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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.

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.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: May 30, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Warren Budd of Newnan caught this whopper 1-pound, 12-ounce bluegill from a pond on Saturday on a black/chartreuse Satilla Spin.

Warren Budd of Newnan caught this whopper 1-pound, 12-ounce bluegill from a pond on Saturday on a black/chartreuse Satilla Spin.

Wow, what a difference a week can make. The Satilla River has overshadowed everything else this week. The upper river should be great this weekend, and the middle river should pick up too. The first quarter moon is June 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – I received a couple reports of good bluegills caught from the river. It’s not on fire, but should pick up significantly by the weekend with the falling water. Black/yellow Satilla Spins worked well for those I talked to. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported the river has started falling and the catch has picked up, and should continue to improve through the weekend. Bream and catfish were the most consistent bites for those fishing out of Jaycees Landing. Some redbreasts were also caught on the back sides of sandbars. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported that anglers caught bream, shellcrackers, and catfish over the weekend. Shellcrackers were caught on pink worms, while bream ate crickets, worms, and Spin Dandy and Satilla Spin spinnerbaits. Catfish were fooled with worms and shrimp. One angler reported catching 35 bream on a Satilla Spin (the fish don’t care which river the bait was designed for…).  The timing looks like it is going to be perfect for a new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club to be held 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. Check out my article on bream fishing the Altamaha in the May issue of Georgia Outdoor News if you want some details about panfishing the big river. The river level was 8.2 feet and falling (79 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.5 feet and falling (76 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 27.

Satilla River – It has been great fishing over the last week on the upper river, and the river is not even “right” yet. Last week’s slug of water is heading downstream, and the water has a “coffee with cream look” to it. I took Wyatt Crews of Waycross on Monday morning out of the Blackshear Bridge Landing, and we had a really slow bite for the first couple hours, only picking up a few small bass and spotted sunfish (stumpknockers) on red/white Satilla Spins. But, from 10 to 11 a.m. the bite fired off, and we caught a dozen redbreasts. Six of them were “roosters” over 9 inches with blood red bellies. They were gorgeous fish. Black/yellow was our best color, but we caught some on black/chartreuse. We could not get them to eat crawfish, but that is not surprising in the murky water. As it clears, that will be a go-to color. Wyatt Crews and Scout Carter fished out of the same landing on Tuesday evening for an hour and a half and caught 10 whopper redbreasts and bluegills. Scout caught his first redbreast on that trip. Their best color was black/yellow. The 1/8-oz version has been working best for us because we can get it down much better in the swift current than the 1/16oz model. That will probably reverse as the river level approaches 5 feet at the Waycross gage and the current slows down. A couple of Waycross anglers fished several days over the weekend in the Hwy 158 area and caught several dozen redbreasts on Saturday and about a dozen the other days. Black/yellow Satilla Spins worked best for them. I received several other reports of folks catching 10 to 50 redbreasts and bluegills per trip (depending upon how long folks fished). The consensus this week (from the reports I received) are that the black/yellow was the deal in the heavily stained water. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that he got reports of anglers catching limits of redbreasts in the Jamestown area of the Satilla. Satilla Spins were tops, but crickets, beetlespins, and Spin Dandys caught them, also. Last Friday, two Waycross anglers caught one of the biggest stringers (size-wise) of redbreasts that they said they have ever caught. They were using beetlespins. Anglers fishing worms on the bottom caught catfish, bream, and catfish. Bass were reported by anglers fishing ZOOM Flukes and plastic worms. Early in the week, anglers did really well on the Satilla tributaries, such as the Alabaha and Little Satilla rivers. They will be at paddle-only levels by the time you read this, unless some thunderstorms camp over the headwaters of those tributaries. The river level at the Waycross gage was 8.1 feet and falling (75 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 9.3 feet and falling slowly (77 degrees) on May 27.

St. Marys River – The redbreasts, bream, and catfish bites are good. Catfish bit shrimp and pink worms, while the bream and redbreasts were mostly fooled with crickets and beetlespins. The river level on at the MacClenny gage was 6.0 feet and falling on May 27.

Local Ponds – The most impressive catch I heard of this week was made by Warren Budd of Newnan. He was fishing a friend’s pond on Saturday with a black/chartreuse Satilla Spin and caught a 1-lb., 12-oz. bluegill. He also had several big fish pull off and break off. He had a spectacular day of panfishing. The excellent pond fishing was overshadowed by river fishing this week. Michael Winge reported that bedding bream were fooled by anglers fishing crickets and worms around the beds. Bass ate shiners and topwater plugs fished around shoreline vegetation.

