North Georgia

(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)

We have some “hot” news about a) a record bass and b) a new survey for you.  There are also some tips and trip reports on hot summer fishing opportunities across north Georgia, so read on.

Striper fishing
Some river and reservoir fish will also “squeeze” upstream to coldwater refuges in tributaries, so aim for Morgan Falls and the Etowah too.

The summer fishing pattern continues, and it is dominated by warm water effects on our respective target species.  For trout, anglers should tuck in behind the two big dams holding back winter water (Blue Ridge, Buford) or hike way up the mountain until their stream thermometer reads 66 degrees.

For lake bass, hit the deep humps and brush piles with the drop shot rig, after giving them a few first casts with a topwater plug.

 

For reservoir stripers and hybrids, the summer squeeze is on.  As the warm surface layer thickens and as the dissolved oxygen dies from the lake bottom upward, these coolwater species will start getting squeezed.  They’ll squeeze into that middle layer of water, down-lake toward the dam, where the combination of cooler water and high dissolved oxygen is found.  The squeeze means that they’re no longer scattered lake-wide and are now easier to find, if you know where to look.  Some river and reservoir fish will also “squeeze” upstream to coldwater refuges in tributaries, so aim for Morgan Falls and the Etowah, too.

Warmwater river anglers are approaching prime time, as river flows dwindle and bass and bream get squeezed into fewer prime habitats –slower, deeper water in the shade.  Terrestrial food sources are abundant, so many of your favorite river targets will be spending more time along the banks, looking up at the tree limbs and wishing for a stiff breeze.

Aim for Success – Your Input Desired

Please take about five minutes to watch a few brief videos and then complete this online survey regarding the proposed restructuring of our agency’s licenses and fees. This is a great opportunity for you, so take advantage of it.

Trout fishing
Staff recently stocked more than 40,000 fingerling rainbow trout into the Toccoa River below Blue Ridge Dam.

Fishing Reports and Links:

Good luck with your early rises from bed and some dawn fishing fun.  Toss your offerings into the streamside shade or onto that submerged hump for some summertime success, and send me some of your stories to share with our group.

Central Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)

Big Lazer PFA Largemouth bass: Good – Bass fishing has slowed down a little because of the very hot temperatures.  However, they will still hang out in the upper 3 to 8 feet of the water column.  During the day fish for bass in and around heavy cover.  Feeding bass will be most active during the early morning and later in the evening.  Try bass fishing with shallow presentation of crank-baits and trick-worms.

Crappie: Poor- Because of warm summer temperatures crappie tend to move into deeper water as well as spread out over most of the lake.  Fishing deep around standing timber with live minnows is your best bet.

Bream: Very Good – Bream fishing is very good.  Most bream are close-in to the banks and seeking shady cover to keep cool.  Crickets and worms are excellent live bait for bream.  Also, small grub like plastic jigs can work well anytime of the year; try black, white, and chartreuse colors.  Fishing with light tackle can make bream fishing more exciting.  However, make sure the hooks are small because the bream have small mouths.

Channel catfish: Very Good- The rocks along the dam are always a good spot to try and catch big channel cats.  However, catfishing has been good in deeper water over much of the lake.  Some catfish are being caught on cut bait and shrimp as well as worms and livers.

In general, July and August temperatures at Big Lazer are hot.  Fish tend to hang out in shady cover during the hot days and feed in the mornings and evenings to stay cool.

Additional information at http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/BigLazer

Clarks Hill Lake (down 1.6 feet, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  Alabama rigs are working early in the day.  Also use the 3/8 ounce Scrounger head and a Zoom Fluke.  Use the pearl white and the baby bass Flukes.  Crank-baits will work and use a Shad Rap and a small Bandit in shad patterns.  Try a Rat L Trap lipless crank-bait on the rocky banks and around the islands.  The 3/8 ounce and the ½ ounce sizes can work all day.  Cast up into shallow water and work the shallows where rock and the brush piles are located.  Switch colors often and find out which one is catching the larger bass.  Some anglers are fishing the grass beds with weightless worms.  Take a hot pink trick worm and rig it with a 3/0 Mustad hook.  Cast it right along the edge of the heavier matted grass and let it sink.  Count it down and try different depths to find out how deep the bass are.

