Okay Spring…stop kidding around…we are ready for you! We have had a lot of fishing “stuff” to tell you about lately, have you “caught” it all?

  • Prospects: Be sure to check out our updated 2018 Fishing Prospects (amazing info and tips you need to know before fishing Georgia reservoirs and rivers)
  • Trout Stocking Info: you can sign up for a weekly email about the latest trout stockings HERE 
  • Bass Slam: don’t forget to start working on YOUR Georgia Bass Slam (extra tips on catching a Chattahoochee bass HERE and a Bartram’s bass HERE)!

Today, we have a report from Southeast Georgia – let’s get to checking it out – and then Go FISH Georgia!

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA 

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

Bass, crappie, and flier fishing were tops this week. The whiting bite was still strong in saltwater. Zion Hill Church is holding a bass tournament this Saturday, March 24th. The entry fee is $50 per team of 2. This is a benefit tournament for Mattie’s Mission. For more information call Sammy Story at (912) 393-4528, Drew Barber at (912) 816-6149, or Rob Goble at (912) 282-6800. First quarter moon is March 24th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE.

ALTAMAHA RIVER

A 64-pound flathead was caught this week in the upper river by an angler running limb lines. Donald at Altamaha Park reported a strong channel catfish bite. A few flatheads were also caught. Crappie, bream, and redbreasts were caught in backwaters with crickets and worms. Commercial fishermen have been catching quite a few American shad in their set and drift nets. The river level was 6.5 feet and falling at the Baxley gage, and 8.3 feet and rising (64 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on March 20th.

SATILLA RIVER

Michael of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that catfish were caught on limb lines baited with rooster livers. Crappie were caught with minnows and jigs fished in the sloughs. In the Burnt Fort area, big bream were caught on crickets, while even bigger warmouth were chowing down on minnows fished under floats. The river level on March 20th at the Waycross gage was 7.4 feet and falling (63 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 5.4 feet and rising.

ST. MARYS RIVER

Creels of 15 to 25 nice bream and redbreasts were the norm this week. Crickets and worms were the best baits. Catfish were caught again about anywhere you dropped a worm or shrimp to the bottom. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 20th was 4.0 feet and rising.

OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

A pair of anglers fished the east side on Monday and caught 35 fliers (30 of them keeper-sized) by pitching pink sallies without a float and swimming 1-inch pink grubs on 1/64oz. jigheads. They tried fishing the little pink fly under a float but missed a bunch of bites. When they fished it without the float the fish started eating it better. On the west side, catfish catches were good for those fishing shrimp and worms on the bottom.

LOCAL PONDS

SE GA Julius Conner Bass
Julius Conner caught this nice bass from a Waycross area pond using an unweighted plastic lizard

The best bass bite I heard of was from a Blackshear angler who fished live bait to catch 7 bass with the biggest topping the scale at 7 1/2 pounds. Michael Winge said that soft plastic lizards and topwater frogs produced some great catches in the warming weather. Minnows accounted for some great catches of crappie.

SALTWATER (GA COAST)

The strong whiting bite continued this week. A group of anglers fishing the St. Simons area filled a 94-quart cooler with the tasty saltwater panfish over the weekend. They took several hours to clean their catch. Under the bridges, sheepshead were fooled with fiddler crabs. A few limits of trout were reported from the creeks in the Brunswick area. The flounder have started to show up in the creeks. A friend reported running a trot line for crabs this weekend. It was a little slow for them, but the 8 big males they kept produced 18 crab cakes once they mixed up their favorite recipe. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that black drum, whiting, and sheepshead were caught this week from the pier. You can monitor the marine forecast HERE.

BEST BET

We’re going to have some colder weather mid-week, but temperatures should be rising through the weekend. The marine forecast at the time of writing this is good for both days this weekend. If that materializes, it will be hard to recommend anything other than whiting fishing this weekend. Inland, bass and crappie fishing are great options. Pitching sallies for fliers is another possibility during the warming weather this weekend.

 

NORTH GEORGIA 

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

This weather suggests we’re going thru a rerun of “Alaskan Bush People” as north Georgia anglers deal with rain, snow, a little ice, a lotta strong winds, and maybe even a funnel cloud or two.  Instead of Stormchasers, we are Stormdodgers!  And this approach may pay benefits again until winter finally loses its grip on March and April warmth indeed comes to stay, maybe even as early as the middle of next week.  We have a lot of great reports and DNR “shocking intel” to help you plot your course through the unsteady weather of the next several days.  Here we go:

 

LAKE LANIER

Fisheries Technician Chris Looney with help from volunteer Dillan Greeson started spring electrofishing for striped bass on Lake Lanier today (3/22).  Despite the cold temperatures and wind over the last couple of days, they were able to sample a decent number of fish.  Water temperatures are still cold, ranging from 51 degrees in the open water to 53 degrees in the stained water in the backs of creeks.  Stripers were found associated with the bait schools in the backs of the creeks right around the mud line.  Depths ranged from five to 15 feet.  Most of the stripers caught were averaging around eight pounds with the big fish of the day being thirteen pounds.  We also saw decent numbers of small fish which is a good sign that the last couple of years’ stockings were successful.

Lanier STB 3-21-18 Volunteer 13lb STB

 

Coalition Kudos! The Lanier Striped Bass Coalition made the generous donation of a high capacity digital scale to the Gainesville office for use in Striped Bass sampling on Lake Lanier. This scale will allow fisheries scientists to get more accurate weights on fish that were too big for their current digital scale. Thanks to the Lanier Striped Bass Coalition for continuing their support of statewide fisheries management efforts!

