(Info provided by fisheries biologist Jeff Durniak and region fisheries staff)
We have a little bit of good news and not-so-good news this week. Let’s go ahead and get the bad news out of the way: winter has finally arrived and slammed our water temperatures. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?site_no=02176930
Anglers will have to go “slow and deep” this weekend to have a shot at some limited success. We’ll also do better in the afternoons, once the sun has warmed the water a bit. Most of our catch rates plummet when these annual low temperatures hit, despite our best efforts at tempting our targets. Still, we have some opportunities to get outside and give it a shot, especially with our mountain stream flows finally declining to some fishable levels.
Okay, we’re past the bad news. The good news is that our unofficial kickoff to north Georgia’s spring fishing season is only a month away. Daylight is already stretching beyond 6PM, and we’ve gotten past two-thirds of “winter” according to our calendars. Therefore, this mid-February date is now telling us to “stock our boxes.” If we’re not outside, enjoying those afternoon fishing windows, we should focus some indoor activities on stocking up our tackle boxes and readying our equipment for the spring season. Sometimes this late winter preparation time is almost as fun as an actual fishing trip. And right now, it’s a whole lot warmer. Good luck stocking your boxes and maybe even slipping out for a couple hours of afternoon casting with that new rod from Santa (remember your gift cards!). You might even catch a few fish, and maybe one will be the $10K Lanier bounty!
Here we go:
- Stock Your Boxes at Bass Pro
Note the upcoming spring sale and especially the used reel turn-in program. We (WRD) have been given thousands of these reels over the past decade, and we’ve passed them on to school and scout groups to promote kids fishing. Grab your old reel, or go by a new spincast reel and turn it in for your rebate, and help Bass Pro Shops and WRD to stock our used-reel boxes for the kids this spring. http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPageBasicC?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&appID=206&template=sfc-rod-reel.cfm&storeID=13&cm_sp=SFCStltFeb2016_SP#sfcMenu
- Reminder – April Kids Flyfishing Clinic – Signups https://www.facebook.com/ucctu/posts/10153884310994025?fref=nf
- Congrats to Trey
This young TU dude is making a splash: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaTroutUnlimited/posts/10153318908622155
- Southern Trout Mag- the Georgia Edition http://www.southerntrout.com/magazine/
- Dukes Report
Sautee and Dredger grabbed a couple of Smithgall slots freed up by early departees last Saturday afternoon (2/6) and gave Dukes a shot. It was a nice, sunny day, the water flow had subsided, and the stream was crystal clear. The fishing was real nice but the catching was SLOW! The duo only managed four hookups, with two fish to the net. One was a four-inch runt, but the other nearly overflowed the net bag. That twenty-one incher hit a small black beaded leech in a deep pool, bulldogged for five minutes, and then took the angler on a short ride downstream before finally being corralled. The final day’s score was a lot of strikeouts, but this one nice homer. The duo vowed to return.
- Trouting Best Bets:
Catch & release fans should try Smith, Chattooga, and Amicalola. Harvesters should try the downstream sections of these same waters, where harvest is allowed. Small blueline streams on south slopes may cough up some wild fish during sunny afternoons. Dredge some nymphs like princes and hare’s ears in the slower pools with sun on them for your best chances of success. Both angler groups can give Vogel Lake a shot, too.
Check tailwaters first for non-generation windows, which have been rare this El Nino winter, and give them a shot if the flows drop. Remember that tailwaters will run warmer than mountain streams.
- Winter Attire and Dredging Tips
- Leaky Waders?
Now is not a good time to discover leaks. Fix them ASAP via these how-to’s.
- Lanier Bass
- Lanier Stripers
- Secret Perch Spot
- Ken’s Latest Lake Reports (Crappie are Stirring)
- New Carters Fish Attractors
Staff from the Army Corps of Engineers Carters Lake Project (https://www.facebook.com/Carters-Lake-US-Army-Corps-of-Engineers-777509319020184/), WRD Fisheries Section and a hard working group of volunteers recently constructed and deployed 116 fish attractors at two new sites on Carters Lake. The attractors were constructed from recycled shipping pallets and PVC pipe. The sonar shot provides an underwater look at one of the two sites created. While it may be several weeks before fish begin congregating around these new structures, anglers can find the location of the nearly 50 existing fish attractor sites in Carters at: http://www.georgiawildlife.org/node/216.”
