As we say “good-bye” to 2022, we want to heartily thank all of you for fishing in Georgia. Your support of fishing, and purchases of fishing equipment and fishing licenses enable the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division to continue to do important research, protect natural resources, maintain and operate public fishing areas and so much more. We can’t wait to hear your fish tales for 2023!
NEWS TO KNOW:
- New 2023 Fishing Regs: The 2023 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations Guide provides important information for new or experienced anglers. It is available online or in print. Find out more HERE.
- Useful Beyond The Season: Earlier this month, Fisheries staff partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Marietta Bassmasters and Keep Bartow Beautiful to improve fish habitat at the Victoria Day Use Fishing Jetty on Lake Allatoona by adding 225 recycled Christmas trees to existing anchor points around the jetty at this popular fishing spot. Read more HERE.
This week, we have fishing reports from Southeast, North and Central Georgia. Wherever you ring in the New Year, we hope that it brings happiness and joy and that you continue to 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)
We’re just coming out of some of the nastiest weather in years, but the bites have already started to pick up some. The Geurtsen brothers (Ethan and Benner) from St. Marys caught a 10-pound class bowfin on the nastiest of the nasty days last Friday on the east side of the Okefenokee Swamp. They fooled the big one and several smaller ones with a red plastic worm fished on a jighead. Chad Lee caught 30 bass (mostly on stick worms) this week from an Alma area pond. Matt Rouse caught several bowfin in the swamp on Tuesday and 10 on the upper St. Marys on Wednesday. They hit about anything he threw at them. Those were the only reports I received this week, so here are a bunch of the photos that I wasn’t able to work into the report yet this year. Have a wonderful 2023!
(Fishing report courtesy of Anthony Rabern, Region Supervisor and Fisheries Biologist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)
Water temps took a nose-dive after last week’s artic blast and persistent dose of sub-freezing morning temps for most of this week. Despite the frigid conditions, a few hardy anglers ventured onto area lakes and had success with stripers, hybrids, crappie, spots, and largemouth. Under these unusually cold conditions, threadfin shad and blueback herring are vulnerable to die-offs but remember that dying shad/herring make easy pickings for gulls and fish alike. So, use that bit of knowledge for your benefit. It also looks like a rainy Saturday, which may leave North Georgia lakes and rivers fairly high and muddy for a while. But if you’re eager to try out all the new tackle/equipment that you just received on Christmas, then you’ll certainly find a way to get on the water. Here are some tips for several North Georgia lakes and trout streams.
LAKE ALLATOONA (Report by Ken Sturdivant) – Bass-The jig and jig head finesse worm bite is good. Fish are stacking up on the back side of points on the downstream side. Use the big bite Shakey squirrel and a big bite 3½ -inch Yo Mama on a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce jig head. The bite is fair so feeling the fish hit will be easy. In Clearwater Creek, the Spro McStick is also working well. Be sure to get the spoons out and replace the silver hooks with wire hooks for better hook ups.
- Bass (This Lake Lanier Bass fishing report is by Phil Johnson.Pjohnson15@hotmail.com 770 366 8845)–Bass are scattered throughout the water column from five feet to sixty feet and a variety of baits are working. A green pumpkin worm on a 3/16 oz lead head fished on rocky points, steep rocky banks and deeper docks has been a steady producer. If you target docks, look for the ones with fifteen to thirty feet of water in front of them. Each week more balls of shad are showing up in the creeks so take the time to idle and look for them. Some of the bait balls are quite large right now with the bass scattered around the edges. For the scattered fish use a 3/8 oz Spotchoker with a 4-inch Keitech worked slowly along the bottom to cover the area. If you see bass locked down under your boat, a white ½ oz Georgia Blade spoon worked vertically is a great choice. The dropshot has also been producing fish in the deeper water around brush and on ledges. I’m using a ¼ oz weight with an 18-inch length between the hook and weight.
Striped Bass – Striped bass are fishing well on Lake Lanier. We need to give a shout out to a young angler named Wyatt who landed a 33 lb striped bass from Lake Lanier this week. The behemoth striper was caught on an underspin rig using 12lb test line. Welcome to the 30 lb Club, Wyatt! Lanier fly-fishing striper guide, Henry Cowen, reported that striped bass are schooled up in the middle to the backs of the major creeks on the Chattahoochee arm of Lanier. They are stacked up at 25-30 feet deep over a 30-40 ft bottom. He is using streamers and sinking lines to target these fish, while bait anglers should downline live herring, trout, or medium shiners.
