(Info provided by Fisheries Biologists Tim Barrett and Joel Fleming, and region Fisheries staff)
Catfish: It’s time for catfish! Catfish have been the focus for anglers over the last several weeks. Some anglers are reporting that catfishing in the river may be the best they have seen it in over 15 years. Catches of 50+ small to medium-sized channel catfish are not uncommon in many areas of the river. These fish are being caught on primarily worms, fished on the bottom. Anglers targeting larger channel catfish are fishing on sandbars in the evenings using cut or whole shad as bait. Fish well over 15 pounds are not uncommon when targeting these larger fish. Bush hooks, baited with cut bait, have also been very productive.
Anglers should also be aware that Flathead catfish have also made their way into the river. Although numbers are still very low relative to other species, catching one of these invasive fish is not out of the question. If a flathead is caught, DNR encourages the harvest of this species to help slow the spreading of the population.
Largemouth Bass: This has been an excellent year for largemouth in the Savannah. Results from tournament anglers from early spring into early summer were quite impressive. Very good numbers of large fish have been caught, with 8 – 10 pound fish not at all uncommon. Although catch rates have dropped a little with the summer heat in the last several weeks, anglers are still catching decent numbers of large fish. Spinnerbaits, trick worms, and crankbaits seem to the lures of choice. The best catches appear to be coming from slack-water areas out of the main river channel. One of the most productive areas has been around Tuckahoe WMA, producing a number of fish around 10 pounds over the last couple months.
Redbreast: Anglers are still catching good numbers of redbreast sunfish along with a mix of other panfish species, although the bite has subsided a bit from its peak in the spring and early summer. As usual, crickets and beetle-spins are the bait/lure of choice. The river is running pretty low during these summer months, so navigability may be an issue in some areas.
Largemouth Bass: Bass fishing has been pretty decent this summer. Although the large majority of anglers are focusing on redbreast, for which the river is so well-known, those focusing on largemouth have done fairly well. Focusing on those stretches of river large enough to hold good numbers of fish and big enough for good lure presentation seems to be the key to catching these fish. Spinner-baits appear to be the lures of choice.
Evans County Public Fishing Area:
Largemouth Bass: Bass fishing has been excellent in Bidd Sands (84 acre) lake this spring and summer. The Hydrilla problem that plagued this lake in the past is under control with the stocking of grass carp, opening up more angers access and fewer bait fowling issues. As with most systems, fishing was best earlier in the year but anglers are still catching good numbers of fish. During these dog days of summer, top-water baits and plastic worms fished early in the morning and late in the evening are producing most bites.
Catfish: Lake Longleaf, the smallest of the three lakes on the facility, is producing very good catches of channel catfish. Efforts by managers to transition this once multi-species pond into more of a quality catfish fishery have been very successful. Over the last several months, anglers have been routinely catching their limit (5 per person / day) in this pond. The earlier morning hours have been the “time to fish” for most anglers with chicken liver being the favorite bait for most.
Panfish: In addition to the catfish, when anglers come out to bring home some good “frying” fish for supper, they turn to panfish. Good numbers of bluegill and red ear sunfish (shellcracker) are being caught in the two larger ponds. Anglers are primarily catching fish on crickets and worms under a cork and on the bottom. Search around and see if you can find an active “bed” of these fish, particularly on a full moon, and you might just fill a bucket.
(Info provided by Fisheries biologist Bert Deener)
Saltwater fishing produced the best reports again this week, with tarpon, trout, redfish, sharks, and flounder hitting the decks and piers. If you don’t mind dragging your craft or wading, the river fishing has been good. Last quarter moon is August 24th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.
Altamaha River – Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle did not have a report this week. Donna at Altamaha Park said that the crappie fishing is the best news this week. Anglers reported catching 25 to 30 per trip by using minnows. Lots of channel catfish in the 3 to 5-pound range were landed. Blue catfish to 23 pounds were caught. The flathead bite was slow this week. The river level was 2.0 feet and rising (88 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 2.5 feet and falling (85 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on August 23rd.
