are starting to move into the spawning bays, but with the cold weather moving in again, they will probably move back out. Some fish are still being caught spider rigging, with minnows, on the river channel ledges.
Lake Hartwell: (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) — Lake Hartwell is down 2.72 feet, 50s. Bass fishing is fair. It is still very cold. Look for the bass on the points both up and down lake looking for food. There are deep bass in the up lake creeks in the very backs of feeder creeks. Trick worms in greens and small shad crank baits have been fair. The Lowrance Structure Scan Down Scan technology can eliminate a tons of water to find the bait, the structure and the bass. The lower lake creeks are clearing and stay with small shad colored crank baits and use the smaller jigs in black and silver with a small pork. Fish any bank cover all the way to the boat working the lure’s slowly in cover. Find any warming water in the northwest cove’s later in the afternoons. Look for the bass in the mouths of the main lake and main river creeks. The lower lake creeks are fair and the smaller Dark Stanley jigs in black and silver with a small Uncle Josh trailer is fair but use them slowly. Fish any bank cover all the way to the boat working the lure’s slowly in cover. Find any warming water in the northwest cove’s later in the afternoons. Use smoke/green Zoom u tail worms and cast around docks down lake. Down lake in the creeks use a 3/8 ounce blue and black Stanley jig and a Bo Hawg trailer on points. Hopkins spoons in 1/2 ounce sizes on and over the old tree lines in the major creeks is fair just fish them slowly.
Lake Allatoona (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) – Lake Allatoona is down 12.3 feet clear 50s. Bass fishing is fairly tough and here comes more rain for a week. Most of the south end of the lake is clear. The spoon bite has been the best pattern going as of recent. The spoons at 30 feet down can work but it has been tough to find concentrations of fish. Fish the mouths of the creeks or just inside the creek mouths. Use the 12 pound test Sufix Siege fluorocarbon and alternating between a 3/4 and 1 ounce spoon and watching the Lowrance for the fish and bait in the area. Water is still very cold for a reaction bite.
West Point Mixed Bag (Report Courtesy of Fisheries Biologist Brent Hess) – The water temperatures are in the mid-40’s. Heavy rainfalls and cold air temperatures have made fishing West Point Lake a challenge for even the most dedicated of anglers. No surprise, all the rain has stained the vast majority of the lake to the color of Georgia red clay. However, fishing for crappie and hybrids should improve again once temperatures increase and the water clears up some. Fishing for largemouth and spots is very slow, but there were some signs of a few larger fish starting to chase baitfish before the last rainstorm. Note: 17 lbs won last weekend’s high school bass fishing tournament.
Carters Lake Stripers– Captain Cy Grajcar with Allatoona’s Extreme Stripers Guide Service, specializes in striped bass and hybrids. Cy has spent 20 years keying into seasonal patterns and understands as well as anyone that depending on the day, season, or year, the best chance of catching a trophy lineside can vary from reservoir to reservoir and river to river. Carters Lake provided the venue last Saturday when Captain Cy offered three seasoned anglers their first encounter with north Georgia Striped Bass. The drizzly wintry day kept other anglers off the lake, giving the crew a sense of solitude as they slow trolled live gizzard shad over humps, flats, and channels. The recent cold front kept the bite suppressed compared to the last few weeks, but those that bit were big. The day’s most notable catch was a chunky 24-lb pre-spawn striper, but other action, including a handful of largemouth bass and yellow perch, kept the bite steady most of the day. As far as trophy fish go, Captain Cy is having an outstanding year with several fish in the 30-lb class and one going over 40.
Fishing for Redear Sunfish– AKA Yellow Bream, Golden Bream, Stumpknockers, Sunnies, and Shellcrackers. GON contributor, Jeremiah, provides incredible information about fishing for this bream in Georgia lakes and reservoirs. This thread is packed with information, so if you do your homework now, by spring, you’ll be ready to catch these sunfish during their spawn. You can read his excellent fishing thread on the GON fishing forum here. (I suggest reading all the way through; thread #59 includes his bait, lure, and fly recommendations). Thanks for the compilation Jeremiah!
Sampling News: Armuchee WRD staff have been sampling the Coosawattee, Etowah, and Oostanaula Rivers over the last two weeks in search of stripers and white bass. The cold weather during this period has kept fish from starting their annual spring runs and few fish have been seen. Die hard anglers searching for a few white bass should look to smaller creek mouths, which may warm up quicker than the main rivers. Stripers were scarce, as expected, but we did find one 34-pound pre-spawn brute (pictured). More of these monsters should move upstream in the next two months, peaking in mid-late April.
‘Hooch DH Stocking Notice: (Update from Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop) — Although January was a relatively dry month for North Georgia, February has brought some recent rain and bitter cold weather that has elevated both river gauges and Atlantan’s thermostat settings. Because the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta’s DH has been fluctuating between daily highs around 7,000 cfs and lows exceeding 2,000 cfs, WRD Fisheries has decided to delay Chattahoochee DH stockings until fishable conditions return to the river. Other higher elevation waterbodies like Amicalola, Smith, and Toccoa serve well as DH alternatives until drier conditions return. During non-generation periods, more local and wadable sections in Lanier’s tailwater can be found at locations like Bowman’s Island, below the Hwy 20 bridge, Settle’s Bridge, and Jones Bridge—just check the river flows and Buford’s generation schedule before you go. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the weekly stocking report available on WRD’s trout fishing page.
- If you are new to wade fishing the Chattahoochee Tailwater: Here’s a great video that walk you through how to know when to fish based on water gauges.
- Also, The Atlanta Fly Fishing Club has an excellent resource for access points, float times, and fishing tips here.
Chattooga DH: (Report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters, http://www.unicoioutfitters.com)- Dredger hit the Chattooga DH on a warm Tuesday afternoon. Water temp was 46F at noon and rose to 48F by 5pm. He struck out via Euronymphing through the first hour. Then he saw a few fluttering stones and switched to dry/dropper. The stones and risers were few and far between, with few fish convinced to leave their shady, predator-proof hideouts in the low, clear river to rise to his dry. He still caught a small handful of bows and browns. On top. In February.
Conversely, SC buddy Todd whacked them while wading downstream and tossing a double streamer rig. Dredger crossed his path while fishing up. They compared notes and here are the tips from two old Hokies. If you want numbers, aim high or low for the fresh winter stockers. If you want some topwater action, look for fall survivors and fluttering bugs in afternoon. Aim your dry/dropper rigs for the shallow flats in the middle of the DH section. We need “a good flush” of high river flow to spread out those new stockers.
Smith Creek DH: Psst… I expect the sunshine will help to fill the parking lot up this weekend… but if you decide to brave the crowd, an egg or a pink squirmy wormy fly are the tickets.
Calling All Trout Nerds! If you haven’t yet watched this video compiled by Wendell “Ozzie” Ozefovich, I recommend setting aside some time (it’s an hour long) when it’s absolutely pouring rain and your fly box is full (is that possible?) to watch it. You may want to take some notes. It is incredibly informative and uniquely captures more than just trout feeding behavior. Learn about “hydro cushions”!