Georgia Fishing Report: June 19, 2015

South Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologists Bert Deener and regional Fisheries staff)

5 and a half pound sea trout caught off Saint Simons Pier.

5 and a half pound sea trout caught off Saint Simons Pier.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the river is on a slight rise, but it has now slowed the bream bite in the backwaters. Crickets produced some big bream around treetops in the lakes. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that a bream tournament over the weekend had 140 anglers entered. The rising, stained water slowed the bite, and the anglers had to work for their fish. They did catch fish, and most were caught from the feeder creeks and backs of the lakes (that is where the clearest water was located). Most anglers caught between 5 and 30 bream. The river level was 6.1 feet and falling (86 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.5 feet and rising (83 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 16.

Okefenokee Swamp – Early in the morning anglers are catching warmouth and fliers on the east side. Bullhead catfish were caught in good numbers from all entrances. Even after pulling out thousands of fish from the boat basin on the east side, anglers are still catching a few warmouth and fliers there. They have even caught an occasional bream on crickets.

Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river fishing slowed with the high water and high heat, but the river is falling, and the bite is improving. A few fish were caught by anglers pitching crickets close to the bank cover. Satilla Spins (black/chartreuse and crawfish) fooled redbreasts and an occasional bass. Channel and bullhead catfish ate rooster livers and shrimp. Buzzbaits and ZOOM lizards and speed craws caught some nice bass. I spoke with an angler late last week who caught several bass up to 5 pounds in the Waycross area. The river level on June 16th at the Waycross gage was 7.7 feet and falling (80 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.3 feet and rising.

St. Marys River – The mullet run is in full swing. A piece of worm rigged on a #6 hook was the ticket. The catfish bite has been as hot as the air temperature. In the early morning before the heat, anglers reported catching some nice bream and redbreasts by pitching crickets. The river level on June 16th at the MacClenny gage was 2.1 feet and falling.

Local Ponds –  Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds bream fishing has been tops. Crickets and worms produced some nice fish on the new moon. Jigs, beetlespins, and copperfield Satilla Spins also produced good bream catches for those using artificials. Rooster livers were tops for catfish. Black buzzbaits produced some nice bass early in the morning, late in the evening, and after dark.

Coast (Saltwater)

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

I received reports of anglers catching tripletail this week from inshore channel markers. Live shrimp fished near the markers around slack tide has been the best way to catch them. Michael Winge said that Waycross anglers caught plenty of whiting in the sounds. Shrimp and squid both produced good catches of the tasty fish. A group of anglers fishing this past weekend reported catching a potpourri of fish including whiting, flounder, redfish, and trout. The Jekyll Island Pier produced some nice flatfish this week for those dragging mudminnows. Spanish mackerel and kingfish were caught in the channels and nearshore reefs. Tarpon should be here in good numbers any day. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the blue crabs are THICK under the pier. Crabbers are catching buckets-full of them, and they are really big. Croakers, spadefish, trout, sharks, whiting, and flounder also hit the deck this week. Monitor the marine forecast.

Best Bet – If the current heat wave stays (as it is predicted to), saltwater fishing should be the best bet. The whiting bite is still consistent in the sounds and deep holes in rivers. Seatrout are on the beach and will be biting for the next couple months as waves of fish head to the surf to spawn. I like throwing Assassin Sea Shads under the bigger oval Cajun Thunder Floats at them. If you need a little more weight for casting distance, pinch on a rubber core sinker (remove the rubber core first) below the brass beads.

Categories: Boating, Fishing

Georgia Fishing Report: June 5, 2015

North Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)

kids fishing event

Look for a kids fishing event near you next week.

National Fishing and Boating Week, a national celebration of fishing and boating, is the perfect reason to get out on the water and experience the joys of boating and fishing.  Coinciding with most states’ free fishing days, National Fishing and Boating Week occurs each year during the first full week of June.

Time spent fishing and boating is a great opportunity to talk, laugh, relax, reconnect and create good memories with friends and family.   How can you celebrate?

In Georgia, there are two FREE fishing days (June 6 and 13) held during National Fishing and Boating Week.

Additionally, there are dozens of kids fishing events held this week, especially on the weekend. Take your child to one of these events, especially if you or your child, is new to fishing. Great way to meet people, get expert advice and spend time together.

National Fishing and Boating Week was initiated by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Take Me Fishing program.  Click here for more information.

Apprentice Trout Stockers – Buford Hatchery Fisheries Technician Andy Wentworth transported trout to Stamp Creek on Pine Log Wildlife Management Area on Wednesday, June 3.  He was met upon arrival by his able stocking assistants, the kids from the Cherokee County Parks & Recreation Department’s “Fishing Camp.”  The weeklong camp teaches fishing skills and the highlight of the camp is always Stamp Creek stocking day with Buford Hatchery. For more information on this special summer camp, visit:

Striper Stockers Spotted

Lanier Bass  – “Nice bass I caught on Lanier on May 4.  Trolling with umbrella rig with yellow jigs.  Enjoy the photo.”  – Tara

Ken’s Lake Reports

Nottely Bass

Worth the Hike In – “Fished the IDBIS River yesterday in the XXX mtns. It was a bright blue sky day, which may have made things tougher. I caught 14-15 wild RB’s. Missed a few more. All small but really fun. Had a decent sized fish (for that water) on for a bit but he spit out the hook or something. It was probably 12-13 inches.  David G, a very good caster who has been fishing these waters for decades, got only 2 fish and a few misses, but he limited himself to one dry fly. I had a caddis and one or two tiny nymph droppers and only got one catch and three strikes or refusals at the dry. We saw a cahill about size 12 and some other big mayfly about size 8. Only saw one cahill and two of the other big bug.  There were tons of midges swarming and a couple caddis size 16 flitting about. I did not see a fish rise all day.

It took an hour  and a half to drive to the trail head at IDBIS Creek, and 40 minutes to hike to the river. But fishing was nil at that area, so we got out and hiked another 45 minutes to Notellum Creek and got back in the river above that confluence. That meant after fishing upstream for three hours we had an hour and almost 45 minutes hike out. Left home 8 am and got home 8 pm.  But I did enjoy it.  Beautiful small stream.” – Ralph A.

Bluelines are Best Bets – Early summer is a great time to head up the mountain and fish Georgia’s smaller trout streams, known as “bluelines” by savvy anglers searching for secret spots on topo maps. Bluelines shed stormflows quickly and return to fishable conditions within a day, if not several hours, after a summer storm.  Turbidity is relatively low because of the stable watersheds and limited disturbance on national forest lands. (Report and blueline how-to)

Trout stockers – John Lee suggests this week’s hotspots: Hooch and Toccoa tailwaters at the dams, Hooch in Helen before the 10am tuber hatch, Nimblewill, Holly, Cooper, Tallulah, and West Fork Chattooga.

Wait on the Bass Rivers – This week’s storms have many of north Georgia’s warmwater rivers blown out for several days.  Check river gauges and call local tackle shops before taking your next float trip.  While flows may drop, turbidities will run high for several more days.

This is a great week to introduce new families to the fun of recreational fishing.  Take a little time out of your own schedule to pass on your love of the sport and help cultivate the next generation of Georgia’s aquatic conservationists.

Central Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)

Clarks Hill Lake (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good. The bigger, more active bass have begun to move back to the primary lake points with some holding on to the secondary points in the larger coves. Use the #5 Jointed Shad Rap and the DT6 and fish any wood and rocks during this period. Boat docks are still holding bass during the mid day period when the sun is out and the sky is blue. A slow presentation seems to be working the best during these hard to fish periods. Expect a good early morning bite and it will slow down as the sun comes over the treetops. All black buzz baits work in the middle of the day.

Flat Creek PFA Catfish and bream are the two species that have been biting the best right now. During the cooler hours of morning and evening the fish have been more responsive, and during the heat of the day the fish are sluggish with their strikes. Those fishing in deeper, cooler water are still having success even in the hotter parts of the day. There will be less visibility in the lake as a planktonic algal bloom continues to develop. As you notice the visibility diminishing, a switch in baits to darker colors will be a better option for all fish.

Bass: Success – Watermelon Zoom Trick Worms, Watermelon Zoom Centipede worms, fished shallow (2-3’) and silver spoons, and lipless crank baits fished in 6-8 foot of water.

Bream: Success – Worms (Red Wigglers, Glow worms, and Pinks) on a Carolina rig.

