Recent rains and inconsistent weather patterns might be making it tough on anglers right now, but persistence is key, and some big fish are out there. In fact, North Georgia calls February “Big Fish Month” – check out their portion of the blog below to see why. Use all the resources at your fingertips – like this blog – to ensure a safe and successful trip. After all, even a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work, right?
NEWS TO KNOW
- Last Call Y’all: Calling all Atlanta trout anglers to join us for the FINAL Chattahoochee River volunteer trout stocking event of the delayed harvest season! Find out more HERE.
- Prepping the Boat: As warmer weather approaches, you may be checking, cleaning and getting the boat water ready or maybe you are even getting a new boat. Find out how to register your boat, prep it for safety, find boat ramps and boating interactive maps HERE.
This week, we have fresh fishing reports from North, Central, Southwest (not this week – check in next week) and Southeast Georgia. Check your sources and get ready to Go Fish Georgia!
(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)
February is “BIG FISH MONTH” in North Georgia. This is the time of year when pre-spawn fish are at their heaviest weight, and rising water temperatures are definitely stirring up their appetites. Bass, walleye, yellow perch, and crappie like the one’s pictured are just a few examples of trophy catches from North Georgia that have occurred this time of year. Maybe your trophy fish is just a cast away in one of North Georgia’s lakes or rivers. Here are some tips and tricks to increase your odds of success this week.
SMALL LAKES REPORT
Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area (report courtesy of Fisheries Biologist, Jackson Sibley) — Check out the picture of the record-tying black crappie taken by angler John Watwood at Heath Lake at Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area last Friday. Topping the scales at 2 lb, 14 oz, this fish tied the previous PFA record, set just two days before! If that’s not enough evidence of Rocky’s rising numbers of “slabs,” while staff were certifying this record, another Heath Lake crappie was brought to the scales by a different angler, coming in at 2 lb, 9 oz! We are definitely seeing some of the best fishing on record at Rocky PFA!
Bass are being caught in all habitat types, from shallow water brush piles to open water areas around shad schools, and anglers are reporting that the action is lasting throughout the day. We received a report of a 30 lb. 5-fish bag, with the largest bass going just over 8 lbs. If fishing from the bank, target blowdowns and nearshore brush piles. If fishing from a boat, try swimbaits and jerkbaits on rock piles and riprap banks, or use sonar to locate shad schools and fish jigging spoons around the margins. If you want to see your name added to the record books, keep in mind that the largemouth bass record is currently open at Rocky PFA (10 lb minimum weight), and with the recent reports of monster bass we’ve received, we’re confident that the record will be set within the next year or two.
To make locating fish attractors easier for our anglers, we’ve recently added attractor coordinates to the Rocky PFA website. Check the Fish Attractor Data tab on the righthand side of the page for three downloadable coordinate formats, and tight lines!
Yahoola Reservoir in Dahlonega (courtesy of Jack Becker) — Jack has been on the hunt for yellow perch for the last few weeks, and based on his report and picture, I believe he has got it dialed in. His secret, trolling small crankbaits in the “Hot Perch” color pattern at very low speed along creek channels and adjacent flats. Yellow perch are relatively small in size, but they are undoubtedly one of the best tasting fish in freshwater. Because of their schooling tendencies, if you catch one, you will likely catch several more in the same area. So, why not give yellow perch fishing a try at a lake near you. Jack says that perch make the best fish tacos!
Lake Lanier Bass (Report by Phil Johnson Pjohnson15@hotmail.com or 770-366-8845) — Bass fishing on Lake Lanier has been good. The lake level is near full pool and the water temperature is running forty eight to fifty degrees. There is still some stain in the back of the creeks with the main lake being clear. Look for more stain to show up after Friday’s rainfall. The key word for the lake has been S-L-O-W. Regardless of the bait you are throwing, the bass seem to want a S-L-O-W presentation. The steadiest bait for the week has been a trick worm on a 3/16-ounce head worked on rocks and docks. Look for the sun-facing rocks with deeper water nearby or docks that sit near the creek channel. It seems a key to both these patterns has been to have deeper water close by so the bass can easily move between depths. The 3/8-ounce Spotchoker rigged with a three-inch Keitech is still producing in the ditches. It takes some time to locate bait in the ditches so be prepared to be in search mode. Once you find bait, the fish are more willing to feed on the Spotchoker. Again, a very S-L-O-W presentation is the key to triggering the fish. If you feel a tick and the bass doesn’t hook up just stop your bait for several seconds and start your retrieve again. Jigs worked in the deeper water and along the ledges have also been producing some good fish. Look very closely at your electronics as the fish are often glued to the bottom right now. Don’t get locked into only looking in one depth right now as the bass are beginning their spring migration from the deep to the shallow. Two or three degree changes in the water temperature can greatly change the depth that you find them. It’s the time of transition so be flexible!