Okefenokee Swamp – The flier bite has been excellent for those who went. I did not receive any reports of 100 fish catches, but most reports were 30 to 60 fliers per trip. If you fish hard and keep pitching sallies until you find the fish and then stay with them, a limit is not hard to come by. Yellow and pink have been the two best colors so far this spring. Expect horseflies to attack your vehicle as you approach the ramp, but they are not usually bad on the water (at least on the east side). The yellow fly numbers will increase over the next few weeks, but are not bad right now.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The tripletail bite has been very good off of Jekyll Island. Most folks are seeing a couple dozen fish and are getting a shot at about 10. One angler I talked with boated a dozen on a trip last week, with one measuring 26 inches. Sight-fishing tripletail is a hoot! The trout bite has been slow in the Crooked River area. The top trip I heard of was about a dozen trout. The beach trout bite should be picking up any day, but I have not heard any good reports yet. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that lots of whiting are still being caught from the pier. The catches have been ranging from 15 to 25 fish with 10 inches about the average size. On Tuesday an angler using live shrimp caught 3 trout that were each 18 inches. Sharks and a few flounder are around. A creel of 11 keeper flounder was reported last weekend. Gotcha Plugs fooled a few Spanish mackerel.

Best Bet – The Satilla River is going to be tops this week. The population of giant “rooster” redbreasts is as large as it has been in decades. The river levels should be perfect for relatively clear water and enough of it to get around decently in a small johnboat by this weekend. The upper river above the Highway 121 Bridge should be tops. In the Highway 158 Bridge section, it will likely be getting low enough that paddle-crafts are the way to get around. Black/yellow Satilla Spins in the 1/8-oz. size have produced the best catches this week, but expect the 1/16-oz. size and crawfish colors to play a bigger role in the better catches this week as the water drops and clears.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: May 23, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

 Andrew Steedley  caught this solid bass from a Waycross pond last week by working a topwater frog over dense vegetation.

Andrew Steedley caught this solid bass from a Waycross pond last week by working a topwater frog over dense vegetation.

Just when the rivers were getting right….another 2 to 3 inches of rain fell over southeast Georgia. The swamp bite has remained on fire, pond fishing is excellent, and saltwater fishing has been good for whiting. The first annual Mattie’s Mission Bass Tournament on Saturday was a success. Twenty five teams brought bass to Ware County Farm Bureau to weigh in their catch. Jesse and Peyton Ivey had the biggest limit (23.42 pounds), which included a 7.56-pound big fish. Wesley Wilson and Bill Smith finished second (21.44 pounds), while Sammy Story and Will Steed placed third (15.58 pounds). But, the real winners were the families that will be helped. Over $2,500 was raised to help the fight against childhood cancer! The New Moon is May 28th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the river was almost perfect and folks were catching a bunch of fish on Saturday, but the level has begun to rise…again. Redbreasts, bream, crappie, and catfish were caught over the weekend. Catfishing has remained good during the rising water, but that is about it. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported that anglers fishing from the dock with minnows were catching bluegills. That is not a typical presentation, but it worked for them. Over the weekend, a flathead catfish over 50 pounds was caught on goldfish. A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will be held on 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 (bluegillwarmouthredbreasts 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. Check out my article on bream fishing the Altamaha in the May issue of Georgia Outdoor News if you want some details about panfishing the big river. The river level was 11.4 feet and rising (72 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.2 feet and rising (72 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 20.

Satilla River – The bite was excellent before last Thursday’s rains. It slacked off some in the muddy, cooler water, but folks have still caught some fish. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that some big redbreasts were caught above Millwood on crickets, Satilla Spins, beetle spins, and Spin Dandys. A few big bream have been mixed in the catch. The catfish bite has been excellent on the rising river this weekend. Worms, shrimp, and rooster livers produced the most. Bass were caught with ZOOM and Culprit worms. The river level at the Waycross gage was 12.4 feet and cresting (69 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.9 feet and rising (72 degrees) on May 20.

St. Marys River – The river is still producing some bream on crickets in the feeder creeks. Catfish bit shrimp and pink worms well this week. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 9.8 feet and falling on May 20.