Crappie: Success – Red &Black Hal-Flies (5’ of water), Chartreuse glow-in-the-dark jigs by Carolina Hookers fished with a glow-in-the-dark Rat Finkee jig head (#6 & #8) fished in 8 foot of water. The Crappie fishing has slowed down considerably but anglers have been catching some nice crappie off the fishing pier on minnows.

Channel Catfish: Success – Chicken livers tied with sewing thread and then placed on the hook will prevent the fish from stealing the bait and has proved very successful. Worms fished on a Carolina Rig.

Additional information at

Jackson Lake (up 1.7 feet, clear, 80s) –Bass fishing is good. Much of the lake is clear and top water tactics are fishing as well as ever. Many bass are holding shallow and can be found on the main lake and in the pockets. Better quality fish seem to be on the main lake and the first half of the pockets. Shallow fish will often be found relating to sea walls and riprap. Particularly in the early morning, fish will use these areas to feed on spawning shad. Some fish are slightly deeper with structure in the 5 to 7 foot range being good to target. Work the main lake points for some good fishing as well. Spinner baits, jigs, hard baits, and plastics can all fish well. Spinner baits, flukes and top water are among some of the baits that will work well on sea walls and rip rap. The Senko continues to be a good bait when the sun is shining. Use 5″ baits on a 4/0 offset shank hook or a wacky rig. Fish it just about anywhere, but docks can fish very well with Senko and other baits presented underneath. Top water action is hard to beat right now. The Pop R bite is hot on the seawalls. Cast and fish as close to the wall as possible. Shallow and parallel presentations can be very productive on the walls, but it often pays to work long perpendicular casts all the way to the boat. Particularly on flat contoured banks, top water baits will call up deeper fish that are holding well off the wall. Commit to top water baits early and late in the day. Throw them all day long under overcast conditions or on banks with shade offered by the tree line.

Marben PFA – Largemouth Bass: June is typically the time of year when bass are moving into deep water.  This often indicates that bass fishing is beginning to slow as the warmer summer months begin.  However, anglers willing to test the waters in early morning might be surprised with a bass being caught in the shallows.  Anglers should try truck worms and top water baits in early morning.

Bream: Bream are the most popular fish targeted this time of year.  The best thing about bream is that this fish will hit a variety of bait.  The most popular are worms and crickets fished in 4 to six feet of water.  Bream will hit throughout the day and will most likely be found hanging around submerged, woody cover.  Anglers may have to follow the shade this time of year to avoid the sun.  If patient, anglers will be successful in June.

Catfish: When the other fish begin to slow, anglers will often turn their attention to catfish at Marben PFA.  Catfish are reported being caught in early or late evening as well as in the hottest time of the day.  Chicken livers, stink bait, and worms are the most popular when targeting catfish.  A handy shade tree seems to be important too!

Crappie: Crappie are showing similar patterns to largemouth bass.  Successful anglers are finding good numbers in deeper water.  Live minnows are still the most popular bait when targeting crappie at Marben PFA.  Margery Lake has been a popular spot with the most success at the dam.  Early mornings, as well as late evening are popular times for anglers targeting crappie.

Bream: Bream are the most popular fish targeted this time of year.  The best thing about bream is that this fish will hit a variety of bait.  The most popular are worms and crickets fished in 4 to six feet of water.  Bream will hit throughout the day and will most likely be found hanging around submerged, woody cover.  Anglers may have to follow the shade this time of year to avoid the sun.  If patient, anglers will be successful in June.

Catfish: When the other fish begin to slow, anglers will often turn their attention to catfish at Marben PFA.  Catfish are reported being caught in early or late evening as well as in the hottest time of the day.  Chicken livers, stink bait, and worms are the most popular when targeting catfish.  A handy shade tree seems to be important too!

Despite warm temperatures, Marben PFA can be a relaxing place to visit.  Sunscreen and plenty of water are highly encouraged. Don’t forget the picnic lunch and your stringer!

Additional Information:

McDuffie PFA – Largemouth Bass – Good:  Hot ponds have been Willow, and Clubhouse. Willow is still giving up keeper bass and many larger bass are being released by our fishermen. In Jones bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert. The lake with most potential is Willow for quality and quantity.  Willow Lake has big bass but fishermen must be prepared or risk being broken off in the underwater structure. The bass have begun feeding on shad early in the mornings and late evenings in Willow and Breambuster.  Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month. Rodbender is open for the next 14 days but will close at sunset on the 15th. This lake has been setup for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass.  June is usually an excellent top-water bait month with soft baits falling in the number two spot.

Bream:  Good – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Willow, Clubhouse and Jones for good catches.  The Bream should be on bed during this full moon and can be found around structure and aquatic plants with firm sandy bottoms. The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under adjustable floats; using light tackle to make soft casts pass the structure and pulling the bait rig back and stopping the bait will generate many more strikes. Patience is the key when fishing for bream on beds. Our local fly fishermen are catching aggressive bream on artificial nymphs, flies and bugs near shore and structure.

Channel Catfish:  Good – Best ponds have been Breambuster, Beaverlodge, Bridge, Willow and Jones.  Catfish are still feeding as they prepare to spawn and water has reached above 80 degrees. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep areas using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets.

Striped Bass:  Fair – Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse.  Smaller stripers will keep anglers busy in Bridge Lake as fishermen fish for catfish and bream on the bottom using worms and chicken liver. The stripers have not begun feeding on the shad near the surface.

Additional Information:

Lake Oconee (full, stained up rivers, light stain on main lake, 79-81 degrees) – Bass fishing is fair. Start your day with a buzz bait fished along sea walls and rip rap. After the sun gets up switch to boat docks from the middle of the creeks and big coves out to the main lake. Use a shaky head under the docks and around the dock poles. You can also use a small shallow running crank bait around the same docks. As the day heats up move to the bridge rip raps when Georgia Power starts pulling water. Use a white/chartreuse spinner bait or a small crank bait and fish the down lake side with these two bait. Keep an eye on the water movement while fishing, if you see current movement then go the bridges. Over the past week this has been late in the afternoon.

Crappie fishing is good. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. They are suspended above the timber. Long lining just over the fish in 6 to 10 ft. of water will draw a strike. If you are fishing muddy water use a dark jig. Stained water use a jig with chartreuse in it. Some fish are starting to stage in the timber and live bait fished into the tree will catch these fish.

“Striper fishing is good. Most of the fish have moved to the humps and points from mid lake to the dam. We are still catching some fish on live shad fished on down lines on the humps and points. Most of the fish are coming on the umbrella rig. The umbrella rig bite has taken off over the past week. We fish a 4 arm, 9 jig rig at 3 mph 100 feet behind the boat to target these fish.” Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service

Lake Russell (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good. A lot of post spawn bass are being caught right now as they continue to feed heavily. The top water bite is still really good and jerk baits remain a good follow up bait along with flukes. Main lake points and secondary points continue to produce good size bass, but don’t forget to fish the sides of these points as well. The Carolina rig is another good method that has been very productive this past week. Don’t spend too much time in one area as anglers are having to move about the lake to catch a good limit. No more than two good keepers are coming from one point or area, so keep this in mind while fishing.

Lake Sinclair (full, muddy up river, main lake stained, 82 degrees) – Bass fishing is good. Top water lures and spinner baits are producing during early morning from shallow cover such as blow downs, docks, rip rap, grass, and shallow points. Anglers should experiment with varying types of baits because the best lure today may not produce tomorrow. Some excellent choices are: Super Spook Jr., Pop R, Chug Bug, Spin Bang a Lure, buzz baits, and Baby Torpedo. Spinner baits and weightless Flukes and Trick worms can also be the best on some mornings. Try bulging the surface with a 3/8 or ½ ounce spinner bait with double Colorado blades. A weightless yellow Trick worm worked well on one recent morning. When using spinning tackle, make sure to use a swivel about 8 10 inches above the worm to control line twist. Most shad have finished spawning except for a few scattered areas. If shad are seen spawning, try the fore mentioned top water baits plus a small white spinner bait. Although some bass are still around shallow docks, more are now on deeper docks, especially those that have brush under or around them. Catches from docks have come mostly on soft plastics; with jigs, crank baits, and spinner baits fooling a few fish.

West Point Lake (full, clear, low 80s) – Bass fishing has been good. The fish are now heading to the flats, points and reef markers. This has been a week for the soft plastics. On open shallow flats and pockets fan cast shaky head trick worms and creature baits to isolated cover and depressions. These fish are relating to small ditches. A light Carolina rig can also be effective in these same areas. My best areas have been from Wehadkee creek north to the 109 bridge.

South Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologists Bert Deener and regional Fisheries staff)

John Biagi with redbreast

John Biagi of Covington made a trip south last week to fish the Satilla River. He and his partner, Bryant Bowen, landed this quality redbreast and 66 other nice fish on crawfish Satilla Spins in the Waycross area of the river.

Altamaha River – I heard a couple great reports of panfishing on the river this week, with the best report of almost 40 quality bluegills and redbreasts. The rains upcountry have muddied the water as it has risen, so the bite will likely slow some this week in the main river. The oxbows should still produce good catches this weekend. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the fishing was as good as it gets for all species over the weekend. Big bream were caught on crickets, channel and blue cats were caught in the flow on rooster livers, and flatheads ate goldfish in the deeper holes. Soft plastics and crankbaits produced some good bass catches. Dannet at Altamaha Park said the shellcracker bite is still going strong. Some big bluegills were mixed in with the catch, as well. Pink worms fished on the bottom produced the most of both species. The channel cats were holding in the creeks feeding the river and were eating worms. Channel and flathead catfishing should be strong this weekend on the rising river. The river level was 5.2 feet and rising (82 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.3 feet and rising (79 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on June 2.

Okefenokee Swamp – The warmouth and flier fishing has been awesome as the water has pulled off the flats, but the yellow flies have picked up. Wear long pants and long sleeve fishing shirts, and you can do pretty well keeping the pests off of you. The fishing is good enough to warrant fighting some flies. On the east side, I heard of a group of 3 anglers catching a limit of warmouth from the boat basin by using crickets and crawfish. A few nice bream were caught by anglers fishing crickets, but that bite slowed a little this week. On the east side, fliers ate yellow sallies well. On the west side, the catfish bite has been awesome. On the north side of the swamp, the feeder creeks draining into the swamp produced great catches of catfish. Worms worked best.

Satilla River – The excellent reports continued from the river this week. From my feedback, crawfish Satilla Spins were the best color…again. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river fishing was on fire this week, with redbreasts and bream topping the catches. Crickets worked great this week, as did artificials, such as Satilla Spins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, and beetlespins. Reports were that they were eating it like “they would never have another chance to eat again” (and for many of them, they didn’t get another chance!). On Saturday, an angler fishing with his son north of the Hwy 121 Bridge caught 35 big redbreasts and bream in less than 2 hours of fishing using crickets and worms. Crankbaits and ZOOM worms produced some nice bass catches. Catfish ate shrimp and rooster livers fished on the bottom in deep holes. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.5 feet and falling (76 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.6 feet and steady on June 2.

St. Marys River – Redbreasts have started bedding lately, and some true “roosters” and big bream were caught around beds with crickets and worms this week. Beetlespins produced good catches around blowdown trees and sandbars. Catfishing remained great with folks catching them about anywhere they dropped a hook. Shrimp, worms, and rooster livers baited them in. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.1 feet and falling on June 2.

Local Ponds –  A couple of anglers fishing a Valdosta area pond on Sunday had a double-header of double-digit bass. They had a 10-lb., 10-oz. and another just over 10 pounds hooked up at the same time. Live bait fooled their whoppers. Several other anglers reported catching nice bass from Waycross area lakes. Topwaters fished early and plastics and swimbaits fished after the sun came up seemed to be the standard. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds anglers whacked the bream this week by pitching crickets. Frogs and buzzbaits produced some great bass catches late in the evening.

Best Bet: Redbreast fishing on the Satilla is a great option this weekend. The local rains have brought the river level up enough to get around, but the river is still in decent shape. For the biggest redbreasts, throw spinnerbaits around sandbars for the pre-spawn fish. For numbers, pitch crickets around shoreline cover. On the Altamaha, the rains came just as the panfish bite was firing up. You should still be able to catch some nice bream in the oxbows this weekend, but the main river redbreast bite will probably be slower. Catfishing on any river is an excellent option this weekend. In saltwater, whiting are your best target for numbers, while big redfish at the jetties or sharks in the inlets are your best bets for monster fish.

Coast (Saltwater)

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

Flounder were caught in good numbers by those fishing finger mullet and mudminnows. Whiting were caught in the sounds. Dead shrimp fished around structure produced some good black drum catches. Live shrimp produced keeper trout around oyster mounds and creek mouths. Look for the beach trout bite to fire off any day, but I have not heard of anyone going yet. Tripletail have been caught around inshore markers and buoys. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the flounder were tops from the pier. Most fish were from 13 to 18 inches. Gulp swimming mullets (chartreuse or white), finger mullet, and mudminnows produced the flatties. Live shrimp and mudminnows produced some nice trout catches from the deck. Dead shrimp fished on the bottom fooled whiting, croakers, and yellowtails. There have been some unique catches from the pier this spring. That continued on Thursday, with an angler landing a 36-inch cobia on a finger mullet. Lots of sharks are eating cut bait. Blue crabs are getting thick under the pier. Monitor the marine forecast.

Licenses Required at a PFA


Angers 16 years and older must possess a current fishing license, AND a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) license to fish.

If you have either a Sportsman’s, Lifetime, Honorary (resident disability license or resident one-time veteran’s license), 3-day Hunting and Fishing License, or 3-day GORP Plus you are NOT required to have a WMA license to fish.

A WMA license is NOT required to fish at Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area.


To access a PFA for non-fishing activities, visitors age 16-64 must have one of the following (visitors under age 16 and/or over age 64 are exempt):

Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass (GORP)

3-day hunting/fishing license

WMA license

Sportsman’s, Honorary (resident disability license or resident one-time veteran’s license) or Lifetime license

Categories: Fishing

We Have Seen the Enemy…

By: Elliot Ambrose, Georgia DNR Public Affairs Intern

The war on Georgia’s invasive species: Part I

There are invaders among us. Large and small, they have infiltrated and spread, displacing native inhabitants and upsetting the natural balance. The culprits are known as invasive species, and they pose a real and significant danger to environmental, economic and human health.

Some have been here for years; others have only recently made an appearance. Even more have the potential to become problems in the near future. Whatever the case, invasive species can have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts if not addressed.

One invasive that exemplifies this problem is the feral hog.

A prolific and destructive species, feral hogs have been in Georgia for centuries. In the last several decades, however, pig populations – and the cost of damages they cause – have skyrocketed.

The pig problem

Wild hogs in a field (photo credit: NASA)

Wild hogs in a field (photo credit: NASA)

Introduced by Spanish settlers in the 1500s, feral hogs have increased their range, and their impact, significantly in Georgia over the last 50 years. Spread in large part by people illegally moving them to other areas, the species now occupies more of the state than ever and is having a devastating effect on native plants and animals and their habitats.

According to Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with the DNR Game Management Section, feral hogs threaten some native species by excluding them from valuable food sources.

“It’s another big animal out on the landscape that’s requiring a lot of resources to keep going,” Killmaster said. “The fact that they can out-compete a lot of our native species is causing a problem.”

On Ossabaw Island, where feral hogs have flourished in near isolation for hundreds of years, the threat to native species is even more direct. In the early 2000s, hogs destroyed nearly 70 percent of loggerhead sea turtle nests laid on Ossabaw beaches. In a DNR effort started in 2006 with State Wildlife Grant funding, systematic shooting and trapping has shrunk the predation rate to 10 percent. But keeping it there requires relentless work.

Crop damage from hogs (photo by Tyler Campbell, USDA)

Crop damage from hogs (photo by Tyler Campbell, USDA)

“If we stopped hunting them, it would get out of control quick,” said Cody Elrod, a DNR wildlife technician in his sixth summer on Ossabaw.

Wild hogs can begin breeding at 6 months old and give birth to eight to 26 piglets a year.

Feral pigs will also eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds, including shorebirds, turkey and quail.  As they search for food, wild hogs use their snouts and tusks to root through the soil, a destructive behavior that can severely impact native plant communities and reduce the total number of plant species in an area. Declines caused by extensive rooting can also lead to infestations by invasive plants such as Chinese tallow, particularly in wetlands and other sensitive habitats.

In addition to environmental impacts, feral hogs also wreak economic havoc, particularly for farmers. Hogs destroy acres of farmland by rooting up crops and recently planted seeds. Their foraging creates uneven, dug out areas that can damage large farm equipment. Feral hogs are also carriers of diseases, such as swine brucellosis and pseudorabies, which can be transmitted to domestic pigs.

