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Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: Aug. 21, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Justin Armour caught this giant tripletail while fishing with Capt. TJ Cheek last month. The monster inhaled a big white shrimp. (Photo courtesy of Capt. TJ Cheek)

Justin Armour caught this giant tripletail while fishing with Capt. TJ Cheek last month. The monster inhaled a big white shrimp. (Photo courtesy of Capt. TJ Cheek)

The Altamaha River and saltwater produced the best reports this week. New Moon is Aug. 25. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that a 60-pound flathead catfish was caught on goldfish this week. The redbreasts were hitting crickets. One angler reported catching a cooler full of hand-sized bream on crickets. The bass bite was also solid this weekend in the Jesup area. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the flathead bite is still on fire. Goldfish have been the most consistent baits, and the fish this week mostly ranged from 15 to 25 pounds. A group of Waycross anglers fishing over the weekend caught a mixed bag of 150 fish, including bream, redbreasts, and warmouth. Crickets fooled most of their bream and redbreasts, while worms produced the warmouth. Some anglers reported catching crappie from the deep holes using minnows. The river level was 3.7 feet and falling (84 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 5.0 feet and rising (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 19.

Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that bass were caught on black ZOOM Trick Worms and black/fire tail Culprit worms. Redbreasts are still being caught on crawfish colored Satilla Spins. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.5 feet and falling (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.3 feet and falling (87 degrees) on Aug. 19.

St. Marys River –  Redbreasts were eating crickets, and catfish were caught by anglers fishing worms on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 3.1 feet and falling on Aug. 19.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge said that bream bit crickets in the late afternoons in the shade. Bass ate black buzzbaits right after dark.

Okefenokee Swamp – Anglers fishing right below the Sill on the west side said that the warmouth and catfish bite was on fire. The Suwannee River rose this week, and the fishing was great.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the tarpon bite is on fire in the Brunswick and St. Marys areas. Fish are busting pogy schools in the sounds and up in the rivers. His charters also caught trout and redfish in decent numbers this week. Waycross anglers fishing the Brunswick area said that lots of tarpon and sharks were around. Flounder were chowing mudminnows and finger mullet in the saltwater rivers around Brunswick. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier, trout, flounder, and Spanish mackerel were caught this week. A few limits of flounder were caught, with fish mostly between 15 and 18 inches. Some croakers and sharks were also occasionally caught. Blue crab catches have started improving.

Best Bet – Tarpon are usually tough to pinpoint their location and even more difficult to get to eat your offering, but they are all over the place right now. The most effective presentation is to cast-net some pogies and put out a spread on top, mid-water and bottom in an area where fish are moving through. You will typically catch lots of sharks and other fish even when tarpon don’t bite, so it is usually a string-stretching trip.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: Aug. 13, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Kason Buie of Brunswick caught this giant pickerel (jackfish) from an oxbow lake off the lower Altamaha River last weekend.

Kason Buie of Brunswick caught this giant pickerel (jackfish) from an oxbow lake off the lower Altamaha River last weekend.

The Altamaha River is the river to fish. Check out the Wayne County Grand Slam Tournament this weekend if you like fishing tournaments (more information below under Altamaha River section). Saltwater has been hit-and-miss, and ponds have been steady. Last quarter moon is August 17th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The water level should be perfect for the Wayne County Grand Slam Tournament held this weekend, Aug. 16-17. They will be paying out $3,000 for the biggest aggregate weight of three species and thousands more for various categories. For more information, visit http://www.waynetourism.com. My prediction is that it will take 62 pounds to win the aggregate prize. I’m guessing that will be comprised of a flathead catfish, a bowfin, and a bass. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that quite a few flathead catfish were caught by those using goldfish over the weekend. Some bream and redbreasts were caught by those pitching crickets. Several folks have been catching gar on rope lures. The odd thing about fishing for gar with rope lures is that the lure does not have a hook on it. When a gar bites, you let slack in your line so that the fish shakes its head and gets its teeth all tangled in the rope. After a few seconds, you just tighten up and reel the fish in. Gar are hard fighters, and they often jump. Connie has the lures in stock at the tackle store at Jaycees Landing in case you want some for the tournament this weekend. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the flathead bite has been on fire. Goldfish have fooled most of the big catfish, and most of the whiskerfish have been between 15 and 40 pounds. Lots of bream and warmouth were caught this week, as well. The river level was 2.5 feet and falling (87 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 4.2 feet and rising (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Aug. 10

Satilla River – With the low water, wading was a great way to approach the river this week. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that redbreasts were caught in good numbers on crickets by bank anglers and those wading the river. Anglers reported catching some big “roosters” out of the deeper holes. Topwater plugs and buzzbaits caught quality bass. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.5 feet and rising (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.4 feet and falling (86 degrees) on Aug. 10.

St. Marys River –  Redbreasts continued eating crickets well this week, and some were caught by those pitching topwater flies to shady areas. Catfishing was good for those fishing pink worms and shrimp on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.8 feet and falling on Aug. 10.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge said that bream continued hammering crickets late in the evenings. The bite was great after pop-up thunderstorms this week. The crappie bite continued for those dragging minnows over the deepest water in the pond. Bass were caught with shiners and ZOOM Trick Worms.