These two new fish attractor sites are located along the shoreline of the Woodring Branch Campground. It may be a while before that map can be updated, but the GPS coordinates for the two new sites are:
1) N34o 36.973’ W84o 38.725’
2) N34o 36.616’ W84o 38.513’
WRD senior fisheries biologist Jim Hakala
- Pain-free Fishing
Thanks to our friends at Unicoi Outfitters for this lead:
Good luck during our frigid February, whether you’re indoors or out. Remember that spring is right around the corner, so get ready soon for a tremendous March!
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Steve Schleiger and region Fisheries staff; Reservoir Fishing Reports Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant)
Lake Russell (full, clear & lower 50’s) – Bass fishing is a little slow with the water temperature still cold. Cooler temperatures at night have kept most of the bass stable this week. Use the jigs, Carolina rigs and drop shot rigs. The spots seem to be a little more aggressive and they will chase a Rapala DT10 and Down Deep Husky Jerk on the ledges. The bass are coming up but the bite is going to be later on in the afternoon. As the bass move up, switch to a Number 5 or Number 7 Shad Rap. Use a stop and go retrieve to trigger a strike. Fish the rip rap rock on the bridges with these baits. For about one hour the first thing in the early morning is the best time to fish here.
Clark Hill (down 1.4 feet, high 40’s) – Bass fishing is fair. Use Shakey heads and dark plastic worms along with the deep running Shad Rap and other crank baits. Jigs are the best all day bait but change sizes and colors until the bass react to one size and color. On the sunny days, concentrate all your efforts in the shallow water. Bass will be there looking for food. Rapala DT6 crank baits and shallow Shad Raps will catch the bass on the flats and ditches. On the tougher days, look out in the deeper water on the ledges. Use the jerk bait until mid-day; then fish the sunny rocky points mid lake with a Rapala DT10 parrot color crank bait on 10-pound line to get it a little deeper.
STRIPER! Seminar March 5, 2016 in Buford Georgia. See www.nutsandboltsfishing.com
Lake Oconee (full, the main lake is heavily stained, richland creek is stained but clearing temprature is 53) – Bass fishing is slow. The main lake is still very muddy. The Richland Creek arm of the lake is not as stained as the main lake and the fishing is better in Richland Creek. Spinner baits fished around wood and docks have been producing over the past week. Jigs with a big dark trailer will also work on the bridge rip rap or on rocks in the Richland creek arm of the lake.
Striper report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time guide service. Call 404-803-0741, firstname.lastname@example.org
Striper fishing is good. The stripers are in the major coves and creeks looking for bait, and cleaner water. Use your Lowrance to locate the schools of bait in the creeks and drop a live bait down in to the fish. The spoon bite has slowed down with the muddy water, as the water clears the spoon bite will pick back up.
Crappie fishing is good. The fish are in the mouths of the creek and large coves. Long lines with double jigs trolled at 1-mph has been the best producer over the past week. Any jig as long as there is some chartreuse in it will work. Some of the fish are also on the ledges in 15 to 20 feet of water and minnows fished on down lines will produce good catches.
West Point Lake(down 6.8 feet stained & low 50’s) – Bass is fair. The pattern is the same for all species of bass right now and that means jigging. The fish are on the main body of the lake and in the main creek channels and can be caught jigging at 23 to 25 feet. Best baits are buck tails, sassy shad, and 1/2 ounce spoons such as a Hopkins spoon. The other pattern is to look for diving gulls on the lake, and then jig or troll in the areas that the gulls are feeding. The Twin Bridges pockets have been good early and late. Shad Raps in the #7 shad/black back and carp colors on 10-pound test line are good. The mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek is usually a good beginning area and fish the rocks on the bridge as well as the old road bed directly across from the ramp year round.