- Crappie (This Lake Lanier Crappie report is by Captain Josh Thornton 770 530 6493) — Crappie can be found from 10 to 40 feet deep. Most of my crappie are coming from standing timber and docks and 80% of our fish are coming on minnows. If you are using jigs I would recommend starting with darker color combinations in stained water and bright colors in the clear water. Crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows or shaded areas of dock. When dock shooting the biggest fish are usually the first to bite. I use ATX lure companies jigs on a lip Thrashin lure jig heads. I use 5 pound test high visibility yellow k9 braid for my line unless I am using a bobber then it’s the k9 6 pound high vis line and a Acc crappie Stix. I use Garmin Live Scope and the Navionics Boating app. Josh is on Facebook and like my pages #crappieonlanier & #fishingwitheverydayheroes or to http://www.crappieonlanier.com
LAKE WEISS (This fishing report is provided by Mark Collins Guide Service www.markcollinsguideservice.com 256 996 9035)–
- Spotted Bass are still active, and the upper part of Little River and the Chattooga River is loaded with spots, and they will stay there thru the winter. Any cover on deeper rocky banks is sure to be holding some spots. They can be caught on a 4-inch Zoom dead ringer or a 5-inch Senko worm in pumpkinseed or watermelon seed colors.
- Crappie fishing is fair and the fish are on the ledges of the Coosa River and Little River in 14 to 18 feet of water on the drop offs, Spider rigging with live minnows and Jiffy Jigs is the way to catch these fish. Some Crappie are being caught in the lower Chattooga River on a float and fly 4 to 5 feet deep on the edges of the old river channel. Use 2 1/16-ounce Jiffy Jigs 4 to 5 feet under a float.
LAKE HARTWELL (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) —Bass are holding tight to the bottom and hitting flat-sided cranks baits in bright colors and with rattles. Fish shallow on any rock, warm pockets and docks. Stay off the main lake and head to the very back. Also work points, humps, and bluff banks on the main river channel or appropriately deep water. Locations with deep, hard, and rocky bottom will be more likely to hold concentrations of fish. The key to finding deep active fish is to find a group holding together or stay with the bait. Sun on rocks, wood, docks, and stained water will draw fish shallow when located adjacent to deep water or in a pocket. A warm afternoon will particularly improve the crank bait bite. A Rapala DT6 hot mustard or a crawfish pattern depending on water clarity can also be worked on a chunky 6 to 10 foot bottom.
WEST POINT LAKE (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant) —Bass are holding in the 8-to-10-foot range up lake above the 109 bridge. Use a 3/8-ounce underspin rigged with Zoom baby bass Fluke on a lead head or a ½ oz Rat L Trap around the rocks. Fish have been feeding heavy around rip rap by all the bridges. Up lake, throw a ½ ounce football jig on ledges and brush piles for some great jig action. Down lake fish are deeper and more skid dish. Throw jigs and Weedless Wonder heads on light line around the shoal markers and drop offs. Good skirt colors for these jigs is Texas Craw, PB&J and watermelon craw.
Bass – Louie Bartenfield of Carters Lake Guide Service (706/218-6609) says that the big Spotted Bass are biting and you can catch them in a variety of ways. Spotsticker Casting Jigs, jigheads, and drop shots are all producing as well.
- Walleye appear to be biting on Carters Lake. One of our angler buddies, Blair, caught his first Georgia walleye on Wednesday in 90-ft of water using a Keitech swimmer. Blair fizzed the fish and released her to fight another day. He estimated her weight to be around 6 lb.
Delayed Harvest Outlook:
- The Morgan Falls DH section was stocked this week and the other DH sections are also loaded with recent stockers. Remember to match your bugs to the stream conditions. If the water is big/high/stained from a rain, use bigger and brighter bugs and add a little extra weight!
- Smith Creek: Egg and wooly bugger patterns are producing well. Skip the pocket water and concentrate on the deeper pools and runs.
- Chattooga River: Pats Rubber Legs and vibrant eggs are catching a lot of fish. Periods of low water can be fished with an assortment of small nymphs and midges. Moderately weighted Hare’s Ear nymphs and Silver Copper Johns have also worked well, especially on mild and cloudy days when small Blue Winged Olives might hatch. Periods of higher flow provide opportunities to fling some bigger streamers. Aggressively strip it! When fishing in moderate flows, smaller streamers and egg-flies have worked well. Check water level at Burrell’s Ford Bridge HERE, and local weather on the Chattooga River HERE.