Okefenokee Swamp – The warmouth bite was excellent for those fishing (primarily from the bank) below the Sill on the west side. Bullhead catfish and warmouth were caught in the swamp. On the east side, anglers reported catching fliers in huge numbers. Pitching pink or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies was the best approach for fliers.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Scout Carter and Josh Alvarez fished with a friend at the St. Marys Jetties over the weekend, and the bite was slow. They pitched Assassin Sea Shads rigged on Jetty Jigheads toward the rocks and bounced them back to the boat. They caught two keeper trout and a giant whiting, along with several big black sea bass, and several other random species. They saw some tarpon (their target) at high tide, but were unable to get them to eat their artificial offerings. Gynni Hunter of Waycross caught a couple of nice flounder while fishing on St. Simons Island on Sunday evening. Her flatfish ate finger mullet. Flounder fishing in the Hampton River and around the St. Marys Jetties has also been very good this week. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the flounder bite was tops again this weekend. Both jigs and mudminnows fooled them. The whiting bite was fair this week for those fishing shrimp on bottom. Spanish mackerel were still prowling around the pier, and they ate Gotcha plugs cast near them. Spadefish and sharks were caught in big numbers. Some trout hit curly-tailed grubs and live shrimp – one of the trout caught Friday weighed 6 pounds!

Best Bet – The Okefenokee is my top pick this week. The flier bite is the deal on the east side (Folkston entrance), while warmouth and catfishing should be tops at the Sill and in Billy’s Lake on the west side. Don’t hesitate to pitch a sally around the expansive lily pads in Billy’s Lake for fliers, as there are lots of them at all the entrances. If you want to fish for tarpon, they are thick in the Altamaha Sound and St. Andrews Sound right now. They are also starting to move into their more inshore haunts in the saltwater rivers.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: July 24, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Capt. Andy Gowen of Kingsland caught this oversized redfish on Monday in the St. Marys area on a Bomber Badonkadonk.

Capt. Andy Gowen of Kingsland caught this oversized redfish on Monday in the St. Marys area on a Bomber Badonkadonk.

The Altamaha River is the place to be for bluegills and redbreasts. The Satilla is still low but is great for those doing float trips. Saltwater fishing is on fire for lots of species. The new moon is July 26. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – A pair of Waycross anglers fished the Altamaha on Friday evening and caught 30 keeper panfish. They said that most of the bluegills were on the small side, but the redbreasts were fat and sassy. On Friday morning they fished a few hours and caught 25 keepers. They caught about twice that many fish, considering their throwbacks. Most of their fish were in and around the willows, and all of their fish came on a 1/16-oz. black/chartreuse Satilla Spin. They also had several dozen small (throwback) bass attack their Satilla Spins. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the bream and bass bites have been fair for those fishing out of the landing. Most of the redbreasts that were caught were fooled with Spin Dandy spinnerbaits. The mullet bite has been red hot. Dannett from Altamaha Park said the mullet bite is still going strong. Bream and redbreasts were caught with crickets at the mouths of sloughs on the outgoing tide. The river level was 3.1 feet and rising (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 4.2 feet and falling (84 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 22.

Satilla River – It is time to float the upper Satilla. I crossed the US 1 Bridge on Tuesday, and it was getting very low. Expect to drag some, even during a float trip. Scout Carter and Wyatt Crews paddled upstream of Blackshear Bridge a couple of hours on Saturday and fished their way back to the landing. They landed about 30 panfish, including warmouth, redbreasts, bluegill, crappie, and small bass. Their biggest redbreast was a 10-inch whopper. All of their fish inhaled 1/16-oz. Satilla Spins, and their best colors were black/yellow and a brownish prototype color. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the bite is still strong for those wading during the low water levels. Bream, redbreasts, and catfish were tops. Shrimp fooled the catfish, while crickets and worms fooled the panfish for those wading. In the middle river, Satilla Spins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, and Beetle Spins fooled panfish. Red/White and crawfish were the best colors this week. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.4 feet and falling (81 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.0 feet and falling (84 degrees) on July 22.

St. Marys River – You can get a boat around well about anywhere below Trader’s Hill. The river is stained but is falling. The catfish bite was the best over the weekend. Put shrimp and worms on the bottom for the best success. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.7 feet and falling on July 22.

Local Ponds – Wyatt Crews and Austin Chaney fished a Waycross pond on Monday evening and caught some huge bluegills on Beetle Spins and a few bass on topwaters. Michael Winge said that bream and big shellcrackers were the best bite in area ponds. A Waycross angler and his two children caught 20 big bream and shellcrackers from an area pond using Jolly Green Giant Worms. Memphis George caught some giant bream this week on crickets. As usual, he was fishing an undisclosed Ware County pond. With the new moon coming up, fish black buzzbaits at night for the biggest bass in the pond. Fish over the deepest water, and ease along quietly as you cast.

Okefenokee Swamp – The flier bite has been great this week out of the Folkston entrance. Yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies produced the best catches, but pink accounted for some, also. Fish the fly without a float for the best success. Wear good polarized sunglasses so you can keep an eye on the fly. When it disappears, set the hook. On the north side, some anglers reported catching bluegills. On the west side, the catfish bite was the strongest for those fishing the Sill and Billy’s Lake. Worms and shrimp on the bottom caught the most. Warmouth were caught again this week by those using crickets in the tributaries flowing into the swamp along Swamp Road. Check out my article in the August issue of Georgia Outdoor News for details on catching bowfin (mudfish). Don’t forget to get a new Federal Duck Stamp if that is the license you use to access the swamp. The old stamp expired on June 30. Okefenokee Adventures at the Folkston entrance and U.S. Post Offices have the new stamps.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Justin Bythwood and Michael Deen of Waycross fished the St. Marys Jetties on Saturday. They pitched Assassin Sea Shads to the rocks and caught two trout, a nice redfish, and several dozen black sea bass. Most of the sea bass were undersized, but they had almost a dozen keepers. The best color for them was morning glory. They fished their offerings on 3/8 and 1/2-oz. Capt. Bert’s Jetty Jigheads and Flashy Jigheads made with heavy-duty Gamakatsu hooks. Capt. Andy Gowen of Tail Chaser Charters reported catching some beautiful oversized redfish on topwaters on Monday morning in the St. Marys area. Whiting, trout, redfish, and flounder were caught in good numbers by Waycross anglers fishing the Brunswick area. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that on the pier it was flounder, flounder, and more flounder. Limits of the tasty flat-fish were caught by those fishing with mudminnows and finger mullet. Most of the fish are 16 inches and larger. A few folks caught limits of trout, also. Many were 18 inches and bigger, and jigs, live shrimp, and mudminnows produced.