The cost of the damage is uncertain, but a University of Georgia survey of landowners in 2011 estimated the total at more than $81 million.

Georgia’s least wanted

The voracious feral hog is just one invasive species causing concern in Georgia.

Congongrass flowering (photo by Bill Lamp, Georgia Forestry Commission)

Congongrass flowering (photo by Bill Lamp, Georgia Forestry Commission)

Known as “the seventh worst weed in the world,” cogongrass was documented at fewer than 10 sites in Georgia in 2004. By 2012, this Asian grass variety had spread to more than 600. Now covering 1.25 million acres of the southeastern U.S., cogongrass is more widespread than kudzu, the region and state’s most infamous invasive. Fortunately, all known cogongrass sites in Georgia have been mapped and treated.

A more recent arrival in Georgia, the emerald ash borer first appeared near Atlanta in 2013. The small green beetle native to Asia and east Russia is widespread throughout much of the Northeast, and has killed tens of millions of ash trees. The emerald ash borer is viewed as one of the most destructive forest pests ever seen in North America, making it a top priority for state and federal agencies.

Control efforts in Georgia are focused on containing the infestation, including through raising public awareness about how the insect is spread, typically through transporting contaminated firewood.

As is evident with the efforts to control feral hogs on Ossabaw, managing invasive species requires persistent effort. And because many exotic invasives spread rapidly and are difficult to eliminate once established, the focus is usually on management and control, rather than eradication.

There are a number of ways the public can help in the war on invasives. Learn to identify the invasive species found in your area to keep tabs on potential problems in your neighborhood. Take care to clean your gear and equipment before leaving outdoor areas and never release pets into the wild. When landscaping or gardening, consider choosing native plants instead of exotic varieties that may spread beyond your yard and put pressure on native species.

(Editor’s note: This is the first post in a multi-part series on invasive species in Georgia. Up next: Watch what you plant! Explore the benefits of “growing native” and how to avoid exotic invasive plants.)

More info…

Help with hogs

Key offenders, plus some lesser knowns

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo by Chris Evans, University of Georgia)

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo by Chris Evans, University of Georgia)

Hemlock wooly adelgid: Native to Asia, this small, aphid-like insect feeds on the sap and inner bark of hemlock trees. First reported in Virginia in the early 1950s, it is now established in several eastern states and has affected more than 50 percent of the geographic range of the eastern hemlock.

Chinese wisteria: Brought to the U.S. from China as a garden ornamental in the early 1800s, the woody vine is capable of reaching a height of 40 feet. This invasive displaces native vegetation and kills trees and shrubs by girdling them.

Kudzu bug: This stink bug family member was discovered in the U.S. in October 2009 and has since spread through the Southeast. A native of India and China, it has become a nuisance pest in Georgia, damaging soybean crops and overwintering in houses.

Cuban treefrog: With a wide diet and the ability to deter predators with noxious mucus, this large treefrog is highly adaptable and believed to have a detrimental impact on native species. First recorded near Savannah in 2009, Cuban treefrogs have established large colonies in Florida and are widely available for purchase as pets.

The Statewide Invasive Strategy

The focus of Georgia’s invasive species strategy is preventing the introduction of new invasive species and minimizing the spread of existing populations and their impact on native species, the economy and environmental and human health.

This goal is achieved through early detection and rapid response programs, cooperative management activities, and public outreach and education. The strategy also includes monitoring and research of invasive species to determine key management priorities, as well as designing and proposing legislative or regulatory measures.

The invasive strategy was called for in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy guiding DNR and partner efforts to conserve Georgia’s native wildlife and natural habitats. That plan is being revised, yet will continue to emphasize controlling exotics.

Categories: Conservation, Hunting

Connections Fuel Conservation Fire in Taylor County

Say “prescribed fire” and most picture drip torches, smoke and yellow Nomex. We tend to think in phrases such as acres burned, rare species helped, habitats restored. None of which is off-base.

The University of Montana-sponsored group helps with the prescribed fire near Butler (photo by Hal Massie)

The University of Montana-sponsored group helps with the prescribed fire near Butler (photo by Hal Massie/GaDNR)

Rarely, however, do we think about prescribed fire in terms of relationships. Yet the connections that link people focused on fire are critical to successful burns.

Case in point: Workers (yes, in Nomex) recently burned 50 acres of sandhills and longleaf pine in Taylor County, a tract showing the fruit from regular sweeps of fire the habitat needs, particularly in spring.

Less obvious were the connections that fit like puzzle pieces to make the burn happen.

Piece 1: Bryn and Clarissa Pipes own the 100-acre farm near Butler. They met DNR’s Shan Cammack at a Flint River landowners meeting in the 1990s. The Pipes’ property borders a Flint tributary and features species unusual to the area, such as Atlantic white cedar and fox squirrels. Working with Cammack, now fire management officer for the Nongame Conservation Section, and Steve Raper, a private lands specialist with Nongame Conservation, the Pipes put their farm in a DNR conservation easement. Since 2001, the tract has been burned four times and longleaf planted.

Piece 2: This year, Cammack hoped to burn the site in spring, timing that is more effective for fire-adapted species. There was just one hitch: The Nongame Conservation Section’s two seasonal burn crews had disbanded for the year.

Prescribed fires at the sandhills tract have produced a dynamic shift in the natural communities and an increase in floristic diversity, writes DNR’s Shan Cammack.

Prescribed fires at the sandhills tract have produced a dynamic shift in the natural communities and an increase in floristic diversity, writes DNR’s Shan Cammack.

Needing more people and equipment, she called on the Interagency Burn Team, including The Nature Conservancy and its fire crew at Moody Forest in southeast Georgia.

Piece 3: Closer to Butler, Nature Conservancy fire manager Erick Brown and a seasonal crew based in west Georgia were working with a University of Montana group led by associated professor Carl Seielstad. For the last eight years, students from the school have burned in Georgia as part of a prescribed fire practicum. But the university and federal scientists were here this month as a test run for a possible a practicum for fire practitioners and researchers. Could the Montanans join the Taylor County burn? Sure.

Piece 4: OK, maybe this is less of a piece and more where the pieces come together. The Montana group beefed up the Interagency Burn Team crew, giving the researchers more of the fireline time they wanted. Cammack and Brown completed another lightning season burn, something both are pushing. Brown’s west Georgia crew could check other areas recently burned instead of working a new fire. And a mid-state conservation easement received the fire it needed and its owners wanted.

“Each time we burn,” Cammack said, the landowners “enjoy watching a dynamic shift in the natural communities and an increase in the floristic diversity.”

After this burn, the group also enjoyed some Southern hospitality as Clarissa capped a day working the fireline by providing a meal replete with sweet tea, homemade bread and peanut butter bars.

The shared meal spoke to the underlying connections, some of which run deep.

The Pipes train annually as prescribed fire volunteers. This year, Bryn even joined a seasonal DNR fire crew. He said of his family’s work with Cammack, “It’s really been a good partnership and friendship.”

Following the burn, a check of the site found the first active gopher tortoise burrow seen on the property in 15 years. (Shan Cammack/GaDNR)

Following the burn, a check of the site found the first active gopher tortoise burrow seen on the property in 15 years. (Shan Cammack/GaDNR)

Seielstad has burned with Cammack and Brown for years. He’ll be back in January with more Montana Grizzlies students. Brown considers it “super important to get those students going into (western) fire management … some experience in prescribed fire.” Adding a practicum for professionals is a possibility.

The Interagency Burn Team is a growing, resilient group that also includes Georgia Forestry Commission, The Longleaf Alliance, The Orianne Society, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cammack calls the prescribed fire in Taylor County a win-win. But maybe it’s more a win-win-win.

Wildlife wins. (Bryn recently found the first active gopher tortoise burrow seen on his property in 15 years.) Georgians win as the wildlife and wild places they treasure are renewed. And prescribed fire, a key source of that renewal, wins because the network it relies on is again tested and proven.

Or, as Seielstad said, “The thing that makes this restoration tick is people.”

