By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
I hope you and your family have a great 4th of July and are able to work some fishing into your plans. The river fishing has been great, but it is getting tough to get around in the upper rivers. It’s time to do a float trip! Pond fishing has been extremely steady for all species, except crappie. Flounder fishing has been on fire in saltwater. The first quarter moon is July 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – A trophy catfish angler reported catching two 20-pound flatheads, a 15-pound blue catfish, and several 8 to 10-pound channel catfish over the weekend on live bream. He said that catching his bait was no problem. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that big bream and redbreasts were chowing on crickets and worms. Two anglers caught 165 bream and redbreasts on crickets in less than 2 hours (they kept their limit and released the rest). The catfish bite has been strong there also. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the bream bite is on fire. The best locations have been slow-moving water around creek mouths, sand bars, and pockets. Crickets have worked best. Shellcrackers have been steady for those fishing pink worms in 3 to 4 feet of water around lily pads. Catfish have been biting anything you put on the bottom. Some nice flatheads were caught with goldfish. The mullet bite has started, and jolly green giant and red wiggler worms have been producing them. Expect that bite to be tops for the next few months, as long as the river stays low and clears up. The river level was 3.4 feet and falling (89 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 5.6 feet and falling (87 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 1.
Satilla River – Just about everything is working on the river right now. You can pitch crickets, throw artificials, pitch bugs, or bottom fish and catch them. Of course, the artificials are typically catching the bigger redbreasts. Pitching crickets will catch some nice ones with a BUNCH of small fish between the nicer ones. I know of two redbreasts over a pound caught this week. Michael Deen and Justin Bythwood fished out of both the Waycross and Atkinson ramps this week after work. They caught between 20 and 40 fish (mostly redbreasts) each evening they fished, and their biggest was a 10 3/4-inch rooster redbreast that ate a Satilla Spin. That was their most effective lure for panfish, and they caught redbreasts, bluegill, stumpknockers, and crappie on them. They caught fish on several prototype colors and crayfish. On Tuesday evening out of the ramp at the Blackshear Bridge, crayfish was by far their best color. Jacob Henderson hit the upper river again on Saturday with a friend, and they caught a 5-pound bass on a topwater on their first few casts. That was their biggest, but they boated several other smaller bass. They caught quite a few panfish on crayfish Satilla Spins, but they concentrated on bass fishing. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the bite has been unbelievable. From redbreasts to bream to catfish and bass, it has been hot. Most anglers fishing a whole day limited out on whatever they threw at them. The river level at the Waycross gage was 5.1 feet and falling (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.4 feet and falling (88 degrees) on July 1.
St. Marys River – The bream and redbreast bites were steady this week, but the catfish bite was off the chain. “Tons and tons” of catfish were caught by anglers fishing shrimp and rooster livers on the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 4.2 feet and falling on July 1.
Local Ponds – Wyatt Crews and Scout Carter fished a Waycross area pond several evenings and caught lots of 2 to 4-pound bass each evening. Their best lures were topwater frogs worked over lily pads and Hula Poppers worked in open water at the edge of vegetation. They also caught a bunch of warmouth and bluegills on red wigglers. Michael Winge said that the bass fishing early and late has been great in area ponds by those throwing topwater frogs around lily pads (this and the report from Wyatt were totally independent of each other!). Big bream were also caught, and crickets were the best bait.
Okefenokee Swamp – I gave the swamp to the yellow flies in June, but it’s time that I take it back!!! Typically the bugs will attack your vehicle when you approach the ramp, but they are not bad on the water by the first week in July. The bite is usually on fire when I start fishing again, but I have not heard reports yet. Pitch yellow, orange, or pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies for fliers. Crayfish fished around cypress stumps will fool warmouth. Minnow plugs and inline spinners are hard to beat for pickerel (jackfish) and bowfin (mudfish). “Trout Magnet” hit a tributary to the swamp and caught a few panfish on sallies and one of his hand-made jigs.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Brentz and Alex McGhin of Blackshear fished out of Crooked River and put it on the sheepshead. They moved around between hard cover and dropped fiddlers near the structure and hung into a nice mess of convictfish. Their biggest was a 5-pounder that inhaled a fiddler and went nuts. They landed it on a cane pole! Congratulations on the great trip, guys. Out of St. Marys, the flounder reports are getting better every day. With the lower tides coming up, and the bad weather moving on through, the weekend should produce some excellent flatfishing. Mudminnows and finger mullet will likely produce the most. If fishing the jetties, make sure to have a tarpon rod rigged with an Assassin Sea Shad or other shad-like bait and fling it at fish if you see them surface. At Gould’s Inlet, lots of flounder were reported by those fishing dead shrimp and mudminnows. Some trout in the 14 to 18-inch range were also caught there. A Brunswick angler shark-fished with some of his buddies, and they landed two tiger sharks that were 9 1/2-feet each! Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the flounder were thick around the pier. Anglers have been limiting with fish mostly from 14 to 16 inches. Whiting, croakers, and spadefish graced coolers this week. On Saturday a 10-foot long tiger shark was caught. You can check the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet – For the holiday weekend, keep your eye on the forecasted storm heading up the coast. If it lingers, fishing inland or in freshwater will be the ticket. If it moves through quickly and the water clears with the lower tides, then flounder fishing will be a great option. Whether fishing from a pier or from a boat, work mudminnows or finger mullet around current breaks to catch them. Floating a river like the upper Satilla is an awesome option to beat the heat. Get out occasionally and cool off in the river in the heat of the day. The bite has been awesome, so fling Satilla Spins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, Beetle spins, or pitch crickets to catch a nice stringer of redbreasts, bluegills, and stumpknockers. Expect the Altamaha bluegill bite to fire off any day now. I love flinging artificials at them, and I believe that bite is already happening. Pond fishing is a good quick trip option. Expect your best bite to be early and late.