Each day, millions of Americans work to conserve and improve our natural resources—they are America’s hunters and anglers. The U.S. Congress and President Nixon established National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHF Day) in 1972 to recognize these generations of hunters and anglers for the time and money, more than a billion dollars each year, they donate to wildlife conservation programs. NHF Day is recognized the 4th Saturday of September – so this year, on Sat. Sept. 25.
In celebration of this special day, be sure to take someone (especially young people) outside and introduce them to a whole new world of enjoyment through hunting, hiking, birdwatching, fishing or another outdoor activity. Find some special activities (kids fishing events, outdoor adventure day) that will take place on NHF Day HERE or take advantage of it also being a Free Fishing Day (on this day, residents do NOT need a fishing license or a trout license to fish on any public waters in the state including lakes, streams, ponds and public fishing areas).
NEWS TO KNOW
- What a Whopper of a Donation! The Gwinnett Stripers and Academy Sports + Outdoors just gave us another reason to jump for joy this Saturday. Each of these great community partners donated $6000 to further fishing efforts in Georgia. Read more about it HERE.
This week, we have fishing reports from North, Southeast and Southwest Georgia. Celebrate our state’s natural resources with friends and family and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, region supervisor and fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Can you believe it? The first hint of fall weather has creeped in and right on cue for the first few days of Fall. I enjoy the ebb and flow of the seasons, but there is something special about Fall. The cooler weather, the changing colors, deer hunting, Georgia Bulldawgs football, and oh yeah, the fishing! All of the above are great reasons to be outdoors. Although the weather forecast calls for cooler air temperatures this weekend, it will take a little while longer for our local lake temperatures to cool down. The surface temperature for most North Georgia reservoirs is still hovering around 80 degrees. Add to it the deluge of muddy water from nearly constant rain this week coupled with a cold front sweeping across North Georgia, and you have the raw ingredients for challenging fishing conditions on our lakes. Given this set of conditions, early mornings are best for most species, especially for the topwater bite. Just ask Vincent Ford who caught stripers on Lanier this week and sent us a photo. When the sun’s rays hit the lake surface, it’s time for deep-water tactics, but as the sun drops low on the horizon, feeding activity will peak again. So, plan your trip accordingly to take advantage of these morning and evening peak fishing times. For those who prefer the finesse of trout fishing, this will be a great weekend to hike into a wild trout stream.
If you want a little easier fishing experience, you know…. something that the kids would enjoy……. consider checking out our list of locations that will be hosting a Kids Fishing Event this weekend. Streams and small lakes at key locations around the state are being stocked this week in honor of National Hunting & Fishing Day. And, thanks to NHF Day, Saturday also is a FREE FISHING DAY so there is no requirement to have a fishing license or trout stamp for participants who are Georgia residents. In our area, a fair number of trout were stocked on Friday into some easy to fish locations such as the reflection pool at Amicalola Falls State Park and the Lower Dam Pool immediately downstream of Buford Dam (picture). For those who prefer catching the “whiskered” fish species, consider heading over to James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. So, grab your gear, grab some food, and grab the kids then head outdoors to one of our events for a great time of fishing and making memories.
The following reservoir fishing report excerpts are from the Southern Fishing Report by Ken Sturdivant.
WEST POINT LAKE (report by Fisheries Biologist, Brent Hess) — Bass fishing on West Point Lake this weekend will likely be a challenge. Lately, the bass seems to be starting to transition into their fall patterns because of the shorter days and cooler water temperatures. This will continue this weekend with Thursday’s cold front. Look for bass to follow the bait fish into pockets. Sunday may prove better fishing than either Friday or Saturday. This weekend’s weather should be great even if the fishing is slow.
Ken Sturdivant also reported that bass are moving into the coves during the early-morning and late-afternoon and can be caught with shad imitation lures like Rat L Traps and all white 3/8-ounce Rooster Tails. During the day, bass are moving out deeper and can be caught using crank baits and Carolina rigged worms. The bass are still holding on deep submerged roadbeds, and they are also on the edges of flats on the lower end of the lake. Cranking around main lake rocky points is productive early and late in the day. Fish the steep banks of main creeks in deep blow downs using a crank bait or a brown on black pig and jig. Look for the fish to start moving out on the points as the lake level drops.