Satilla River – David Tucker pitched black bugs this week and caught a 6-lb., 1-oz. bass, a 2-lb. bass, and 3 big bluegills. Craig James was at the bass again this week in the skinny water upriver. He floated on Tuesday and caught 12 bass up to 21 1/2 inches, 2 redbreasts and 2 bowfin on Trick Worms. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the Satilla fishing was on the slow side again this week. The serious anglers wading upriver caught hand-sized redbreasts and bream on worms and crickets. Satilla Spins (crawfish color) and beetlespins also caught their share. Bass were caught below Waycross on soft plastic frogs and topwater plugs. Rooster livers produced catfish from the deep holes. The bite in the Burnt Fort area slowed, but some big bream and warmouth were still caught in the middle of the river at and around low tide. The river level on August 23rd at the Waycross gage was 4.4 feet and rising (84 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 2.6 feet and rising.
St. Marys River – Reports are that any gold-bladed spinner, whether beetlespins, Spin Dandy spinnerbaits, or Satilla Spins (skirt color did not matter), produced big bream and warmouth. The key was the gold blade! The river level at the MacClenny gage on August 23rd was 2.8 feet and falling.
Okefenokee Swamp – On the east side, jackfish and red/white Dura-Spins and red/white beetlespins fooled lots of bowfin (mudfish). I’m sure that fliers will still inhale pink or yellow sallies, but I did not get any specific reports regarding the panfishing.
Local Ponds – I had a report of an 11-pound bass caught from an area pond on Monday by an angler using an 11-inch plastic worm. Chad Lee of Alma caught a 6 1/2-pounder on Saturday using a Ribbit Frog. Michael Winge said that bream fishing was the best this week. Crickets and pink worms produced most of the bream. Some bass were caught with soft plastics and buzzbaits. The best bite with the buzzbaits was after the sun set. One angler reported catching a giant bass on a black buzzbait last Thursday under the full moon. Shrimp fooled plenty of catfish from area ponds.
Saltwater (GA Coast) – The best reports of the week came from saltwater. A group of friends fished for tarpon and redfish on Friday. The two groups fishing the St. Marys Jetties caught 1 tarpon (on a 5/0-oz. Jetty Jig and Gulp Minnow) just under 100 pounds. Ed Zmarzly of Waycross was the angler, and that was his first tarpon. Congratulations, Ed! They also landed 5 redfish on Jetty Jigs and Sea Shads. The two groups fishing out of the Savannah area were on a dense school of tarpon. One group captained by Tim Barrett of Richmond Hill boated 4 tarpon during the day (Matt Thomas of Covington caught his first tarpon – way to go Matt!). The other group captained by Joel Fleming of Richmond Hill landed 3 tarpon. The northern group went back to the same area on Saturday and did not have a bite. Welcome to tarpon fishing – their nomadic behavior is maddening! Bull reds are moving into the sounds in higher numbers each day. That bite will be wide open before you know it. Michael Winge reported that croaker and whiting were eating dead shrimp and squid in the Brunswick area. Trout and redfish were landed with live shrimp and artificials. Flounder in the 16 to 23-inch range were reported. Mudminnows and finger mullet produced the flatfish. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle reported that the shrimp have finally showed up at the pier. Castnetters said the size of the shrimp was good. Flounder from 14 to 23 inches were landed from the pier on dead shrimp and mudminnows. Spanish mackerel, croakers, bull whiting, and trout were also caught from the pier. Cut bait produced some bull redfish and sharks. Quite a few blue crabs were caught. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.
Best Bet: If the marine forecast comes to pass, fishing inshore will be your best option, as northeast winds are predicted. The St. Simons Pier is usually a good alternative during a northeast wind. In freshwater, the Okefenokee bowfin (mudfish) bite on in-line spinners is a fun option, as is walking or floating the Satilla for bass.