March is making us spring-ready. Looks like a lot of sunshine coming this weekend so y’all get outside and get some time on the water together!
NEWS TO KNOW
Zebra Mussel Alert! These mussels have been found in pet store products across the state. Please help – ensure you do not have any of these products, if you see them on a shelf – let us know, and tell your friends and family about them. More info HERE.
- Fish Consumption Guidelines: Have you ever wondered how healthy the fish are that you are consuming? For public safety concerns, Georgia DNR samples fish from water bodies each year to test for contaminants, such as PCBs, chlordane, and mercury. Many of the fish tested have few or no contaminants and are safe to eat. Fish consumption guidelines, or how often to eat fish from different Georgia waters, is found in the Georgia Fishing Regulations which are available online, in the Outdoors Georgia app, or in printed copies (available at license vendors and DNR offices).
This week, we have reports from North and Southeast Georgia. Enjoy that sunshine and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The budding of red maple trees is nature’s signal that spring is on its way. Those budding red maples also send a signal to anglers that the year’s best fishing is upon us. That’s because fish are on the move and will be more easily tempted by our arsenal of lures and baits than at any other time of the year. Trout from our hatcheries are hitting the DH sections and bass, crappie, walleye and linesides are all fair game right now, too. WRD’s Fisheries Chief, Scott Robinson, not only oversees the statewide fisheries program, but he is also an avid angler. His tip for success to bass anglers this week is to target windblown, rocky points. This approach also works on windblown rip-rap banks in cove arms with stained water because that’s where the shad stack up. It’s also the start of the walleye spawning season and this week’s monitoring efforts indicated that walleye have moved into the headwaters of our stocked lakes. Walleye have a reputation of being extra finicky this time of year so fish with a slow and steady retrieve using a light-weight jig tipped with a nightcrawler or small minnow. Small floating Rapalas are also effective during the twilight hours. Crappie are now staging in their pre-spawn hiding places. Good electronics are important to find schools of crappie hiding in brush piles underneath docks. Striped bass are moving upstream in the rivers of Northwest Georgia. Numbers are on the low side right now but should be on the rise as soon as water temperatures reach the mid-50s. The Etowah River and Oostanula River are best bets. Hybrid bass like the 14.5-pounder pictured have been found mixed in with the stripers. Anglers targeting river stripers or hybrids should use live or cut shad, or shad-imitating lures like Zara Spooks, Redfins, or Sassy Shads. More reservoir fishing tips are provided by local experts on the GON Fishing Report page and Ken Sturdivant’s Southern Fishing Report. Highlights are summarized below but check out their websites for the full details and more.
- Bass:Guide and tournament angler Ryan Coleman reports, “Fishing has been fairly tough in the past week or so but should really rebound this week. Most of the shallow fish ran out deep but will come right back to the banks as the sunny weather comes. I have been concentrating on docks and blowdowns on the lower end with slow-moving baits like a worm or jig and pausing a jerkbait over the ends of the deep blowdowns. With the water being so high the past few years, there are tons of blowdowns on the south end of Lanier right now. As for the docks, I have mostly been using a 5-inch Yamamoto Double Tail Hula Grub rigged on a 1/4- and 3/8-oz. Spot Sticker Crawler Head. Skip under the shady docks and work around the outside edges of them afterward. This is a nice slow-moving bait and will work as the water cools like it has. For the jerkbait, I would use a MegaBass 110 or 110+1 on light line like 10-lb. fluorocarbon and just use long pauses over the blowdowns and in the middle of the sunny pockets. Take your time with this technique right now. The pause seems to be the thing triggering them. As we roll into March, look for the dock bite to really pick up. Also make sure to work on the secondary points with worms and jerkbaits as that sun gets out and heats the water up. Good luck out there.”