Best Bet – The Altamaha has started to rise just a little, so the panfish bite may slow a little for the weekend. If you go, throw artificials and fish the willow trees and mouths of sloughs. Mullet fishing on the Altamaha is a great option if you want to set the hook a bunch! In saltwater, it is time to fish mudminnows and finger mullet around rocks, docks, and inlets for flounder. The flier bite in the Okefenokee is on fire right now for those pitching sallies.

Summer River Stripers

By: Patrick O’Rouke, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

When striped bass go deep in Georgia reservoirs during the summer, it doesn’t mean that shallow water striper fishing is over.  Many of the rivers feeding Georgia’s reservoirs provide excellent striper fishing throughout the heat of the summer.  As an added bonus, stripers can put up a tougher fight in the current than they do in still water.  And unlike some of the big reservoirs, fishing for river stripers doesn’t require a large boat.  Small jon boats, canoes, or kayaks can be perfect for the rivers where stripers run, and wading is an option where there is walk-in access.

Striped bass that weigh only a few pounds can be a blast when caught in a flowing river.

Striped bass that weigh only a few pounds can be a blast when caught in a flowing river.

Striped bass are stocked in 16 reservoirs across the state by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.  In most of these waters, the fish still try to spawn even though they cannot produce viable offspring, and this sends the first wave of fish up the rivers in mid-to-late spring.  As the weather heats up in the summer, the lake surface begins to warm up too much (stripers prefer temperatures less than 77°F), and stripers will either move into the thermocline or run upstream into flowing water in search of cooler, oxygenated water.  They will often stay throughout the summer until surface temperatures in the lake downstream drop back down to acceptable levels.

It can be surprising where stripers will show up on their summer “vacations.”

It can be surprising where stripers will show up on their summer “vacations.”

To locate striped bass in your river look for deeper (>4 feet) water near structure.  This might be a rock wall, a downed tree, or a boulder field.  Pools above and below major shoals are often good places to find summer stripers and the deep, outer curve of a river bend is another.  As long as there are no dams or major waterfalls blocking their path, stripers can travel dozens of miles upstream in search of suitable habitat, so don’t limit your search to the first few river miles above a reservoir.  In fact, in drought years with low, warmer flows, you can often find them concentrated at the first dam or waterfall that stops their progress.  In cooler, wetter years, striped bass may be more spread out.  Keep in mind that stripers move constantly, so even if you find fish in a particular spot, they may not be there in a week as they are always in search of the next meal.

Deep pools below big shoals can be a great place to find stripers holding.

Deep pools below big shoals can be a great place to find stripers holding.

Striped bass can easily reach sizes greater than 40 pounds in Georgia, so make sure you bring tackle that is capable of bringing in a trophy.  For bait fishing, live or cut gizzard shad and rainbow trout are popular picks.  These can be suspended below large bobbers, planer boards, or even inflated balloons.  Drift your bait behind you into the area where you think the fish will be.  For artificials, use big crankbaits, swimbaits, bucktail jigs, or streamers that mimic shad, trout, or bluegills.  Cast and retrieve these through the suspected striper habitat.  If you don’t find anything after a little bit of effort, move on to the next spot.

There are some important regulations to follow when fishing for river stripers this summer! If you’re fishing in a designated trout stream, the use of live bait-fish is illegal.  The Flint River and its tributaries from the Georgia Power Dams at Albany to the U.S. Hwy 84 bridge; the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries from the Columbia Lock and Dam to the GA Hwy 91 bridge; and Spring Creek and its tributaries downstream to GA Hwy 253 are CLOSED to striped bass fishing from May 1 – October 31 each year.  Also be sure to consult the current Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations for size and daily limit restrictions, as they vary throughout the state.

Big fish usually want big baits, so leave the lightweight rods and lures at home.

Big fish usually want big baits, so leave the lightweight rods and lures at home.

To see which reservoirs have DNR stocked striped bass, check out this map.  For detailed information on rivers feeding stocked reservoirs and potential access points near you, please use the tools available through the online Georgia Outdoor Map.  Or call your nearest Fisheries Section Regional Office and ask about opportunities in your area.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: June 19, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Second Baptist Church kids went fishing Tuesday evening at a Waycross pond and whacked the bluegills. Calob caught this nice bluegill and Skylar congratulated him with a choke hold.

Second Baptist Church kids went fishing Tuesday evening at a Waycross pond and whacked the bluegills. Calob caught this nice bluegill and Skylar congratulated him with a choke hold.

The panfish tournament on Saturday out of Jaycees Landing on the Altamaha River went well, and that bite is about to bust wide open. The Satilla River level has bounced around with this week’s rains, but the fishing has still been outstanding. Saltwater was inconsistent with the big tides this week, but it should crank up this weekend with better tides. The last quarter moon is June 19. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The Altamaha bluegill bite is about to bust wide open. The Wildlife Resources Division’s sampling last fall showed the highest bluegill population ever recorded heading into the winter, and all the high water will have pushed them to giant size. Over 30 boats participated in the panfish tournament Saturday out of Jaycees Landing. It did not take quite as many pounds as I predicted, but 9.8 pounds (10 fish aggregate) won the tournament. Still, that was a respectable weight, and it won the $500 first prize. Thanks to Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club for sponsoring the event. Elsewhere on the Altamaha, anglers fishing in the willows out of Wayne County ramps reported catching some giant shellcrackers (pushing 2 pounds) on Saturday.  Pink worms fooled them. The river level was 5.2 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.8 feet and falling (82 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 17.

