Wishing all of you a very Merry “Fish-Mas” and Happiest of Holidays. May the days fill your heart with joy and your tackle box with shiny new things to use at your favorite fishing hole.
NOTE: The State of Georgia is preparing for sub-freezing temperatures to move through over the holiday weekend. Should you choose to go outdoors to fish or for other adventures, please ensure that you take all precautions to keep yourself safe.
NEWS TO KNOW:
- Warming Stations at State Parks: To assist homeowners who may lose power and/or stranded motorists, Georgia State Parks are opening warming stations for public use. ParkPass fees will be waived for those using these group shelter warming stations. Find out more HERE.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Fish? The rosyface chub is a species of freshwater fish found primarily above the fall line in the Altamaha and Savannah river basins. Find out more about its “red nose” HERE.
This week, we have reports from Southeast, North, Central and Southwest Georgia. Be safe, Stay Warm, and Enjoy the Holidays as you Go Fish Georgia!
(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)
The winds and unstable weather picked back up this week, and colder weather was with it. The number of reports declined sharply as not many people were willing to brave the less-than-ideal conditions. I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!
River gages on December 22nd were:
- Clyo on the Savannah River – 5.3 feet and falling
- Abbeville on the Ocmulgee – 8.8 feet and rising
- Doctortown on the Altamaha – 8.9 feet and rising
- Waycross on the Satilla – 6.7 feet and falling
- Atkinson on the Satilla – 5.0 feet and steady
- Macclenny on the St Marys – 2.7 feet and steady
My daughter is home from college, and we gave the lower Satilla a try this week after last weekend’s cold. We moved offshore a little, fished the deeper backwaters, and had a good day. We caught and released 29 fish – about 1/3 crappie up to 12 inches, 1/3 warmouth up to 10 inches, and 1/3 bowfin up to 4 pounds. We used 1/16-oz. popsicle Specktacular Jigs tipped with minnows and a prototype tinsel jig tipped with a minnow for all of our fish. We tried shallow a little bit and they would not chase down a small plastic, even when worked slowly along bottom. A Blackshear angler fished a short time in the lower river on Saturday and caught some warmouth by bouncing curly-tailed jigs on the bottom in the backwaters. Another angler reported catching 32 fish this weekend on the lower river. He had mostly crappie, but he also had bluegill and warmouth mixed in his catch. Another angler fishing over the weekend caught about a dozen crappie in the middle river while flinging white beetlespins. I get a lot of questions about how I describe river sections. There is no hard and fast rule, but I usually call everything above the Hwy 121 Bridge the upper river, from there to the Hwy 82 Bridge the middle river, and everything below that the lower river.
Nobody has been fishing the east side based on reports from Okefenokee Adventures. This cold snap will hit the shallow waters of the swamp harder and more quickly than the deeper rivers and lakes, but it will also warm up on the back side more quickly. The dropping temperatures will slow the bite this weekend, but staff said that they saw lots of bowfin breaching the surface this week…even in the cold. The latest water level (Folkston side) was 120.58 feet.
Crappie fishing was decent this week. Several folks reported catching them. An angler fishing on Saturday who caught 4 fish on 1/16oz. Tennessee shad Specktacular Jigs tipped with minnows. All 4 of them were over a pound. Chad Lee stayed with the bass during the cold this week. He made several short trips and caught 7 bass up to 3 pounds. Most were in the 1-2 pound range and ate crankbaits and stick worms, but the 3-pounder ate a ZOOM Ol’ Monster worm. I heard of a couple people catching 6 and 7 pound bass on plastics this week in a Brunswick area pond. Those were the biggest bass I heard about.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Winds were the story again much of the week, but Jamie Hodge and a friend fished the Brunswick area on Saturday. They found a good school of fish and caught 26 seatrout, a flounder, and a couple other species on live shrimp. They kept 17 of the trout. Capt. Tim Cutting (fishthegeorgiacoast.com) had great trips early this week before the bad cold. He fished some creeks on Friday and had them eating jigs exclusively. He had a limit of both trout and redfish that day – the bite was on fire. He followed that up on Saturday with a limit of trout, but they had a bunch of short fish that day. On Monday they had to work for their fish. They did find a school of cooperative redfish, and they ate live shrimp under a Harper Super Striker Float. His redfish were biting best in 1 to 5 feet of water and the trout down to 20 feet (most in the 8 to 12 foot range). Working the jig slowly was the ticket for them. For the latest fishing information or live shrimp in the Brunswick area, check with J&P Bait and Tackle on Hwy 303 (912-282-9705).