Lanier Crappie (Josh Thornton, 770-530-6493, provided this fishing report) –Crappie can be found in shallow water and suspended shallow under docks. We started trolling this week and had limited success but the fish we got from trolling were the best fish of the year. I expect the trolling to get better every day until the spawn. This week’s catch came mainly from docks the fish were suspended in 5 to 25 feet of water. The jig that produced the best this week was the black and grey color combination. 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.
Lanier Stripers (This report courtesy of Captain Mack Farr’s Lake Lanier Fishing Report): Stained water in the rivers and creek backs will attract bait, and if the bait is there the Stripers will likely be there as well. I think that the fish in the stained water are often easier to catch, especially with artificials. Casting a bait to the banks while you are pulling the live baits will often be very productive. Small jigs, 3/8 , 1/4, and 1/2 oz, Flukes on a lead head, flukes on a weighted keel hook are also excellent choices. Use the mud lines where applicable, the activity will often be best around the color change is most pronounced. A mix of free lines, down lines, and planer boards will still be applicable, and a little weight on the planers and free lines has been a plus. Keeping a Mini Mack in the spread is also beneficial, either as a flat line or behind the Perfect Planer. Herring, Trout, Shad and Shiners have all been productive. Give the Stripers a mix until you see a preference.
Carters Lake Linesides (provided by Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service, 770 827-6282. www.firstbiteguideservice.com) — The downline bite is the best bite right now. Downlines fished from 50 to 80 feet over bait are working best. Most of the action we are getting is right at sun-up. All the main creeks are holding fish. The bigger your shad, the better. Remember, you’re not going to load the boat, but some true trophies are biting right now.
Carters Lake Bass (fishing report courtesy of Louie Bartenfield, http://www.carterslakeguideservice.com/, 706-218-6609) — Spotted Bass are still following big schools of baitfish throughout the lower to mid lake sections. These fish are roaming in 25-50 ft depths over creek channels but will occasionally stage near a bluff or ditch. Drop shots, jigging spoons and Spotsticker Underspins have been good producers for these fish. I’ve also been casting jigs and casting crank baits around wood. The bites are few and far between, but you can run around and catch some this way.
Lake Weiss Mixed Bag (report by Mark Collins 256-779-3387):
- Bass fishing is good. Some bass are still on the creek and river channel ledges. Deep running crank baits and Carolina rigs are catching fish. A lot of bass are on secondary points and road beds.
- Crappie fishing is fair, and they are in the river channels 10-20 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 suspended in the river and creek channels at 8-12 feet deep, and they can be caught long line trolling with Jiffy Jigs. Bridges are also producing some fish.
- Striper fishing is poor and no reports in the last few weeks.
- Catfish are biting well in the bays and creeks in 8 to 15 feet of water, and cut bait is working best.
Lake Hartwell: (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is good. Expect the bass to be no further back in the creeks and coves past the secondary points. Some good quality bass are coming off the rip-rap both in the Seneca and Tugaloo Rivers this week. Both the original and Rapala RS models of the Shad Rap are working where there is rip-rap rock. Long casts and slow retrieves seem to be the pattern for working this rock. Wait until the sun comes up and shines on this rock for at least thirty minutes or so before fishing the rock. Another sign to look for while fishing is to take a look in the shallows to see if the small sunfish are moving in after the sun comes up. The majority of the bass are feeding on the bream and perch up in the shallows. Rapala Shad Rap and Jointed Shad Raps can work while fishing the shallows. Reed Creek and the Twenty-Six Mile Creek are good places to check out. Along with the Shad Raps take along some Husky Jerks in the glass minnow, glass blue minnow and the glass perch colors. These baits are working well in the slightly stained water off the points. With the wind blowing, fish only the wind-blown banks and points for the best results. Also, by making long casts, this will give the bass plenty of time to move through the cold water and find your bait.
Lake Allatoona Bass (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) — Stay down lake and work baits very deep Texas rigged worms and a 3/16 ounce weight and a number one Mustad hook will be the best way to get lures deep to the fish. Green worms in a variety of shades will be the best way to draw these fish to the baits. Use a small Zoom green or black Zoom mini lizard with red flakes. Be sure to work the baits very slowly. Try a Fat Albert green pumpkin Fat Albert on a 1/8 ounce jig head worked vertically on and around deep docks can work. Use the vertical presentation and let the bait rest dead on the bottom. This tactic works better later each day. Spoons have been slow all week but a few days of warm weather can get the spots active. Sit over the main lake points at depths of 20 to 45 feet.
