Georgia Fishing Report: March 3, 2017

Anglers – Check out the latest news, tips and information about angling from the experts! Central Georgia, Southeast Georgia and North Georgia information below.

CENTRAL EAST AND WEST GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Steve Schleiger, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)

Reservoir Fishing Reports Below Courtesy of Southern Fishing with Ken Sturdivant (http://www.southernfishing.com/current-fishing-report.html

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, CLEAR, 50’s

Bass fishing is good.  A lot of bass are roaming the shallows and almost anything can work.  It is hard to beast a #5 Shad Rap.  The bite is good if there is a slight breeze pushing into the sunny pockets.  Baits are migrating to these pockets during the day.  Fish several pockets to locate which ones are holding the baitfish and bass.  Small crank baits and jigs will work.  Add a Zoom Fluke and fish right in the centers of the coves and down the middle of these pockets.  As the water continues to warm, use a jerk bait to trigger a reaction strike.  Fish a Zoom Baby Brush Hog in green pumpkin and fish any wood as the bass will use this cover as they begin preparing for the spawn.

CLARKS HILL IS DOWN 9.81 FEET, 50’s

Bass fishing is good.  The bite is turning on with the recent warm spell and moving fish well into their pre-spawn pattern.  Most bass are being found in ditches or flats with jerk baits and crankbaits in 15 feet of water or less.  On the warmer afternoons bass will be cruising in the backs of many pockets.  We’re certainly not done with all of the cold weather, but spring is now upon us.  Here are some things to keep handy as you fish this month: spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerk baits and jigs.  If the weather continues to stay moderate to warm, big female bass will cruise the shallows looking for an area that provides cover and food for the spawn.  Throw close to and into the thickest cover possible during the warmest days.  However, if the temperature stays cool back off the cover some and try slow rolling around the edges of spawning flats.  If the month does stay on the cool side jerk baits and crank baits that suspend and fish down the middle of the pockets.  The jig and pig will produce big bass now.  Try it on main and secondary points that are near spawning flats.

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, THE LAKE IS CLEAR ON THE SOUTH END STAINED UP THE LAKE AND INTO THE RIVER TEMPRATURE 57-61

  • BASS: Bass fishing is fair.  Small crank baits fished along the side of the docks in the middle of the coves out to the main lake will produce. You can also add fishing a Rat L Trap around any deep dock and around rip rap early.  Jigs fished around wood structure have also produced some larger fish.  Some fish are starting to move into the creeks and coves so don’t be afraid to move in and out of the coves and pockets, fishing all depths of water.  Use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology together to find the fish.  Use the down beam in auto depth and send the side beams five time the depth.
  • STRIPERS: (Striper report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time guide service. Call 404-803-0741 or reeltime@bellsouth.net) Striper fishing is good. The fish are mid-lake around river bend.  Use your Lowrance to locate the large schools of bait and the stripers will be close by.  Look for the birds diving, if you see birds go fish them.  Live bait as well as spoons will produce large numbers of fish.
  • CRAPPIE: Crappie fishing is good. The fish are moving into the creeks.  Long lining jigs over the fish will produce good catches.  Spider rigging will also catch some fish.  Some of the bigger fish are starting to show up in the rivers.

WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 4.7 FEET, CLEAR & 60’S

Bass fishing is good.  It is spring in March.  Schools of spotted bass mixed with hybrids, white bass and stripers and even the occasional largemouth can still be caught on jigging spoons and drop shot rigs on deeper offshore structures.  A day producing a mixed bag of species fish is not uncommon.  Baits such as suspending jerk baits, Zoom Super Flukes, Senko’s and spinnerbaits are already catching shallow largemouth bass and spots.  Try to fish these baits in or near any shallow cover or around schools of baitfish in the back of pockets.  Fish the open water in the pockets with a 1/2 ounce Rat L Trap, a sexy shad crankbait or the Alabama rig.  Crankbaits on rip rap or chunk rock is also a good pattern for early spring.  The shallow bite will only get better as the water warms in March.  Remember that the creeks always warm first.  The pre spawn is just around the corner.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN .86 FEET, CLEAR, 60’S

Bass fishing is good.  Fish jerk baits on the lake like the Spro McSticks in Norman flake and spooky shad colors.  Fish main lake points and flats.  Be sure to work these baits around any dock and on any grass line.  Fish the flat-sided crankbaits such as Davis Fishco and Norman Flat Broke Baits in these same areas.  Anglers are also using the loaded Alabama rig and taking some good fish in the backs of any sandy pocket.  Any crawfish or shad patterns will do the job.  The jig bite is good mid-day after the sun warms the water.  Use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology together to find the fish.  Use the down beam in auto depth and send the side beams five time the depth.  Pitch the docks in the upriver coves and swim it back after lunch.  Use 1/2 ounce jigs in green and brown around any wood cover too and add a Zoom salt trailer in matching colors.  Use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology together to find the fish.  Use the down beam in auto depth and send the side beams five time the depth.