(Fishing report courtesy of Kyle Rempe, Fisheries Biologist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Moccasin Creek, Burton Trout Hatchery Info (courtesy of Jimmy Jacobs, On the Fly South; special thanks to Fisheries Biologist John Damer for forwarding this): Check out this interesting article to learn more about Moccasin Creek and the area that surrounds Burton Trout Hatchery.
Go Low and Slow: (courtesy of Jeff Durniak, Angler Management Blog; report via Unicoi Outfitters): Welcome to winter in north Georgia. We are finally experiencing seasonal weather, with daily highs in the 40’s, lows in the 30’s and 20’s, and more consistent rains and winds. While Michigan steelheaders would consider this a heat wave, it’s more challenging to us southerners who’ve been acclimated to warmer weather. Same for our fish.
It’s time to go low and slow for trout. Water temps still aren’t real cold, but you’ll find more cooperative fish on the bottom than near the surface. Anything in the mid-40’s and higher will be comfortable for trout to dine. Based on my years of experience, I’ll give you a few tips. First, follow the sun and its warmth. Second, hit the flood refuges, where high flows have washed down naive stockers. Third, make sure you get down to them. Lengthen your tippet and add more weight ’til you start bumping bottom. Fourth, don’t worry about the wind. Just pick some streams in gorges and stream reaches that run perpendicular to wind direction. For example, big west winds don’t bother me when I’m down on the Chattooga as it runs south. Last and most importantly, make sure you have a dry change of clothes in your vehicle. If you dunk, you sure want to get out of those drenched, icy clothes ASAP. It’s not August anymore.
- Wes’ Hot Fly List: Dries: parachute BWO, Gulper special, elk hair caddis.
- Nymphs & Wets: Jig girdle bug, peach egg, squirmy worm, red tag jig, root beer midge, micro mayfly.
- Streamers & warm water: Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, clouser minnow, Cowen’s Something Else for stripers.
Less Casting, More Looking: (courtesy of Tad Murdock, Georgia Wild Trout) — Low water will be the biggest factor in trout fishing this December. Most rivers and creeks are gin clear and have the lowest flows of the year. This will make wild fish incredibly spooky and tougher to catch. On the upside, stockers will likely be fish in a barrel. Being easier to find will make fishing earlier in the month much easier and similar to how the month of November rounded off. Look for trout to be holding in deeper troughs as they will be highly exposed to predators in their typical, and more shallow, late fall holding water. Move slow and keep your disturbances down for wild fish and look for smaller flies to work best. Less casting and more looking will land you more fish this month.
For stockers, junk flies (eggs, worms, mops) have been producing huge numbers in the recently stocked DH stretches as well as the regularly stocked waters. Once the fish get educated on these flies, go to smaller size and profile nymphs with a much more finesse presentation to target these trout. Look for the deepest water around to find the largest concentrations of theses trout. Depth will mean comfort until the winter rains raise the water levels. The other stocked streams in North Georgia, such as Coopers Creek, Dicks Creek, and Rock Creek have seen some good looking browns, brooks, and rainbows, that seem to be finding ways to avoid the normal angling traffic.
The trophy trout migrating up to the public water sections had essentially stopped as the lack of rain and low water has put a halt to their movements. But with the recent storms we have seen, expect to see these giant trout attempt to push up. Hopefully there will still be some fish around by the New Year, but expect them to be well educated and in much smaller numbers as we approach the end of December.
Toccoa River Trout: (courtesy of Dane Law, Southeastern Anglers; report via Orvis Fly Fishing Reports): Float trips utilizing different techniques. Streamers for larger trout always a good choice with higher flows. Big nymphs and streamers.
Lake Allatoona Bass: (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. The bass are still all over the water column due to the cold weather. The best way to catch them this week is to run and gun with baits like the Spro 95 Mcstick. Fish it quick as the fish are really scattered all over the lake. Spinner baits, and lipless crank baits are also good choices. The jig head bite is pretty good right now but could be better if we get a drop of a few degrees. With the weather being up and down be prepared to adjust day by day. Once the fish are located this is a good time to spoon or drop shot them.