Allatoona Linesides and Spotted Bass, (report by Joseph Martinelli of Heron Outdoor Adventures) — Good success downlining for hybrids and stripers but devote some time fishing the point breaks and cove mouths. Freelining with medium shiners and threadfin shad has been effective for secondary hookups while pitching into the pockets along the shoreline with smaller live baits as well as crankbaits. As for spotted bass, they seem to be all over the place. Catching a few on Rapala DT6, but other baits are just as effective.
West Point Mixed Bag (Report courtesy of Ken Sturdivant southernfishing.com) — Bass fishing is good. Schools of spotted bass mixed with hybrids, white bass and stripers and even the occasional largemouth can still be caught on jigging spoons and drop shot rigs on deeper offshore structures. Baits such as suspending McStick jerk bait, unweighted Zoom Super flukes, Senko’s and spinnerbaits are already catching shallow largemouth bass and spots. Try to fish these baits in or near any shallow cover or around schools of baitfish in the back of pockets. Fish the open water in the pockets with a 1/2-ounce Rat L Trap, a Strike King Lucky Shad crankbait or an A-rig. Crankbaits on rip rap or chunk rock is also a good pattern for early spring. The shallow bite will only get better as the water warms. The creeks seem to always warm first. The pre-spawn is just around the corner.
Trout Tips from Sarah Baker (Report from Sarah Baker, DNR’s trout biologist) — North Georgia received a couple inches of rain this week, so some of the creeks may still be swollen. Be sure to check gauges near your favorite fishing spot. Best bets for stained water have been Pat’s Rubber Legs and dark wooly boogers. When it’s clear, try nymphs – my favorite is a Zug Bug. Best fishing time is late morning to mid-afternoon. Remember – if you’re still new to fly-fishing, Georgia’s five delayed harvest streams provide a great opportunity to practice your skills and be rewarded! Check out the photo of this week’s catch from the West Fork of the Chattooga River.
Morgan Falls Delayed Harvest (DH): This is a “last call” for Atlanta trout anglers to join us for the final Chattahoochee River volunteer trout stocking event of the delayed harvest season! This bucket stocking will take place at the Paces Mill Boat Ramp (3444 Cobb Pkwy SE, Atlanta, GA 30339) on the Chattahoochee River on President’s Day Monday, February 20. The stocking truck should be ready to unload around 10:30 AM, and volunteers should bring a clean 5-gallon bucket, waders, and a signed copy of the WRD adult or minor liability water form. As always, we encourage you to bring your kids to help stock trout and enjoy catching a few once all the fish are stocked. If you have questions, please contact our office at 770-535-5498.
Chattooga River DH: If you want numbers, aim high or low for the fresh winter stockers. If you want some topwater action, look for fall survivors and fluttering bugs in afternoon. Aim your dry/dropper rigs for the shallow flats in the middle of the DH section.
Smith Creek DH: An egg fly and pink squirmy wormy fly are fishing well right now.
Toccoa River DH & Toccoa River Tailwater (Report courtesy of the Cohutta Fishing Company, www.cohuttafishingco.com) — For the DH section, the big producers are Pat’s Rubber Legs, Squirmy Worms, Tungsten Pheasant Tail/Hare’s Ear soft hackles with colored bead variants, Two Bit Hookers, and Thrift Shop Caddis. Don’t forget your Black Caddis and Little Black Stonefly Patterns.
For the Tailwater, have some Black Caddis patterns like Better Foam Caddis, Harrop’s CDC Caddis Emerger, and Elk Hair Caddis. For subsurface, I would try to throw some Holy Grails, Thrift Shop Caddis, Zebra Midges, and stonefly patterns in addition to the standard fare.
Small Trout Streams (Report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters at www.unicoioutfitters.com ) — Spring’s high water and abundant bug drift will encourage more trout to repopulate pocket water. While everyone one else is hammering the popular pools, sneak up to those boulder fields and pick those pockets clean. While the water is cold, Euronymphing is a deadly technique. As the weather warms, try hi-sticking a dry/long nymph dropper through them. Finally, as the hatches kick off, try a double dry combo on a fairly short piece of tippet between them. Again, hi-stick those soft pockets and keep your fly line and leader off the water. Let those double dries bob quietly in those eddies and… be ready for a quick hookset on a spunky rainbow. Thanks to midcurrent.com, you have more hot tips HERE.