LAKE WEISS (by Mark Collins Service www.markcollins service.com (256) 779-3387) —
Bass: Bass fishing is fair. The fish are on offshore structure, and the river and creek channel ledges, spinner baits, Carolina rigs and medium to deep running crank baits are working well. Spotted Bass are doing well on main lake points and the creek channel ledges, Carolina rigs and crank baits are working well. Look for the fishing to be slow until the first cooling trend hits.
Crappie: Crappie fishing is fair. The bite is starting to get better. They are on deeper cover in the main lake and bays, and on the main Coosa River channel ledges from Cedar Bluff to Leesburg. Spider rigging, over brush, with live minnows and jigs is catching fish. Look for the fishing to get better over the next few weeks.
(Report from Ken Sturdivant, find out more at Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant) — Bass on the lower lake are ranging from shallow to mid depth and are starting to school in the creek mouths over deeper water, as smaller pods of bait are starting to form. We have been catching these schooling fish on pearl white flukes, Sammy 115 in Ghost Minnow and the Spot Shocker lead head. When the bite slows, switch to a drop shot finesse worm in Morning Dawn Red. Focus on bridge pilings or points on the side the drops the sharpest for this bite. There are also fish being caught on a Fish Head swarm umbrella rig. Consider using Fish Head Spins provide more flash. Some fish are under and around docks by pitching worms and jigs around them. Now that the shallow water back in the creeks has started to stabilize, the black popping frog bite along with a skinny dipper retrieved on the surface has started to work again.
Reports are starting to come in from anglers who are catching stripers and hybrids in the early mornings on topwater.
(Report from Ken Sturdivant, find out more at Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant) — Bass fishing is great. With the winter drawdown and decreasing water temps, the bass are in full feed up mode. This is not the time of year to sit around. It’s time to drop the trolling motor and fish for active fish. The Spro Fat John fished in 3 to 5 feet of water in creeks in the north and mid lake areas have been producing spots and some largemouth. Watch for stumps, logs and rocks that the bass might use for an ambush point. There is also some schooling activity around Stamp Creek and the Red Top Mountain area. We are using pearl white Big Bite Jerk Minnows on 3/0, 1/8-ounce jig heads as well as Spro McSticks. The fish may only stay up for a few seconds. The buzz bait bite is also good. Throw the buzz bait parallel to bluff banks. Bang the bait off the rocks when it’s being retrieved. The bass will use the shoreline to trap the bait. For bigger fish, even though there may get a few less bites, the swim bait is hard to beat. Throwing the fast sinking Spro 6-inch BBZ in shad patterns and covering water is an awesome way to get a big spot this time of year.
Bass Fishing: (by Phil Johnson Pjohnson15@hotmail.com (770) 366-8845) — Bass fishing on Lake Lanier is good to very good. The cooler weather we have been experiencing has the bass on Lanier starting to feed up for the winter. The fish are scattered all over the lake and schooling activity is not uncommon anywhere. Always have some type of long distance bait ready to reach these fish. I am keeping a Spot Choker underspin with a super fluke tied on to quickly throw to these fish. The top water action is typical of the fall bite on Lanier with a bunch of baits producing. The Chug Bug, Jerkshad, Sammy’s, Gunfish and Sebile’s will all produce bites right now. Don’t be surprised to see the Stripers join in on the action as some of the schools are a mix of bass and stripers. There has even been some surprise Largemouth showing up over deep water. On the days that the wind has been strong the windblown points with structure as well as the windblown pockets have been full of shad and Spots. On the windy days be sure to check the blow throughs as the bass will use this as a feeding ground. When the wind is not blowing the drop shot is still a good option around the deeper brush piles. The Morning Dawn and Blue Lily colors are still my main producers. As the water temps drop more with the cold front coming through the bass should be moving even more into the shallows. Right now, a green pumpkin worm on a three sixteenths spot sticker around docks and rocky points will catch some fish early in the day. After the sun comes up simply fish a little deeper with the worm or cinnamon pepper jig on docks and points. This is really a fun time to be on Lanier as you can pretty much pick your favorite bait and go catch fish. They are biting so Go Catch “Em!
Striped Bass: (by Buck Cannon Buck Tails Guide Service (404) 510-1778) — Stripers are moving to the middle of the rivers and the down lines are still the best bet. Fishing 30 to 40 feet deep over 50 to 100 foot bottom. Blue backs are still working. Put out flat lines with small split shot 60 100′ behind the boat trolling.05 mph over areas that have structural change in the bottom, points and humps.