Lake Sinclair (down 1.7 feet, stained, low 50’s) – Bass fishing is good. These fish are being caught on a few different patterns. Docks and boat houses continue to hold fish, including some large bass. The key to success is finding the best baits and presentations of them. One bait and presentation may produce good results all day or a combination of 3 or 4 baits may be needed to catch a limit of quality fish. Crank baits of various styles and sizes can produce good results. Shad Raps or other flat-sided, tight wobbling baits are good choices, especially during high pressure, post-frontal conditions. Large, deeper running, and wide wobbling baits are sometimes the ticket. These baits can trigger strikes as they kick up bottom silt or glance off dock posts. On some days, suspending baits like a suspending Fat Free Shad or Shad Rap RS will generate bites as they suspend for a couple seconds beside dock posts or brush. Chartreuse combinations, shad patterns, and crawfish-colored crank baits have produced recent success. Remember to use slow to medium speed retrieves in the cold water. Jigs, soft plastics, and spinner baits should also be tried. A 3/8 ounce Strike King Pro Model or other similar jig is a good choice. Try adding a Zoom Super or Pro Chunk threaded on the hook. Texas and Carolina rigged soft plastics are the ticket at times too. Rocky points and banks, rip rap, and private concrete boat ramps also offer places to find a few active fish. Crank baits are usually the first choice to try. Bass are also still holding in deeper water, some in larger coves and others on the main lake around points and humps. Spoons, tail spinners, crank baits, and jigs can produce well occasionally, but recently Carolina rigs, jig head and worm, and drop shot rigs have done better. Try using a Zoom Finesse worm in red bug or green pumpkin on any of the rigs.
Big Lazer PFA
Largemouth bass: Poor – Fish plastic baits slow when the water temperatures are chilly. Plastic-worms fished around the deep water by the picnic area and around the newly repaired fishing pier may produce a few bites. Anglers can try fishing crankbaits slow around 10 feet of water; try lures that mimics crawfish.
Crappie: Poor- crappie fishing has been poor but their spawning season will start soon, until warmer temperatures fish for crappie in 8-10 feet of water with minnows.
Bream: Poor- Bream fishing is also poor but try pink and red worms around the new fishing pier. Also, target areas that have structure like woody brush and blow downs associated with it. This time of year, most bream will be located in 6 feet of water or deeper.
Channel catfish: Poor- Fishing for cold cats has been poor lake wide. However, you may get lucky using livers at or almost at the bottom and at several different locations around woody structures and the rocks around the dam. Fishing with two poles will increase your chances of getting a strike.
In general, February fishing at Big Lazer is challenging and fishing is poor. Anglers have to be more patient and persistent to have a good day fishing. On a good note, winter weather means less anglers are fishing; thus, less fishing pressure for the dedicated angler. Also, warmer temperatures are on the way. Finally, the repair work on the old wooden fishing pier has concluded and is ready for use. Some of the fishing pier’s upgrades include sitting benches, rod holders, shelves for tackle, and gaps in the railing for landing fish.
Largemouth Bass: Good. Bass are biting. Bass fishermen are still fishing. Several keeper bass have been caught out of Willow Lake which remains the lake with most potential for quality and quantity and receives most of the fishing pressure for bass. Rodbender, the trophy bass pond, is currently closed. Fishermen reported catching several bass from Rodbender in the 2.5 to 4 pounds in one day. A fisherman also reported being broken off in Rodbender too while using 30 pound braid line. This lake has been setup with multiple bait species for optimum feeding conditions for the all-female largemouth bass. Bass tags from Rodbender must be sent to the Thomson fisheries office or use the drop box at lake.
Bream: No reports of bream being caught. Bream fishing has slowed dramatically due to temperatures swings. Bream can still be found around structure and aquatic plants suspended over deep water.
