North Georgia

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

Rainbow trout caught at Dukes Creek.
Rainbow trout caught at Dukes Creek.

While we’re approaching fall, we’ve had a slight relapse to warm summer temperatures this week.  Still, my calendar now says September and that means fall in my outdoor notebook.  And fall means hunting season.  All of our sport fish species must have also flipped their calendar page, because they’re acting like it’s already fall instead of the dog days of summer, and they’re a bit friskier.

The hunting season analogy is very true for us anglers, as well.  Folks who are fishing right now are doing just that –they are fishing.  In other words, they are flailing and failing.  Sure, the weather, water, and woods are nice, so the fishing trips are still fun.  But to most of us, fishing trips are much funner when they are catching trips.  So how do we catch instead of simply fish?

Listen up:  it’s not the fishers who are catching; it’s the hunters.  The bottom line right now is for anglers to seek out and stalk their quarry, with stealth.  Those who hunt out and locate their target species are doing all the catching.  They spend much more time trying to find their quarry and then stalking their targets with specific equipment and techniques that are highly successful.

And the rest of us fish and claim, “what a nice day to be out of work and on the water.”  That’s just code for “haven’t caught much!”

So this week’s tip is to study the following reports and not focus on the harvests, but on the hunting aspects to them.  Study the habits of successful hunters, as well as the habits of their prey, and you’ll also enhance your harvest.  It’s fall!   Hunting season is here, so learn from these experts and:

Be the hunter!!!!   You’ll catch more fish.

Best bets:

  • Stocked trout – last call
  • Headwater wild trout
  • Drop-shotting spotted bass
  • Deep-spooning stripers
Trout stocking truck loading Aug 2015 resized
Staff loading up the truck to stock some trout ahead of the Labor Day Weekend!

Here we go…

Stocker Best Bets – “This week is the last week of the regular trout stocking season in Georgia. Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will work together to distribute more than 30,000 trout in 17 counties. Fishing early in the day when streams are still cool will lead to increased catch rates. Some of the best bets are; Johns Creek in Floyd County, Toccoa River below Lake Blueridge, Cooper Creek in Union County, Dicks Creek in Lumpkin County, and Wildcat Creek in Rabun County. Visit our website at www.georgiawildlife.com for more information and to purchase a fishing license and a trout stamp.” – John Lee Thomson, Stocking Coordinator

I Paid My Dues – “I went to Dukes again today and finally landed a good size trout. I must have paid enough dues for that one. Caught two others too. Thanks again to that Dredger guy for all the pointers and fishing on July 4th. I plan on making it to the Unicoi OAD volunteer day too.” –Ryan B, aka “(No Longer) In Search of Trout”

Sneaking Up on Headwater Rainbows – Headwater trout fishing for small, wild rainbows, brooks, and browns is very good right now.  WRD staffers Mark Whitney and Jeff Durniak had a blast last Saturday morning on an “unnamed headwater stream high above Helen” and offer the following tips to blueline fishing fans.

They say to “bring your lucky seven:”

  • stealth
  • a six foot rod
  • a six foot leader
  • a spool of 4x tippet
  • three size 16 tan elk hair caddis flies
  • gardening kneepads
  • a friend with a camera!

More tips can be found here and here.

Nuther Hooch Wall-Hanger! – This hunter spent a lot of time scouting during the last few months.  He also hunted and bagged nothing, but learned a little more on each trip.  And he’s finally bagged the aquatic equivalent for a fourteen point buck!

Young Browniez reminds me of ole Crigger

“Hunting” Reservoirs – Today’s interview:

Lake Lanier profiles

  • Browns Bridge
  • Forebay
  • Hint- don’t wait until the lakes cool off next month and your presently confined quarry spreads out to every acre with water on it.

Nottely profiles

Successful Striper Hunters!

And Lake Bass Hunters

Nice redeye caught on the Chattooga.
Nice redeye caught on the Chattooga.

River Bassers

  • Rabunite Kidd read last week’s Border River report, applied the tips, and had a good time himself down below his coveted trout waters.  He caught a real good’un, pictured above, on a popper.
  • Reliable Source traveled across the border and found a bunch of river smallmouth against the bank, under the shade of the tree limbs, ready to pounce on a small black/yellow Davenport DP slider, tossed on a five-weight fly rod.
  • Landon continues to put a lickin’ on us old Hooch coots.