Crappie Fishing: (by Josh Thornton to book a trip call (770) 530-6493) — Crappie fishing is good. The water temperatures are in the upper 70s with all the recent rain the water is muddy or stained so use dark colored jigs. I like a jig that’s royal blue with a chartreuse split tail. This week’s catch was 60% minnow’s 40% jigs if you have been following the report this is the most jig action we have had in several weeks. Right now I am setting the minnows around 10 deep. For best results use an active minnow not a dead minnow. Look for covered docks that are in 20 to 40 feet of water and near a main channel. Use your electronics locate structure or bush piles. Crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows. When dock shooting the biggest fish are usually the first to bite. Let your jig sink and give it time to get down to the fish and retrieve your jig slowly. I’m using ATX lure company’s plastics I use 5 pound test high visibility yellow k9 braid for my line (unless I am using a bobber) and a Piscifun reel on a Acc crappie Stix.
Small Lake Fishing: Good news, fishing in some of the private ponds has improved recently especially when using live bait. This weekend fishing in ponds may be more productive than in the larger waterbodies. Some of the best fishing in Georgia can be found in old farm ponds. Remember to get permission to fish any pond that you don’t own. This weekend’s forecast will be excellent for enjoying the outdoors.
Fisheries Biologist, Hunter Roop and his crew of double-x chromosomes went to Bear Creek Reservoir’s public access area over the weekend and the bluegill fishing was excellent. Plenty of fishing pressure and subsequent bait discards attracts predators and prey alike to this small section of the reservoir, so it makes for a perfect place to get a quick fishing fix. Our humble offerings of Wonderbread and hotdogs on small J-hooks provided hours of fun for the girls to reel in fish after fish until they finally had enough. Largemouth Bass were cruising at a safe distance from the gullible schools of hungry bream, and I was unable to entice them with a suspending jerk bait. I honestly didn’t have much time to fish myself since the girls were catching fish, which is a fair trade off. For any folks local to the Athens area looking for good nearby fishing opportunities, Bear Creek should definitely be on the list.
Bass Slam Update: Did you know that Georgia is home to the largest variety of black bass species anywhere in the world? Yep, there are 10 species of black bass in Georgia. To increase awareness of Georgia’s unique bass fisheries and to up the ante for Georgia bass anglers, we created the Georgia Bass Slam. Anglers who catch five species of black bass within a calendar year and have their catches photo-verified by our fisheries staff will become a member of the elite Bass Slam fraternity. The bling you get along with the prestige is pretty cool, too. So, if you have not thought about going for it, now is the perfect time to begin your Bass Slam challenge. Just to whet your appetite about the Bass Slam, I dug out one of my favorite Bass Slam reports from the archives:
Dredger’s Fly-Bass Slam Chronicles from 2018: Dredger reported last night that he finally found success with the Georgia Bass Slam, on the fly. He offered a few hints on the “where and how” of a successful Bass Slam on flyrod, as follows:
- Shoal Bass: Dark30 on the upper Hooch a couple weeks ago had shoal bass eating white poppers. As they ate, Dredger remembered this Bass Slam contest and decided to pull his tape measure from his sling pack. His slam had started! First up – a chunky 9-10 incher. Taped and photographed. Check. He culled the pic about ten casts later when an 18-inch pig inhaled his big white popper, dead-drifted in a flat, glassy pool. The Chestatee, when clear, is also a good spot to check off this species from the list.
- Chattahoochee Bass: on that same shoalie trip, a nine-inch Chat inhaled the popper in a slick behind a midstream boulder, and Dredge checked his second box. Chat’s are usually higher in the watershed than shoalies, so aim for the Hooch above Highway 115, even through Helen and up into Smith at Unicoi Park. It’s hard to find a big one, so be ready to persevere.
- Bartrams Bass: They are THE bass of the Tooga drainage. Dredge found his in a big Tooga trib, and muttered something about “a park with a big hole in it.” He also mentioned the number “76” regarding his past highway travels to Bartramland.
- Spotted Bass: this was actually a consolation prize during last week’s failed smallie mission to the Toccoa DH. Local intel has it that the smallies are found in better bass water above and below the DH section. Dredge had caught a couple smallies in the DH reach while trouting in the fall and winter, but none of them came out to play last Saturday. Luckily, local buddy DialDrew was home, and the young flyrodder salvaged Dredger’s day by putting him on a chunky spot that inhaled a brown hairy fodder, stripped through a pool. Spots are all over most of our north GA reservoirs; try the mouths of cool streams entering the lakes. Check out the Georgia Fishing Prospects for a few hints on where to go.