Local Ponds – Ponds will again be the focus this week with the high rivers. The good news is that the bass, bream, and catfish are cooperating. Michael Winge reported that bream were caught by anglers fishing shoreline vegetation with topwater flies and crickets. Fishing crickets about 8 to 10 inches below a float was key. Bass ate buzzbaits early and frogs fished through thick vegetation once the sun came up. Wacky-rigged worms will produce well once the sun gets up, also. My favorite is a Bass Assassin Fat Job Worm, and my most productive colors lately have been waterboy and black-red flake.

Okefenokee Swamp – A couple of Homerville anglers fished the east side of the swamp (Folkston entrance) over the weekend and pitched #8 yellow sallies without a float. They whacked well over 100 fliers and kept about 50. They tried crickets to no avail before discovering that the fish wanted the yellow fly. They pitched the offering on a bream buster. Warmouth should be biting crayfish dabbled around cypress stumps, but I have not heard of folks succeeding at it yet. I have noticed plenty of folks getting crayfish from ditches lately, though. The bugs were not bad a week ago….like NONE, so enjoy the swamp before they take over during the next month. I typically give it to the yellow flies in June, but I haven’t even seen one during the last two trips!

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Waycross anglers reported relatively slow saltwater fishing, except for whiting from the beach and piers. Gould’s Inlet produced some decent flounder and trout catches. The Back River Bridge produced a few big trout for anglers drifting live shrimp. Ed and Tom Zmarzly have been wearing out the sharks and a few bull redfish from the St. Simons Pier. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the whiting fishing has been fantastic. Almost everyone is catching a good mess of them. Flounder are beginning to be caught, and quite a few sharks are landed each evening. Keeper-sized blue crabs are around, and folks have reported a few “big daddys” mixed in the catch. Check the marine forecast.

Best Bet - Pond and swamp fishing are your best bets for numbers of fish during the holiday weekend. In ponds, throw topwaters and worms for bass. In the swamp, pitch yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies for fliers, dabble crayfish around cypress stumps for warmouth, and cast in-line spinners for pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish). If you decide to fish saltwater, whiting fishing will be your best bet. Fish small pieces of shrimp on a bottom rig to catch them. At the time of writing this, the marine forecast is great, so you should be able to do what you want to in a boat. It is about time to fish for trout on the Cumberland Beach, and that is what I would do if the marine forecast allows. The rivers are fishable, but catfish will be the deal. If I were going catfishing this weekend, I would head to the St. Marys River and put shrimp and pink worms on the bottom. If you want to catch some bream, try to find clean water in a tributary to the St. Marys River and cast Satilla Spins and beetle spins, or pitch crickets.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: May 8, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Timothy Deener (left) caught this giant 24-inch seatrout on Monday with a live baitfish suspended under a Back Bay Thunder Float. He was fishing with his grandfather, Herb Deener.

Timothy Deener (left) caught this giant 24-inch seatrout on Monday with a live baitfish suspended under a Back Bay Thunder Float. He was fishing with his grandfather, Herb Deener.

The rivers are getting in decent shape, and the fishing is picking up. Swamp and saltwater fishing has been outstanding. Check out several tournaments and family events listed below. The full oon is May 14. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Chris and Jennifer Swenson of Jesup were the big winners in the  Wayne County Catfish Tournament held on Saturday and Sunday out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. They won overall 1st place ($10,000) with a total of 61.06 pounds plus overall big fish and women’s category big fish (Jennifer’s 31.86-pound flathead won those two categories). Great job under some tough fishing conditions! 2nd place was Tiff Thompson’s team with 42.42 pounds. 3rd was Albert Bennett’s team with 31.92 pounds. Cody Bennett won the kids’ category with a 17.12-pound flathead.  For more results and photos, visit the website www.waynecountycatfishtournament.com. Several panfish anglers reported to me that they were catching some nice redbreasts and bluegills up in the floodplain and in eddies behind trees by pitching crickets. The best photo I saw was a dozen nice redbreasts caught at the end of last week. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that anglers caught redbreasts on the down-river side of sandbars in about 5 feet of water. An angler fishing on Monday caught over a dozen of the biggest redbreasts he has caught in years by using crickets and this sandbar pattern. Dannett from Altamaha Park reported anglers catching redbreasts, crappie, and catfish. Bream were eating crickets fished in the eddy on the downstream side of trees. Blue catfish ate worms, rooster livers, and shrimp in the deep holes. Flatheads bit goldfish best. On Saturday, an angler reported catching 41 keeper redbreasts with crickets fished from the dock at the landing.  A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will be held on June 14th. 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 (bluegillwarmouthredbreasts 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. Check out my article on bream fishing the Altamaha in the May issue of Georgia Outdoor News if you want some details about panfishing the big river. Barring additional rains, it should be awesome fishing in another week. The river level was 9.8 feet and falling (71 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.0 feet and falling (69 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 6.