Categories: Conservation

Georgia Fishing Report: May 22, 2015

North Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)

The long weekend is just ahead of us and the weather looks pretty darn good.  We may have to dodge a few pop-up thunderstorms, which are really needed to boost stream flows and reduce water temperatures, but they should not be deal-breakers.  While they might muddy our favorite bass rivers, remaining streams have smaller watersheds and will clear to fishable conditions within a day or so.  Stay connected to USGS river flow gauges and your favorite local tackle shops for current conditions on your targeted waters.  Except for our larger trout waters, which are warming with these air temps in the 80’s, most other fishing opportunities should still be very good. On major reservoirs, fish early or after dark to avoid all other boaters and water skiers enjoying their aquatic playtime, too.   Above all, be safe on the water!

We have an extensive weekend menu to choose from, so take a peek and make a plan.

Heavy Trout StockingDNR and USFWS trout stocking trucks have covered a lot of miles this week to prepare for the hefty weekend crowds. Remember, the DNR list of trout-stocked waters is here. And if your agility isn’t what it used to be, try one of these spots.

To avoid the large crowds at our most popular streams, stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson suggests these lesser known and lighter stocked locales: lower Warwoman, Timpson on USFS land, Wildcat in the gorge below the campgrounds, Winfield Scott and Rock Creek lakes from a canoe or float tube, Upper Soapstone on USFS land, Panther a half mile below 441, upper Toccoa on USFS land, Holcomb below Overflow Road, West Fork Chattooga at 3Forks (take a buddy for safety) Hooch below the USFS head of river campground, Chattooga a mile below Burrells Ford, and Cooper Creek in the Scenic Area.

Trout Tailwaters ‘Heating Up’ – Another Hooch trophy

Toccoa Trip report – Saw your weekly report and the zero dark thirty fishing.  I went out on the Toccoa Tailwater last night (May 14) for the first time in a couple months because of constant flows to get the lake level down. They generated 5-6 pm. I got to water at 7, which was about 15-30 minutes too soon for lowest flows at my place. Nymphing was surprisingly non-productive, so I thought if I was going to not catch fish I might as well be not catching fish on dries. I went back to the Polaris and got the three weight pre-rigged with stimulator, parachute sulphur, and baetis emerger and started the dry fly fishing earlier than I had planned. Well, the fish cooperated from the get-go.  Not sure if it was the switch to dries or if they were just starting to eat. I got a few nice standard stocker sized fish and missed some too. All were on emerger and sulphur. Then a surprising swoosh just before it got dark brought me a nice 20 inch female rainbow… very silver in color with a little rouge on her cheek. Luckily she hit the stimmie, because the 5x and 6x tippet to the droppers would have been a major challenge.  A couple casts after release another swoosh, turn and departure of the fish with my bottom two flies. Bigger than the sister?  I like to think so as I walk back to my Polaris in the dark.

Water temp was 45 degrees when I got in. I was very happy to see that, even though I am relatively close to the dam and the water level had just receded from generation. There were quite a few bugs: caddis, midges, and toward dark mayfly duns size 16-18 or so. Too dark to ID. – Ralph A.

Lake Lanier catfish stringer.

Lake Lanier catfish stringer.

Lake Lanier

Lake Allatoona

Ken’s Lake Reports (updated on Fridays)

Striper Sprinkling Continues – Stocking continues in a “day in the life” of our Fisheries staff, as striped bass are being stocked in reservoirs across the state. Earlier this week, fisheries biologist Patrick O’Rouke, technician Chris Looney and technician Greg Abercrombie stocked 75,000 one-inch striper fingerlings from McDuffie Hatchery into Lake Lanier. These efforts will continue over the next week as striped bass are harvested at McDuffie, Richmond Hill, and Bowens Mill hatcheries and transported for stocking at Lanier and other lakes across the state.

River Ramblings

  • GON Forum
  • Fly Fishing Shoal Bass (video)
  • Dredger waded some Hooch bedrock last night and coaxed four shoal bass to hand with a four inch watermelon worm, Texas-rigged behind a 1/8 ounce bullet on 6 lb test. They were a blast on the ultralight at sunset.
  • Need a boat?

Small Lakes

Late spring is a great time of the year to hit our small lakes, either from the bank or from a canoe or kayak. See the attached lake list.  Go toss some garden worms for bream or catfish, or even stocked trout in Rock Creek Lake, Black Rock, Vogel, Nancytown, or Winfield Scott.  Learn how to flyfish by subtracting moving water and rhododendron complications from your maiden trips.  Tie a nymph dropper on 4 pound test line two feet behind your bream popper, and toss this popper/dropper combo toward submerged trees or boat docks.  Even young kids can give this technique a shot.  It’s a numbers game with beginners, so find a school of small, competitive bream and be the “hero ” to the newbie.

Prime Destination

School’s Out Soon – What to Do?

Don’t despair, there are KFE’s around the corner!  Plan your north Georgia day trips to coincide with one of the many kids fishing events during National Fishing and Boating Week, the first full week of June –

“Goldfish” and Gravel Mounds – It’s that time of the year for calls to our north Georgia offices.  What are they?  Chub nests with other species, like the colored-up yellowfin shiners, looking for a easy ride on a silt-free spawning substrate. All aquatic critters, game and nongame, are important components to our aquatic ecosystems.

Attagirl Ann! Your White County conservation ranger’s recent award.

Unanticipated Copter Ride – Again, your county rangers in action

More Gorge News Special Guests

Aim for Success – Reminder, here’s your chance:

May we all enjoy the  long weekend and pay tribute to our vets on Monday. Tight lines and flag salutes to everyone.

South Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologists Bert Deener, Rob Weller and regional Fisheries staff)

Wyatt Crews with a crappie caught on May 15.

Wyatt Crews with a crappie caught on May 15.

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the shellcracker fishing is wide open. Worms worked best for them. Redbreasts were caught off the back sides of sandbars. Some big bream were caught by those fishing crickets around treetops and other cover along the bank. Goldfish fooled channel and flathead catfish. Bass fishing has been great, with plenty of 3 to 5-pounders reported. A few mullet were caught from the river above Jesup. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that the shellcracker bite is on fire, with some caught last weekend approaching a pound. Most anglers brought in 30 to 40 fish. Blue, channel, and flathead catfish were caught in good numbers, as well. The river level was 4.3 feet and falling (83 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.9 feet and falling (77 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on May 19.

Flint River – The water in the Flint is beginning to clear from the recent rains so fishing for shoal bass and bream should be picking up. Both top water and jig fishing for shoal bass around shallow and deep shoals should be productive. Try pitching crickets or a beetle spin near shoreline cover for bluegill and redbreast. Redbreast are typically found in the swifter areas and the bluegill will be located in calmer pockets of water. Try searching for bedding bream in 2-3 feet of water with low current. Fishing for channel catfish continues to be good with several reports of fish from 3 to 5 pounds being caught on limb lines.

Water levels:

Okefenokee Swamp – Last week, Colin Meeks and his friends Kenny and Morris Smith caught a total of 200 fish from the west side. They had 150 catfish, 25 warmouth, and 25 fliers, along with countless mudfish. They were using crawfish and cut fliers for bait. The flier bite is wide open! I took my family to the east side on Friday evening, and we caught 38 fliers in just over an hour of fishing. All of them ate Okefenokee Swamp Sallies, with yellow being the overall best color. We caught some on pink as the sun got lower on the horizon, but yellow worked the entire time. Michael Winge said that reports from the Folkston entrance were slower than last week because of hot daytime temperatures. Early morning produced the best catches. Warmouth and fliers made up most of the reports. On the west side (Fargo entrance) warmouth were eating crickets and worms. Tons of catfish were caught on worms. Yellow sallies produced most of the fliers.

Satilla River – The river has fallen like a stone, and it is in good shape about everywhere. It has dropped so quickly that it is float trip time in the extreme upper river. If forecasted mid-week rains materialize, the upper river may be boatable again by the holiday weekend. You can hardly go wrong by fishing the river this weekend. Any species you want to catch should bite with the good fishing conditions. The water has cleared to its “coffee without creamer” appearance in the upper river, and the fish have responded well. The DNR staff continued their standardized sampling at sites along the river this week (they stun the fish with electricity, measure and weigh them, and then release them), and they continued seeing a strong redbreast and bluegill population in their samples. I received many reports of great panfish catches this week, with most catches in the 40 to 50 fish range. Crawfish Satilla Spins were the best lures from the reports I heard. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the river fishing is as good as it gets right now. Some anglers reported catching crappie on minnows and jigs, which is unusual to have happen at the same time as the redbreast bite is on fire. Many anglers reported catching limits of redbreasts and bream this week. Worms, crickets, and spinnerbaits were fooling them. On Tuesday, an honorable Waycross angler fishing out of the Hwy 121 area caught 19 redbreasts weighing about a pound apiece on a black/chartreuse 1/32-oz. Beetlespin. Crankbaits fooled some good bass this week. Shrimp and rooster livers produced some nice catfish catches. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.5 feet and falling (77 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.6 feet and falling on May 19.