Trout Stocking Update: The weekly trout stocking season is still a few weeks away, but hatchery staff are releasing a few fish here and there to lighten their hatchery loads just a bit. To keep abreast of current trout stockings in North Georgia, check out our weekly stocking report on our Trout Fishing webpage, and thanks in advance for your purchase of trout licenses, TU vehicle tags, and fishing gear that provide the funds to support trout management in Georgia.
(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 DOWN .8 FEET, 60’S
Bass fishing is good. The fish are feeding all during the day and the spots are roaming in and out in this cold water and hitting the crank baits with a lot of aggression. Head to Beaverdam Creek and use the Shad Raps and Ott’s Garage 8 to crank up fish. The largemouth are feeding and some good bass are in the three to four-pound range. The spots are getting bigger. Some are over 3 pounds plus. Many anglers are fishing the south end of the lake near the dam. Crank baits and finesse worms are accounting for most of the bass. With the recent rains turning up the water, head up the Savannah River and down to the Hwy. 72 bridge. A Carolina rigged Zoom 4- and 6-inch pumpkinseed lizard rigged for use all day would be a good idea. Beaverdam Creek can also produce but stay in the wind and keep the Shad Raps in the water. Fish no further back in the creeks than the secondary points and remember the larger bass are going to be holding to the cover. Make several casts on both sides of any brush piles and wood. If the sun is out crank the windblown side of the Hwy. 72 bridge rip rap.
CLARKS HILL LAKE IS DOWN 1.2 FEET, 60’S
Bass fishing is fair. Main lake points near the mouth of the creeks and larger coves is a good place to look for bass. Crank baits will be the bait of choice and the Rapala DT10 and Rapala DT6 along with the RS Shad Raps and Ito Vision 110 jerk baits are catching bass. Some spotted bass are being caught on secondary points on crank baits and Carolina rigs. Lizards are a good choice to rig up with here. The Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology will work very well even in 10 feet of water. Anglers can cover 68 feet of bottom at 10 feet deep with the 455-frequency beam. The key will be to throw in shallow and work the cranks and lizards real slow. Usually, the bass are hitting the crank baits on the first couple of turns of the reel handle.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 60’S
Bass fishing is fair. Look for schools of shad in the mouth of the coves and fish a Flex It Spoon on 10-pound test line. There have been some good fish caught working around the bridges and rocks. Wait till the sun warms up the rocks so this water will warm up a degree or two. In these areas, fish a ¼ ounce Rat L Trap in silver and black. Fish the bait using a slow retrieve and let it fall as you move it away from the bank. The bites are light, so watch your line. If you are able, wait till we have a few warm days in a row as this will warm the water a little better. Run the Rapala #5 Shad Raps and the Ott’s Garage Flat across points and then shoot the docks in Richland Creek.
LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.7 FEET, 60’S
Bass fishing is fair. The number of bites you get in a day has decreased but the size of fish seems to have increased. Waters temperatures in any given area can fluctuate up to 10 degrees in just one day. Keep an eye on your water temperature when fishing new water and try to stay around the warmest water you can find. Crank baits, big bladed spinner baits and jigs have been best this week when fishing for shallow fish. The Spro Little John MD 50 in the fire craw color will get a bite when fished extremely slowly over primary and secondary points in the rivers, as well as short pockets located near deep water. A chartreuse and white spinner bait with a large gold #7 willow leaf blade slow rolled around laydown trees on the main riverbank will get fewer bites but look for them to be big fish. A black and blue ¼ ounce jig is great for flipping docks in short pockets or docks that have brush around them. Many fish can be caught deep right now with most of the deep fish being in 28 to 40 feet of water. A gold spoon will catch these fish that are relating to bait schools in deep water. Try to find structure in the same depth the fish are holding. The Lowrance HDS Structure Scan system is very helpful for finding the fish and the fish-holding structure.
