Info provided by regional fisheries staff

North Georgia

Trout fishing on Smith Creek Delayed Harvest Dec. 18.
Trout fishing on Smith Creek Delayed Harvest Dec. 18.

North Georgia anglers, let’s build some formulas that will add up to December fishing success.  First, we should start with the sky.  Which celestial body should you focus on?  Well, it depends on your quarry. For trout, think SUN. For stripers, think MOON.

Wintertime trouters should follow the sun’s heat and radiant rays to midday success in sunlit stream reaches, while reservoir striper anglers should take advantage of the evening’s darkness to stalk their targets as they ascend to the shallows.  There are some great examples from our resident experts, below, that  will help you to aim at the right time of day and specific areas of streams or reservoirs to jack up your catch rates.   They also provide some insight on sport fish prey items that will help you with your grocery list of bait, lures, or flies.

So, build these factors: a) the time of day, b) location on the water, and c) available groceries, into your equation for wintertime fishing success.   Trouters can also add a fourth factor, d) the “likelihood of holiday stocking,” to their formula for memorable Delayed Harvest moments.   Hopefully these “angler equations” will add up to greater success and holiday cheer during this month’s  fishing trips.

Groceries – What’s a BWO? – That’s BWO, not BMW. It’s a bug! BWO is the trouters’ abbreviation for blue winged olive, a tiny mayfly that commonly hatches in the winter. Savvy anglers always carry some tiny (size 18,20, or even

Lake Lanier winter striper.
Lake Lanier winter striper.

22) pheasant tail nymphs and BWO or Adams dry flies to capitalize on these holiday gifts from nature’s stream elves.  If nothing’s hatching, use a deep drifting fly you believe in, like a woolly bugger, leech, or egg fly.  Off the bend of its hook, add a foot of thin tippet and tie on the tiny pheasant tail nymph.  If bugs are hatching, try the dry or even a dry/dropper combo of the BWO and pheasant tail.  Don’t be afraid to twitch your rod and add a little movement to them, too. BWO Examples – What is it?

Hooch Tailwater

Nantahala DH Report and Winter Tips

Trout for Supper – Try the Hooch and Toccoa tailwaters, Chattooga below Highway 28, Lake Trahlyta, and Amicalola below Highway 53.

Lanier nighttime stripers and daytime

Carters Lake

Earbones… Really!

Another Good Info Source – Hello Jeff, thanks for all of your emails. They always have great information in them. Feel free to link to my articles in the Gainesville Times as I always have the weekly report in there early Friday. Check it out… Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish biting well thanks to mild December temperatures – Eric S. Aldrich, Angler, Writer, Marketing: Lake Lanier Fishing

Santa’s Stocking Truck- Call for Elves – This is a reminder that the next Whitewater Creek bucket brigade of the DH season will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at 10 a.m.  Here’s a map to the site.  Volunteers should bring a 5-gallon bucket, waders, and a signed copy of the attached waiver.  If anyone has questions they can contact our office at the number below. Thank you and I look forward to seeing everyone on the ‘Hooch next week! – Patrick O’RoukeC

Central Georgia (East)

McDuffie PFA (Dec. 18, 2014)

  • Avg. morning water temp: 50 degrees (F)
  • Water visibility: 40-plus inches

Largemouth Bass  Excellent.  Best ponds have been Willow, Clubhouse and Breambuster.  Catches of 4-5 pound bass in Willow have been reported.  Best fishing times are middle to late afternoon.  Fishing on the downwind side of the pond (especially in Willow) has been very productive.  Variations of threadfin shad imitations (1”-4”), pumpkin-seed finesse worms, swimbait lures, jerkbait lures and frogs have proven to be successful.  In Willow, Clubhouse and Breambuster, bass are schooling and feeding heavily on balls of threadfin shad on or near the surface throughout the day.  To locate the shad, look for where the seagulls are circling and feeding.  Seagulls have recently migrated into the area and should be present throughout the winter.  Generally, seagulls are excellent indicators of where to fish for largemouth bass.

Bream Good.  Best ponds have been Jones, Willow and Clubhouse.  As the water cools, expect bream (both bluegill and shellcracker) to be found in deeper water and be heavily related to structure.  Many large fish continue to be caught using beetle spins, red wigglers and crickets.