Lake Lanier Bass (courtesy of Captain Mack, Captain Mack’s): Fishing has been good, I think the fish are little finicky and scattered out. They are all over depth wise, with shallow patterns and deeper offshore patterns both producing well. The best baits are also all across the board, with multiple baits producing well. I do think the fish started to congregate more on some of the deeper structures and around the bait concentrations, with more fish moving into the ditches. On the ditches, this pattern is also very across the board. I think there are two types of ditches, offshore deep-water ditches, or ditches and drains entering the lake in the back of a cove or pocket. I included a pic of an offshore ditch, which in this case is an old roadbed. Both are holding fish right now, anywhere from 5 to 50 feet. On the offshore ditches, worms, jigs, swim baits and spoons are good baits. Because of the physical size of some of the offshore ditches, I favor spoons as a changeup, or too drop when I see fish under the boat. By vertically fishing the spoon, you are limiting the amount of water you are covering. By dragging a jig or plastic through these big offshore areas, you greatly increase the saturation, effectively showing your bait to more fish.
If you are targeting the onshore ditches, the fish will move substantially over the course of the day, and will often be very shallow, particularly early. Crank baits and jerk baits will generally take the fish on the shallow end of the depth range, with worms, jigs, and spoons taking the deeper fish. Either of these types of structures will have lake wide application. Rocks and docks will also yield some good catches, and there are really no changes in these patterns.
Lake Lanier Report: (Report courtesy of Jack Becker; special thanks to Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop for forwarding this): This week I only had a few hours to fish and tried fishing for Crappie off our dock on lake Lanier. Water temperature was 51.8 degrees. Using my iBobber I located suspended fish from 15 to 19ft. deep in over 30’ of water. I tried small & medium shiners on 4 lb. test fluorocarbon line. Keeping my bait above the fish, I was hoping to catch a few for dinner. After more than an hour without a bite I let my bait go to the bottom and slowly started reeling it back in. I instantly got a bite and caught a decent spot. This reminded me if you keep doing the same thing and you are getting the same results you need to change what you are doing. I had one more bite but broke my line after getting hung up on a cable on the dock.
More on Lanier Bass (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Bass fishing on Lake Lanier is good. The lake level has come up about two feet and the water temperature is currently fifty-five to fifty-eight degrees. The bass are still scattered throughout the water column so a variety of techniques are working. There are a lot of fish on the rocky points and bluff walls. A green pumpkin trick worm on a shakey head or a jig have been producing good quality fish in less than fifteen feet of water. You may have to work to get numbers, but the quality of the fish has been very good. Fish are also moving to the deeper structure in the creeks and ditches where the Spotchoker, spoon or jig have also been producing solid fish. I have been throwing a three eights Spotchoker with a Kietech trailer worked on twelve-pound fluorocarbon to reach the deep fish. Work this bait very slowly and don’t set the hook hard, just sweep your rod and keep reeling. The baitfish are showing up in the ditches on my Panotic’s and for them I am using the half ounce Georgia Blade spoon on the same fluorocarbon line. Being able to stay on top of the schools is critical for this technique. I use a short hop with the spoon only lifting my rod tip about a foot and letting the spoon freefall. You won’t always feel the bite as the fish will catch it on the fall and you feel in on your next lift. It’s fun to watch the spoon fall and see the fish react to the bait. I actually got to see a Loon go through a school of shad this week and it looked like a torpedo going through. It looks as if the weather is going to turn cold over the next two weeks so the deep bite should really get started. The key thing will be to fish whichever bait you choose very slowly as the fish move slower as the water temperature drops. It a great time to fish and they are biting so Go Catch ‘Em!
Lanier Striper (courtesy of Captain Mack, Captain Mack’s): The schooling fish are still showing up pretty consistently, but that pattern is still sporadic. Watch for the fish, they may be on the main lake or up in the pockets and may show up at any time. Casting small buck tails, sliced spoons, and swim baits are great choices for the schoolers. A small live bait under a float is also effective if the fish present that opportunity. A medium shiner 18 inches under a weighted float will get the bite if you can get it close to the fish. Once the fish sounds allow the jigs and swim baits to sink (watch the sonar to determine how deep to let the baits sink) and then retrieve slowly back up through the water column. A heavier jig head is a big plus for this scenario. If you see a few singles, that is still a good area to deploy the spread.