More Hunting Grounds? – Read about LWCF and decide for yourself.

On your mark, get set, GO!!! – Video

 

Good luck “hunting” for your fish on this nice, long Labor Day weekend.  Thanks for buying your licenses and tackle and supporting our agency operations.

Central Georgia

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

 

Clarks Hill Lake (down 3.5 feet, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing has slowed during the heat of the day.  Bass are relating to deep water and are coming up to feed during the major feeding times.  During the mid-day feeding period there is some surface activity.  The Alabama rig is still getting some fish but they are usually smaller bass.  Use the Pop R and the Rico in shad and take an olive green Fat Free Shad and work it with short jerks all the way back to the boat.  Some of these bass will break the surface in twenty to forty feet of water so don’t be afraid to cast off the other side of the boat into deeper water.  Locating a long narrow run-out point on your map will be a good place to start fishing the first thing in the morning.  Also continue to fish those stump rolls in twelve to twenty feet of water with big spinner baits, Rapala DT16’s, jigs or Carolina rigs.  Getting the crank-baits down and letting them bounce off any structure will usually trigger a strike.

Flat Creek PFA – The lake level continues to drop during this hot dry summer, and unless Flat Creek gets a lot of rain, the level is expected to keep dropping as evaporation continues.  The algal bloom is still healthy and you will find the water to have a dark green tint to it.  Darker colored lures will be a better option for all fish right now due to the lower visibility. Crappie are biting near the fishing pier in the early morning and late evening hours but are pretty sluggish with a very light bite.  Catfish and bream are biting really well right now on red wiggler worms.  Worms seem to be the “go-to” bait right now for most fishes caught; however the Glow worms (green tinted nightcrawlers) were not very successful. The cooler hours of morning and evening seems to be the best time to get a bass.  A large bass was taken during August and more large bass have been reported.

Bass: Dark colored Zoom Trick Worms, and Zoom Centipede worms, fished shallow (2-3’) in the mornings and evenings, and dark colored lipless crank baits fished in 6-8 foot of water.

Bream: Worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks) on a Carolina rig. Worms on a Texas rig.  Crickets fished 6-7 feet beneath a very small float.

Channel Catfish: Worms fished on a Carolina Rig. Chicken livers fished deep.

Crappie: Minnows fished close to the fishing pier. Light, live action jigs fished with very light tackle to feel the slightest bite.

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

Jackson Lake (down 1.1 feet, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  Depending on the conditions and what is going on with the food chain you may find some better than average summer fishing.  Fish deep structure in or near the main lake, or seek cooler water up the rivers.  Target main lake points, the bluffs any hump at 12 to 15 feet with brush, bridge pilings and docks.  Put to use shakey heads, heavy compact jigs, and deep running crank-baits through the day.  Hot weather has many fish hunkered down in deep water, suspended, or roaming with shad in open water.  Early in the day, throw a Rico or other top water bait on the deep sea walls or at open water opportunities.  We may see more Mayfly hatches resulting in shallow fishing opportunities.  Bream move up on the insects and big bass move up on the bream.  The hatches are off and on, but the possibility exists that we will see some more hatches.  When the hatch concentrates, it is a prime opportunity to catch quality fish in shallow warm water.  Many baits may catch them, but top-water fishing with a Rico or Pop R can be hard to beat.  Also try swimming a green jig.  Look up the rivers, late in the afternoon for possible hatches.  Good fish can bite at night on the lights.

Marben PFA Largemouth Bass: Similar challenges for anglers targeting bass remain at least for the first part of September.  However, anglers willing to test the waters in early morning or right before sunset might be surprised with a bass being caught in the shallows.  Hot water techniques are still recommended if targeting bass until mid-September.  Popular lures anglers should try are crank baits and other deeper water lures.  Look for bass to be in the 6 – 10ft. even in early morning and moving deeper as mid-day approaches.  Early morning and late evenings are still the best times for anglers targeting bass.  As temperatures cool in the later part of September, look for bass to remain in the shallows longer and most importantly the “bite” to pick up.

