By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
The rivers are still all too high, but ponds and lakes are absolutely on fire! The swamp bite has been excellent too. Congratulations to Tommy Sweeney and Mark Middleton who won an open tournament on Lake Blackshear over the weekend! The new moon is March 30. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The upstate rains have arrived and pushed the river another couple feet higher into the floodplain. Don’t bother on the upper river. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that a few catfish of various species were caught, but that the fishing has been overall slow. The river level was 13.4 feet and rising (60 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 10.8 feet and steady (60 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 25.
Satilla River – Forget it! The river has started dropping at the Highway 158 Bridge, but it’s still unfishable. That didn’t stop the three people I saw launching on Friday while I ate a sandwich for lunch at the Blackshear Bridge. Don’t do it, folks. A flooded river is much swifter than you can imagine. The river level at the Waycross gage was 14.6 feet and falling (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 13.8 feet and rising (62 degrees) on March 25.
Suwannee River – Dickie Winge reported a fantastic catfish bite on the river. Anglers have reported catching anywhere between 40 and 150 catfish. Worms and shrimp have been the best baits.
Local Ponds – Bass are on beds big-time! Wyatt Crews got a great bite on a local pond Saturday evening and caught 11 bass in a half-hour. None were smaller than 2 pounds. He caught them on a Keitech swimbait rigged on a 1/8-oz. Flashy Swimbait Head. I was told the biggest bass was a 9-lb. 14-oz. behemoth caught from a Blackshear pond. The angler pitched in and caught the buck, and then the female inhaled the senko worm shortly thereafter. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle said that ponds are where it is happening around Waycross. Good catches of crappie were reported by those fishing both minnows and jigs. Bream ate worms fished on the bottom this week. On the warmer days, anglers reported catching them on crickets, as well. Bass bit buzzbaits and shiners, while rooster livers and worms accounted for most of the catfish.
Okefenokee Swamp – I took Paul and Will Fryer from Bainbridge to the east side on Thursday. Paul bid on a trip I donated to the Flint Riverkeeper…thanks, Paul! We had a blast for a few hours in the afternoon warmth. The fliers started off a little slow, but the pace picked up as the afternoon went on and the guys got the hang of that subtle bite. The float barely twitches when a flier inhales the fly. Pink #8 and yellow #10 Okefenokee Swamp Sallies did the trick. We caught the most fish on the pink without a float, but the biggest, an 8 1/2-incher inhaled the fly suspended under a float, and that was Will’s first flier! Based on the number of bigger fish we caught, I believe the spawn is winding down, and the bigger fish are moving out of the thick stuff and back into the canals where we can catch them better. About 1/4 of the fish we caught were decent sized. We ended up catching 53 fliers during the afternoon. On the west side, I heard that the anglers are tearing up the catfish. I did not ask, but I imagine shrimp fished on the bottom is working best, as that is the traditional Fargo catfish presentation.
Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) – Mike Harrell and Jim Hickox of Waycross fished the lake over the weekend and early this week and whacked the crappie. Mike caught a 2.6-pound slab by swimming a 2-inch grub. He brought it by the Waycross Fisheries Office and had it certified as an Angler Award on Tuesday. Congratulations, Mike!
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Brentz and Alex McGhin caught 50 beautiful whiting from St. Simons on Saturday before running out of bait. They brought three poles with them, but the bite was so hot that Alex kept reeling them in and all Brentz could do was keep baiting hooks! I can vouch for the catch, as they made a great lunch on Monday! Boats fishing off the King and Prince on St. Simons continued to make good whiting catches. Most anglers reported catching between 15 and 20 fish, and fish were typically 14 to 16 inches. In the rivers around Brunswick sheepshead, trout, and redfish were caught. The Jekyll Pier produced some good whiting catches. Anglers reported catching trout on electric chicken, chicken-on-a-chain, and Texas roach Assassin Sea Shads. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the whiting onslaught continued. The average size was 12 to 13 inches. Black sea bass from 10 to 12 inches (undersized) were caught on dead shrimp.
Best Bet – Take your pick this weekend. After the mid-week cool weather, it is supposed to warm right back up. Whiting will be your best bet in saltwater, while bass fishing will be hard to top in freshwater. Fish at your favorite pond or Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton for some exciting action and a shot at a real trophy bass as they move shallow to spawn.