By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist

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

The bull redfish bite has been wide open over the last few weeks, and it should continue another month. These two bulls were caught, tagged, and released from the St. Simons Pier the last week in September.
The bull redfish bite should continue to be wide open for another month. These two bulls were caught, tagged and released from the St. Simons Pier the last week of September.

Freshwater has produced the best catches this week with the bigger tides and muddier water in saltwater. However, expect the brine to produce excellent catches over the next week (assuming the wind is not bad). Brandon Baker and I will be conducting a seminar on fishing the Satilla River, Okefenokee Swamp, and other local waters on Friday evening, Oct. 25, from 5-6 p.m. at Laura Walker State Park. The seminar is free, but parking fees apply. Last quarter moon is Oct. 26. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River –  We’ve continued our annual fall scaled fish sampling in the lower river, and staff has continued to see huge numbers of panfish from each of the lower river stations, just like in the upper river. If we get high water this winter, the huge numbers of 6-8 inch bluegills they’re seeing are going to be monsters in the spring! The mullet bite continued this week on the sandbars in the middle and lower river. Red wiggler worms fished near sacks of rabbit chow and salt blocks is the way to go. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the number of anglers has dropped off with hunting season upon us, but anglers out of the landing still caught crappie, bream, redbreast and catfish. In the lower river out of Altamaha Park, anglers did very well on crappie and bream. On Sunday, a group from Waycross caught 20 huge crappie on minnows. They also managed some really good bream with crickets (not quite as big as they had been catching over the last month though) . On the lower river, some huge shellcrackers were caught with worms this week. The river level was 2.7 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 4.0 feet and falling at the Doctortown gage on Oct. 22.

Satilla River –  Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said the redbreast and bream bites have been great for those who have gone, but not many have. The upper river and tributaries continue to produce good catches for those wading and walking the banks and pitching crickets, beetlespins and small spinnerbaits. The middle river still has enough water to poke around in a boat, but a canoe is a better option for navigation. A group of anglers fishing over the weekend in the western Brantley County area of the river caught some big redbreasts pitching crickets. The catfish bite has been strong for those fishing shrimp, chicken livers and worms on the bottom. Expect some bullheads (butter cats) to be in the mix. The crappie bite has been slow with the hot weather over the last week, but expect that to fire back up with the cold nights forecasted for late in the week and this weekend. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.3 feet and rising and at the Atkinson gage was 3.6 feet and falling on Oct. 22.

Local Ponds – The hot weather put the crappie bite off earlier this week, but expect that to bust wide open with the colder weather later this weekend. Troll curly-tail jigs or drift minnows through the deeper part of the pond, and keep moving until you find the fish schooled up. Lake Ware produced some good catches of bream and a few crappie this week.

Okefenokee Swamp – The budget wrangling in Washington is over, for now, and refuge entrances are open. Staff at Okefenokee Adventures on the east side said anglers have not started fishing yet since reopening. Staff at SC Foster State Park reported anglers catching flier on yellow sallies and catfish on shrimp. The water is dropping, pulling the fish out of the prairies and concentrating them in the deeper areas. Pitching Okefenokee Swamp Sallies is a good way to catch all swamp species, but it is especially effective on fliers. Yellow was the best color before the closure, but pink was also catching some fish. Expect the swamp fishing to bust wide open within the month.

Suwannee River (near Fargo) – An angler reported throwing beetlespins and catching some giant warmouth this week. The catfish bite has continued, with shrimp fished on the bottom producing the most. The river level at the Fargo gage was 3.5 feet and falling on Oct. 22.

Saltwater (Georgia Coast) –  This is the time of year that I LOVE saltwater fishing. The fish have grown all summer, the bait is plentiful and migrating, and the fish are chowing ahead of winter. All of it makes for awesome seatrout and redfishing (as well as some great flounder fishing in the inlets). The sheepshead and weakfish bites will also fire off as the water cools, and the mangrove snapper (very numerous this year) will steal lots of bait this fall. A pair of kayak anglers fished Saturday in the Brunswick area and caught about a dozen nice sheepshead (up to 3.5 pounds) on fiddler crabs. An angler reported catching a half-dozen trout on live shrimp on Sunday while fishing from the bank at St. Simons Island. On Saturday, an angler fishing out of Hickory Bluff Fishing Club caught just shy of a limit of trout and redfish in a short time around high tide.  Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said the evening bull redfish bite continued over the weekend, with the biggest one reported to them measuring 36 inches. On Monday, anglers caught flounder on mudminnows and finger mullet. They also landed some trout (on live shrimp and Sea Shads), whiting (on dead shrimp) and sheepshead (on mussels).  Crabbing at the Jekyll Pier was good over the weekend, with lots of blue crabs clearing the rails. This coming weekend is the 3rd Annual Layne Dixon Memorial Trout and Redfish Tournament out of Hickory Bluff Fishing Club. There is also a trout and redfish tournament out of Blythe Island Regional Park this weekend. The boat hoist just reopened at the park.

Best Bet: The wind forecast looks iffy this weekend in saltwater, so keep an eye on the NOAA forecast. If the marine forecast is doable where you want to fish, you should be able to catch a bunch of seatrout and redfish. If freshwater is your preference, floating the Satilla for redbreasts or fishing Altamaha sandbars for mullet will be great options before things cool off too much this fall for an active bite. If you want to get in on an early crappie bite, this is the weekend to do it on area ponds or the Altamaha. You should be able to catch them on both minnows and jigs.

Editor’s Note: When handling large predatory fish DNR encourages the best practice of holding them horizontally to keep the connective tissue from tearing around the internal organs.

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