LAKE JACKSON IS DOWN 1.1 FEET, 60’s

Bass fishing is good.  With much warmer weather lately, begin to look for fish to move to the back half of spawning coves.  You can just about throw any shallow running bait like the spinnerbaits, crank bait or swim bait and catch active fish that are feeding heavily.  The spawn might come much sooner than normal with higher than average water temperatures.  Use the Lowrance Structure Scan and Down Scan technology together to find the fish.  Use the down beam in auto depth and send the side beams five time the depth.  Soft plastics like tubes and lizards will work well on bedding fish toward the end of the month.  Dipping the bait in JJ’s Magic will help increase the bites, with a little chartreuse on the tail.

FLAT CREEK PFA

  • Surface Temperature: 68.7˚ F (20.4˚ C)
  • Water Level: 5’ 11” Below Full Pool
  • Water Visibility: 19”

The lake level is rising, and the fish are biting.  It’s a great time to cast a line and try your luck at Flat Creek.  The warmer spring weather has caused the water to warm.  Fish have started to cruise the shallows.  Fisherman have been leaving quite happy reportedly catching lots of crappie and several bass (one angler even caught a nine pound largemouth).  If you are fishing from the bank try casting the edges of cover.  If you are fishing from boat try fishing near any of the fish attractors or the large rock piles.  Here is a list of fish and what has seemed to work the best for each species:

  • Bass: Plum colored ‘Ol Monstor worms by Zoom. Watermelon or Pumkinseed Culprit worms. Most dark colored worms.
  • Bream: Worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks) on a Carolina rig. Near cover or near the shallower water during a full moon.  Crickets have not worked well.
  • Channel Catfish: Red Wiggler worms, Frozen Catalpa worms, and chicken livers.
  • Crappie: Chartreuse/white teaser tails, or similar color pattern in Triple Ripple. Blue bodied teaser tail with a chartreuse tail and most brightly (not yellow) colored teaser tails with an inch or two of the tail trimmed have worked very well.

McDUFFIE PFA

  • Water Temperature: Rising 63.3 ⁰F
  • Water Visibility: 30 – 60 inches
  • McDuffie PFA has started the spring fertilization program.
  • All Lake Water levels on McDuffie PFA are back to Full pool.

Largemouth Bass:  Largemouth bass bite has been steadily improving.  Boat and kayak anglers are catching multiple bass with most of them under the fourteen (14) inch length limit.  Willow Lake still has some shad left which anglers target for fast action.  The Bass are responding to the warming water temperatures and have begun biting readily across all PFA’s lakes.  McDuffie PFA’s anglers are spreading the fishing pressure across the PFA lakes.  No reports of bass on spawning beds.  Rodbender, the trophy bass pond is open year-round and anglers can harvest one Bass (22) twenty-two inches in length or longer.

Bream: Bream are biting and are being caught in shallow water across the PFA.  Rodbender also has bream, bluegill and redear.

Channel Catfish:  The catfish bite has picked up and as the water continues to warm up the catfish will begin to feed in preparation for the spring spawn.  The best fishing is on the bottom using chicken liver, worms, stink-baits, or home made baits.  Later, in the spring catfish can also be caught in shallow water by fishing with worms or crickets under a bobber.  Catfish are being caught in Rodbender.

Striped Bass:  The stripers are biting in both Clubhouse and Bridge Lakes.  Boat anglers are catching stripers on small crank baits and shad rap mid-lake or along the lake channel.  Stripers are also biting on chicken liver fished on the bottom while anglers are targeting catfish.

MARBEN PFA

  • Water temps. : High 60’s

Largemouth Bass –   March weather can be a little unstable at times.  Temperature swings can bring sudden changes to bass feeding behavior.  Bass are still in deeper water but due to a warmer than average winter anglers could find bass in shallow water, especially on consecutive warmer days.   Mid-day can produce some big bass but look for these big fish in deeper water (10-15 ft.).  Submerged timber and rock beds are good habitats to target when seeking bass at Marben PFA.