- Bass: Bass fishing guide, Phil Johnson (Pjohnson15@hotmail.com (770) 366-8845) reports that spotted bass are being caught are coming off points, main lake humps, and ditches of the last deep water going up into coves. Areas where there are brush piles and bait in about 25 to 40 feet of water are good places to start. Occasionally, when the warm weather pops out you can catch some spotted bass moving up into areas of warming water, such as areas out of the wind, and that get the most sunlight. Most of the spotted bass that are being caught are being caught later in the day on jigging spoons with a small profile, and a slow flutter. Some examples would be a Flex It or a small spoon in the ¼ to 1/2 ounce sizes, in a white or silver color on a sunny day and a gold or solid white on a cloudier day. There are some good spots biting on the rocks on the left side of Sardis Creek going out of the creek with Fat Albert Grubs and in almost any color worked on a 1/8 ounce lead head. Slow steady retrieves about 10 feet deep will work well especially in the middle of the day. Be sure to work the rocks in the center of Sardis Creek, especially the ones on the left side going out of the Sardis Creek ramp. On sunnier days, as things warm up, some fish are being taken on the deep rocky banks out of the wind on suspended jerk baits in a silver and blue or an orange and copper color, a Zoom’s Swamp Crawler worm rigged on a 3/16-ounce Tru Tungsten head and a green pumpkin and natural blue colors. Also use a small jig in a 3/16-ounce Strike King Bitsy Flip. The marina docks around the island in Bald Ridge Creek inside the marina has been good for spots especially on a fully sunny day. Spots will move up on these rocky areas and fish the island as well. Colors need to be black and blue, browns, or the green and brown color rigged with a brown, black, or green pumpkin chunk like Zoom’s Super Chunk Jr. The spots are slow on Lanier so be very patient with any presentation. Focus on areas that will warm the quickest, such as rock and areas out of the wind with stagnant water.
- Stripers:Guide Clay Cunningham reports, “Freelines will become the primary tactic in March as the fish get ready for the spring spawn. Rig up a Penn Fathom Linecounter reel with 15-lb. Trilene Big Game line. Then use a 10-lb. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader, a Spro 80-lb. Power Swivel and a Gamakatsu 1/0 octopus hook tipped with the herring. This setup is the Lanier staple. The Penn Fathom Linecounter really helps your success rate as you are able to know exactly how far your baits are behind the boat. Start at 120 feet and make changes as necessary. Some days a small split-shot or an additional 30 feet of line can make a huge difference from day to day. Pull the freelines at 1 mph across humps and points and in some cases over open water. So far, open water has been best with the herring as the bait. If the fish move to the banks, keep a Penn Battalion 7-foot medium light spinning rod paired with a Penn Conflict with light line on the deck. Tie on a Capt. Mack 1/4-oz. bucktail in white or chartreuse or a Berkley Fusion 1/4-oz. jig head tipped with a white paddle tail and beat the bank. Some days the plastics outperform live bait. Also start thinking about a Berkley Surge Shad in bone later in the month. The topwater bite will be around the corner.”
- Crappie: Fishing guide, Josh Thornton (770) 530-6493 and Facebook @crappieonlanier, reports that crappie are in brushpiles at 12 to 15-feet deep under docks that are sitting over water that is 20 to 40-feet deep. The bite is super soft, so keep your pole in your hands and feel for the slightest bump. Remember, crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows of a dock. Try slow trolling a crappie minnow with a ¼-ounce sinker over the submerged creek beds. 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 (give your jig time to sink). On average for this week 75/25 minnows to jig. The most productive jig color has been Monkey Milk in clear water and try using dark colors in stained waters.
- Bass:Tournament angler Matt Driver reports, “March on Lake Allatoona is almost magical. The big bass just appear out of nowhere! March is definitely one of the best months of the year to catch a quality bass. March madness truly fits Lake Allatoona this month. Bass move up shallow and have two things on their mind—food and spawning. This month is all about covering water. Crankbaits, scroungers and ChatterBaits is what I’ll be throwing. I like the Picasso spinnerbait with white willowleaf blades or a willowleaf/Colorado blade combo. Fish the spinnerbait on wind-blown points. For the ChatterBait, a Picasso Aaron Martens Shock Blade in white and blue is my shallow cover bait. I fish it on points and in laydown trees. These are the best areas to target. Next is the scrounger. I throw a 1/4-oz. jig head tipped with a Big Bite Baits alewife 4-inch Jerk Minnow fished on 10-lb. Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon and a glass composite medium cranking rod. Make a long cast and just slowly reel it back. The scrounger may get several bites before the fish actually loads up. The scrounger will produce hybrid, striper, white bass and spotted bass. It will make for an interesting day. The areas around Illinois Creek, the mouth of Little River and the Sweetwater Creek area have been really productive.”