- Largemouth Bass: the easiest, most abundant, no-brainer species turned out to be the hardest! And an obsession. Dredge went yakking two weekends ago to Unicoi Lake to seal the deal and bring home his Slam Certificate. And his white stealth bomber attracted many bass- all runts. He went through six shorts before landing a 12.5 inch bass that was so anorexic, he was too embarrassed to submit a photo. Last Sunday evening, he returned for a rematch in the misty rain and only caught two runts. Guru accompanied him with a spin outfit and did slightly better on dredged soft plastics, thus pouring salt in the wound of the defeated flyrodder. Monday (9/17), after work, found Dredge back in his Yak, on a revenge trip. This time he pulled out a bigger white popper and popped it to call up big’uns from the depths. The first fish was 11.5 inches. Is this a joke? Unicoi Lake was yanking his chain and laughing at him. Finally, right at dusk, a chunky 13-incher took a bullet for his team and inhaled the popper. Mission accomplished. Obsession over. Certificate to come??? With Dredger’s Bass Slam luck, it will likely be lost in the mail, or sent to the wrong address….…. probably Unicoi Park. Maybe you’ll have better luck with your own Bass Slam!
Orvis Atlanta’s fishing tip of the week (Report from Chattahoochee River | GA Fly Fishing Reports & Conditions | Orvis): Report for 9/20/21 The rain didn’t ruin things for us. Today, the 20th, they will begin generating at 1:55PM. Plenty of fishing to do at Buford Dam until the flows come up. The lower river, Jones Bridge/ Island Ford, are low and looking good and should be fishing well throughout the day. The weather looks to break Thursday and hopefully we will have some good weather going into the weekend. We will see how much rain we get and if they do have to end up moving a lot of water later this week. If this is the case then head to the lakes and catch bass, or tie some flies. After we do have generation out of the Dam, and it has slowed down, and the flows have gotten down around 600 CFS will usually your best/ only bet. Midges, soft hackles, emergers and the Dirt Snake (worm patterns) are the go to’s in this area. Never be scared to throw a streamer! Look to smaller flies when fishing the upper section of the tail-water. Have a great selection of zebra midges from size 18-24 in red, black, and olive and 6X tippet for that gin clear water. For prospecting, a Pat’s Rubber-leggs Stone Fly imitation with a size 16 tungsten bead Rainbow Warrior as a dropper is hard to beat, Fish them under an indicator and it is sure to fool the timid of trout. The fishing lower on the river will start to fish well in the later afternoon, often when the generating begins at the dam. When the water below Morgan Falls gets down around 1500 CFS and below, the Shoal Bass fishing has been good too. Look to find them around Cochran Shoals. 7 Weights, crawfish patterns and gold and copper streamers are usually the ticket. Stay posted or call the shop for updates. For the Chattahoochee, state regulations require a certified personal flotation devise be worn by all anglers from Buford dam south to highway 20. Pay special attention to water release info online or call the number below for release schedules. Make sure to call the Corp of Engineers release hotline at 770-945-1466 before making your trip.
Headwater Trout (by Fisheries Biologist Sarah Baker): North Georgia welcomed its first day of fall in the pouring rain, but we’re so glad it’s here! Recent rains have improved streamflow, and cooler nights have lowered water temperatures across North Georgia trout streams. This weekend and into next week will be absolutely beautiful fishing weather. Brook Trout and Brown Trout are gearing up for fall spawning, so be sure to snap a photo when you get one in the net; their fall colors are more stunning than any other time of the year. This is an excellent time to hit the small mountain streams with short rods and light lines. Make plans to fish small steams soon, otherwise your lures will catch leaves instead of fish! Good bets now: Parachute Adams, Parachute Black Ants, small and beetles. Fish pools with a Pheasant Tail or Prince Nymph.
Wild Trout Survey Report: Sarah also wrapped up the annual wild trout survey for Georgia on a popular wild Brown Trout stream. She reported, “The outstanding number of juveniles and adults that we collected indicated an excellent trout population with great natural reproduction. So, hit the backroads, find the high places, and fish your heart out!”