Bream: Bream are the most popular fish targeted at Marben PFA.  The best thing about bream is that this fish will hit a variety of bait.  Meal worms are proving the most successful bait.  However, do not be afraid to experiment, you never know what bream are targeting that day.  There have also been reports of anglers using micro lures to catch hand-sized bream.  Most of the bream caught have been in six to eight feet of water.

Catfish: When the other fish begin to slow, anglers will often turn their attention to catfish at Marben PFA.  Catfish are reported being caught throughout the day.  Based on angler reports, Bennett still remains the “hot” lake.  Anglers are most successful using worms, liver and stink bait.  A handy shade tree seems to be important too!

Crappie: Crappie fishing remains slow and more than likely will until October.  Anglers may see the crappie “bite” tends to pick up as late evening approaches.  Even though the “bite” picks up, the window for catching crappie in the evening is small.  Anglers need to be prepared using live minnows and yellow jigs, as these tend to be the most popular.  Try fishing cover approximately 8-10 feet.  Remember, once the crappie start biting keep at it, this frenzy will be short lived in these warm temperatures!

  • Remember early morning and late evenings remain the best times at Marben PFA.
  • Mid to late September expect the “bite” of all species to pick up
  • Temperatures remain hot at Marben PFA.  Sunscreen, plenty of water and ice are necessary. Don’t forget the picnic lunch!

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

McDuffie PFA – Largemouth Bass: Poor due to hot weather – All legal Bass on McDuffie PFA must be 14 inches in length. Overall, most of the bass on McDuffie PFA have been biting very little with only young bass being caught. Overall, Bass fishing has been slow to pick up and probably will really pick up as the weather cools. Fishermen are still catching keeper bass in Willow. Willow Lake remains the lake with most potential for quality and quantity. Rodbender (our trophy bass pond) is open from first through fifteen (1st-15th) of each month. Rodbender is currently opened until the evening of September 15th. This lake has been setup with multiple bait species for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass.  Many of the PFA’s fishermen are trying new baits or fall back on the old standby plastic worms to catch feeding Bass.

Bream: Fair – Best ponds have been Bridge, Willow, and Jones for good catches. The fishermen were fishing on the bottom. The Bream should be on bed during next full moon in September and can be found around structure and aquatic plants where there is a firm sandy bottom. The best baits for catching bream are red wigglers and crickets under floats. 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 waning dog-days of summer.

Channel Catfish: Good  Best ponds have been Bridge, Beaverlodge, and Willow in order of best catches reported or seen by area staff.  A 12 pound channel catfish was caught on Sunday September 6th. Catfish are biting well as they like warmer water temperatures. The catfish bite is really hot during the last hours of daylight. The best fishing is on the bottom in shallow to deep water using chicken liver, worms, stinkbait and crickets.

Striped Bass: Poor due to hot water temperatures – Striped Bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse.  Even the Smaller stripers are not biting yet in Bridge Lake and Clubhouse Lake. During the fall the stripers will begin to feed heavily on whatever forage species are present in the lake and should provide some exciting fishing.

Lake Oconee (full, light stain up rivers and on main lake, 85-88 degrees) – Bass fishing is fair.  At first light start with a buzz-bait and fish it along the sea walls in the mid-lake area of the lake.  This will last for the first hour of day light.  Fish are on the humps on the south end of the lake and in Richland Creek.  A Carolina rig worm fished on these humps will draw a strike.  You can also use a large crank-bait and work the down lake side of the humps.  You can also find some fish under deep boat docks. Target these docks early in the mornings.  Shaky heads have been the best producers on these deep docks.

“Striper fishing is slow.  There is a top-water bite for the first two hours of day light.  Use a popping cork or an inline spinner.  Another good choice is a silver or white spoon fished into the schools that are blowing up on the top.” – Cpt. Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service

Crappie fishing is good.  The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves.  They have moved into the timber and you can find them with your Lowrance in the top of the trees.  When you find them drop a live minnow into the school and start catching.