Lake Seminole – The crappie have lockjaw on the rivers, however, a few are being caught in Spring Creek and in Fishpond Drain. There are plenty of shell crackers and bream on bed and there have been reports of several fine catches and/or limits. The lake is currently low so be on the lookout for stump and hazards.

St. Marys River – The best reports originated from the Traders Hill area of the river this week. Anglers caught redbreasts, bream, bass, warmouth, and channel catfish in big numbers. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.5 feet and falling on May 19.

Lake Walter F. George – According to Rick Sacco with the “Friends of Lake Eufaula,” This year’s redear spawn was a bonanza for anglers. The fish were averaging at least 12oz with some specimens around 1.5 lbs. The Corps added an additional 11,000 grass carp, all on the south end of the lake on April 15. Rick is still seeing plenty of  hydrilla on his sonar so he is hoping the carp don’t eradicate it. The largemouth fishery continues to improve. This past Saturday, the Eufaula bass trail ran 50 boats. The top four weighed in 18 – 19 lbs., which was a little low for that group. There is a lot of tournament pressure and the Corps dropped the water level and pulled fish from the littoral grass. Military Bass had a two day event on Thursday and Friday and FLW is in town this week. Lakepoint has maxed out on room for Saturday tournaments. A lot of clubs are holding Sunday tournaments as a result. Rick expects to see a few double digit fish to show up soon at a weigh-in.

Local Ponds –  The bass bite remained strong this week by all accounts. A couple of Waycross anglers fished a local pond on Saturday morning and caught 14 bass to 2 pounds. They caught them on several versions of plastic worms, topwaters, and swimbaits. They even caught one punching a crayfish through vegetation. Chad Lee had another strong week, catching some quality bass on jigs, buzzbaits, and Pop-R’s. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds big bream were the ticket. Worms and crickets fooled most of them, but artificials are starting to produce some nice pond fish. Bass have been eating shiners and topwater frog baits fished around lily pads and other vegetation.

Best Bet – The Satilla River is the place to be this holiday weekend if you like catching redbreasts. The big roosters will be fooled by anglers pitching crickets and casting spinnerbaits, such as Satilla Spins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, and Beetlespins.  The lower tides should produce a good bite for trout and flounder around inshore oyster mounds and creek mouths. I like casting Assassin Sea Shads suspended under Equalizer or Cajun Thunder Floats, but live shrimp will also catch plenty of trout. Flier fishing in the swamp will be great this weekend as the fish get concentrated in the canals. Pitch yellow or pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies (without a float) around vegetation and wood cover. Pond fishing will produce a great trip for a few hours early in the morning and late in the evening. For bass, throw topwaters, while crickets and spinnerbaits should produce bream.

Coast (Saltwater)

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

Whiting were caught just about everywhere people fished this last week. Croakers and flounder bit, as well. Shrimp produced most of the whiting and croakers, while mudminnows were the ticket for flounder. Inshore, oyster bars produced good catches of trout, redfish, and flounder. On the nearshore reefs, anglers have been hammering quality black sea bass. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that croakers were everywhere around the pier. Bottom fishing with shrimp was key to catching them. Trout, flounder, and whiting were also caught in good numbers. Blue crabs showed up around the pier this week. Monitor the marine forecast.

Categories: Fishing

White-Tailed Deer Named State Mammal of Georgia

This story can also be seen on the blog here.

The white-tailed deer was officially designated as Georgia's state mammal April 30, 2015.

The white-tailed deer was officially designated as Georgia’s state mammal April 30, 2015.

Thanks to a hard-working group of elementary school students at Reese Road Leadership Academy in Muscogee County, Georgia has an official state mammal.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 70 into law on April 30, 2015, recognizing the white-tailed deer as our state mammal (keep in mind, Georgia does have a state marine mammal, the North Atlantic right whale).

It all began last year with a simple question from a curious Boy Scout named Kevin Green. “Why doesn’t Georgia have a state mammal?” asked Green, a fourth-grader at Reese Road Leadership Academy.

Green’s question led a group of first-graders at the Columbus school to take on the task of making a recommendation to state legislators. The students worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division to choose a mammal that would represent Georgia well. The white-tailed deer had all the characteristics they were searching for: It is easily recognized by most Georgians, found throughout the state (there are about 1 million deer in Georgia) and sports a tremendous economic impact through hunting.

On Feb. 11, the students visited the State Capitol to present their information and recommendation on the white-tailed deer to a House subcommittee. Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) was on hand for the presentation.

“It’s great to see students have the opportunity to work with our state agencies and legislators. It was such a positive experience for everyone involved, and these students should feel a great sense of accomplishment for the rest of their lives knowing that they had a direct impact in designating the white-tailed deer as the official state mammal of Georgia,” said Hugley, who sponsored House Bill 70.

The students saw their hard work pay off when Gov. Deal signed the legislation, sealing an accomplishment that will last more than a lifetime. Georgia DNR and all those involved in the process are proud to have worked with this outstanding group of students. Thanks to their efforts, the state can finally claim the white-tailed deer as the state mammal of Georgia!

To learn more about the white-tailed deer, check out this fun video from the first-graders at Reese Road Leadership Academy.

Categories: Hunting

Georgia Fishing Report: May 18, 2015

North Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and Region Fisheries staff)

The superb spring fishing continued last week and might hold out just a bit longer as north Georgia air and water temperatures soon rise beyond optimal levels.  Topwater bassing was very good, with some stripers mixed in.  Evening trouting was off the charts for crusty vets who knew to stay late enough to fling in the dark.  And Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Valley Authority, its state and federal wildlife agency partners, and its stakeholders (including Carl Riggs of Georgia TU and Jan Hackett of the Fannin County C of C) gave Southeastern trouters something really big to cheer about this week.  Here we go:

Great Trout News! – North Georgia trout fans, especially all of you Toccoa Tailwater aficionados, can rejoice. See the bottom of this note and this website.

Stocker Best Bets – Trout stocking coordinator  John Lee Thomson advises stocker fans to aim for the Toccoa and Lanier tailwaters, Hooch in Helen, Middle Broad, Warwoman, West Fork Chattooga, Dicks, Cooper, and Georgia’s Delayed Harvest streams, whose “delay” is now over and whose harvest begins today.

Green drake

Green drake

Trout – Awesome Dark-Thirty’s! – A sleep-deprived Dredger reports that last week was simply awesome.  Three out of four of his dark-30 trout trips were memorable, while the last trip to Chattooga DH was slow because of warming water and fewer bugs.   He shared some trip reports, which follow.

As some of our larger, lower elevation streams warm toward 70 degrees, their action is waning.  However, the upstream reaches are still on fire.  Follow the dark-30 dry fly action uphill (in elevation) over the next week or so.  Don’t forget your thermometer and at least two flashlights. And watch out for those olive and white helicopters!

Chattooga DH (5/8/15) – Hiked in and wet a line at 7.  #14 Cahill duns started dancing  around 7:30. #18 Cahill hatch at 8. Trout species hat trick by 8:30. Added bonus of two redeyes along the way.  Last two trout on the swing thru the darkness at 9 p.m. Fairies lit the walk out.  Cold drink, stars, and bluegrass back at the car at 9:30.

Not a bad ending to a work day!

Chatooga DH (5/9/15) – By the way, cahills back out from about 7:30 to 9. Switch turned on at 8. Fish preferred the 14’s over the smaller versions.  Hares ear soft hackle worked while sun was still up.   Had to work the fish. Some ate on the dead drift, while many others were chummed up with the skitter.  True for both dries and wets.  Fish were lined up in main flows, ready to intercept the evening drift of nymphs.  Scattered stoneflies flew by, too, but I kept the same beaten Friday Cahill on my line til its hackle-shedding demise on the last fish of the evening.  May it rest  in peace after bringing two dozen in for a fondle.

Fairies lit the way out again, while the owl somewhere in the wildlife opening conversed while I shucked my waders in the parking lot and gazed up into a crystal clear, star-filled sky.  Not quite Wyoming, but darn close and much more convenient.  Hope this puts some folks on fish.