Satilla River – This Saturday, May 10, is the first annual Satilla Riverkeeper fishing tournament. The river is going to be a little high but will be fishable by Saturday. Last week’s rains were enough to keep the river level about the same for an additional few days, but at least it will not be flooding again from those rains. For more information visit www.satillariverkeeper.org. I am predicting that the tournament will be won by someone fishing one of the many tributaries of the Satilla. I received several reports this week from anglers catching lots of redbreasts and bluegills in the tributaries to the Satilla with beetlespins and crickets. “Trout Magnet” caught several dozen silver dollar-sized fliers from his favorite spot in Big Creek on his namesake little jig. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the upper river redbreasts are getting feisty. He said that they are killing crickets and Satilla Spins with a vengeance. The catfish bite has been great, with limb and trotliners catching fish on rooster livers and shrimp. Bass have been biting during the falling river, with topwaters (such as Pop-R’s and buzzbaits) producing the most strikes. Get your fishing gear ready – it’s about to bust wide open. The river level  at the Waycross gage was 11.6 feet and falling (68 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 11.8 feet and falling (71 degrees) on May 6.

St. Marys River – Catfish, bream, and redbreasts were caught this week in good numbers. The upper river will be excellent for redbreasts shortly as the level continues to fall. Catfishing will be good this weekend all up and down the river. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 8.7 feet and falling on May 6.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported that the bream fishing was best this week. Crickets fooled some giants from beds and also shoreline cover and vegetation. Catfish were fooled with pink worms fished on the bottom. Black Trick Worms and Finesse Worms fooled quality bass this week.

Okefenokee Swamp – Warmouth, catfish, and fliers were reported from the east (Folkston) side this week. From the west (Fargo) side, anglers reported catching bream, catfish, and even a few bass. The oxygen was low in the Sill canal near SC Foster State Park after several cloudy days last week, and a few warmouth, pickerel, and bass died from the naturally-caused oxygen sag. The oxygen rebounded with the recent sunny conditions, but if you fish the Sill area, concentrate your effort from the first spillway outward. Lots of catfish were caught by anglers fishing on the bottom with worms and shrimp near both spillways. Okefenokee Swamp Sallies in yellow and pink produced the best flier catches. All of the creeks crossing Swamp Road (south of Waycross) produced good catches of catfish again this week. That bite will likely slow this week as the flows decrease and folks catch the fish in the pools by the bridge crossings.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite has turned on again after last week’s super-windy conditions. Dead shrimp and squid produced the best catches. A few trout caught with live shrimp were reported from Crooked River. The tackle shop in the parking lot by the state park ramp is now open. The 3rd annual Family Fun Day and C’Mos Kids saltwater tournament will be held this Saturday (May 10th). For more information about the events and tournament check out www.cmoskids.org or call the State Park at 912-882-5256. Lots of tripletail were caught in the rivers in the Brunswick area this week. In the creeks around St. Simons Island, trout and redfishing was strong, and a few flounder were mixed in the catches. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the bull whiting were caught by the truckloads. They might be slightly exaggerating, but the bite was strong. The average angler caught from 25 to 30 whiting. Dead shrimp were the ticket. Lots of small sharks are around, and a few trout and flounder were also caught. On Saturday night, a 28 and 47-inch redfish were caught on cut bait. On Sunday, a 25-pound black drum came over the rails. It ate dead shrimp fished on bottom.

Best Bet – You will have a blast this Saturday fishing the Satilla River Fishing Tournament hosted by the Satilla Riverkeeper or the Family Fun Day at Crooked River State Park hosted by C’Mo’s Kids. Both events will be top-notch family activities. River fishing is not quite right, but the fishing is picking up. Ponds and saltwater should be on fire this weekend. Whiting fishing all along the coast should be great this weekend. Take your pick, and you can hardly go wrong by fishing for about anything this weekend.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: April 3, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Ty Baumann was all smiles while fishing with his father, Chris, recently. They had a blast catching and releasing the dozen or so bass they caught.