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, Region Supervisor and fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
This week’s rains have brought the southeast Georgia rivers back out into the floodplains at most locations. You can probably fish the backwaters of many rivers, but your time will be better spent on ponds or saltwater.
ALTAMAHA AND OCMULGEE RIVERS
The rains over the last week have jumped the main river back up at the cusp of the floodplain. You may be able to fish the lower Altamaha oxbows by the weekend, but there will be flow through most of them by early next week. You may be able to catch a few catfish, but they will be spread out in the newly-flooded bottomlands shortly. The river level on September 23rd at the Abbeville gage on the Ocmulgee was 9.5 feet and rising. The Doctortown gage on the Altamaha was 8.9 feet and rising.
The water has come up even more this week, and the fish are spread out in the prairies. The swamp is absolutely gorgeous in the fall, so plan your trip for the scenery, not necessarily the catching….. The latest water level (Folkston side) was 121.70 feet.
Chad Lee caught 5 bass in the 2-pound range on a crawfish crankbait over the weekend. He went the next day and hooked and lost a couple around 4 pounds. Crappie fishing should pick up some with the cooler weather. The spillways of your favorite ponds will likely still be flowing this weekend. The fishing in spillways is usually pretty good after it has been flowing for a couple days, so this weekend should be perfect timing for spillways, if you can safely access it.
PARADISE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Tifton, more info HERE)
One of the regular anglers said that the fishing was slower than usual this week at the area. He usually fishes for bream and catfish, and he caught a few. You can also catch a few bass. Look for them busting through shad schools now that the water has cooled a little bit. Cast crankbaits, swimbaits, or lipless rattling baits at the schooling bass. Cut bait or worms should fool some bullheads in Lake Patrick.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Don Harrison fished with a friend on Wednesday out of Crooked River State Park, and the pair caught a bunch of seatrout. They fished Keitech swimbaits (nuclear chicken, rootbeer/chartreuse back, and pearl/chartreuse back worked best) suspended underneath cigar-shaped Equalizer Floats for all of their fish. They tried plain jigheads, Flashy Jigheads, and even topwaters, but the float rig was the deal. When the smoke cleared, they had caught 38 trout (6 keepers), a couple gafftop sailcats, and a ladyfish. They caught fish about everywhere they stopped, but the fish were still really spread out in the 84 and 85 degree water. A few flounder were caught this week from the piers and bank. Mudminnows and finger mullet worked best for them. Capt. Greg Hildreth’s best trip of the week was Wednesday when he put his clients on about 20 trout (3 keepers) that they fooled with live shrimp suspended under a Harper’s Super Striker Float. They also caught and released a few slot redfish during the trip. 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 Emilia Omerberg, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
LAKE WALTER F GEORGE
Bass fishing is good in lake George right now. The bite is in the early morning and does not last long so be sure to get out there early! Use buzz baits, spinner baits and hollow belly frogs along the grass lines and in the hydrilla near deep water. Look for more bass on rocky points. Use a crank bait and a Carolina rig for best results. You can also try a Texas rig with anything in green pumpkin for some nice fall bass fishing.
With the cooler temperature of this week the crappie bite is picking up. We are moving away from needing advanced sonar tech to find the little buggers and moving towards the regular old fashioned technique of look for structure! There are two camps of anglers out there who fish for crappie. The jig lovers and the minnow lovers. Take your pick of the camp and let us know which you liked best! If you are looking for some local made jigs check out the SugarBug Crappie jigs at Flint River Outdoors.
The catfish bite is good all year round and any small live fish just off the bottom should pull int some flatheads or a channel cat. The bass hunt is heating up as temperatures drop. The fish will start to congregate and be easier to find. This will continue to improve will cooler temperatures.
SILVER LAKE PUBLIC FISHING AREA (More Info HERE)
In all the lakes and ponds at Silver Lake PFA, Bluegill will be on or near beds for the next few days, and this will likely be the last spawn of the year. Look for shallow flats near structure, and use a small inline spinner bait (rooster tail, panther martin, and the like) or small curly tail jigs to pull those protective males off the beds. The hungry post spawn females will not have wandered far from the beds, so break out the crickets and ultralight rods for a memorable fishing experience.
The PFA’s namesake lake is beginning to cool and the crappie/speckled perch/sac-a-lait are on the move. These fish are relocating from the weed lines to deeper vegetation and standing timber. 1/16-1/8 oz jigheads tipped with a shiner is a tried and true method for snagging early fall Crappie.