Satilla River – Wow, the catches continued to impress this week. Michael Deen and Justin Bythwood fished the Waycross area on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings and whacked a bunch of fish on Satilla Spins. Scout Carter joined them on Saturday and caught almost half of their 25 fish (in about 1 1/2 hours) on 1/16-oz. black/yellow. Crawfish boated the other half. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, the pair caught a few on black/yellow and other prototype colors, but crawfish dominated. They boated 51 panfish Monday evening and almost 40 on Tuesday (Tuesday evening produced bigger fish). Both weekday trips lasted only two hours each. TJ Cheek moved out of his briny element this weekend for Father’s Day and fished the river with his father and son, Jackson. It was Jackson’s first real fishing trip, and the trio had a blast. Jackson caught his first fish (a bluegill) during the outing. Way to go Jackson! The WRD folks certified a flier and a redbreast Angler Award this week (often they do not certify that many in six months, but this year fishing has been so good that the river has produced several awards per week). Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the redbreast bite is still excellent. He said that you can catch fish about anywhere in the river right now. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.6 feet and falling (80 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 7.2 feet and falling (82 degrees) on June 17.

St. Marys River – I did not receive any reports specific to the St. Marys, but the catfish bite should be in full swing on the middle river, and panfish should be tearing it up in the upper river. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 6.3 feet and falling on June 17.

Local Ponds – Second Baptist Church in Waycross held a kids fishing event on Tuesday evening at a local Waycross pond, and a couple of dozen kids had a blast. It started off slow while the sun was high, but as the sun dipped, the bite picked up. The bream ate pink worms like crazy for the last hour of daylight, and everyone who was concentrating on fishing caught hand-sized or bigger bluegills and shellcrackers (the others had a blast riding around in a golf cart and chasing each other). The trick was to fish the worm just off the bottom. Kael had the hot hand, catching 7 bluegills in an hour! A few bass were fooled with worms, as well. A couple of Waycross anglers fished a local pond this week and caught 19 bass averaging about 4 pounds each. The bass blasted topwaters fished around vegetation. It is about time to start night-fishing for trophy bass, so put that on your radar.

Okefenokee Swamp – I am going to let the yellow flies have the swamp in June. If you want to brave the bugs, the flier bite is great. You can pretty easily catch over 100 fliers per day by pitching sallies. The spike in bugs should subside by early July.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reports that water clarity was the main concern this week with the big tides. When he found a patch of clear water, his charters caught a bunch of small fish. With the better tides this week, he expects the good bite to resume. Tripletail fishing was excellent (including some really quality fish) early in the week, then dead late in the week. Shark fishing was great, with lots of pogies on the beach and toothy critters crashing through them. Small sharks are stacked in the whiting hole by King-and-Prince, while the bigger sharks were caught mainly from sandbars east of the islands or behind shrimp boats. He said that spadefish fishing has picked up on any offshore structure. Cannonball jellyfish are the bait of choice. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the flounder bite is still off the charts. Finger mullet and mud minnows fished around pilings is the best presentation for them. Most flounder ranged from 14 to 18 inches.  Croakers and black sea bass have been mixed in the catch. An 8 1/2-foot lemon shark was caught from the pier.  Blue crabs were caught in good numbers again this week. Expect the pier bite to really fire up with the upcoming lower tides.

Best Bet – A Satilla float trip on the upper river is my top pick for this week. Second would be the Altamaha River for bluegills, and third would be bluegills in local ponds.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: June 16, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Carli Davidson of Waycross caught this 26-inch redfish in the Brunswick area the week of Memorial Day. Trout and redfish are picking up on the Georgia coast.

Carli Davidson of Waycross caught this 26-inch redfish in the Brunswick area the week of Memorial Day. Trout and redfish are picking up on the Georgia coast.

The Satilla River level has bounced around with last week’s rains, but the fishing has still been outstanding. The Altamaha panfish and saltwater cranked up last week, as well. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The river was very fishable for last weekend’s panfish tournament out of Jaycee’s Landing. More details will be included in this week’s report. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that redbreasts, bream, and flatheads bit well this week. Goldfish produced most of the flatheads. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that catfish, bream, redbreasts, and shellcrackers were tops this week. Some of the shellcrackers are monsters (pushing 2 pounds!). The river level was 6.2 feet and falling (84 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 8.3 feet and rising (82 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 9.

Satilla River – The barrage of great reports continued this week. Again, I cannot begin to repeat every good story, but the biggest was a new state record spotted sunfish (stumpknocker) that is making its way through the certification process. The fish tied the current 10-oz. state record. The DNR folks certified about 6 additional angler award-sized redbreasts this week (that takes at least a 1-pound redbreast to qualify). Even with the rains this week, the middle river is now on fire too. The best report I heard was from Dane Clements and a friend on Thursday. They fished the upper river, catching and keeping 90 big redbreasts before catching and releasing more than 150 redbreasts, stumpknockers, bluegill, and crappie. They caught a couple dozen on red/white and black/yellow Satilla Spins, but for the second week in a row, crawfish 1/8-oz. models were tops for them. Almost everyone else reporting back to me said that 1/16-oz. black/yellow was their best color. As the water drops in the upper river, most anglers are switching over to 1/16-oz. models of the little spinnerbait.

Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said the redbreast bite has remained awesome this week. The best lures were Beetle Spins (black/chartreuse and white-red dot), Spin Dandys (any color), and Satilla Spins (“whatever color you can get”). Crickets and worms have also produced lots of redbreasts this week, but typically the artificials have been producing the bigger fish. The middle river section produced some great catches of crappie for anglers using minnows. Michael said that the big bluegills have fired up in the Atkinson area, also, and they ate crickets best. Catfish were eating worms in the deeper holes below sandbars. Bass hit baby bass colored Rattling Rogue jerkbaits. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.9 feet and falling (79 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 7.3 feet and rising (82 degrees) on June 9.

St. Marys River – The river rose with significant rains in the swamp this week and slowed the panfish bite. The catfish bite has remained red hot, especially for limb-line anglers. Shrimp and pink worms worked best for them. Crickets fished around creek mouths accounted for most of the bluegills. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 9.8 feet and falling on June 9.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported that big bream are beginning to bed with the approaching full moon. Worms and crickets have worked best. Bass were fooled with shiners and topwater plugs. Anglers fishing their favorite catfish ponds bragged about catching 5-gallon buckets full of whiskerfish.

Okefenokee Swamp – I am going to let the yellow flies have the swamp in June. If you want to brave the bugs, the flier bite is great. You can pretty easily catch over 100 fliers per day by pitching sallies.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reports that trout was the main inshore focus last week. He said the fish have been moving, and that’s a good idea for the anglers, as well. Change locations frequently until you find them. The Cumberland beach bite has been solid, but there are many ladyfish and crevalle jack mixed in with the trout. He said that they will eat you out of house and home (literally!) with shrimp being around $25 per quart. Nearshore, the tripletaill and shark bites have been good. Sharks have been thick, eating everything from pogies to cut bait.  Michael Winge reported that anglers fishing the Brunswick and Crooked River areas said that the trout bite has picked up. Assassin Sea Shads fished under Cajun Thunder Floats have produced quite a few trout and redfish. The whiting bite around St. Simons has remained strong on days when you can get out, but keep an eye to the sky for pop-up thunderstorms. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the flounder bite is in full swing on the pier. Finger mullet and mud minnows produced the most. Limits of flatfish from 14-18 inches have been reported. Spadefish, croakers, black sea bass, and whiting were also caught in good numbers. Last Sunday, a 32-inch redfish was caught on cut bait. A few sharks have been landed. Blue crabs were caught in good numbers.

Best Bet – The Satilla should continue to pump out some awesome catches of panfish again this week. Frequent small rains have kept the river level fishable longer than usual. Trout fishing out of Crooked River or Brunswick is a great saltwater option.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: June 6, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)

Delani caught this nice bluegill over the weekend from the Ocmulgee River. Her sister, Destiny, didn’t want to stop fishing long enough to look the camera, but she gave her little sister a big “thumbs up!”

Delani caught this nice bluegill over the weekend from the Ocmulgee River. Her sister, Destiny, didn’t want to stop fishing long enough to look the camera, but she gave her little sister a big “thumbs up!”

The Satilla River is the big story again this week. The upper and middle river areas produce some excellent catches this weekend. The first quarter moon is June 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The river is approaching fishable, but could stand to drop another couple of feet. Bass have been biting jigs, buzzbaits, plastic worms, and crankbaits fished around cuts and the mouths of oxbow lakes. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that anglers caught redbreasts, bream, and some big flatheads this week. Crickets produced most of the panfish, while goldfish produced the flatheads. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported some huge shellcrackers were caught by anglers fishing pink worms over the weekend. Big bream and redbreasts ate beetle spins and crickets. Channel and flathead catfish were caught in good numbers with shiners and goldfish. The timing appears  perfect for a new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club scheduled for June 14. First place is a guaranteed $500. The tournament will be based out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. The winner will be determined based on the weight of their biggest 10 panfish (bluegill, warmouth, redbreasts, and shellcrackers are the species to be weighed). The entry fee is a modest $20 per angler (children under 16 years of age can compete free of charge with a paying adult). For more information, contact the Wayne County Board of Tourism at 912-427-3233. The river level was 6.6 feet and falling (78 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 8.5 feet and falling (77 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 3.

Satilla River – I can’t begin to tell all the stories folks have told me this week about the awesome fishing on the Satilla. Most of the ramps I stopped by had at least a half-dozen trucks and trailers in the parking lot, even during the weekdays. The DNR folks certified four Angler Award-sized redbreasts this week (that takes at least a 1-pound redbreast to qualify). Many people say they’ve caught a 1-pound redbreast, but few have actually weighed them on certified scales. A 1-pounder is a MONSTER. The biggest this week was a 1-pound., 3-ounce “rooster.”  The rains late last week and during the weekend muddied the water from Waycross to Hwy 301, but folks still reported catching about 12-20 redbreasts per trip.

The best report I heard was from Dane Clements. Dane and his friend fished the river above Waycross on Sunday and caught almost 200 redbreasts, keeping 90 of the biggest fish. They started off catching them on crickets early while the temperatures were cool, but the redbreasts started eating artificials as the sun warmed the water. Dane whacked most of his fish on crawfish Satilla Spins fished around cover. Several of their fish came from cover and current breaks in the middle of the river, so make sure to not overlook unusual spots. Many of the other anglers reporting to me caught their fish on black/yellow Satilla Spins. Anglers in the upper river are switching over to 1/16-oz. models, primarily, while middle river anglers are still using the 1/8-oz. because of the stronger current. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the redbreast bite has been awesome. Beetlespins, Spin Dandys, Satilla Spins (red/white), crickets, and worms are producing the most fish. Bass are being caught on buzzbaits and baby bass colored Rattling Rogue jerkbaits. According to the DNR biologists, the electrofishing sampling is showing that the bass population is very high (compared to typical) in the Satilla. Catfish were caught in good numbers by those fishing bush hooks baited with shiners and those fishing bottom rigs baited with worms, rooster liver, or shrimp. The river level at the Waycross gage was 7.3 feet and falling (74 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 6.9 feet and steady (76 degrees) on June 3.

