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Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: Sept. 4, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

On Friday, Justin Bythwood of Waycross whacked this 33-inch redfish at the St. Marys Jetties.

On Friday, Justin Bythwood of Waycross whacked this 33-inch redfish at the St. Marys Jetties.

Saltwater fishing produced the best reports again this week, and that will likely be the case for the next couple of months. In freshwater, the lower Altamaha River produced the best reports. The Outdoor Adventure/J.A.K.E.S. Day will be held at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton on Sept. 27. I will be conducting free bass fishing trips to teach teens how to bass fish. Each person will fish for an hour from a boat and will learn how to cast artificial lures for largemouth bass. Pre-registration is required. To sign up a teen (ages 12-16), call the Waycross Fisheries Office at (912) 285-6094.  Full Moon is Sept. 8. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the flathead bite was good over the weekend, and goldfish produced best. Bream and redbreasts were also caught on crickets. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that limb-lines baited with goldfish were producing nice flathead catches. A group of Waycross anglers caught over 300 fish from Saturday morning through Monday morning. Bream, redbreasts, and warmouth made up their creel. Crickets fooled the bream and redbreasts, while worms were the ticket for warmouth. Many of the warmouth were in the 11 to 12-inch range. The river level was 1.8 feet and falling (87 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.4 feet and rising (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 2.

Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that bream and redbreasts were caught by those wading the upper river this weekend. Crickets and worms fooled most of the fish. In the middle river (Brantley County portion), Satilla Spins were producing nice redbreast catches over the holiday. ZOOM Trick Worms and Horny Toads fooled bass this week. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.3 feet and falling (82 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 2.8 feet and rising (87 degrees) on Sept. 2.

St. Marys River –  The holiday weekend saw good bream, redbreasts, and catfish catches. With the flush of fresh water after evening thunderstorms, expect the catfishing to be strong at the mouths of feeder creeks after deluges. Eat supper and then go out the last few hours of daylight after the storms clear. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.3 feet and fall­ing on Sept. 2.

Local Ponds – We lost a trophy bass fishing legend this week. Pat Cullen of Valdosta passed away at age 70. He caught more than 1,300 bass over 10 pounds in his more than 40 years of chasing trophies. Black buzzbaits produced the majority of his catches, while live bait accounted for the balance. He reeled the topwater lures all night long during hot summer nights just like we are experiencing right now. He will be sorely missed by friends and family. Michael Winge said that local ponds produced consistent catches of bream, catfish, and bass. Crickets fooled the bream, rooster livers duped the catfish, and topwaters were the ticket late in the evenings for bass.

Okefenokee Swamp – I am convinced that I am not supposed to fish the swamp for whatever reason. My family and I loaded up and headed to the east side on Monday evening to catch the last few hours of daylight. The clear radar when we left gave way to some questionable clouds when we launched. Then, as we made our way out to our first spot and started pitching sallies, it was clear that there was a storm building… right over us. My son set the hook first and landed a nice flier. Even with the 93-degree water temperatures, the fliers were active. As the rain started, we were able to catch four fliers in about 15 minutes on pink sallies before it was evident that we needed to head in. Waiting an hour in the truck did not improve anything, so we went home. It was a great time anyway, and I believe you could make a phenomenal catch of fliers if the weather will allow you (I’m about to give up after my last two rained out trips…okay, no I’m not). Pink sallies were the best color for us, but we did not have enough time either of the last two trips to evaluate colors.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Will Ricks of Brunswick fished the St. Andrews Sound for tarpon on Friday and went 1 for 3. I fished with Matt Thomas of Covington and Justin Bythwood of Waycross on Friday, and we were targeting tarpon out of St. Marys. We were not successful in landing a silver king, but our consolation prizes were catching and releasing a pair of redfish measuring 42 and 33 inches. Throw in three sharks and a decent trout, and our strings were stretched throughout the day. The big redfish ate a pogy, while the 33-incher ate a Texas roach Sea Shad fished on a 5/8-oz. Jetty Jig. The flounder report from the St. Marys Jetties has been very strong. Mudminnows and finger mullet produced the best catches. A pair of anglers fishing Friday caught 29 flatties by fishing the inside on the incoming tide and the outside during the ebb. They caught fish in both areas. In Hampton River, lots of flounder were caught on mudminnows and finger mullet. Anglers fishing out of Two-Way caught some redfish all the way up to the I-95 Bridge this week. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier, flounder, sheepshead, and trout were the best bites. Most flounder ranged from 15 to 18 inches. The sheepshead bite just turned on over the weekend, and it should be great all winter. Sharks and whiting were occasionally caught. On Tuesday the bluefish bite was strong. Stone crabs were caught in good numbers. Cast-netters made good catches of big shrimp at night under the pier lights.

Best Bet – If the weather will allow, the big bull redfish are chowing in the different sounds. For the next month, the brutes will be eating artificials, live bait, and cut bait fished on or near the bottom. Coming from a bass fishing background, my favorite approach is to skewer a Sea Shad on a Jetty Jig and work it along the bottom. My most productive colors of Sea Shads for redfish in the sounds have been Texas roach, Calcasieu brew, and candy corn. The Okefenokee will be hard to beat over the next few months with all of the fish crowded into the canals.

North Georgia Fishing Report: Aug. 28, 2014

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

Jeff Durniak recently returned from Montana, where he caught this brown trout.

Jeff Durniak recently returned from Montana, where he caught this brown trout.

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend on a north Georgia lake or stream of your  choice.  Although the weather will be warm, there are still some great fishing opportunities available, especially if you avoid the midday heat.  Here are some best bets for your consideration.

River bass and bream – The rivers are low and clear and the fish are looking up, so don’t miss these great chances! We had a good two-hour wade trip on the Hooch above Lanier  after work on Monday.  Small shoal bass and redbreast sunfish were very cooperative on surface poppers and dredged soft plastics as dusk approached.  It looks like some big fish are also hungry, based on these pics and video.

Try the Chestatee, Hooch, Etowah, or the Chattooga before the next big rain. Hints: 1) Duncan to Mossy, 2) Mossy to Belton.

Trout tailwaters (Hooch and Blue Ridge) should fish well.  Blue Ridge Dam repairs have been completed.  Check reservoir release schedules before getting into the rivers. GON Forum Report 1, North Georgia Trout Online Forum Report

Lake Burton brown trout should be packed into the lower thermocline. Try the area from Billy Goat Island down to the dam.

These stocked trout streams should fish well, especially before the sun gets high and water temperatures soar.  Camo, light lines, and small hooks are in order.  This is the last week of catchable trout stocking for north Geogia “put-and-take” trout waters, as our hatcheries  now need the raceway space to grow their supplies of four-inch fingerlings to catchable size for next year’s trout season.  Stocker best bets are: Hooch (tailwater and WMA), Johns, Holly, Little Cedar, Soapstone, Holcomb, Dicks, Rock, Cooper, Wildcat, and Tallulah.

Lanier topwater spots have heated up recently.  You may have to go early to dodge some holiday boat traffic.

The deepwater reservoir bite continues on our reservoirs like Lanier, Hartwell, and Carters. Pot luck includes stripers, hybrids, spots, and even some walleye.

For the adventurous, a longer trip can really pay off.  Enjoy the pics of a recent trek to somewhere far “west of Summerville,” where the sights were grand and the hopper/dropper bite was decent.  Don’t forget your three bucks – – – and a fishing buddy who runs slower than you when casting to cutts in the home of the griz.

Good luck.  Enjoy  the three-day weekend “laboring” with a rod in your hand and sunscreen on your cheeks.

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.

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