LAKE JACKSON IS 1.1 FEET OVER FULL 60’S
Bass fishing is fair. For the spotted bass start on main lake rocky points and banks in 7 to 19 feet of water. Try the #7 Rapala on rocky points and banks in 2 to 13 feet of water. Use the Shad Raps in crawfish for stained water or shad and/black back in clearer areas. A Rapala DT 10 or Bandit 300 crankbait will work well. Concentrate on horizontal casts that bump the rocks slowly. Look for areas that the sun has had time to warm the rocks and the water around them. When the fishing slows use the 3/8-ounce jig with a craw trailer flipped next to docks and blowdowns or slowly crawled on the rocky points as this can be very effective. Many times, bass stack up off points or in the middle of coves. Use the Lowrance Structure Scan technology to locate the schools of bait and bass. Find them and use a Fish Head Spin with a small swimbait trailer. Throw it past them and let it sink down to the depth they show up on Sonar. Use a slow, steady retrieve back to the boat. Resist the urge to set the hook like a worm, and just let the fish load up on the bait and keep reeling when they hit. Just keep reeling the Fish Head Spin.
Coming Soon – We Promise!
(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)
Last weekend’s big rains put a damper on many of the really good bites that were starting. And, another Friday cold front will likely make this coming weekend challenging on the water, as well.
River gages on February 16th were:
- Clyo on the Savannah River – 13.8 feet and falling
- Abbeville on the Ocmulgee – 10.8 feet and falling
- Doctortown on the Altamaha – 12.1 feet and rising
- Waycross on the Satilla – 17.2 feet and falling
- Atkinson on the Satilla – 16.6 feet and rising
- Macclenny on the St Marys – 4.2 feet and falling
The river is flowing through the woods pretty much everywhere again this week. I wouldn’t fish it.
Nope. Find a good flat-water place to fish.
ST. MARYS RIVER
The river is fishable. Catfish would be your best bet, but the cold front this weekend will probably slow that bite. Shrimp on the bottom is typically the best bait.
I fished just about as bad of conditions as you could get on Sunday afternoon just to see if bowfin quit biting. The cold front 2 days before dropped temperatures, rain caused the swamp level to rise, and winds were howling about 30mph. On most fisheries, any of these factors would shut down a bite. I flung 2 Dura-Spins out the back and checked my clock so I could figure out how long it would take to get a bite (I wasn’t expecting much, but I just had to see). One of the two rods doubled over within 30 seconds, and I never even checked my watch again. I only had just over an hour to fish before off-water time, and I had 3 doubles and a total of 23 fish (2 pickerel and the rest bowfin). My biggest bowfin was 8-lb., 5-oz and was the only fish that I cast to. It boiled on a trolled lure but missed it. I stopped the boat and cast back to it and immediately hooked up. That fishery is an absolute blast, and I’m convinced that the bowfin don’t care about environmental conditions – they’re eating machines. Fire tiger and a prototype chartreuse/blue color were what I caught them all on because those are the only two colors I used. This coming week’s warm-up should get all species in the swamp biting. Fliers will eat sallies (yellow or pink are my favorites), pickerel and bowfin will chew Dura-Spins, and catfish will hit shrimp on the bottom. The latest water level (Folkston side) was 120.80 feet.
DODGE COUNTY PUBLIC FISHING AREA (near Eastman, more info HERE)
The bass bite was good this week. Bank anglers caught them on live bait and plastic worms from the fishing piers and points. A few nice crappie were also caught by bank anglers throwing plastics from the fishing piers. Staff conducted some of their spring electrofishing samples and saw some crappie over 2 pounds and bass up to 6 pounds. The 4 to 5-pounders were numerous and really fat after gorging on threadfin shad and golden shiners all winter.
Fishing was good on Friday ahead of the cold front. Charles Burch fished a Charlton County pond on Friday and caught a few bass on tomato seed-colored Culprit Worms. His biggest was a 6.4-pounder. During a Friday morning trip, Jimmy Zinker fooled about 20 bass between 2 and 5 pounds on big 12-inch Mann’s plastic worms. He had a pair of lunkers weighing 8-lb., 7-oz. and 7-lb., 0-oz. to go with the smaller fish. He saw his first bedding fish of the year on that trip. A couple Brunswick anglers fishing on Thursday morning had a banner day in the wind at a Brunswick area pond. They had a bunch of bass, and their biggest 5 weighed 29 pounds.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
Capt. Tim Cutting (fishthegeorgiacoast.com) has been slipping out into the protected backwaters this week and has done well. His charters pitched shrimp on jigheads to shallow oysters and caught over 20 redfish each day on Monday and Tuesday. Steve and Brenda Hampton fished the Jekyll Island Pier on Wednesday and caught a pair of 15-inch trout and a solid 4 pound black drum. They caught them on artificials – both rootbeer and chartreuse paddle-tail grubs. Dr. Robert Bringolf fished from the bank on St Simons Island on Friday morning and caught 2 seatrout and lost a couple others. He was casting paddle-tail grubs. 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).