St. Marys River – Redbreasts, bream, and catfish are tearing it up, especially on the upper river. Worms, crickets, and beetlespins are working best. Some bass were reported from those fishing topwater plugs. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 6.5 feet and falling on June 3.

Local Ponds – Warren Budd continued whacking bluegills this past weekend on black/chartreuse Satilla Spins. His biggest was short of his monster last weekend, though he still landed some well over a pound. Michael Winge reported that bass were eating bubblegum Trick Worms. Most of the impressive bream catches were made by those fishing crickets.

Okefenokee Swamp – The yellow flies have picked up, and I typically let them have the swamp in June. If you want to brave the bugs, the flier bite is great. You can pretty easily catch over 100 fliers per day pitching sallies.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The tripletail bite has remained decent this week during the fishable days. Hunt for them off the beaches of Jekyll Island. I heard one good report this week for the beach trout. They were using live shrimp. Another group of anglers fishing the Brunswick area got into some nice trout fishing artificials (Sea Shads). The water was fairly clear for them. Inshore, trout were caught this week from the St. Simons Island Causeway bridges. A Waycross angler landed a big (about 8 pounds) black drum from a Brunswick pier this weekend. On the beaches, whiting were the best bite, with dead shrimp producing the most. Michael Winge reported some good catches of whiting by Waycross anglers fishing around the King and Prince. Dead shrimp fished on the bottom was the deal for them. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting bite has been on fire, with lots of full coolers leaving the pier. Most whiting have been 10-15 inches. Trout have been hitting live shrimp and artificials and a few flounder have been caught using mudminnows around the pilings. Sharks were fooled this week with cut bait. Blue crabs are increasing in numbers as the water warms.

Best Bet – The Winge’s/Coca-Cola/Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Kids’ Fishing Event will be held this Saturday at Brentz McGhin’s Pond in Blackshear. There will be lots of catfish caught and prizes given away. For more information, call the Waycross Fisheries Office at 912-285-6094. The Satilla River is on fire, and the middle river should get cranked up this weekend. The stained water of this week should be a thing of the past pretty much up and down the river. The upper river is getting to the point where a float trip will be your best option. In saltwater, the trout fishing on the Cumberland Island beach should be on fire, but you have to choose your days when the wind is from a westerly quadrant.

North Georgia Fishing Report: June 6, 2014

Info Provided by: Jeff Durniak, GA DNR North Georgia Region Fisheries Supervisor and North Georgia Region Fisheries staff

Kids Fishing Event on the Chattahoochee at Jones Bridge.

Kids Fishing Event on the Chattahoochee at Jones Bridge.

It’s National Fishing and Boating Week, and that means Kids Fishing Events and a couple of free fishing days for adults. Take advantage of the great family opportunities available during the next two weekends.

Kids Fishing Events – Here are some of the most popular June 7 events in the metro area and north Georgia. Each of these events will receive a truckload of WRD or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trout.

Free Fishing Days – Georgia residents are not required to have a fishing license to fish on June 7 and 14. Take a neighbor who has never fished before.

$100 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card ContestRound 2 has started. You’ll enjoy the smiles on the faces of these young anglers.  Enter your own photo soon!

Another Contest – Join the fun on the 2014 First Ever KeepAmericaFishing™ Day. Go fishing on June 7, and you just might win one of many exciting prizes.

We Support Summer Campers!Enjoy Sheila in action.

Teacher Grant ContestGeorgia Department of Natural Resources is offering a $1,000 grant to a third-, fourth- or fifth-grade public or private school teacher in Georgia who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences.

Here we go…

Flathead collected near Clarks Bridge of Lake Lanier.

Flathead collected near Clarks Bridge of Lake Lanier.

Lanier Flatheads – Biologist Patrick O’Rouke and Technician Chris Looney sampled the Hooch above Lanier this week.  IN addition to a good population of spotted bass, they found a concentration of flathead catfish a couple miles upstream from Belton Bridge.  About 20-30 were seen, with the biggest around 30 pounds.  They’ve sampled even bigger ones in the Hooch arm of Lake Lanier this year (attached photo).  Patrick suggested to try the river channel with significant  structure (rock ledges or submerged trees).

Bass Report

Small Lakes – Guru’s five-kayak flotilla assaulted Unicoi Lake on Saturday evening as the sun set.  The gang caught a nice bunch of bluegill and redbreast sunfish by tossing small poppers against the bank.  Some of the redbreast were good-sized for north Georgia (as big as their hands), and were found bedding.  The group also caught some largemouth bass up to 14 inches on poppers for the flyrodders and Senkos for the spinfishers.

Stocked Trout – Best bets include:  Tallulah, Rock, and Jones Bridge after the KFE’s,  Johns, Boggs, Hooch on WMA, and West Fork Chattooga.

Headwater trout – Now is prime time!

Rivers -Be Careful on Toccoa Tailwater

  • Necessary TVA flow changes
  • Most of Jake D’s kayak fleet ventured to the Hooch near Highway 115 on Sunday evening and caught a mixed bag of spots, shoal bass, redeyes, redbreasts, bluegills, and even a couple of small stripers.  The river was still turbid from the week’s rains, but it had cleared enough for the fish to see and eat!
  • Kayaks and River Bass?
  • Chattooga DH holding on

BIG Browns(Video) -Here’s a good one to end on…  your dream of a fish of a lifetime.  Enjoy this and plan your next trip to trophy waters.

Good luck this week.  Take some time out for the kids and help WRD to grow the next generation of Georgia’s stream and lake stewards. Grab your neighbor’s family and introduce them to the outdoors.  You might just create some more fishing buddies and conservation partners.