Channel Catfish – Good.  Best ponds have been Jones, Willow, and Breambuster.  Numerous large fish have been caught in Jones pond.  Fish on the bottom in deep areas using worms, stinkbait and crickets.

Striped Bass Good to Fair.  Striped Bass are only in Bridge and Clubhouse.  Bigger fish are being caught late afternoon using chicken liver (Bridge) and light colored suspending minnows (especially in Clubhouse).

South Georgia

The fishing was excellent again this week in both fresh and saltwater. Crappie and bass fishing were strong in freshwater, while sheepshead and trout were the most frequently reported catches in saltwater. New Moon is Dec. 21. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Chad Lee of Alma caught some beautiful crappie, like this one, over the weekend from ponds (even during the cold mornings).
Chad Lee of Alma caught some beautiful crappie, like this one, over the weekend from ponds (even during the cold mornings).

Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that the crappie bite was good again. The few folks who fished this week caught limits of specks on minnows. Dannett from Altamaha Park said that the crappie bite was still on fire for those fishing both minnows and grubs. Concentrate on the mouths of sloughs for the most consistent action. The river level was 3.0 feet and rising (51 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 4.7 feet and steady (54 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on Dec. 16.

Lake Blackshear – Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division conducted a standardized gill net survey on Lake Blackshear last week. Similar to Lake Seminole, the survey showed very good numbers of white bass in the 12-14 inch size range with some bigger individuals in the population. Fishing for white bass and hybrid striped bass should be good now through spring. A favorite place for local anglers to catch these fish is both above and below the Swift Creek Bridge. A few crappie were also collected in the sample with several being over one pound. Look for crappie this time of year in deeper water near the river and creek channels. The draw down on the lake that began on Nov. 1 ended on Dec. 15 and the lake is beginning to refill and should reach full pool within 10-14 days. The purpose of the drawdown is to allow lake property owners a chance to repair existing structures. Also, the drawdown should help slow some of the aquatic plant growth in the lake.

Flint River – The river remains low and clear for this time of year. Anglers willing to try fishing for shoal bass should have success. Remember to fish deeper and slower to compensate for the cooler water temperatures. Fishing for shoal bass should be best at midday on bright sunny days. Try bouncing a jig along the bottom of deep shoals or in deep current breaks adjacent to rocky banks.

Okefenokee Swamp – Bert Deener and his daughter visited the east side of the swamp on Friday afternoon, and the flier bite was on. It was a warm afternoon after a very cold morning, but the fish woke up about a half-hour after we got there. The first half-hour was extremely slow – we did not even get a bite. But, after checking several of my favorite spots, we found them. We ended up catching exactly 50 fliers. Lily pad flats were the key – the only cover type that we could catch them from. They were fairly picky, as pink was the color sally that fooled them (we tried all the colors). They wanted the fly fished very slowly and underneath a float so that it dangled in their face and allowed them to think about it awhile before committing. We also used some red wigglers from Ellie’s worm bed to catch about a dozen fliers. The key to wintertime fishing for fliers is keep moving until you get bites and then slow down in those areas. Fliers are schooling fish, and it is often feast or famine.

Satilla River – The warmer afternoons and excellent river level produced some impressive catches this week. An angler spider-rigging minnows in the middle portion of the river caught a limit of quality crappie on Saturday. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that minnows and artificials fooled crappie this week. Anglers reported catching redbreasts on white Satilla Spins while fishing for crappie. Pink worms and red wigglers produced some bream and redbreasts for those fishing on the bottom (probably in the deep holes on the back sides of sandbars). Dead shrimp fished on the bottom produced some quality catfish stringers. Bass were fooled with shiners fished on float rigs. The river level at the Waycross gage was 6.1 feet and falling (53 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 6.5 feet and falling on Dec. 16.

Lake Seminole – Fisheries staff conducted a standardized gill net survey on Lake Seminole this week. The survey showed very good numbers of white bass in the 12-14 inch size range with some bigger individuals in the population. Fishing for white bass and hybrid striped bass should be good now through spring. Several nice size crappie were also sampled and one individual weighed almost three pounds. These fish were caught at depths between 13-16 feet adjacent to river and creek channels. Some anglers have had success slow trolling with jigs or minnows in these areas.