Lake Russell (down 2.2 feet, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is fair.  It is now off-shore time as the fish go to the summer pattern.  Top-water Chug Bugs are still working early off the points and in the mouth of the larger coves.  Fish the upper end around Pickens Creek and look for some schoolers.  In the very back of Pickens Creek and at the bridge at Sanders Ferry there are all spots.  Use the flukes and the 85 Sammy and anything is shad patterns.  Beaver Dam Creek from the mouth to about midway back is still producing nice bass.  Early in the morning start off with the top-water Chugs and alternate with suspending Shad Raps in the natural shad color.  One substitute for the RS Shad Rap will be the no. 5 jointed Shad Rap.  Either one is producing but make sure you throw the natural shad color.  Work the islands and all the points at the mouth of Beaver Dam and even up the Savannah under the rail road ridge for about a mile.  No need to travel any further than a couple of miles from the 72 ramp for some good fishing.  Later in the day, many anglers are relying on soft plastics like Zoom finesse worms.  Rig them on a 3/16 ounce bullet weight Texas rig on a medium heavy rod and 12 pound Sufix Elite line.  Ten pound can be substituted for the twelve.  Look for isolated targets like large rocks and wood when throwing the Texas rig.

Lake Sinclair (full, stained up river, main lake clear, 89 degrees) – Bass fishing is good.  Top-water baits continue to produce a few fish, including large bass, during early morning.  Expect only 1 to 4 blow-ups per morning for the angler that chunks top water baits the first 2 hours.  Most bites are along main river banks, some around no apparent cover, while others are around blow downs, stumps, grass, rocks, and seawalls.  The key to success is determining the best type bait, which can change daily.  Some proven baits are buzz-baits, Pop R’s, Chug Bug’s, Spooks, Torpedo, and Dalton Special.  Flukes and weightless Trick worms haven’t produced recently, but are worth trying.  Rip rap and bridge supports continue to hold a few bass.  The points of riprap on both sides of bridges can hold feeding fish, especially during power generation.  Crank-baits, lightweight Texas rigs, and jig-head and worm rigs have been the producers.  Fishing docks and boat houses has gotten real tough.  The best chance of success is to scale down to smaller soft plastics and fish each dock very slowly.  A few bass can still be caught by finding them in open water along underwater points, humps, and ledges.  Depths are mostly from 10 to 15 feet, although depths may be shallower way up the rivers or deeper in the lower lake area.  Deep crank-baits and Carolina rigs are the mainstays.  Fat Free Shads in size ¾ ounce (#7) have been good, along with Bill Norman DD22’s and the cedar shad Poe’s 400.  Both chartreuse and shad patterns have worked for any of the baits.  Zoom Trick worms in green pumpkin, green pumpkin red, and June bug have worked well on the Carolina rig.’

Drawdown information: Oconee/Sinclair Land Office: 706-484-7500 Lake Sinclair: Oct. 18-Dec. 1, 2015: 4.5 feet

West Point Lake (down 1.7 feet, clear, mid 80s) – Bass fishing is good.  Fish are really spread out in two groups.  The top-water bite is on fire first thing in the morning on points and lay-downs.  Buzz baits, Spooks, and Pop R’s are producing when cast very close to cover and then slowly worked back to the boat.  There are a few May fly’s left going up the river that are producing some better fish early in the day as well.  Pitch jigs close to overhanging limbs with bream present.  These fish have been highly pressured so work the bait slowly.  The strike zone will be in the first five feet of the overhanging limbs.  Once the sun is high focus on docks and lay-downs near the mouth of pockets with green pumpkin a Z Man floating 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.  The best points and lay downs 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 quick with some really heavy weights during these periods of generation.

Southeast Georgia

(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

Nathanael Johnson (left) of Blackshear caught this 10-lb., 6-oz. monster bowfin (mudfish) while fishing with his cousin Timothy Deener of Waycross on Saturday.
Nathanael Johnson (left) of Blackshear caught this 10-lb., 6-oz. monster bowfin (mudfish) while fishing with his cousin Timothy Deener of Waycross on Saturday.

Fishing in saltwater and the Okefenokee has been very good this week, and the Satilla River should be improving by the weekend. The Outdoor Adventure/J.A.K.E.S Day will be held again this year on National Hunting and Fishing Day (September 26). All events, such as fishing, shooting, and nature shows will happen at Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton. For more information, call the Waycross Fisheries Office at 912-285-6094. Last quarter moon is September 5. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.