North Georgia Fishing Report: May 30, 2014

Info Provided by: Jeff Durniak, GA DNR North Georgia Region Fisheries Supervisor and North Georgia Region Fisheries staff

Taken on the Chattooga.

Taken on the Chattooga.

It’s transition time in the north Georgia mountains, as Mother Nature dances back and forth between spring and summer.  The opportunities are many, but now the prime opportunities require a bit more flexibility and adaptation.

Ole Dredger calls it “46 Time.”  He’s decked out in olive drab nylon, from head to wading shoe, to match that streamside rhodo bush and enhance his stealth technique.  Slathered in sunscreen, he’s got two flashlights in his pockets and a cooler of icy drinks and change of dry clothes waiting in the car.  The “46” is the code for his angling arsenal: four and six weight fly rods.  He’s got a sparsely stocked vest and a four-weight rod tube tucked in the car trunk.  Next to that setup is his sling pack and a six-weight tube.  The vest has the late spring bugs of the yellow persuasion- stimulators, cahills, and sulfurs, along with the black and peacock of summer- ants and beetles.  The heavier sling pack’s loaded with black leeches, brown Craig’s Hairy Fodders, chartreuse clousers, a few black/yellow DP sliders, a couple white stealth bombers, and some home-cooked  Hipps soft-bodied poppers in various flavors.  He’ll check the USGS gauges for rain history and water levels, look at the weather report, then figure out what flavor of the day is most appealing.  Sometimes he’ll even grab two scoops of fun on one trip: river bass and bream during the afternoon, a short road trip “upstream,” and then some dry fly-flinging at dark-thirty.

Be flexible and enjoy these long evenings that aren’t yet full of the heat and humidity of the coming dog days.  Chase these river fish while the flows are good, the aquatic groceries are still abundant, and sport fish appetites reflect some lingering, acceptable water temperatures.  Carry a trout rod and a river bass rod and adapt to the conditions of the day.   Kids are out of school and wet-wading is a just a code word for swimming with a fishing pole!  And with a little taste of spring still around, you’ll enjoy the variety on the menu, too!

Here we go…

Hooch Tailwater – “ Looking Up”

Chattooga Reports

On the Chattooga.

On the Chattooga.

“Last Sunday an old friend called saying he was in Highlands and wanted to fish with me on Tuesday. We planned to meet at the “28 bridge” on the Chattooga this morning at 9 a.m. I felt like a “Dr Pepper”… arrive at 10; fish til 2; home by 4. It was the day after Memorial Day. It was less than 2 weeks after the closing of the Delayed Harvest. The water was low and, even though we recently had some showers, it was “gin clear”. The sun was bright overhead as we rigged up in the parking lot where there were only two cars besides ours.

We arrived at the “honey hole” to find it empty. There were no bugs and no rises. However, we both caught fish on top…mostly on Caddis. We moved on up to the run above the fallen white pine and…same thing…fish on top with no sign.  Go figure!!!

Fishing the Chattooga with a friend is always good but even better when the fish hit a dry when all conditions say they won’t.  The DH section is alive and well for a little while longer.” – Georgia TU Kids Trout Camp Leader Charlie Breithaupt

Trouter 23 and Dredger waded many miles above Charlie B on Sunday evening, and T23 experienced his first few “trout on top.”   Bugs and risers were scarce, even at dark-thirty, but the dedicated duo still managed about a dozen hookups between them on cahill dry/hare’s ear dropper combos fished in the shadows.  The scenery compensated for the slowing bite, as the mountain laurels were in full bloom and the Chattooga fairies came to dance in the fern fields after dark.

Fairies?  See page 8.

Important to Toccoa Tailwater Fans – The Trout Hatchery Funding Stakeholder Working Group’s recommendations are available for review.   An overview of this issue and your opportunity to provide feedback can be found here.  I believe the public comment period will be about two weeks.  Take advantage of this opportunity. You can also  view and listen to Tuesday night’s webinar in Knoxville here: www.tva.gov/trout

Young Guns Teach Old Trouting Dawgs – You, too,  can learn a lot from a comp dude.  I have. Thanks Landon.

Stocker Best Bets – Folks wanting fresh trout for supper should try: Lanier and Blue Ridge tailwaters, Holly, Cooper, Rock, Dicks, Sarahs, Warwoman, Tallulah, and Middle Broad.

Lanier Bass Report

Allatoona’s Hot

Carters Lake

Additional Links…

More Great Reports and Tips – Have you picked up a copy of one of these free fishing newspapers yet?  The Angler Magazine features an all-star lineup of north Georgia fishing guides and their monthly columns on their home waters.  The publication also displays a “Wall of Fame.” Here’s your chance to get your kid’s picture in the newspaper with his/her trophy catch. Also, check out Coastal Angler Magazine. Send a photo:  BobR@ anglermagazine.com

Mentoring Young Guns on Lanier – This week’s gold stars go to these caring “fishing guides.” – GON Forum (1)GON Forum (2)

Gotta Have – Here’s a very timely conversation on the need for and benefits of sun protection.  Many of us fishing vets grew up in the sun and are now suffering some of its consequences.  This is a great reminder, especially to younger folks, about the value of some easy sun protection.

Kids Fishing Events on the Horizon – Some of the best northeast Georgia kids fishing events are on June 7 at: the Hooch at Jones Bridge, Tallulah River, and Lake Winfield Scott. More details and the KFE calendar at http://www.georgiawildlife.com/fishing/kids-fishing.

Volunteers Needed, June 14 – We could use a hand at Sweetwater Creek State Park.  Georgia State Parks Interpretive Specialist Ellen Graham has designed a “GO” day there.  It’s basically an Outdoor Adventure Day.  Ellen and I are looking for a handful (12-16) of kind volunteers to help with the following activities:

a)      Fly tying

b)      Casting (fly rod, Zebco)

c)       Lakeside  fishing helpers.