- Linesides:Guide Robert Eidson reports, “The north end of the lake is heavily stained, and the bite is extremely slow up there right now, just like the rest of the lake. But as the lake starts to clear, we look for the fish to start grouping up and begin to feed before their spawning runs. I look for these fish to stage from Kelloggs up to Fields Landing. When this happens, planer boards and freelining shad and shiners will be the ticket. As of right now, I think your best bet to put a few fish in the boat is on the flats from Bartow to Clark Creek. Spoons and A-rigs are your best bet at this time.”
- Bass:Guide Matt Justice reports, “Fishing is going to pick up red hot in the next two weeks with fish moving into staging areas next to spawning areas. Look for points and rockpiles in 5 to 20 feet of water, and catch them on red crankbaits, football jigs and jerkbaits. Once the fish pull up shallow, a worm fished under and around docks is the best bet. Look for fish to start bedding in late March and continue through May.”
- Linesides:Guide Preston Harden reports, “March is one of my favorite months to fish. I love to fish small artificials and catch big fish. I fish small bucktail jigs and flukes and fish shallow like a bass fisherman. But I am looking for a fish that can rip the drag unlike a bass. This is finesse fishing and not so easy. You have to slow down the presentation. You have to put the jig where the fish are. Concentrate on wind-blown banks. You don’t have to start early. The water warms on a warm day, and the fish move shallow later in the day. Expect to catch stripers, hybrids, largemouth and spots.”
West Point Lake
- Bass: Fishing is good and the shallows are really warming fast lake wide. Fish are still feeding around rip-rap by all the bridges and a small Rat L Trap is an easy bait to fish fast and cover a lot of water. Fish the bridge at Yellow Jacket access several times a day. Up lake, throw a ½ ounce football jig on ledges and brush piles for some great jig action. Fish are still in the 8 to 10-foot range up lake above the Hwy 109 Bridge. Use a 3/8-ounce Fish Head Spin rigged with a Zoom fluke or a 1/2 Rat L Trap around the rocks. Throw jigs and shakey heads on light line around the shoal markers and drop offs. Good skirt colors for TTT R-jigs are Texas Craw, PB&J and watermelon craw.
- White Bass & Crappie (Courtesy of GON Forum contributor Dusting Pate) — I’ve been on the river 4 out of the last 5 days and things are really starting to happen. It is still a mixed bag of whites, hybrids, and big crappie. I’ve been keying on areas from Snake Creek to Ringer, mainly. Water temps have risen from 48 or so early last week, up to 53-54 yesterday. Actually saw some low 60 water off the river late yesterday evening…..Continue reading HERE.
- Bass: Guide and tournament pro Mike Carter reports, “The water level on Weiss has started rising more consistently now with all of the recent rains. This will create a lot of stained to muddy creeks and main-lake areas. Using red and chartreuse 1/4- or 1/2-oz. Rat-L-Traps and MR6 crankbaits around main-lake points and rock walls will be a consistent pattern for these conditions as bass get on a strong pre-spawn pattern and feed heavily in March. ”
- Crappie: Guide Mike Carter also reports, “The water level is getting back closer to normal, which means it is time to go after some major slab crappie for the dinner table. Trolling creek ledges or my personal favorite of shooting docks will help in putting some nice fillets in the freezer. Our favorite time of year has started, so get out and enjoy it!”
- Stripers:Guide Eric Crowley reports, “The fish are scattered in the creeks as well as the water column. We are seeing fish as shallow as 6 feet and as deep as 50. Our best days have been fishing a number of baits at different depths spread out as far as you can. Cover water and stop the boat when you see bigger schools of fish or activity on the screen. We have had several doubles with one fish deep and one fish on the surface and lots of fish suspended away from bait balls. As far as location, Fisher Creek, Camp Branch and Worley are always the go-to areas for early spring as the bait tends to congregate here before the spawn. Bait of choice has been medium gizzards. They just seem to get hit more than alewives or trout right now. We are fishing 12-lb. mono leaders and circle hooks on all our downlines and shallow presentations. The u-rig bite has been picking up for us. The Captain Mack’s rigs are a great way to cover water and hard to beat for an open-water presentation. White or white and green have been hot colors.