Jackson Lake (down 1.9 feet, clear, 80s) – Bass fishing is a little slow and the bass are going to move up to the shallows later each day.  Use the ½ ounce Rat L Trap and throw it shallow.  Work as much water as possable and try to locate areas that contain the most rock.  Early in the morning is a good time to throw a buzz-bait or a Storm Chug bug off any point.  Small bass are taking these baits early and often during the early hours.  Also try a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait in either white/blue or all white.  Work the same areas as the top water baits and all blow-downs and brush piles that are present.  After the sun comes up, a 3/8 ounce black jig and pig with a pork trailer is working on isolated stumps and docks.  Green pumpkin worms on the Texas rig are also taking bass when thrown into brush piles and around docks.  Don’t forget about the Dam area for some late-day schoolers.

Marben PFA – Largemouth Bass: Fair due to hot weather – Willow is still giving up keeper bass but fishing has been spotty overall. Willow Lake remains the lake with most potential is for quality and quantity.  Most of the bass on the PFA are suspending in deep water settling into a summer pattern which means they are feeding before and just after sunrise and late evening.  The PFA’s shad population is still recovering from a winterkill with no big schools showing up yet in any of the seven lakes.  Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month.  Rodbender will be closed at sunset on the 15th.  This lake has been setup for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass.   Many of the PFA’s fishermen are trying new baits and falling back on the old standby plastic worms to catch aggressive bass.

Bream: Fair – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Willow, Clubhouse and Jones for good catches.  The Bream should be on bed during next full moon and can be found around structure and aquatic plants with firm sandy bottoms.  The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under floats; use light tackle to make soft casts past the structure and pulling the bait rig back and stopping the bait will generate many more strikes.  Patience is the key when fishing for bream on beds.  Bream fishermen may also have success using small hard baits, jigs, and beetle spins on ultralight tackle during the dog-days of summer.

Channel Catfish: Good – Best ponds have been Jones, Beaverlodge, Willow, and Bridge in order of best catches reported or seen by area staff.   Catfish are feeding as they re-energize in post- spawn.  The best fishing is on the bottom in deep water using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets. Bream fishermen also report catching catfish while fishing with crickets in shallow water.

Crappie: Crappie fishing is just slow during mid-day but tends to pick up as late evening approaches.  Anglers using live minnows and yellow jigs are the most successful.  Try fishing cover approximately 8-10 feet.

  • Remember early morning and late evenings are the best times at Marben PFA.
  • Temperatures are extremely hot at Marben PFA.  Sunscreen and plenty of water are highly encouraged. Don’t forget the picnic lunch!!

Additional Information: http://www.georgiawildlife.org/PFA/CharlieElliott

McDuffie PFA – Largemouth Bass – Good: Hot ponds have been Willow, and Clubhouse.  Willow is still giving up keeper bass and many larger bass are being released by our fishermen.  In Jones bass fishing has slowed down but small bass will keep fishermen alert.  The lake with most potential is Willow for quality and quantity.  Willow Lake has big bass but fishermen must be prepared or risk being broken off in the underwater structure.  The bass have begun feeding on shad early in the mornings and late evenings in Willow and Breambuster.  Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month.  Rodbender is open for the next 14 days but will close at sunset on the 15th. This lake has been setup for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass.   June is usually an excellent top-water bait month with soft baits falling in the number two spot.