Altamaha River – Dannet at Altamaha Park said that the mullet and flathead fishing was the best this week. The last half of the outgoing tide and first couple of hours of the incoming were most productive. Some bream were also caught in the mouths of feeder creeks by those using crickets. A few crappie were caught this week, and that bite is just beginning. As the water cools this fall, that bite should take off. The river level was 4.1 feet and falling (84 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 6.7 feet and falling (82 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on September 1.

Okefenokee Swamp – I took my son Timothy and nephew Nathanael Johnson on Saturday during the heat of the day. We fished for under 2 hours right around noon and whacked the bowfin (mudfish). We fished the canal, casting black-chartreuse Dura-Spins and landed 19 of them, with the prize being a 10-lb., 6-oz. monster. Nathanael caught the big fish and will apply for an angler award from the GA DNR because it was over 10 pounds. We tried other colors, but all of our fish ate the black-chartreuse model. For more information about the angler award program, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com and click on “fishing”, then “angler resources”, then “angler awards”. The west side of the swamp continued to produce some good catches of catfish and warmouth. Shrimp caught most of the catfish, while yellow sallies and crickets fooled most of the warmouth. The flier bite at both entrances has been a little slower than usual because of the water being flooded back out over the prairies. When the water cools and pulls back into the canals the fliers will tear it up.

Satilla River – Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the rising water has slowed the bite in the middle river. Local rains in the Waycross area have the river high from Jamestown down, but the upper river above there is still fishable. I crossed the US 1 Bridge on Monday, and the level was actually low there – perfect for paddle crafts. Crickets, worms, and Satilla Spins produced redbreasts and bream in the Hwy 158 area of the river this week. A few crappie were reported in the deeper holes upriver, and minnows fooled them. Bass were caught on bright colored Trick Worms. The river level at the Waycross gage was 8.4 feet and falling (79 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 6.2 feet and rising on September 1.

St. Marys River – The rising river has not slowed the catfish bite. Over the weekend, a group setting lines baited with shrimp caught a slew of catfish. The river level at the MacClenny gage on September 1st was 10.9 feet and rising.

Local Ponds – Michael Winge said that in Waycross area ponds crappie were caught on minnows and jigs in the deeper holes. The fish still have not moved into the shallower waters, but that should happen once the water starts cooling. For now, fish the deepest areas in the pond. Big bream were reported by those pitching crickets. Worms and rooster livers produced the few catfish catches. Late evening has been the time to fish for bass, and shiners, topwater plugs, and rattling rogues (baby bass color) fooled them.

Best Bet: With most areas of the rivers still high, your best bet will likely be fishing the swamp or saltwater. If you like setting the hook….a lot….fish either side of the swamp and fling a Dura-Spin (in-line spinnerbait) along the grass edge or along lily pad flats and hold on. All you have to do is cast out and reel the spinner back – nothing fancy is needed. On trips I’ve made this summer, we usually catch around a dozen fish per hour, and some of them are huge. Black-chartreuse has been the most consistent color, but white and fire tiger have also produced. Expect an occasional chain pickerel (jackfish) to inhale it, as well.

Coastal Georgia

(Info provided by fisheries biologist Bert Deener)

On Thursday, an angler fishing the Brunswick area from a poling skiff landed 3 keeper-sized redfish out of the 12 that he saw. A group of Waycross anglers fished Crooked River on Friday and caught over a dozen trout and several nice redfish (a giant broke them off, but they landed several keeper reds). Their best presentation was an Assassin Sea Shad suspended under an Equalizer Float. That float/Sea Shad bite will heat up this month, and limits will be routine. An angler fishing the St. Andrews Sound on Thursday landed a tarpon right around 100 pounds and a giant bull redfish on pogies. Several other tarpon were reported this week, with the best report I heard being an angler who landed 3 out of the 5 that he jumped. Michael Winge said that Waycross anglers reported that the flounder bite has turned on again. Mudminnows were the go-to bait for the flatties. Whiting were caught in the sounds and deep holes in the river using shrimp and squid. Black drum were caught around hard cover by those using shrimp and squid. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that this week the pier fishing was good for redfish, trout, and flounder. Fiddler crabs and barnacles also fooled some sheepshead from around the pilings. Shrimping improved this week for those flinging cast nets. Blue crabs were still abundant. Monitor the marine forecast.

Best Bet: In saltwater, tarpon are still around and flounder have been in good numbers lately.

 

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