Chattooga DH (5/11/15) – Dark30 slow as our trio found 69 degree water and fewer cahills a-flyin’.  Some thin, half-hearted rainbows and a brown still slowly rose to inhale the cahills. At least the fairies came out again at the upstream end of the SC opening and entertained first-timer Kathy (Mrs. Guru). It might be time to start heading upstream.

Awesome Trek North (5/12/15)

Others agreed with Dredge

Wild Trout Treasures – This NC jewel might help your drive north to chase the dark-30 hatches. And don’t forget this time-tested GA gold nugget for your uphill hikes.

Lake Allatoona (full, clear, upper 70s) – “Bass fishing is good. The shad spawn is more prevalent now and is it more locations on the lake. Soft plastic jerk baits, Rooster Tails, poppers and even jerk baits are working great in the morning. I have found schools of fish on serval rock banks and P gravel shorelines. This bot only last for a few hours and once it goes away fish move out just a little bit and can be called on jig heads, Carolina rig and crank baits. The top water bottle is still really good and will only continue to get better for the rest of the month. Water temperatures are little slower to rise this year and I believe that the Shad bone will actually last a little longer than normal.” – Matt Driver,

“Lines side fishing is good. The bite up the river has returned and there are some very good numbers of hybrids being caught up the Etowah River. These fish are feeding best on live shad fished on the bottom. The main lake bite is also very good. My clients have caught very good numbers aboard our boats this week fishing main lake creek mouths as far north as Little River and as far south as Clark’s Creek. Our best bite has been on thread fin shad fished on down lines and free lines. Main lake points and humps are also holding some decent schools of hybrids. Trolling has been very good for me this week. We are pulling umbrella rigs 50 to 70 feet behind the boat and have had as many as 5 fish at a time. The trolling bite is really starting to heat up and will only get better as we enter summer. The overall bite is really good. We still have plenty of openings aboard our boats.” – Robert Eidson of First Bite Guide Service

Lake Hartwell (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good. If the wind blows a little all day, the fishing seems to be a little better. There were large waves of bass bedding and some are done and some are not. Bass are still staging up on the points leading into the creeks and coves. The bass are on the shallow flats and on rocky points. Have the Alabama rig ready and fish it on the small points in the backs of the creek and run it real shallow. Use the small Zoom Flukes on 3/16 lead heads and be sure the baits are pearl colors. Use the number 8 Husky Jerk in the glass minnow on the points and the olive green X Rap up in the shallows.

Lake Lanier (full, mostly clear, some pollen, mid 70s)

“The spotted bass fishing on Lanier remains very good. There are many options out there right now. There are still plenty of spots on bed and still a few more to come. A 1/8 ounce Davis Shaky head with a 4 inch worm fished on a GLoomis NRX 822 Shaky Head Rod with Seaguar 8 pound test fluorocarbon is a great way to catch these fish. Work the Shaky Head slowly and look for the bites to be light, which makes a rod like the 822 so important. A fluke is great tool to locate these fish. A spot on the bed will almost always rise up to at least look at a fluke if not eat it. Work the fluke slowly and give the bait plenty of time to fall on a slack line. Watch your fluke and your line for indications of a bite. If they don’t eat the fluke and only swing at it, follow with the worm for a sure bite. A Senko is a good bet on these fish as well. Look for spot beds on hard clay banks and points with sandy areas being strong as well. Look for the prespawn females to be on steeper rocky points near these spawning areas. The same baits will work, but others will catch the prespawners as well. The herring spawn is going now and offers some great early morning action. A spinnerbait, a wake bait, and a swim bait have all been good on the rocky and shallow sandy areas where the herring generally spawn. The floating Spro BBZ1 Swim bait is a great choice as well. Top water, like poppers and walkers are starting to work on these fish also. After the sun gets up, move out deeper with your offerings and hit the brush for some top water action as well.”  – Jimbo Mathley

“Striper fishing remains good as the water temperatures continue to rise. The water temperature increased 10 degrees in a little over a week and the Stripers are in post spawn. Despite the water temperature change the pattern has not changed as the shallow water bite in the creeks on points, flats and reef markers continues. Un weighted free lines set 50 to 70 feet behind the boat with Herring is your best bet early. As the sun gets high, weight your lines and move to deeper water. Also set out a couple of down rods while you are pulling free lines. Keep your eye on your Lowrance depth finder and set your down lines based on water depth. The top water bite is picking up and you can catch both Spotted Bass and Stripers in the same area. It is always a good idea to keep someone on the front deck casting a Red Fin, Chug Bug, Spook or a buck tail jig while you are pulling bait. The umbrella rig bite is working when pulled at 70 to 80 feet behind the boat and speed at 3.0 MPH. Target a 30 to 40 foot bottom when pulling the Umbrella rig early and move to deeper water as the sun get high in the sky. Look for the Stripers to begin moving towards the mouth of the creeks and onto the main lake points this coming week. The down rod bite has been slow but will improve as the water continues to warm. There are fish in the creeks and the river channel lake wide. The south end of the Lake is starting to pick up with reports of fish being caught in Flowery Branch, Big Creek and Two Mile Creek. The water temperature is in the low to mid 70’s during the day on the South end of the lake and the high 70’s on the North end. The water is stained in the creeks and clear on the main lake. The lake is at full pool.” – Captain Ken West and Captain Mike Maddalena

“Crappie fishing patterns continue to hold, remaining good to excellent around docks with structure and on submerged brush piles from the middle to the backs of creeks. If you have favorite crappie fishing spots, they should be producing well now. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of fishermen fishing this time of year, so if you don’t catch fish quickly, move on, as that spot may have just been fished. Jig colors still do not matter. For the night fishermen, this is the time of the year to consider fishing under bridges, using Hydra glow lights with crappie minnows. Six Mile Bridge, Wahoo Creek Bridge, and Clarks’ Bridge are our favorites. All 3 are in deep water, within sight of boat ramps, and are holding fish. For those that like bluegill fishing, they are still on bed and biting well. The smaller fish are aggressive, though, and are getting to the bait before the larger fish that are still on bed. Crickets are the best bait for bluegill. Take advantage of the month of May. This is one of our favorite times to fish! Stay safe on the water, wear your lifejacket!” – Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club

Our “On the Water” Schools are Rods, Reels and Lures for Bass, SONAR and we have a Striper schools. Learn how to use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology. Call 770 889 2654 or see the details on our web site for more info and dates.

Participate! – Georgia DNR wants to “aim for success” and is asking for your input regarding the concept of a license fee restructure.  Take the time to read this information and take part in this public process, including a two-minute survey to start things off.  Maybe I’ll see you at one of the June public meetings, too. –

Good luck this week. It looks like some much-needed rain is on the way. That should be good for water temperatures and flows, and maybe even reset the clock for a few days on our excellent spring fishing season.  Give our mountain lakes a try as the lowland reservoirs start to heat up.

Have fun as this topwater season draws to a close, and remember your opportunities to participate in fish and wildlife management topics.  Aren’t we glad that Carl and Jan did?

Central Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff)

Big Lazer PFA (down 4 inches, 30 inches of visibility, 72 degrees) – Largemouth bass: Fair – Bass fishing is improving as more fish creep up into shallower water to feed on newly spawned bream.  The cool spring rains seem to be over but water temperatures are still below average.  These conditions can cause bass feeding patterns to be unpredictable.  However, a few anglers have reported catching a few bass on plastic worms and lizards as well as rooster tails.  Also, this month bait fish become more available: try fishing for bass with minnow-type lures that mimic shad and bream.

Crappie: Poor – The cool rains and lower than average water temperatures have made targeting crappie difficult all spring.  Plus, this time of year crappie tend to spread out over the whole lake and hold at different depths, which makes crappie fishing even more challenging.  Crappie should be a little shallower than they were earlier in the spring; try starting around 10 feet and work your way up.  As usual, jigs and live minnows are still your best bet for crappie.

Bream: Fair – Bream fishing is improving.  As bream start spawning, they will aggressively guard their beds, which improve your chances at catching several for the table.  Crickets and worms are good bait for spawning bream.  Also, small grub like plastic jigs can work well this time of year; try black, white, and yellow colors.  However, make sure the hooks are small because bream have small mouths.

Channel catfish: Good – Several catfish are being caught off the dam.  Also, catfish are being caught on worms and livers in deeper spots over much of the lake.