New Lake Record-Pending: Carters Lake likely has a new White Crappie record pending Georgia Outdoors Magazine recognition! Twelve-year-old Chandler Watkins landed a 3-pound, 4.9-ounce white crappie this past Sunday at Carters (photo). His catch easily eclipsed the current lake record by more than a pound and was a “shoe-in” for Georgia Angler Award Program recognition. Chandler said the 17.6-inch slab inhaled a live shad while he was fishing for stripers. Congratulations to Chandler on an impressive catch!
Lake Blue Ridge
- Bass:Guide Eric Welch reports, “On the main body, look for sunny, rock bank lines and rocky points. Up the river try rocky bluff banks. The fish we’ve been catching have been in 20 to 40 feet of water. Try a drop shot with a 4.5-inch Roboworm and a Z-man Ned rig with a TRD worm. If you see any fish on your electronics, try dropping a 1/2-oz. spoon or a Strike King 2.75-inch Rage Swimmer on a 1/2-oz. Moon Eye jig head. There has been a jig bite on the rocky bluff walls. Try a 3/8-oz. green-pumpkin jig with a twin-tail grub. On sunny days with a little wind, try the A-rig around docks and points. This time of year I normally start out with a small crankbait like a Bandit 200, Strike King Series 3 and a Rapala No. 5 Shad Rap in a bream or natural color. If we start getting some warmer days, you should start seeing some fish move in around spawning areas. Good luck.”
- Stripers: Guide Jeremy Seabolt reports, “We been catching some good fish. Most of our fish have been coming on herring and trout fished on downlines and planer boards. We have been starting out in 20 feet of water or less first thing in the morning pulling trout and shad on boards and working out to deeper water as the sun comes up. Then we have been dropping downlines. The fish are all over the lake. In the afternoons, we have been catching them on topwater throwing Red Fins, flukes and pitching herring to them. The Bait Shack has all your live-bait needs.”
- Bass:Guide Eric Welch reports, “Fishing has been fair, the fish are still scattered. We’ve been catching fish 20 to 40 feet deep on long points and rocky banks. A lot of the fish we’ve been catching is with the Garmin LiveScope electronics using a drop shot with a 4.5-inch Roboworm, a 1/2-oz. spoon or a 2.75-inch swimbait on a 1/2-oz. Moon Eye jig. It’s just like playing a video game by watching the fish on the graph and stopping it at the depth they’re in and actually watching the fish hit your bait. We’ve also been catching fish on the Z-man Ned rig with a TRD worm, also a 3/16-oz. shaky head with a 5-inch Strike King finesse worm. On these warmer, sunny days there are some fish moving up around the pockets and in the backs of creeks. Try a swimbait, jerkbait or an A-rig. For cranking this time of year, I like using a Rapala DT6, a 1.5 square bill, or a 3.25-inch Strike King Rage Swimmer. The jig bite has been slow for me. Try a 3/8-oz. pb/j or a 3/8-oz. green pumpkin. Good luck.”
- Bass: Wes Carlton reports, “The bass bite has been strong the last few days. There seems to be plenty of bluebacks this year for the fish. We have been having our best luck fishing before the fronts or a couple of days after. Midway back in the creeks in secondary pockets seem to be the ticket. Bream-colored crankbaits and pumpkin-seed Creepy Crawlers have been working best. We have caught both largemouth and spotted bass using these techniques. Typically once you’ve found a fish, there are several more close by.”
- Trout: Wes Carlton reports, “The trout bite has gotten better the last couple of days. We have caught a few fish sight casting to surfacing fish mid-lake. The fish seem to be feeding on debris from the recent rains floating down the lake. This is a good time to throw a small spoon like a Kastmaster and retrieve quickly. We have also caught some fish in the backs of the creeks. Look for the brown trout bite to pick up quickly as we head into early spring.”
The calls are starting to pour into our offices from folks wanting information about trout stocking. With warmer weather this weekend and a fresh load of fish hitting Smith, Amicalola, Toccoa River and Morgan Falls DH sections, this is a recipe for a fun-filled trout fishing weekend. Here are some great catches from the past week, including some links to live action video, and some helpful fishing tips to help you bring fish to hand.
Brown Trout Madness on Georgia Tailwaters!