Channel Catfish: No reported catches. The catfish are bite has slowed down due to dropping water temperatures. The best fishing is on the bottom in deep water using chicken liver, worms, and stink-baits. When water temperatures begin to warm up the catfish will slowly start biting again.
Striped Bass: No reported catches. Stripers like cooler temperatures and the cooler the better. Striped bass are located only in Bridge and Clubhouse Lakes. Stripers will be chasing available bait during winter months.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Midwinter is upon us, but it won’t be too long before the weather breaks and the fish move shallow to feed up and then spawn. This week the only good bites I heard about were from ponds (crappie and bass) and sheepshead in saltwater. The cold and wind this week put a damper on the fishing, so I will focus on the different bites that you can try in mid-winter instead of just repeating that the rivers were flooded or the bite was slow… Some of the best bites or the year are available over the next month or two, and these are some of the details that will help you get on them.
Crappie in Ponds and Lakes – The crappie spawn will shortly be upon us. Over the next month you should be able to catch the tasty panfish however you like catching them. During extended cold snaps, start your search in the deepest part of the pond by drifting minnows. Set them at different depths under a float and duplicated the setups that produce fish. One of the amazing things is that often one rod or another will catch most of the fish, even once you set others at that same depth. Don’t try to fight it, just make sure the good rod stays baited! If you figure it out, let me know – ha. During cool days or after cold fronts storm through, the fish should be staging in the mid-depths and can be caught by trolling Assassin 2-inch Curly Shads. I usually stagger the distances from my boat and pull at 0.8 to 1.3mph for success. I typically use a double 1/32-oz. jighead setup for trolling in area ponds and lakes. My favorite crappie bite is when the fish move shallow to actually spawn. Some should begin spawning after our next 4 or 5-day warm snap. I like casting the same 2-inch Curly Shads to natural cover when the fish are shallow. Cast around and into the cover and swim it out. Hanging up is part of the game where the big slabs are, so don’t get frustrated. If they don’t jump on a moving bait, I fish an Assassin Pro Tiny Shad under a small foam float. The float keeps the lure right in their faces and taunts them into biting. My most productive colors have been chartreuse, black/chartreuse, blue grass, crystal shad, and alewife (white pearl).
Bass in Ponds and Lakes – The first wave of bass will likely move up to spawn during the next extended warm spell. The hot weather we had the entire month of December helped their eggs develop, and I expect them to spawn early this year. That being said, there will still be some fish spawning all spring. Suspending jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are good lures for tricking them when they are suspended offshore or on secondary points. Brushpiles, points, and blowdown trees near spawning areas are perfect spots to look for them to stage before the spawn or after spring cold fronts push them off. I like fishing stick worms on shaky heads, Texas-rigged worms, or jig-and-plastic crayfish in those situations. Late in the season, a buzzbait will draw bites in those areas, but save that for when the water temperatures rise into the upper 60’s and 70’s.
Fliers and Pickerel in the Okefenokee Swamp – The February/March window is when you can expect to catch some of the biggest fliers of the year in the swamp. I checked some fish a couple of weeks ago, and the male fliers are already flowing. They big females will be shallow and spawning before long. My favorite way to target them is to pitch a pink or yellow Okefenokee Swamp Sally to the edge of shoreline vegetation or around cuts that join the prairie with the canals. You need to establish whether the fish are active enough to chase the fly without a float or if you need to keep the fly in place longer by suspending it under a small balsa float. If you are not catching at least 15 to 20 fish per hour (2 people) without a float, then add a float to a pole. Better yet, start the day with one person pitching the fly without the float and another with the float and see who catches the most. The trick with the float is to set the hook as soon as the float twitches because fliers usually inhale the fly and sit there. If you catch a flier 9 inches or longer, bring it by the Waycross Fisheries Office (8am-4:30pm) to certify it for an angler award (nice certificate and an embroidered hat). Pickerel will be in shallow vegetation and those same cuts between the flats and prairies this month. An in-line spinner, such as a Mepps or Dura-Spin will fool them. My favorite colors are white, black/chartreuse, and jackfish when targeting pickerel.