Live baits continue to produce well with down lines and free lines both catching fish. I would probably pick the down lines as the most productive. Of course, that is situational, and I would be prepared to use both or a mix of both. Herring, Shiners and Trout are good bait choices, and I would probably choose the small trout as the best over bait. Target areas where the bait is concentrated, and that can be in the creeks or out around the river channel. Don’t hesitate to go back into the pockets as far back as a 25-foot bottom, if bait is present the fish are probably not far behind. On main lake areas, look for the fish to be on creek and river channel swings, and flats along the major creek channels.
Trolling is also accounting for good numbers of fish and is a very strong search tool. Pulling the full-size rigs is a good technique to search the channel bends and flats, and for the most part if you chart fish in the 20 to 45-foot range they will take the rig. This allows you to search an area quickly, while you are still fishing. Once you find fish you have the option to continue trolling or deploying the baits. Stealth Trolling the Mini Mack’s is also strong and is a very precise way to control depth and troll in tight places. .75 MPH is a good speed to start, experiment with that to tweak the bite.
Lake Hartwell Bass: (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. The fish were roaming up and down banks after all the runoff. Many of the lakes creeks and the upper rivers are stained from more than inch of rain. Up lake the best baits will be worms and jig and dark colors and larger sizes could prove effective for a big fish. Main lake creek points and creek bends are fair and Culprit red shad worms in the large size on a Texas rig will be fair. The afternoons will be better as the warmer coves can offer more shad movement. Work the bass Pro Shops enticer 1/2-ounce jig and a #1 Uncle Josh pork trailer all in black, on the docks and points. Add some Jack’s Juice in garlic scent and make casts to the same location. Crank baits later each day can also work, but with the stained waters, use bright Bomber Flat “A”s in chartreuse and crawfish colors. The lower bass are biting in the creeks mid lake. The same tactics are also fair down lake and add the 1/2-ounce Hopkins spoon and the jigging technique to the plans.
Lake Weiss Catfish: (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Catfish are biting good in the bays and creeks in 8 to 15 feet of water and cut bait is working best.
Weiss Crappie (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Crappie fishing is poor and they are moving to the Coosa River channel 16 to 25 feet deep, and can be caught spider rigging with minnows and Jiffy Jigs. Some Crappie are still being caught shooting docks with jigs. A lot of fish are starting to suspend in the river and creek channels 8 to 12 feet deep, and they can be caught long line trolling with Jiffy Jigs.
West Point Lake Bass: (courtesy of Ken Sturdivant, Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant): Bass fishing is slow. The bite has slowed with the cold temperatures. With the lower water conditions fish have pulled out a little and scattered with the limited cover available. The best cover has been on steeper banks in the mouths of creeks and pockets such as lay downs and brush piles. It takes a little more time to find brush piles, but they are often better producers this time of year. The best cover has been in depths from twelve to fifteen feet of water. These underwater hotels have been producing both spotted bass and largemouth. Use the 1/8-ounce Weedless Wonder lead head with a ZMan floating worm in green pumpkin, and mid depth crankbaits in a shad pattern. I am using a Bandit crankbait in a natural shad pattern to cover water while locating cover. On sunny days the clear water jigging spoon bite has been great. Look for fish stacking on humps and roadbeds in Wehadkee Creek to catch these fish. Try Yellow Jacket Creek and Half Moon Creek, great places to start.
(Fishing report courtesy of Steve Schleiger, Region Supervisor and fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant.
LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, 50S
Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. Some bass are feeding on the points and creek bends down lake mid-day. A Fish Head Spin with a small Zoom Fluke in pearl will attract the bass but be sure there are some bait schools in the creek. They are tight on cover. Use the Stanley 1/2-ounce jig and a larger Pro Pork Trailer by Uncle Josh on the points. The crank bait and spinner baits cast on the bank cover and slowly worked, will get strikes. Mid-day, spinner baits down lake in the creeks are fair on cover using Stanley spinner baits with bright blades. Late look for shallow strikes as the bass move to the creek banks and points during the day. The Zoom watermelon seed lizards on a 3-foot Carolina rig has been fair later each day. Also, on creeks on old channels use a Culprit red shad worm on a Texas rig with the brass and glass combination. Work baits right on the bank around any cover.
CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 5.2 FEET, 50S
Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. The blue backs are in schools up and down the lake. Colored to stained water can be found up in the rivers and creeks due to rain. This will clear up some during the weekend. Shad Raps and small Rat L Traps are the best baits and use light line. Fish along the channel ledges on the deep side of the main lake points. Also try a slow rolling 1/2-ounce spinner bait along any lay down trees. Fish in ten to twenty feet of water most of the day. The windblown banks and points will be the better ones to fish especially those that get the early morning sun. Fish each area thoroughly and make several presentations in each area. The slower the bait is fished the better.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. Look for docks that still have 3 plus feet of water under them in the mouths of coves and fish them with a shaky head. Spinner baits fished mid creeks out will also produce fish. White and chartreuse have been the best colors. The spoon bite is kicking in so work the middle of the coves in 20 to 40 of water. Shad Raps fished around docks and rip rap will draw a strike mid-day. Spinner baits in all white skirt and gold blades fished along the bridge rip rap are catching a few fish. This has been especially good when Georgia Power is pulling water. The jig bite is good on wood structure in the middle of the main lake coves and pockets. Docks as well as down trees will produce with the jigs and use the blues and black combinations.
LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.8 FEET, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. Look on points and main lake humps with brush. The bass are tight in cover and the Zoom Creepy crawlers in pumpkinseed color is a taking few fish. Work baits slowly. Up the lake close to the Oconee dam, fish points close to the current and use a dark jig and pig combination. Fish tight in any cover from the bank as far out as 15 feet. The Strike King jigs in the 1/2-ounce size in dark reds and blacks with a matching #11 Uncle Josh trailer will be best. Use some Real Craw scent and use it often casting to the same location. Flipping and pitching tight to trees in the water or docks up lake is fair. Bright 7A Bombers in green crawfish worked slowly in the creeks halfway back later in the day, can draw strikes. Find the warmest water for better action. Also try a crawfish colored 7A Bomber.
LAKE JACKSON IS FULL, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. It will be a slow week with the extremely cold weather coming. With the runoff, bass have moved up to the pockets to pick off food running out into the lake. So, fish shallow with a small spinner bait or a small crank bait. The bass are best on the lower lake in the creeks. Use the 3/8-ounce Enticer spinner bait with medium dual gold willow leaf blades. Slow roll this lure on the points and use a single Colorado blade and a chartreuse and white skirt. Also, up lake after mid-day work this same lure on thick bank cover. The Zoom green pumpkin lizard on a Texas rig has been fair on docks and points. Add a glass rattle in the lizard. Afternoons are better as the water warms up. Later each day, use a trick worm in greens, and cast around docks down lake and let it sink out of sight. Also, a dark Strike King jig in black or browns and a crawfish Uncle Josh trailer, in matching colors can get strikes, but fish the baits slowly.
(Fishing report courtesy of Emilia Omerberg, Fisheries Biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
BIG LAZER PUBLIC FISHING AREA (More Info HERE)
In general, the weather is cold and the bite has become less consistent. Anglers have to be more patient and persistent to have a good day fishing. However, winter weather means less anglers are fishing; thus, less fishing pressure for the dedicated angler. Largemouth bass fishing is slow. Fish plastic baits at a slower pace now that water temperatures are cooler. Plastic-worms fished around the deep water by the picnic area and around both fishing piers may produce a few good bites. Crappie fishing has been poor, and they are difficult to locate. However, their spawning season will start soon. Until the warmer temperatures arrive fish for crappie in 10-12 feet of water with minnows and jigs.
LAKE WALTER F. GEORGE
The crappie fishing on Lake George has been exciting. Try using eyehole jigs and focus on the southern end of the lake. Look for areas with flat bottoms and some submerged structure. The striper and hybrid striped bass bite is on as well. Try near the islands and near the dam for the best results. Lake levels are inconsistent and water levels are low in many areas. Use extreme caution when boating on Lake George.
There are plenty of options for fishing when it comes to Lake Blackshear. Try your luck with bass, catfish or crappie this time of year. For crappie try minnows or sugar bug jigs near submerged structure. For some channel cats stick to the channels and get your bait on the bottom. Try night crawlers, some fresh caught bluegill, or chicken liver. Shad lures should get you a bite if bass are your target species. Try using darker colors when the water is muddy and more natural colors when the water is clear. And don’t forget to try your luck on the southern end of the lake for some hybrid striped bass!