- Amicalola River: The Amicalola was stocked just before Christmas, and the usual arsenal of small nymphs, midges, and flies should make for a successful outing.
- Toccoa River: Fishing conditions can be dicey based on the river flow. So, before you pack your gear and head to the river, check the river gage at Dial, GA at USGS Current Conditions for USGS 03558000 TOCCOA RIVER NEAR DIAL, GA. Stream flows below 400 cfs are typically safe for wading.
Chattahoochee Tailwater Trout — DNR’s Lanier tailwater biologist, Hunter Roop, reported that good numbers of rainbow trout are holding near Buford Dam. Hunter had a conversation with a couple of seasoned trout anglers who were catching trout just below the footbridge at the dam using powerbait.
Pay Attention to What’s Hatching? (Report from Chris Scalley of River Through Atlanta) —We are also getting reports of blue wing olive hatches in the 18-20 size. We too, are receiving reports that the size 24 cream midges are on the rise and fish are looking up. Look at swinging buggers, or dead drifting junk flies. 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.
Trying Out Trout Fishing: Because of the cold weather and frigid water temperatures, be sure to bring extra clothes to change into in case you take an accidental dip. Also, save your best fishing spots for later in the day when the air temperature reaches is maximum warmth. Remember to cast your flies into the bubble lines and don’t be afraid to take the time to attach a bobber/indicator. Also, rig more than one fly in order to fish the deep pools. If the creeks are still swollen and turbid from Saturday’s rain, tie on something big and flashy like a sparkly wooly bugger. I hope you’re able to catch a trout to start out your new year!
I was Hunting, Not Fishing: (From Jeff Durniak, a.k.a. Dredger, of Unicoi Outfitters) —The longer I fly-fished, the more I realized that I was hunting and not fishing. I learned to look, stalk, and shoot.
- Look! From a high riverbank, study the stream. Look for bugs, fish, and currents. Bugs may be near the surface, high in the air dodging hungry birds, or in bushes or spiderwebs. Fish may be rising, sidestep-nymphing at mid-depth, or hunkered down on the bottom. Currents and bubble lines will tell you where the sweet spots are.
- Stalk! Slowly slip along the streambank. Get into position to make your first cast count. Get close to that foam line, deep shade under the log, or flat slick behind the midstream boulder.
- Shoot! Cast short and get a good drift. Your first shot (cast) is the most important, so make it count. Check out Unicoi’s other tips and reports by clicking HERE.
(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, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. The water temperatures have been dropping. We are having a typical Georgia winter where you can get all four seasons in a week or sometimes even in a day. So, what does that do to the fishing? Well, it makes it a little more challenging. Stay down lake and go into the backs of the creeks and flip and pitch black or blue Stanley jigs with a matching plastic Zoom pork style trailer to the shallow wood and any heavy bank cover. Use the darker red colors in all worms and lizards and shad crank baits are good casting them right on the banks. Early and late each day, use a bubble gum Zoom trick worm on the wood and even rip rap on bridges. The bass bite better later in the day, on the grass lines or the rip rap on bridges. Run high or medium CHIRP beams to locate the schools of baitfish. Find the bait fish and find the bass. Look for the clouds of baits fish in the month of the creeks and at the opening of the coves. On main lake points a 3/8th ounce Stanley sinner bait is good and cast to any stumps. During the middle of the day, the river bass are fair on a larger Zoom natural blue U tail worm and fish right on the bank cover after lunch. The Zoom watermelon seed lizard and a long 3-foot Carolina rig can draw a few strikes on points down lake.
CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 3.6 FEET, 50’S
Bass fishing is fair. The water temperatures have been dropping and the lake came up a foot. We are having a typical Georgia winter where you can get all four seasons in a week or sometimes even in a day. So, what does that do to the fishing? It makes it a little more challenging. If the water is moving this can make a crank bait bite more inviting. Main lake and secondary points seem to be the hot ticket right now. As they pull water, the back side of points and bridge rip rap continue to get a lot of attention. Shad Raps on spinning tackle and eight-pound test line can be fished on these points and retrieved with the current by the points and produce fish. Bass will hold up in the eddies’ and wait for bait fish to come by. This is a good technique to use anytime there is any form of current, either generated by man or nature. Up the Savannah River towards the Lake Russell Dam, use Rapala DT10 and DT 14 crank baits in the deep-water pockets. Also, the deep-water standing timber will produce and this where the jigging spoon will come in handy.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50’S
Bass: Bass fishing is slow. The water temperatures have been dropping. We are having a typical Georgia winter where you can get all four seasons in a week or sometimes even in a day. So, what does that do to the fishing? Well it makes it a little more challenging. The fish are still in the middle of the creeks and pockets off the main lake. Stay away from any stained or muddy water. Lipless crank baits, small Rat L Traps fished around docks in the middle to back of these creeks and coves have been producing some of the better fish over the past week. A chartreuse spinner bait fished around wood as well as rock has also produced fish. Small crank baits fished around docks in the Richland creek arm of the lake have been producing. Some spoon activity has started on the humps on the south end of the lake.
Striped Bass: Striper fishing is fair. The stripers are in the major coves and creeks looking for bait, and clearer water. Use the electronics to locate the schools of bait in the creeks and drop a live bait down to the fish. Live bait and spoons have both been producing over the past week.
Crappie: Crappie fishing is fair. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. Long lines with double jigs trolled at 1 mph has been the best producer over the past week. The jig needs to have chartreuse in the body. Some of the fish are also on the ledges in 15 to 20 feet of water and minnows fished on down lines will produce good catches.
LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.6 FEET, 50’S
Bass fishing is slow. The water temperatures have been dropping. We are having a typical Georgia winter where you can get all four seasons in a week or sometimes even in a day. So, what does that do to the fishing? Well, it makes it a little more challenging. Fish the warmest days and fish the backs of the creeks on wood and shallow docks. Use a 3/8-ounce jig in black and blue with a Zoom Chunk in green pumpkin or black blue. Use a Carolina rig on the points and docks but stay in the creeks. Try a shorter leader of 18 to 24 inches with a Zoom Finesse worm in green pumpkin and a half ounce weight. With most of the lake stained or muddy look for the clearest water and fish slowly. Fish can be caught on an assortment of baits both shallow and deep. For the shallow bite, fish a bright SPRO Little John MD 50 slowly along rocky points and concrete sea walls. Chartreuse or red craw colors will be best. A worm or jig will also get bites in these same areas and around docks with brush. A 1/8-ounce shaky head with a black Zoom trick worm is a good bet around the docks for numbers. A ¼ ounce black and blue jig will get fewer bites around these docks but will produce a quality bite. There are plenty of deep fish to be caught right now as well. Look for rock structure in the mouths of the creeks just off the main river channel. Find these deep fish using the Lowrance HDS Structure Scan units. Now use the gold Hopkins spoon or a drop shot vertically through the school. These fish will be in 24 to 30 feet of water. This is a great way to catch numbers of fish throughout the winter months.
LAKE JACKSON IS FULL, 40’S
Bass fishing is fair. It is very important to slow down presentations while the weather and water have turned cold. If not suspended and largely inactive, fish will hold tight to cover on the bottom. Be sure to use HIGH CHIRP technology so the fish on the bottom will show up better. Deep brush piles are a good bet. Wood bottom structure in 15 to 18 feet deep. Look for relatively deep docks where the owners have mounted rod holders. Find deep brush that has been planted out in front docks. A sunny afternoon may pull some fish up on shallow warming rocks. Have some spoons ready for vertical fishing. Shallow stained water will also have the same warming effect. The new stain in the lake should be beneficial for that reason on the cold clear days. A slow crankbait will be a good bait to search for shallower fish. Something like Deep Little N is a good choice. It gives them the look of a good size meal and is easy to notice in the stained water. At a very slow retrieve, it will bang noisily into shallow bottom and rock. It will also cover deeper ranges well. Steeper rocky banks and rocky points are a good bet. Fish the crank bait with a pause retrieve on a long cast that quarters or nearly parallels the bank. In the warmth of a sunny day, search the cover of docks. Fish slowly with a small black Strike King jig and a Weedless Wonder lead head and a trick worm in green pumpkin or June Bug in the colored water. Stick to the main lake or near the mouth of deep pockets and keep looking for shallow rocks and deep wood. Explore banks near the main river channel as often as possible. When covering water with the crankbait keep an eye on the sonar.