Crappie –   Crappie are now the most aggressive in early afternoon and evening, crowded around submerged timber in deeper water.  Anglers should find this species dominating the catch.  When it is quiet at Marben, the crappie are usually biting.  Flooded timber is the preferred habitat and the most popular bait is live minnows and yellow jigs.  Try fishing cover approximately 10-12 feet throughout the day, especially in the evening.

Bream – Bream fishing will start to pick up but will not be as aggressive as crappie.  Warmer water temperatures play a factor but overall this is just the right time for anglers seeking quality bream.  Anglers should expect bream fishing to be best in mid-day but a little slow in early morning and evening.  Remember that bream are still a little sluggish so be patient when fishing this popular species.

Catfish – Catfish will remain sluggish this time of year.  Patience is necessary if anglers are in pursuit of this fish.  Anglers should target days when it is sunny which should warm the water in order to get catfish moving.  Livers, worms and stink bait are the preferred choices if targeting catfish at Marben.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FISHING AT GEORGIA PFAS: LICENSES AND MORE

NORTH GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Jeff Durniak, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)

Well, we survived the strong cold front Wednesday night.  While there was some hail in northwest Georgia, it looks like most of us came through the storm unscathed.  Actually, we could have used a lot more rainfall from it, but we’ll take the half-inch that we received.  We need every drop- for our wild trout streams, our reservoir fisheries, and especially for our trout hatcheries, where it’s very hard to grow fish without water. The drought continues up here, as well as our efforts to manage and to fish around it. https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?site_no=02178400

There are a lot of interesting events and activities coming up, so they’re leading off this week’s report.  Take a look and pick one or two to participate in; you’ll be glad you did. Shoot, you might even win the Dream Trip or an awesome runner-up prize! http://www.georgiafishingbooks.com/tailwater/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2017-Dream-Trip-Flyer.pdf

On the fishing front, this sudden dip in nighttime air temperatures might cool things off just a bit from the red-hot action induced by last week’s warmth (see Henry’s vid!), but it should still be very good.  Baitfish, stream bugs, and sportfish should re-acclimate after a day or two.  http://www.wsbtv.com/weather/5day

Bass and crappie are starting to head for the reservoir shallows, and are on fire in our ponds and small lakes, which warm much quicker each spring.  Gulls are pointing us at the shallow-water striper blitzes, and stripers and whites are also starting to head uplake in preparation for their late-month spawning attempts. http://www.gon.com/fishing/on-the-run-catch-white-bass-spawning-up-the-coosa

And walleye are around – somewhere.  They’re trickling into the tributary rivers as they prepare to spawn at midmonth, or maybe earlier if the warmer weather returns.  Our rivers are so low that even our jetboats may not be able to chase them all the way up to their spawning grounds, where we take only enough broodstock for our warmwater hatcheries.  They’ll produce another year’s worth of fingerlings to stock and sustain our sport fisheries (since natural reproduction is limited to nonexistent in our Georgia lakes).  Good luck in first finding them and then in convincing those darn walleye that a meal is more interesting than a date. http://www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Yonah

Here we go for the first of March:

  • Kudos on a Good Cause: March 11 – Hooch WMA Cleanup http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112544 Kudos to Kyle on his personal initiative!   I would bet that more volunteers would be welcome.  And all folks would also be welcomed at the evening BBQ and bluegrass event in Helen, below.

LAKE LANIER

Crappie: This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club. www.laniercrappieanglers.net

As to be expected, fishing is good to excellent this time of the year.  Water temperature is between 57 and 60 degrees, varying between morning and afternoon. With the full moon about two weeks away, combined with warmer weather, the stage is being set for the spawn.  The combination of warm weather and a full moon will create ideal conditions.  The trolling bite is good, using double rigged curly tails in a variety of colors.  Try tipping some with minnows.  This technique will result in bagging bigger fish, and with the abundance of bait, will give you an edge.  For dock shooters, the bite has been consistent all day long, Target shallower docks, fifteen foot depths or less.  Don’t hesitate to try docks as shallow as 6-8 feet, as that is where the females will most likely be.  (Be mindful though, that the females are holding our future crappie stock, so catch and release this time of year is an excellent practice.)  As you start at a dock, you will notice you are catching the bigger fish.  As they tend to get smaller, move on to another dock.  As we mentioned in the past, you are competing with a large number of fishermen this time of year, so it is very important to keep moving if you are not getting bites.  The secret to putting a lot of fish in the boat is to simply cover a lot of water.  Keep moving!  Some fish are holding on the more shallow submerged brush piles, but the bigger fish have moved from brush piles to shallow docks with cover.  Four pound high visibility line is very important.  Your jig color should vary depending on the water color.  The more stain, the darker the jig should be.  Stay away from heavier jig heads.  1/24 ounce remains our number one choice unless the day is very windy.  As we mentioned in the past, keep asking your friendly bait store to carry that type jig head.  They tend to be difficult to find.  To target blowdowns, water temperatures need to be around 60 degrees for a few days in a row, which we’ve not consistently reached.  Watch for it though, it’s coming, and that will be the first sign of the spawn.  Another sign of fish moving to blowdowns is seeing turtles sunning on the exposed portions of blowdowns.  Once the water temperatures rise, the turtles will come out of hibernation.  Best blowdowns are the ones that have been submerged a year or longer, in the backs of pockets.  They’ve had a chance to build algae, which attracts the plankton, which attracts the bait…..you get the picture!  Stay safe on the water, always wear a life jacket!