Bream:  Fair – Best ponds have been Beaverlodge, Willow, Clubhouse and Jones for good catches.   The Bream should be on bed during this full moon and can be found around structure and aquatic plants with firm sandy bottoms.  The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under adjustable floats; using light tackle to make soft casts pass the structure and pulling the bait rig back and stopping the bait will generate many more strikes.  Patience is the key when fishing for bream on beds. Our local fly fishermen are catching aggressive bream on artificial nymphs, flies and bugs near shore and structure.

Channel Catfish:  Good – Best ponds have been Jones, Beaverlodge, Willow, and Bridge in order of best catches reported or seen by area staff.   Catfish are feeding as they re-energize in post- spawn.  The best fishing is on the bottom in deep water using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets. Bream fishermen also report catching catfish while fishing with crickets in shallow water.

Striped Bass:  Poor due to hot water temperatures.  Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse.  Smaller stripers will keep anglers busy in Bridge Lake and Clubhouse as fishermen fish for catfish and bream on the bottom using worms and chicken liver.

Additional Information: http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/PFA/McDuffie

Lake Oconee (full, stained up rivers, light stain on main lake, 85-90 degrees) – Bass fishing is fair.  The rivers have a light stain and the main Lake is clear.  There is a good early morning top-water bite in the rivers around deep structure.  White old Nelly buzz-bait worked around structure in deep water will produce until the sun gets up.  When the sun gets up switch to a 6 in. watermelon Zoom u-tail worm on a Texas rig and work the same structure.  Down the lake there is still a deep water crank-bait bite on the ledges and humps on the south end of Richland Creek.  Work a Normans DD22 down the ledge into deeper water.  Use your Lowrance to locate the fish on the ledges, if you do not see any fish move to another ledge or hump until you find the fish.  Then work your DD22.  If you would like to try and beat the heat think about night fishing.  Look for lighted boat docks with structure.  You can work these docks with a crank-bait or a worm.  Use a big dark u-tail worm Texas rigged.  Remember to keep your boat lights on and look out for the other guy.

“Lineside fishing is fair.  The best way to find the fish is with the umbrella rig.  Run it about 20 feet deep.  We have seen fish up the river near the I-20 bridge.  These fish will continue to move up the rivers to find cooler water.  If you are working the main lake look in the river bend area.” – Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service

Crappie fishing is fair.  Some fish are showing up in brush piles from 10 to15 feet.  The night bite in the timber is still the best producer.  Look for the fish to show up on your Lowrance and drop the live shiners down to the fish.

 

Lake Russell (full, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair and there are several different crank baits that are working on light 10-pound test Sufix Elite line.  The Rapala DT 6 and Rapala DT 10 in either the hot tiger or shad colors and the #5 jointed Shad Rap in either the green crawdad or fire tiger will work.  Work the main lake and secondary points and the strikes will occur right at the edge of 10-foot line.  Top-water baits like the Pop R and the Chug Bug will work.  Work the Chug Bug fast and do not stop the popping noises as this attracts the spots thinking the bait is a fleeing bait fish.  Jigs fished around rocks and wood is another good choice this week.  The 3/8 ounce Strike King jig is a good choice and the colors need to be browns and greens.  Use the Lowrance Structure Scan down Scan technology to scan an area and you will see the fish.  Use the Ito Vision 110 jerk bait also.

Lake Sinclair (full, stained up river, main lake clear, 86 degrees) – “Bass fishing is good.  The mayflies are back on Lake Sinclair this week.  We had another big mayfly hatch which is turning on the shallow bite again.  This is one of the largest hatches of the year thus far and it covers much of the Oconee River arm.  Shallow grass beds, overhanging tree limbs, and dock walkways adjacent to the river channel should be your primary targets.  Top-water baits will produce both early and late each day and can continue throughout the day in overcast conditions.  A Spro Bronzeye Popping Frog in the Leopard color will produce many bites around the grass beds and around overhangs.  A black-buzz bait will also get a few bites around seawalls and grassy points.  A Spro Fat John square bill crank-bait will also produce in these same locations early and late when the fish are feeding.  The best way to fish this crank-bait is to parallel the sea walls or fish it through any shallow wood cover you can find.  When the mayflies are present the bass will be positioned right at the base of the sea wall.  Fishing the crank-bait as close as you can to the sea wall will result in more bites.  During the day, fish a Buckeye Mop Jig in a brown or green pumpkin color around dock walkways, sea walls, and around any wood cover that has some shade.  This is a great way to catch a big fish!  The deep bite is still decent lake-wide.  Deep diving crank baits, Carolina rigs, and drop shot rigs will all produce on the offshore structure near the river channel.  Concentrate your efforts in 18-25 feet of water when targeting these deep fish.  As always, the deep bite is best when Georgia Power is moving water.” – Matt Henry, Sinclair Marina