Ty Baumann was all smiles while fishing with his father, Chris, recently. They had a blast catching and releasing the dozen or so bass they caught.

The Satilla will be within the banks by the weekend, but it and the other rivers are still not anywhere near peak. Pond fishing and the swamp have provided excellent fishing. Whiting fishing is picking up in saltwater. The first quarter moon is April 7. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The upper river is still swift and out in the floodplain, but it is dropping. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported catfishing to be the only thing going on. Anglers fishing trot lines and limb lines upstream from the landing caught some nice channel cats, blue cats, and a few flatheads. The flatheads ate mainly goldfish, while shiners and cut bait produced most of the other species. Dannet at Altamaha Park said some catfish were caught upstream of the park. Limb lines produced mostly channel and blue catfish. Some crappie were caught with minnows in the oxbows this week. The river level was 11.4 feet and falling (62 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.4 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on April 1.

Satilla River – The significant rains dodged us here in Waycross, and the river is falling well. It’s still up in the floodplain in Waycross at the time of writing this, but should be about within the banks by the weekend. While still too high for peak fishing, folks will catch some fish this weekend, especially in the upper river above Highway 158. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said the fishing has started in the extreme upper river. Anglers reported catching some big redbreasts in the Telmore portion of the river on red-white Satilla Spins. The average  catch was 20-40 fish per boat already. Red-white dot beetle spins also produced some fish. Catfish hit rooster livers, shrimp, and shiners fished on limb lines. An angler reported catching a giant blue catfish (probably a channel catfish that has lost its spots) in the tidewater portion of the river. For more detailed information about fishing the Satilla River, check out my article in the April issue of Georgia Outdoor News. The river level1 at the Waycross gage was 10.9 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 12.4 feet and falling (62 degrees) on April 1.

St. Marys River – Dickie Winge reported that the river rose some this week as the St. Marys basin got more rain than the Waycross area. The catfishing has been good. Channel cats were caught on limb lines and trot lines baited with shrimp or rooster livers. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 11.5 feet and falling on April 1.

Local Ponds – Last weekend, Zion Hill Baptist Church held their second annual bass tournament. Most bass were caught from local ponds. First place was Yancey Mixon with 23 pounds. The second place team was Lance Berragard and Seth Melton. They had 22.5 pounds, which included the 7.5-pound big bass of the tournament. Proceeds went to the Catch a Dream Foundation. Bass are on still on beds in Waycross area ponds. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said lots of crappie were caught this week by anglers fishing minnows and Jiffy Jigs. Bream started biting well with the warmer weather, and they ate crickets and worms. Anglers reported sight-fishing for and catching bass with red or pink worms. Catfish started biting well this week, and most were caught with pink worms fished on the bottom. Expect the first wave of bluegills to spawn later this month.

Okefenokee Swamp – I took a couple of friends on Thursday evening to the east side for a 2-hour trip. The flier bite was excellent, as we caught and released 64 fliers during the short time. Surprisingly, the bite slowed as the sun dipped (usually that is when they bite like crazy). The quickly falling temperatures must have put the fish in a neutral feeding mood. We might have pushed 100 fish if the last half-hour were as good as it usually is (we only caught a couple of fish the last half-hour). Pink #10 and orange #8 sallies fished under a float produced the best catches. A pink #8 sally fished without a float produced well for the first hour. Yellow did not fool them for us that evening. At the Folkston entrance, warmouth have started to bite crayfish and pink worms. Several good catches were reported. Fliers were caught in good numbers on #8 yellow sallies from that entrance (every day is different!).

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite is still on fire. Anglers reported catching all they wanted to clean on dead shrimp. The Mackay River produced some good trout catches this week. Lots of folks on spring break went, so there should be a bunch of reports next week. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier anglers caught black drum and whiting. From the beaches, the bite is all whiting, and dead shrimp has been the best bait. The average creel was 30 to 40 fish with a size range of 10 to 17 inches.

Best Bet – The whiting bite is hard to beat if the weather allows you to get out to the sounds. You cannot go wrong with pond fishing this weekend. Bass are still shallow and bluegills and catfish should bite well in the warmer weather forecasted for late this week. The Okefenokee bite should be awesome this weekend for those pitching sallies (fliers) or fishing shrimp on the bottom (catfish).

Southeast Fishing Report: March 27, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

Mike Harrell caught this whopper 17-inch crappie on Lake George (Eufaula) on Sunday.

