By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
What a difference a week can make. The Altamaha River jumped several feet and is very muddy. It will be at least a week or so before it clears up enough for the bite to fire off again. The saltwater bite was excellent again this week, and ponds were steady. The new moon is August 10. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – The improving bluegill bite came to a screeching halt this week with the quickly rising river. The headwaters of both the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers got several inches of rain, and a big slug arrived in the Altamaha this week. The water is very muddy. You can still catch catfish on the rising river, but sight-feeding species have slowed. The mullet bite also slowed. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that flatheads were caught on goldfish. On Saturday, a 52-pounder was weighed at the landing. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the mullet bite was strong before the water muddied. Flatheads bit well on goldfish. Some bream and redbreasts were caught at the mouths of sloughs. The river level was 5.4 feet and falling (86 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 7.0 feet and falling (86 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 26.
Satilla River – A couple of Waycross anglers waded the upper river on Friday and caught 35 panfish on Satilla Spins. Their best colors were black/yellow and crawfish, and the 1/16-oz. version was tops. Also on Friday, Jay Murray of Uvalda fished the upper river out of his new 10-ft johnboat and initiated it by landing 40 nice panfish, all on Satilla Spins. His biggest was a 10-inch rooster. He tried several colors, but dialed in crawfish as the best for that day. While wading and fishing out of a boat both work, I believe the best approach is floating the river in a canoe or kayak with the water level so low. Expect to drag some, even during a float trip. Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that he received reports of anglers wading and pitching Gaines Miss Priss topwater flies and catching some nice redbreasts and bream. Chartreuse was catching them late in the afternoon, but orange worked best as the sun dipped below the trees. Sizes 6 and 8 worked the best. Other anglers reported catching redbreasts, bream, and warmouth on black/chartreuse Beetle Spins and crawfish Spin Dandy and Satilla Spin spinnerbaits on the downstream side of sandbars. The river level at the Waycross gage was 4.2 feet and falling (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 3.0 feet and falling (90 degrees) on July 26.
St. Marys River – Catfish are your best bet, and rooster livers worked well. Quite a few bream were also caught by those pitching crickets. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 3.7 feet and falling on July 26.
Local Ponds – Wyatt Crews and various friends whacked the bass several evenings at Waycross area ponds. Topwaters, such as Zara Spook, Jr., worked best for them. Michael Winge said that bream were eating up crickets, and the early morning bite was best. Late in the evening, catfish bit pink worms fished on the bottom.
Okefenokee Swamp – The flier and warmouth bites were good on the east side this week. I took my son Timothy and Ron and Nathanael Johnson to the Folkston entrance on Saturday morning, and we had a blast. We ate breakfast on the boat and then fished for 15 minutes and caught 23 fliers. The size was excellent, with a dozen of those fish being over 8 inches. Nathanael’s first fish was an angler award-sized (9-inch) flier. All of our fish during that torrid bite ate pink Okefenokee Swamp Sallies, and we could not get them to eat orange. We fished the fly under a small balsa float so that the boys could see the bite. Rain ran us off right after the melee, but we enjoyed poking around the visitor center and eating lunch at the Okefenokee Adventures cafe. You should be able to catch them well by pitching sallies on the west side, as well. If you want to catch catfish, put shrimp on the bottom. There are lots of whiskerfish around.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – Capt. TJ Cheek reported that the inshore bite really fired up this week. He said that there are tons of undersized redfish pretty much everywhere. Trout are mostly on the small side right now. The flounder bite is excellent. Top baits are finger mullet, live shrimp, DOA shrimp, and Gulp baits. His charters caught beautiful tripletails this week, with Justin Armour topping the crowd with a 25-pound tripletail that he caught off of a channel marker on Monday. He caught that one off a big, live white shrimp, although many fish were caught on small pogies fished around channel markers. Brentz and Alex McGhin fished out of Crooked River State Park twice this week and brought home 15 and 11 sheepshead. They were using fiddler crabs to boat their convictfish. Alex bested his big fish mark twice, and his biggest stands at 5.6 pounds. Congratulations, Alex! At Gould’s Inlet, anglers reported catching good numbers of trout and flounder. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that on the pier the flounder bite is still tops. Last Thursday, a 5-pound flounder that ate a mudminnow was caught from the pier. Most flatties have been 15 to 24 inches long. Mudminnows has been the most consistent bait. Trout from 14 to 18 inches have been caught in good numbers, as well. Croaker, spadefish, and sharks rounded out the catch. A 6-foot tiger shark was the biggest reported this week. Stone crabs are back in good numbers.
Best Bet – The Okefenokee and saltwater are the places to be. In saltwater, drag mudminnows around docks, rocks, and inlets for flounder. Make sure to cast an Equalizer float/Sea Shad rig to oyster mounds or current breaks to fool trout waiting to ambush bait. In the swamp, pitch pink sallies to pockets in the lily pads. The size of the fliers has improved significantly.