SMALL LAKES STILL HOT (from angler Craig Riendeau)

Went back out to the small lake today and it was more of the same. Ended the day with a dozen nice bass topped by a 5 1/2 pounder. Surprisingly had to fish deeper to get them today. Got a bonus 2 lb 15 oz crappie on Wee Willy Wiggler. Fattest crappie I’ve ever seen. I hope everybody is getting out and taking advantage to all this warm weather.

WRD WALLEYE UPDATE

Today’s (3/2/17) “shocking” intel shows that it’s still too early for the main run. Some males are up on the spawning grounds, but females are sparse.  If it warms next week, abundance should increase.  Hakala’s craft found a 14 fish in Carters (52 degree water), while the Rabern flotilla found a half dozen  in Lanier, above Don Carter, in 52 degree water.  Lakes at higher elevations (Yonah, Tugalo, etc) should be even farther behind on their runs.  Lake levels in the Lanier headwaters are very low and dangerous, so try to intercept them farther downlake, where your boating is safer.

TROUT

Priceless Kid Pics http://forum.gon.com/showthread.php?t=893450

Hooch Tailwater Lunker Hunt Wow!   http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112646

Spring Favorite- The Haystack. Tie these in gray for Gordons and hare’s ear for March Browns. http://randrflyfishing.com/2008/02/05/the-haystack-one-of-our-favorite-smoky-mountain-trout-flies/

Southern Trout Magazine: The latest edition has some good Georgia stories. http://www.southerntrout.com/

ne-ga-trout-rbt-stocker-and-smile-riley-b-2016
Check out that smile on Riley after a stocked trout catch-Priceless!

Stocker Supplies: Are you ready for the start of the 2017 Georgia trout stocking season?  State and federal hatchery trucks https://www.fws.gov/chattahoocheeforest/ will be rolling soon, and there will be more WRD news to come next week regarding the kickoff of our 2017 stocking season.  In the meantime, stock up for stockers now with new line, small hooks, shiny spinners, a fresh jar of salmon eggs, and maybe even a new cricket cage.  Remember to patch those hip boot holes from last year.  Nearly every one of us started with stockers to kick off our trouting careers, and they’re still fun.  Get your ultralight fishing tackle ready and check for openings in your kids’ school and soccer schedules.  It’s nearly trout time again in Georgia.  Ready, set, cast!

http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/fishing/2010/03/merwin-stocked-trout-are-ignorant-not-dumb

http://www.baitsoaker.com/fishing/trout/stocked/

ne-ga-summ-hat-trio-and-truck-load-apr-2016
Takes Strong Man to Stock Trout….

Good luck as we hope for a rebound in water temperatures and topwater action in the days ahead. Stock up this weekend for stocker season, soon to break.  Stay tuned for that trout transportation news, and send me your stories and photos to share with our internet angler group.  As always, thanks for your license and license plate sales – and renewals if you’re due!!!

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts)

Pond fishing has been excellent this week, with big catches of crappie and bass reported. In saltwater, whiting were tops. Most rivers are starting to get fishable, although they are still a little high. First quarter moon is March 5th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/rt.

ALTAMAHA RIVER: The Ocmulgee River and upper Altamaha are starting to warm up and clear up. If we don’t get significant rains this week, it will probably be good bass fishing next week. I received one report from a catfish angler fishing the Jesup area last Wednesday, and he landed a 32-pound flathead. He also caught several channel and blue catfish up to 3 pounds. Connie at Jaycee Landing Bait and Tackle reported that shellcrackers were caught on worms, and crappie ate minnows. Limb lines baited with goldfish caught some good catfish. Donna at Altamaha Park said that channel catfish were the best bite over the weekend, and the best bait was worms. Some crappie were caught with minnows dangled in the treetops. With the warming water temperatures, expect some big crappie to be caught in the backs of the oxbow lakes over the next few weeks. The river level was 6.3 feet and falling (65 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 8.5 feet and falling (62 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on February 28th.