West Point Lake (full, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is barely fair.  This time of year there is very little change in pattern.  Fish have committed to deep-water cover and will remain there for the next few weeks.  Go back to the deep hideouts they will often produce.  Once the sun is high focus on docks and lay-downs near the mouth of pockets with a green pumpkin Z Man floating worm or a Z Man Texas rigged Saw Tail Worm.  The Z Man floating worm will stand up on a 1/8 or 3/16 ounce shaky head so do not be afraid to let this bait soak to catch larger fish.  You can catch several fish off of one lay down so make several cast to productive cover.  Once the bite slows switch to an All Terrain 3/8 ounce black and blue jig tipped with a black and blue Z Man Chunkz.  The deep crank-bait bite is beginning to turn on in the afternoon during generating schedules.  Look for fish to begin stacking up on long points and roadbeds close to the main river channel.  Crank-baits are working best with multiple casts on cover close to the river channel.  Cover the twelve to eighteen feet depths with the Lowrance and you will see the fish on the bottom.  Turn back and fish these locations.  It takes time to find this ideal habitat, but once you do, several fish can be caught in this area.  The best points to search are from the 109 bridge north going up the river.  During generation periods use deep-diving crank-baits on humps and road beds.  You can load the boat quickly with some really heavy fish poundage during these periods of generation around this cover.

Southeast Georgia

(Info provided by fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

The bite is on again, even though many folks are not fishing in the heat. The Satilla is right, and lots of redbreasts should be caught this weekend. Flounder are still going strong at the coast, and tarpon are feasting on pogy pods. The Okefenokee is still producing some great catches. First quarter moon is July 24th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Scout Carter caught this giant bowfin last week on a prototype in-line spinnerbait. Bowfin are great targets during the dog-days of summer.
Scout Carter caught this giant bowfin last week on a prototype in-line spinnerbait. Bowfin are great targets during the dog-days of summer.

Altamaha River – The numbers of channel catfish caught from the river have been impressive. Those using rod and reel are catching about 80 percent channels and 20 percent flatheads, while the limb-liners are the opposite – 80 percent flatheads. The mullet catch has been low, only because very few people have been targeting them (those who went did well). Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that catfishing in the Jesup area was tops. Anglers reported catching nice flatheads on goldfish and channel and blue catfish on worms. The oxbows off the river also produced some good bream catches. Dannet at Altamaha Park said that the flathead bite has been best, with goldfish producing the most. The bream bite has been fair in feeder creeks and oxbows off the main flow. The river level was 2.3 feet and steady (88 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 3.6 feet and falling (86 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on July 21. I went over the Oconee River on the 21st, and the water had the usual summertime green color. The Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers are muddier from recent rains.