In general, May and June temperatures at Big Lazer are heating up and so is the fishing.  Also of note, the Talbotton Chamber of Commerce is having their annual Kids Fishing Event at Big Lazer on June, 6th.  So, make plans to bring out your kids for a morning of fun and catching catfish.

Additional information at

Clarks Hill Lake (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is very good.  The bass are chasing schooling bait fish and the top water bite is really good. Bass will be heavy on the beds by the end of next week and others are hanging around the grassy areas.  The weather is expected to continue to improve and get a little warmer as the week goes on.  Fish the white spinner-baits and the soft and hard jerk baits.  Zoom pearl Super Flukes are working but take some of these same baits in baby bass as well.  All are working along with worms and plastic lizards.  The key will be to finding the right patch of grass and the right piece of structure.  Good baits to take along this week include plastic worms and jigs.

Jackson Lake (down 2.1 feet, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is good.  A bright crawfish red or brown Rat L Trap or a big jig and pig can draw strikes.  Look for the clearer waters down lake.  Float a large green u tail worm on and over any shallow wood after mid-day.  The bass are tight under the docks and any wood in the water and use a large 10 inch Culprit green shad worm in the cover.  For the river bass, head into the cuts and creeks that have any clearing waters.  Spinner baits and large red shad Culprit worms will work or grass beds later in the day.  The Rat L Traps in the bleeding shiner or red crawfish will work for the bass.  Spinner baits and flat sided bright crank baits will work after the sun warms shallows in the backs of the creeks.  The Flat A Bomber in Gable green or lime as well as orange colors has been fair.  Use this bait in the mouths of the creeks right off the river.

McDuffie PFA (21-42 inches of visibility, 82 degrees) – Largemouth Bass: Good –  Hot ponds have been Willow, and Clubhouse. Willow is still giving up keeper bass and many larger bass are being released by our fishermen. Bass in 3 to 9 pound range are being caught near shore, around submerged timber and underwater humps near deep water. In Jones bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert. The lakes with most potential are Willow for quality and Clubhouse and Breambuster for quantity.  These three lakes have balanced fish populations.  Willow Lake has big bass but fishermen must be prepared or risk being broken off in the underwater structure. The bass should be feeding on baitfish to replenish their bodies. Recent electrofishing sampling showed several quality bass make Breambuster home so keep fishing. As the water temperature continues to rise the bass fishing should steadily improve because fish metabolism increases with water temperature and the need for food also increases.  Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month. Rodbender is open now but will close at sunset on the 15th; the fish are fat in every size and should provide a good battle when hooked.  This lake has optimum feeding conditions for the smaller fat “football” fish.  Two (2) keeper Bass were caught in Clubhouse this morning by an area fishermen. Overall, bass in 3 to 7 pound range are being caught near shore, around submerged timber and underwater humps near deep water in all of the lakes. May is usually an excellent top-water bait month but remember to try spinner baits as well.

Bream: Good – Best ponds have been Willow, Clubhouse and Jones in order of best catches.  The bream (both bluegill and shell-cracker) were on beds on the tenth (10) and several nice stringers of bream were seen by PFA staff. Bream can be found around structure and aquatic plants with firm sandy bottoms. The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under adjustable floats; using light tackle to make soft casts pass the structure and pulling the bait rig back and stopping the bait will generate many more strikes. Patience is the key when fishing for bream on beds. Fishermen should try beetle-spins with slow and fast retrieves while crickets and worms under floats or on the bottom will also work.  Our local fly fishermen are catching aggressive bream on artificial nymphs, flies and bugs on top of the water near structure.

Channel Catfish: Good – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Bridge and Jones.  Catfish are still feeding as they prepare to spawn and water has reached 82 degrees. Several large catfish were caught in Jones by two of the PFA’s fishermen. One albino Catfish was caught by a lucky angler. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep areas using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets. Thursday 14th of May, PFA staff saw an exception this, an angler had a channel catfish which struck a yellow spinner bait in Breambuster.

Striped Bass: Fair – Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse.  A large striper (5 lbs.) was recently seen during electrofishing in Clubhouse near shore and structure. The stripers have not begun feeding on the shad near the surface. Imitate the threadfin shad and excellent fishing for striped bass is just a cast away.  Smaller stripers will keep anglers busy in Bridge Lake as fishermen fish for catfish and bream on the bottom using worms and chicken liver.

Additional Information:

Lake Oconee (full, stained up rivers, light stain on main lake, 79-83 degrees) – Bass fishing is good.  The lake is full. The shad spawn is in full swing. At daylight the bass will be close to bank looking for the spawning bait.  Use a spinner bait fished along sea walls and rip rap to target these fish. Work the middle of the coves and main lake creeks.  After the sun gets up switch to boat docks in the same areas.  Use a shaky head under the docks and around the dock poles.  You can also use a small shallow running crank bait around the same docks.  Some bigger fish are showing up on wood structure in the mouths of the Oconee and Appalachia Rivers.  Use a dark jig and trailer fished into the wood structure.

Crappie fishing is good.  The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves.  They are suspended above the timber.  Long lining just over the fish in 6 to 10 ft. of water will draw a strike.  If you are fishing muddy water use a dark jig.  Stained water use a jig with chartreuse in it.

“Striper fishing is good.  Most of the fish have move to the humps up the lake from the dam and some are still up the rivers.  The water quality is good all over the lake so the fish are not in one place. Use your Lowrance to locate the schools on different humps and points. When you find them drop a live shad down to them and they will eat it. Down lines have been the best producers.  Over the past few days the umbrella rig bite has started to heat up.  This bite should last for the next month.” – Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service

Lake Russell (full, clear, upper 70s) – Bass fishing is very good.  First thing in the morning bass are on shallow clay banks and any rip rap or rocks all over the lake feeding on the shad that are spawning.  A small buzz bait, a small spinner bait or a ¼ ounce Rat L Trap will work all day. If there is any wind, work the windblown banks with a small crank bait, like a ¼ ounce Rat T Trap in the chrome and black or a number 5 Shad Rap in sliver/black colors. After the shad have moved to the deeper water as the sun come up move to points and flats with 5 to 7 foot of water and use a zoom finesse worm or a 5 inch lizard in the watermelon seed color fished on a Carolina rig with a 24 inch leader.  There are also some good fish being caught off the summer time points and under water islands around the lake.  A Carolina rig fished in these areas will get a lot of fish but most will be small.

Lake Sinclair (full, muddy up river, main lake stained, 79 degrees) – “Bass fishing is great.  Early mornings have been best for both numbers and quality.  Start the morning with moving baits and cover water.  Top water baits, such as a white buzz bait or white popper, have been great around concrete sea walls and wood targets in the Oconee River.  A weightless trick worm has also been good up shallow around wood cover, sea walls, and docks in the Oconee River.  Later in the morning and throughout the day, try a chartreuse and white Buckeye Lures spinner-bait or a Spro Little John crank bait in these same areas.  Continue using these moving baits all day if it remains cloudy. If the sun comes out, start flipping a Texas rigged Zoom baby brush hog in June bug color around logs and docks.  When Georgia Power is moving water, run to Crooked Creek Bridge or Little River Bridge and toss Spro Little John crank baits and light Texas rigs to the rip rap banks.  Take advantage of the current by fishing the rip rap points and bridge pilings as post spawn fish try to fatten back up after the spawn.   Numbers of smaller fish can also be caught in the clearer creeks on the lower end of the lake by fishing shaky head worms in green pumpkin color and Zoom Super Flukes around the docks.” – Matt Henry,

West Point Lake (down 2.3 feet, clear, low 80s) – Bass fishing for both spots and largemouth has been very good.  Fish for both on primary and secondary points, coves and pockets in the major creeks.  Use the Strike King Redemption 3/8 ounce and Bass Pro buzz baits shallow.  On the spinner-baits the double willow blade combination.  Slow roll the spinner-bait around any cover on the points and in the coves and pockets.  The important thing is to cover a lot of water.  Fish shallow using very large baits in bright colors.  Spots are still spawning and shallow.  The spots are holding on shoal markers, humps, and underwater road beds in 0 to 5 feet of water.  Several good baits are a green pumpkin or June bug lizard, rigged Carolina style and trick worms.  Top water action is starting using a Bang O Lures, Rapala’s, Pop R’s.  The bass will be shallow for at least two weeks and then they will head to the 10 to 12 foot depths on humps and road beds up in the creeks.

Categories: Fishing

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