St. Marys River – Catfish took center stage on the St. Marys this week. Shrimp and worms fished on the bottom produced fish. Some bream, redbreasts, and crappie were also reported. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 3.5 feet and falling on Dec. 16.

Lake Walter F. George – Fishing for both striped bass and hybrid striped bass should be good and continue to improve over the next few weeks. Look for these fish to be chasing schools of shad in the main lake basin especially near the dam. Any good shad imitation should be effective. Don’t forget to look for flocks of gulls feeding as they will let you know where the shad schools are located. Also, if the water is calm look for fish breaking the surface while feeding.

The Army Corps may maintain fewer channel markers between Lake George and Columbus and the Coast Guard Station on the lake may be closed. The full story can be accessed here.

Area Ponds –  Chad Lee of Alma continued his thrashing of crappie and bass in Alma-area ponds. During his best bite this weekend, he caught 20 quality crappie in an hour. He also provided the funniest story of the week. One of the trips he unknowingly had his fish basket bottom spring fail. He kept putting fish in the top and they kept swimming out the bottom. He laughed and looked at it on the bright side – he saved an hour of cleaning fish that evening! Most of his fish were fooled with minnows during the cold weather this weekend. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds, the crappie fishing was tops. Both minnows and jigs fooled them. Some bream were caught by mid-week by those fishing pink worms on the bottom. Pink worms also produced some impressive channel catfish catches in area ponds. Plastic worms produced some nice bass catches, but the offering had to be fished extremely slowly to get bites.

Weekend Outlook – You can’t go wrong this weekend by flier fishing in the Okefenokee. It is perfect for kids and is lots of fun for adults, as well. All you need is a bream buster pole, some Okefenokee Swamp Sallies, and a few small balsa floats, and you are in business. Pitch the fly around lily pads and other shoreline vegetation and blowdown trees to fool the panfish.

Coastal Georgia

Saltwater  –  The trout are moving toward their wintertime haunts up in the creeks. The redfish bite has been strong on nearshore reefs. A Waycross angler fished the Crooked River area over the weekend for sheepshead and had some quality fish up to about 4 pounds. Fiddlers produced their fish. Also over the weekend, an angler fishing the various bridges on the St. Simons Causeway fooled 5 to 10 trout per trip by fishing a curly-tail grub rigged on a 1/8-ounce Flashy Jighead. Michael Winge reported Waycross anglers caught trout and redfish on both live shrimp and artificials. On Monday, an angler reported whacking the trout on a Savage Gear 3-D TPE Shrimp in the Brunswick area. Decent numbers of redfish were caught back in the creeks. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that big sheepshead were caught from the pier in good numbers. Fiddler crabs were the most productive baits. Bull whiting were caught on dead shrimp and a few flounder were also around. Blue crabs were still around in good numbers. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/. Check the December issue of Georgia Outdoor News for an article detailing my approach to fishing artificials for seatrout.

Weekend Outlook – Seatrout fishing should continue to be steady until the big tides around Christmas.

Christmas Gift Ideas

It’s crunch time for gift-giving! Last week I suggested variety kits that cover a wide range of applications. For the panfisherman, consider a Satilla Spin Kit. The little spinnerbaits have been deadly on redbreasts and bluegills in our area for several years, but they really shined this past year with the great fishing on the Satilla and Altamaha rivers. Six-lure kits are available at Winge’s in Waycross. Also available at Winge’s are Saltwater Jighead Kits and Okefenokee Swamp Kits. They typically retail for between $20 and $30. This week’s suggestions are Ugly Stik seatrout rods. I just got two new 7ft.-6in. medium light inshore rods and love them! Knives (both filet and pocket) are always a good gift. On the high-dollar end, Christmas is a great time to give a new pair of Costa sunglasses or an Engel cooler. Hard baits and soft plastic lures always make good stocking stuffers. You might want to pick up a new color of Sea Shads or Manic Shrimp that you have been wanting to try (you can borrow some from your fishing buddy after giving them as a gift…not that I’ve done that or anything).

As you look forward to some time off, review the weather forecasts and water levels to identify  the best dates for a likely road trip, and then build your angler equations for some holiday angling success.  After all, you need some stories to share with all your friends and family next week, right?  Some might even be true, so take your camera, too.

Good luck as we approach the Christmas season!

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