Okefenokee Swamp – Craig James fished the east side several times this week with his family. Their best trip (by numbers) was Tuesday when he and his brother Trey landed 115 warmouth (releasing many of them) and some fliers. That day, yellow sallies out produced pink (although pink still fooled quite a few). After they had already caught a bunch, they decided to try something different, so they pitched a white grub and continued to spank the big warmouth. Some of their fish approached 12 inches! Some of their trips this week, pink worked best, while other trips yellow was tops. That goes to show you that you need to try different colors each day to determine the best offering.  Michael Winge said that the fishing on the east side slowed with the hot weather, but early and late were the best times. On the west side, warmouth, fliers, and pickerel (jackfish) were caught over the weekend. Jackfish ate popping plugs and king jack spinners. The new Duck Stamps (they provide yearly access to National Wildlife Refuges) have arrived, so make sure to get your new one if that is how you cover the access fee to Okefenokee. The new stamps are $25, and they are valid from July 1 to June 30th each year. You can get them at Okefenokee Adventures on the east side or from US Post Offices.

Satilla River – Danny Brown of Nevils (he often fishes the Ogeechee) came down to fish the Satilla this week, and he landed 20 redbreasts in the Waycross area. One of them was a whopper, and he is getting it mounted. He caught his fish on Satilla Spins (crawfish, stumpknocker, bruiser, and rainbow).  Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the Satilla is giving up big redbreasts and bream. Crickets, worms, and Satilla Spins (crawfish color) have been producing best. Beetlespins and Spin Dandy spinnerbaits are also producing fish. Rooster livers and pink worms produced catfish this week. Bright colored Trick Worms tricked bass. The river level  at the Waycross gage was 5.3 feet and falling (83 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 4.1 feet and falling on July 21.

St. Marys River – The redbreast and bream bites remained strong. Pink worms are still producing some shellcrackers. Redbreasts and bream were tearing up crickets. Catfish were still being caught everywhere along the river. The river level at the MacClenny gage was 2.1 feet and falling on July 21.

Local Ponds –  Chad Lee spanked the fish on Saturday morning, most with a Ribbit Frog. His biggest was almost 6 pounds. Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds bream are hitting crickets and pink worms late in the evenings. Plastics and dark colored buzzbaits produced some good bass. An angler reported catching an 11-pound bass from a local pond this week. Worms and shiners accounted for most of the catfish reported.

Best Bet: The Satilla is getting perfect for a float trip. This time last year I did a float trip with Ron Johnson, and we used crawfish Satilla Spins to catch over 80 fish, mostly redbreasts. At the current level you should not have to drag much, if any. Flounder fishing has been strong at the coast, so that would be a good option. From a boat, fish around hard cover, creek mouths, and inlets. From the bank, pitch mudminnows or finger mullet to pilings or around rocks (anything that makes a current break). You have to let a flounder eat your offering. Typically, the fish will start swimming away once it has engulfed it. Setting the hook too early will usually just provide some teeth marks on your bait! (I have experience with that! Ha!) The Okefenokee is still great. Fish early and pitch yellow or pink sallies around wood for warmouth and around vegetation for fliers. If you want to catch a big fish, tie on an in-line spinner and cast for pickerel or bowfin.

Coastal Georgia

(Info provided by fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

The saltwater bite was hit-and-miss this week. Flounder, sheepshead and whiting provided the best reports. Mudminnows and finger mullet fooled most of the flounder. Shrimp fished on bottom rigs produced whiting, while fiddlers accounted for most of the sheepshead. Michael Winge said that the Jekyll Island Pier produced lots of sheepshead and whiting over the last week. Our state record flounder came from the Jekyll Island Pier, so don’t overlook it as a destination for flatties. An angler reported catching a tarpon this week from a kayak at one of the inlets on our coast. I’m sure the giant fish gave him a ride! Tarpon numbers have been very good this week, and anglers are catching them. Cast net some pogies and throw out a spread with a live one under an oval Cajun Thunder float and others on bottom rigs. I like 100-lb. test mono leaders for abrasion resistence. The big bull reds have been chowing at the nearshore reefs. Expect them to be in the sounds spawning beginning next month. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that the “Mack Attack” continued this week from the pier. The Spanish mackerel continued hitting spoons and Gotcha plugs. A 4-pound flounder was landed from the pier on Tuesday. Trout, whiting, and croakers were also plentiful. Monitor the marine forecast.

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