Mike Harrell caught this whopper 17-inch crappie on Lake George (Eufaula) on Sunday.

The rivers are still all too high, but ponds and lakes are absolutely on fire! The swamp bite has been excellent too. Congratulations to Tommy Sweeney and Mark Middleton who won an open tournament on Lake Blackshear over the weekend! The new moon is March 30. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The upstate rains have arrived and pushed the river another couple feet higher into the floodplain. Don’t bother on the upper river. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that a few catfish of various species were caught, but that the fishing has been overall slow. The river level was 13.4 feet and rising (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.8 feet and steady (60 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 25.

Satilla River – Forget it! The river has started dropping at the Highway 158 Bridge, but it’s still unfishable. That didn’t stop the three people I saw launching on Friday while I ate a sandwich for lunch at the Blackshear Bridge. Don’t do it, folks. A flooded river is much swifter than you can imagine. The river level at the Waycross gage was 14.6 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 13.8 feet and rising (62 degrees) on March 25.

Suwannee River – Dickie Winge reported a fantastic catfish bite on the river. Anglers have reported catching anywhere between 40 and 150 catfish. Worms and shrimp have been the best baits.

Local Ponds – Bass are on beds big-time! Wyatt Crews got a great bite on a local pond Saturday evening and caught 11 bass in a half-hour. None were smaller than 2 pounds. He caught them on a Keitech swimbait rigged on a 1/8-oz. Flashy Swimbait Head. I was told the biggest bass was a 9-lb. 14-oz. behemoth caught from a Blackshear pond. The angler pitched in and caught the buck, and then the female inhaled the senko worm shortly thereafter. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that ponds are where it is happening around Waycross. Good catches of crappie were reported by those fishing both minnows and jigs. Bream ate worms fished on the bottom this week. On the warmer days, anglers reported catching them on crickets, as well. Bass bit buzzbaits and shiners, while rooster livers and worms accounted for most of the catfish.

Okefenokee Swamp – I took Paul and Will Fryer from Bainbridge to the east side on Thursday. Paul bid on a trip I donated to the Flint Riverkeeper…thanks, Paul! We had a blast for a few hours in the afternoon warmth. The fliers started off a little slow, but the pace picked up as the afternoon went on and the guys got the hang of that subtle bite.  The float barely twitches when a flier inhales the fly. Pink #8 and yellow #10 Okefenokee Swamp Sallies did the trick. We caught the most fish on the pink without a float, but the biggest, an 8 1/2-incher inhaled the fly suspended under a float, and that was Will’s first flier! Based on the number of bigger fish we caught, I believe the spawn is winding down, and the bigger fish are moving out of the thick stuff and back into the canals where we can catch them better. About 1/4 of the fish we caught were decent sized. We ended up catching 53 fliers during the afternoon. On the west side, I heard that the anglers are tearing up the catfish. I did not ask, but I imagine shrimp fished on the bottom is working best, as that is the traditional Fargo catfish presentation.

Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) – Mike Harrell and Jim Hickox of Waycross fished the lake over the weekend and early this week and whacked the crappie. Mike caught a 2.6-pound slab by swimming a 2-inch grub. He brought it by the Waycross Fisheries Office and had it certified as an Angler Award on Tuesday. Congratulations, Mike!

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Brentz and Alex McGhin caught 50 beautiful whiting from St. Simons on Saturday before running out of bait. They brought three poles with them, but the bite was so hot that Alex kept reeling them in and all Brentz could do was keep baiting hooks! I can vouch for the catch, as they made a great lunch on Monday! Boats fishing off the King and Prince on St. Simons continued to make good whiting catches. Most anglers reported catching between 15 and 20 fish, and fish were typically 14 to 16 inches. In the rivers around Brunswick sheepshead, trout, and redfish were caught. The Jekyll Pier produced some good whiting catches. Anglers reported catching trout on electric chicken, chicken-on-a-chain, and Texas roach Assassin Sea Shads. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting onslaught continued. The average size was 12 to 13 inches. Black sea bass from 10 to 12 inches (undersized) were caught on dead shrimp.

Best Bet – Take your pick this weekend. After the mid-week cool weather, it is supposed to warm right back up. Whiting will be your best bet in saltwater, while bass fishing will be hard to top in freshwater. Fish at your favorite pond or Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton for some exciting action and a shot at a real trophy bass as they move shallow to spawn.