This is another great chance to promote the outdoor sports to our increasingly urbanized society.  A dozen of you would really help us to ensure event success.  If you’re interested, please contact me at jeff.durniak@dnr.state.ga.us.  Thanks!

Enjoy your start to the summer.  Carry a couple of different rods and tackle bags to take full advantage of the opportunities before you.  Toss a bottle of sunscreen in there, too.   And consider donating a Saturday to help some kids catch their first fish.  Tight lines to all.

North Georgia Fishing Report: May 23, 2014

Info Provided by: Jeff Durniak, GA DNR North Georgia Region Fisheries Supervisor and North Georgia Region Fisheries staff

Hatchery manager Pat Markey stocking the Chattahoochee at Buford Dam.

Hatchery manager Pat Markey stocking the Chattahoochee at Buford Dam.

We hope that many of you will have a chance to get outdoors during this long weekend. Although temperatures are on the rise, there’s still plenty of cool water around to keep sport fish interested in your bait, fly, or lure.  Just get on the lakes early to avoid the high sun and the recreational boating crowds. In addition, Patrick has drafted an Upper Hooch guide that’s definitely worth your time to read.  As the spring rains subside and our north Georgia rivers fall to easily floatable and fishable levels, this guide is a great first step in transitioning many of you to full summer mode.  Start kayak shopping soon, and don’t forget your PFD!

There is also some news on the federal hatchery front that should be of interest to all Georgia trout anglers.   And, of course, we have a few “big fish tales” to sweeten the pot.  Some come with linked pictures, so maybe a few of these tales have an element of truth to them.  We report, you decide.

Important meeting, public feedback requested – Here is your chance to participate in the federal trout hatchery funding issue! The public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 27 6-7:30 p.m. at Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters, 400 W. Summit Hill Dr., Knoxville, TN in the East Tower Library auditorium. The public can attend the meeting either in person or by webinar at http://www.tva.com/trout.

Trout

Stockers – WRD and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trout hatchery staffs will stock 75,000 trout this week into more than 100 streams and lakes for Memorial Day weekend anglers.  Best bets include: Dockery, Rock Creek, and Winfield Scott lakes, Lanier, Hartwell, and Blue Ridge tailwaters, Holly, Rock, Cooper, Little Amicalola, Long Swamp, Panther, Hooch on the WMA, Warwoman, and Tallulah. – John Lee Thomson, Georgia DNR Trout Stocking Coordinator

Timely Trouting Tip – How many of us have also learned this lesson the hard way? Keep your legs together!

Trout – Tailwater Dries!

Stripers

Striped bass stocking continues as fingerlings reach their one-inch size targets in middle and south Georgia hatchery ponds.  Yesterday (May 20) we welcomed more than 300,000 new arrivals to north Georgia waters including Hartwell, Nottely, and Lanier. More are on their way today as the harvest of this crop winds down over the next week or so.  More info and pics!

Hybrid/Striper Reports

Crappie

Enjoy this report from someone whom many of you knew while he worked as your Lake Lanier biologist.  Here’s a Missouri report from now-retired Reggie Weaver.

“Hey Jeff. Our trip to Missouri was great!  Sheri and I had fun with Jason, Stephanie, and the grandkids.  Jason, Dorian, and I fished several evenings on L. of Ozarks focusing on crappie.  It had been a long time since I fished minnows and jigs under a float.  It was a blast even though we didn’t catch our limits but ended up with about 30 and harvested 16 (9 inch MSL) for the skillet.  On a note, we caught the larger (11-12 in.) on small crankbaits.  Looking forward to future trips to Missouri Have a great week!” – Reggie

Bass

Additional Links…

Gar Time? We’ve already seen a few up the Hooch above Lanier.  Are your rope flies and lures ready?

Upper Hooch fishing spotsYou don’t want to miss this brand new guide created by fisheries biologist Patrick O’Rouke, with a little help from our fine GIS staff at WRD-HQ.  Where is Mossy Creek?  Now you’ll know. The ink isn’t even dry yet.

Loaner Poles – If your northeast Georgia childrens or youth group (school, scout, church, etc) is considering a kids fishing event, please keep in mind our loaner pole program.  Just contact Olivia at our Gainesville office to reserve and check out up to 60 zebco outfits for your kids event. Olivia McClure: Olivia.McClure@dnr.state.gaus, 770-535-5498.

Several of our state parks also have small loaner pole programs that can serve their guests.  Contact the park office upon your arrival and discovery that your kids forgot to pack their poles!

Peregrine falcon banding video

This week’s Gold Stars… Are awarded to CFR organizer Beverly Booth and lead fundraiser Carl Riggs.  Fourteen special gals enjoyed a free weekend retreat at Smithgall Woods and trout fishing at Nacoochee Bend because of these two leaders and the funds donated by all of you.

If you know of a special lady who needs a lift in her spirits, consider having her apply to Casting For Recovery (CFR).  And everyone else, bid high on the auction items at the next CFR fundraiser. 

Kudos to Beverly, Carl, and their supporting “casts” from Blue Ridge Mountain TU, Georgia Women Flyfishers, Unicoi Outfitters, and the trout fishing community of north Georgia. Consider joining their ranks as a supporting member.  The kind-hearted conservation army needs you!

Win a $100 Bass Pro gift card! Check out our fishing photo contest: https://www.facebook.com/WildlifeResourcesDivisionGADNR

Have a safe, fun-filled weekend with friends and family.  May we also pause and give thanks and remembrance to those whom this holiday honors.  And O’Neill, the Georgia angling community’s thoughts and prayers are with you as you honor your father.

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