SATILLA RIVER: The best report I heard all week was from a friend fishing the middle river. He texted me a photo of a half of a cooler full of crappie that he and a friend caught with minnows and jigs. Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that some good-sized crappie were caught on minnows and dark colored jigs. The redbreast bite has started, with Satilla Spins and beetlespins producing some nice fish.  Bass were caught on plastic worms and lizards. The river level on February 28th at the Waycross gage was 8.5 feet and falling (64 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 8.2 feet and falling. If we don’t get rain this week, the river will drop like a stone with the leaves popping out.

ST. MARYS RIVER: Randy Hanson of Folkston caught some great crappie on the St. Marys this week. His fish were caught from the Trader’s Hill area of the river. Michael Winge reported that the bream, redbreast, and catfish bites were good. Crickets produced most of the bream, while beetlespins were the ticket for redbreasts. The extreme upper river is already difficult to get around, but the middle and lower river sections are fishable. The river level at the MacClenny gage on February 28th was 1.9 feet and falling.

se-ga-randy-hanson-st-marys-crappie-2-17
Randy Hanson of Folkston caught this and several other crappie at the Trader’s Hill area on St. Marys River

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP: I only received one report from the swamp this week, and that angler fished the Fargo side. He caught bowfin and a bass by throwing Dura-Spins. I’m sure the flier bite is wide open right now, but nobody has reported back to me. On the Folkston side, pitching yellow or pink sallies under a small balsa float with a bream buster pole is a sure bet for a cooler of fliers and some warmouth. By the time you read this, a cold front will have chilled the water temperatures, but the bite should pick back up with the warming temperatures late in the weekend.

LAKE GRACE (WAYNE COUNTY, NEAR ODUM): Staff from the Waycross Fisheries Office did their annual standardized electrofishing sampling at the lake this week and saw some whopper bass. They weighed and released a 10 1/2-pound bass and another over 9 pounds, along with quite a few smaller bass. The crappie population there is also good and is well-worth trolling some lures or minnows or pitching lures to shoreline cover. In the next few months, some good bream will be caught from the lake, and worms fished on the bottom will produce bullhead and channel catfish.

HUGH M. GILLIS PUBLIC FISHING AREA (NEAR DUBLIN): A couple of Blackshear anglers made the trek to the PFA to fish for bass. They were very successful, landing and releasing 14 bass up to 5 pounds with live bait. The area has a 16 to 24-inch protective slot limit (you can keep bass smaller than 16 inches, must release fish between 16 and 24 inches, and can keep one bass over 24 inches). The crappie fishing has been very good at the area this winter, as well. Most folks targeting crappie slow-troll minnows or long-line troll curly-tailed grubs.

LOCAL PONDS: Chad Lee pounded the bass this week in Alma area ponds. On Friday he caught 36 bass up to 4 pounds. They bit “everything he threw”, including Savage Gear Shrimp (no that is not a typo!), spinnerbaits, plastic worms, Rat-L-Traps, flukes, and Whopper Plopper topwater plugs. He followed it up on Monday with a 57-fish day. A watermelon candy fluke was the ticket during that trip. He had 10 fish that weighed 4 pounds apiece. He said that his hands were raw (and I can believe it!). Steven and Jerry Long had great trips on Friday to a Glynn County pond and Monday to a Wayne County pond. On Friday they mainly caught bass, while both bass and crappie bit for them on Monday. They fooled the bass with watermelon chartreuse colored ZOOM Trick Worms, while the crappie ate minnows and also white lightning colored Squirmin’ Squirt tube jigs. Michael Winge reported that crappie were biting well on minnows. Catfish were caught by anglers bottom fishing with worms. Crickets are starting to produce some good bream catches.

SALTWATER (GA COAST): The whiting bite is picking up. On days when the wind allows, fish the sounds with shrimp on the bottom, and you will do well for the tasty bottom dwellers. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that bull whiting, black drum, yellowtails, seatrout, and sharks were caught from the pier this week. You can monitor the marine forecast at www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/.

BEST BET: The late-week cold front will keep the nighttime temperatures down, so the afternoon will probably be the best bite. Winds will again control if you can get out to the whiting or trout this weekend. The lower tide fluctuations this weekend should provide fairly clear water if winds are reasonable. Bass should be chasing moving lures and plastic worms in the afternoons this weekend in ponds. Ponds should also continue to produce some good catches of crappie, except the day after a cold front passes (they’re usually fickle biters right after a cold front).

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