By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Reports have been very good from ponds and saltwater, especially considering the heat we’ve had lately. The Satilla and Altamaha River levels are still higher than ideal, so look elsewhere for the best bite. I will be conducting Teen Bass Fishing Excursions during the Outdoor Adventure Day/J.A.K.E.S. Day at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton on Sept. 28. If you have teens (ages 12-16) who want to learn to bass fish, have them sign up for the free, 1-hour slots that morning. We will be fishing from a boat in a pond that has a good population of bass, and I will teach how to use various lures for bass. Call 912-285-6094 for more information or to sign up. New Moon was yesterday, Sept. 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The river is still not fishable. The river level was 10.5 feet and falling at the Baxley gage (fell more than 5 feet this week), and 10.8 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Sept. 3.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross received a few reports of anglers catching big channel catfish on shrimp in the Millwood area. The river may be fishable above Jamestown this weekend if the water continues falling. It will not be ideal, but you should be able to catch a few catfish on the bottom. It’s simply too high below Waycross to fish for at least another week. The redbreast bite is going to be excellent when the river gets right in about a month (if we do not get a tropical system or continue in the wet pattern we have been in all summer). The river level was 11.7 feet and falling at the Waycross gage on Sept. 3, and was 13.6 feet and falling at the Atkinson gage.
St. Marys River – The river is fishable again after a small slug of water made its way through MacClenny this week. Anglers reported catching some redbreasts on crickets in the upper river. The lower river produced some good catfish catches for those using shrimp and worms on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 9.4 feet and falling on Sept. 3.
Local Ponds – Michael Winge reported local anglers doing very well for big bream in the spillway of Lake Ware. The best baits were pink worms and crickets. Anglers also reported catching bream in other ponds using crickets and topwater flies (bugs). The crappie bite was good again for those fishing early in the morning with minnows. Bass anglers caught some big fish using topwater frogs early in the morning. Plastic lizards and plastic worms fooled quite a few bass, also.
Okefenokee Swamp – The main bite was catfish from the Fargo entrance over the holiday. Anglers caught lots of bullhead catfish by fishing shrimp on the bottom. Several good reports were also from anglers fishing near the Sill and the new boat ramp by the Sill. As the water begins to cool over the next few weeks, the flier bite should pick up significantly. My favorite way to fool them is by pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies with a bream buster pole. Early in the morning is usually the best bite, but by Thanksgiving, you can usually catch them all day long.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Justin Bythwood, Wyatt Crews (celebrating his 16th birthday) and I returned to the St. Marys Jetties this week. The tarpon eluded us (although they were rolling all around), but the redfish cooperated. We landed, tagged (I assist the Coastal Resources Division by tagging redfish), and released 3 redfish (20, 28, and 30 inches), all caught on artificials. We also caught a bunch of small black sea bass, a bluefish and several other species. They mainly ate Texas roach, morning glory-chartreuse tail, Calcasieu brew, and other chartreuse tail sea shads fished on my 1/2 and 5/8-ounce jigheads (with 5/0 Gamakatsu hooks). Wyatt landed his first redfish and also the 30-incher during the trip. His arms also got sore from fighting a 25-pound jack crevalle that ate the same rig.
Capt. Andy Gowen gets the award for the best trip of the week. On Tuesday he called me and reported that he and his charter that day had boated 115 redfish, with 17 of them being keepers. He said that he ran his video camera for 45 minutes, and they recorded catching 37 redfish during that period. Out of the batch keepers, most were 11 to 14 inches! Looks like we have a great crop of young-of-the-year reds coming on! They caught them on shrimp until they finished a quart and then got them to eat chicken-on-a-chain sea shads fished on a bass-style spinnerbait. After using a bag of those, they switched bodies to an elaztech body and did not have to change baits, (and the fish did not bite off the tail).
Waycross area anglers reported catching trout and redfish from the backwaters around Brunswick. A charter on Tuesday had a 4-year-old angler who caught his first fish, a 16-inch trout and a 21-inch redfish. What a great start to a fishing career! Another group reported catching trout to 19 inches on jigs suspended under floats at Crooked River. The pink color artificials worked best for them. I received my first good report of shrimp being caught in cast-nets in the Crooked River area. Just look for the flotilla and you will know where to throw. There were reportedly 45 boats casting on one area over the weekend, and all were catching shrimp. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that big spadefish were caught this week from the pier by those fishing dead shrimp. Trout are still being caught at night with live shrimp. The flounder bite was still fair on the incoming tide. Whiting were thick, with plenty of fish to 18 inches hitting the pier. Slot-sized redfish were caught in good numbers. The stone crab catch has picked back up this week for those fishing baskets.
Best Bet: The rivers are still high enough that you should concentrate your efforts elsewhere for at least another week. Redfishing on the coast is picking up, and that’s where I’ll be if I get a chance to go this weekend. Closer to home, the swamp bite is a good option. If winds do not allow saltwater fishing, your favorite pond is a good fall-back option. Bass fish first thing in the morning, then kick back and relax by fishing a cricket under a bobber for bluegills or a worm on the bottom for catfish.