Southeast Georgia Fishing Report: March 20, 2014

By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

The bass bite is hot right now. Jacob Henderson of Waycross caught his biggest bass, this 6-pounder, on Wednesday from a Blackshear pond.

The bass bite is hot right now. Jacob Henderson of Waycross caught his biggest bass, this 6-pounder, on Wednesday from a Blackshear pond.

Ponds and lakes are the places to fish right now. The rivers will be way up in the floodplains after the recent rains make their way through the systems. The swamp bite was excellent before the rains. The last quarter moon is March 24. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – The Altamaha will be rising once the upstate rains arrive (it has already started rising at Baxley). Dannet at Altamaha Park said the only thing reported this week was a few flathead catfish caught on goldfish and channel cats caught downstream toward the Champney River. The river level was 11.8 feet and rising (58 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 9.8 feet and falling (58 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 18.

Satilla River – The river is now FAR out in the floodplain after a couple of more inches of rain over the weekend and early this week. The river was almost fishable when the rains came. Seems like a repeat of last summer! Anglers caught some catfish, bream, and redbreasts before the river came up. It will be at least a couple more weeks before the Satilla is fishable again. The river level at the Waycross gage was 13.3 feet and rising (59 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 11.4 feet and rising (60 degrees) on March 18.

St. Marys River – The catfish bite has been decent, but now the St. Marys River is flooded, also. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 18th was 14.0 feet and rising.

Local Ponds – Bass are on beds in many ponds, and crappie are shallow now, as well. B.A.S.S. professional angler Patrick Pierce of Jacksonville used a plastic craw to sight fish some nice bass from their beds on Tuesday. His biggest was about 4 pounds, but there were lots of bedding fish. On Wednesday, Jacob Henderson of Waycross whacked a big bass right at sunset from a local pond. A group of anglers on Monday and Tuesday caught a bunch of bass. The hottest lure both days was a Keitech swimbait (3.8”) rigged on a Flashy Swimbait head. The surprise bite happened when the bass seemed to get lockjaw during mid-day on both days. Anglers started flinging small Bass Assassin 2-inch Curly Shads (crystal shad color) fished on a Flashy Jigheads (1/8-oz.) and using ultralight gear, and bass immediately started eating the miniscule offering. This tiny outfit accounted for over 25 bass up to 3 pounds. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that ponds are where the best reports in Waycross originated. Bream, catfish, crappie, and bass were caught this weekend.  Crickets and worms produced most of the bream, minnows and jigs fooled the crappie, and shrimp and rooster livers duped the catfish, while plastic worms and shiners accounted for the bass.

Okefenokee Swamp – The big rains from early this week will spread the swamp far out into the prairies, and the bite will likely slow for a week or so. Once the water level stabilizes and starts pulling back into the canals, the bite will pick up again. On the west side, you can still catch fliers and catfish in the boat basin. Fliers should eat the usual orange, pink, or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sallies pitched with a bream buster pole around lily pads. This week’s warmer weather will make the fish actively eat, especially on warm afternoons. I would expect a float to work best, as the water temperatures are unusually cool for this point in the spring. Once the water warms to summertime temperatures (I am not trying to rush the season!), pitching a sally without the float will usually work just as well or better than with a float.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The saltwater bite is improving with the warmer temperatures. Waycross area anglers caught whiting in the usual holes, with Michael Winge reporting the average catch to be 30 to 40 fish per trip. Jekyll Pier continued to be a hot-spot for local anglers. A few sheepshead  and black drum were reported by those fishing around Brunswick. Nearhore reefs have been producing tons of black sea bass, but many are under-sized. On Tuesday, an angler brought in a 14-inch “green head” sea bass to St. Simons Bait and Tackle. A few flounder were caught this week over the mud flats near creek mouths. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) said that the coolers were full of whiting this week. Dead shrimp fished on bottom fooled them. On Sunday, a few trout and black drum were also caught from the pier.

Best Bet – Bass fishing will be peak over the next couple of weeks as the biggest fish of the year move shallow. Area ponds will produce a bunch of bass and bluegills this weekend. Forget about the rivers (because of high water) at this point, even though they are usually the place to go this time of year. In saltwater, the whiting bite is cranking up. With the more stable weather predicted this week, whiting would be a good bet. Make sure to check the marine forecast late in the week before planning a trip, though. Put a small piece of shrimp on the bottom to fool them.

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