- Joe DiPietro landed a monster 32” Brown Trout in the Toccoa Tailwater this past weekend! Read more about his fantastic catch HERE. Congratulations Joe!
- Phil Hutcheson earned his 30.25” “Donkey Kong” Brown Trout from the Chattahoochee Tailwater also this past weekend! Read his awesome fishing story on NGTO HERE. Congrats Phil! Check out his video HERE.
- On his trip earlier this week with River Through Atlanta, Gary Long snagged this quality Brown Butter on the fly!
Delayed Harvest: Our hatchery crews recently stocked the Smith, Amicalola, Toccoa and Morgan Falls DH stream sections, so grab your #12 peach glo bug/egg fly/”Oreck egg” fly and go fish a DH stream this weekend! Why does this little ball of fluff work? Well, it certainly imitates a fish egg, which are packed with protein, but it also resembles a food pellet from the hatchery. Once the trout become acclimated, the egg patterns will become less and less effective, so get out on the water, and soak up the sunshine this next week! Focus on sending your fly toward the soft edges of feeding lanes. Remember these DH stream sections are catch-and-release and artificial, single hook until May 14. Check out the map HERE.
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
Forget about the rivers this week – they’re still screaming (except the lower St. Marys River)!
ST. MARYS RIVER
Shady Bream Tournaments held their first event of the year on Saturday out of Kings Ferry, and folks caught some good fish, especially warmouth. Twenty boats participated, and the winners were Hunter Knight and Shawn McGowan with 9.01 pounds for 10 panfish. The next event on the artificial-only tour is March 27th out of Traders Hill in Folkston. Reports were that the river was fishable below Kings Ferry but still flooded way out in the woods if you went far above there. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 4th was 10.2 feet and rising.
A couple of anglers fished on Friday and caught a dozen bass up to 2 pounds while using plastic worms and lizards in a Waycross area pond. Daniel Johnson caught an 8-pound bass this Saturday while fishing an Alma area pond with a pumpkin-chartreuse lizard. He and Chad Lee ended up catching 40 bass, mostly 1 to 2-pounders. They saw fish bedding in the pond they fished. An angler fished a Brunswick area pond on Sunday evening and caught 13 bass up to 5 pounds. His biggest 5 fish weighed 20 1/2 pounds. He fooled the first 4 fish with Texas-rigged Keitech Mad Wag worms, then moved shallow with wacky-rigged Senkos for the last 9 fish. Fish were shallow and starting to fan beds, but the early-week cold front probably delayed them a few days. A couple of Blackshear anglers fished a local pond on Sunday and caught a dozen bass up to 2 pounds on popping frogs and Trick Worms. They also had 30 crappie to about a pound on 1/16-oz. jigs and plastics. A Brunswick angler fished a pond this weekend and caught several dozen bass on plastics. He used the big Z-Man TRD worms for all of his fish. He started shallow and only caught 2-pounders. When he moved a cast offshore and fished through the 7 foot range, he started picking up the 5 to 6-pound females. Right at dark, he flung a hollow-bodied frog and lost a giant that exploded on his topwater. Next week I expect the big wave of fish to move shallow in southeast Georgia ponds. Some were shallow during last week’s warm-up, but this week’s should push lots of fish to the hill.
Okefenokee Adventures staff said that the bite was good last week with the warming water. On the east side, folks caught good numbers of big fliers and a few warmouth, bluegill, and chain pickerel. One angler caught a big redfin pickerel, as well. The latest water level was 121.3 feet.
DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)
I did not get many reports this week from Dodge, but an angler did say that he caught an 8-lb., 4-oz. bass. Both crappie and bass will be pushing shallow this coming week, so it’s a good time to head to the area.
PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)
The most impressive tournament sacks of the year came to the scales at Paradise PFA this weekend. Anchored by a 9.55-pound kicker, the winners weighed in 32.2 pounds (5 fish). Second was 23.74 pounds, while third was 22.67 pounds. Imagine the disappointment of the team who caught 22 pounds and didn’t win. Expect lots of bass to be shallow as the temperatures rise throughout next week.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
I didn’t talk with anyone who chased trout or redfish this week with the big tides. I got a couple reports of a few whiting and sheepshead being caught but not too many per trip. It won’t be long before the whiting bite takes off. Trout fishing should take off this week with the warmer weather and more moderate tides. 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.