LSBC donated scale

 

Crappie(This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club) – Water temperature is in the mid-50’s.  Fishing is good to excellent – until the wind blows us off the lake!  Most days are calmer in the morning, so we get out early but pack our gear and head to the boat ramp when the wind picks up.  Some fish have already moved back to shallow water (five foot depths).  Our advice though, is to not get locked into any specific pattern – experiment with different depths.  The weather is dictating changes in the water temps, thus affecting the movement of the fish.  They are still feeding well, once you get on them.  If you feel it is helpful to use your side scan, that’s always an option.  But our preference is generally to sneak up on a dock that usually performs well, and start shooting jigs into the darkest areas.  It will only take a few minutes to determine if fish are present.  If we don’t get a bite in the first few minutes, we move on.  Hair jigs and soft body jigs are performing equally well.  Anything with chartreuse is a good color to use.  Crappie minnows are always a good alternative.  Long line trolling using curly tails are also producing well, single or double rigged.  Always experiment with colors – you never know what they may be hitting most that day.  March is a windy month, but if you can work around it, you can have a great day fishing!  Stay safe on the water and wear your life jacket!

 

TROUT

WRD and US Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery staffs stocked 44 waterbodies with 25,000 ten-inch trout last week.  The larger fish are a result of the License Revenue initiative.

Remember our Friday updates on trout waters stocked that week: http://georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout

 

RIVER INTEL

Historically, the last week of March and first two weeks of April are the high point of the false spawning run for stripers up our rivers.  Folks looking ahead should think about trips to the Hooch and Chestatee above Lanier, the Nottely River, and the two Coosa tribuarty rivers.  Its big fish time!

 

Guru and Dredger snuck out last Friday after work and found some warm weather and fairly warm water.  They were simply limited by the number of daylight hours remaining.  They took a quick drive to the upper Hooch in search of early season shoalies.  But the traditional dredging and stripping of a fodder/bugger combo was untouched.  Then Dredger added a big bobber to suspend the hairy fodder just above bottom, and the fish took notice of the drifted offering, with just a few twitches added along its quiet ride.  A few shoalies to 13 inches were landed to celebrate the start of spring on the upper Hooch!

bass shoal Hooch 3-16-18

Hint: “big bobber” was the biggest Airlock strike indicator, tossed on a six-weight fly line.  Big thingamabobbers should also be able to suspend the heavy, dumbbell-eyed  shoal bass flies.

 

COOSA RIVER

The white bass run has picked up following last week’s cool down, but the spawning run still appears weak this year.  Fish abundance between Lock and Dam Park downstream to the Old River Road Boat Ramp is well below typical levels.  Despite their lower numbers, the size quality of white bass present is excellent.  Two to three pound egg-laden female white bass are not un-common.  Crank baits, Rattle-Traps and jigs are all good baits to cast in pursuit of these mini-linesides.

 

The warmer river temperatures have driven more striped bass into the Coosa River as well.  Most of the stripers present are smaller males, but larger 20+pound females stripers are starting to make their way into the river too.  Crank baits and live shad are both good go to baits for spring run stripers.

 

CARTERS LAKE

Bass fishing report provided by Louie Bartenfield of Carters Lake Guide Service (http://carterslakeguideservice.com/):  Spotted bass are in a pre-spawn pattern throughout the lake. They’re moving from very shallow water to 25-30ft from what I’ve seen.  Sometimes it’s hour to hour where you’ll find them in that depth range.  I’m primarily slow rolling a Spotsticker Underspin tipped with Strike King Rage Swimmer in pearl color. I’m also catching a few of the shallower fish on jerkbaits, but it’s feast or famine with it right now.  Also don’t be surprised if you accidentally catch a big Largemouth. I was pleasantly surprised with this giant largemouth bass that was pushing 8 pounds.

 

WALLEYE

In the opera world, they say it’s not over until the “fat lady sings.”  In the walleye fishing world, the shallow water bite is not over until the last walleye has spawned.  This week’s walleye monitoring efforts indicated that walleye are still abundant in the headwaters of our stocked lakes.  The 4 lb male walleye in the photo was collected in the headwaters of Lake Hartwell along with about 30 of his buddies in just 20 minutes of electrofishing.  The key to catching these sometimes uncooperative fish is to fish very slowly with lures that bounce off the bottom.  Your favorite light-weight jig tipped with a nightcrawler or small minnow is all you need.  Just be sure to work the bait very slowly along the bottom.  Also, the walleye bite is always best when power generation is occurring.  The spawning run is winding down quickly, so the window of opportunity will close soon and walleye anglers will have to switch over to deepwater tactics.

 

It’s a good time to catch post-spawn walleye at Carters Lake.  Valarie Bartenfield of Chatsworth landed this nice “glass-eye” at Carters’ this past weekend.  The fish was caught on a Strike King J300 jerkbait and was released to fight another day.  Guide Louie Bartenfield said the walleye will be making their post-spawn return down river and will start spreading out on flats & main lake points, especially those in the Coosawattee River arm of the lake.  He added that, “this is the best time of year to catch walleye at Carters”.  He prefers using a Strike King J200 or J300 jerkbait in herring or threadfin colors.  For crankbaits, Louie said he’s had the best luck using 6-8 ft. diving baits like a Series 2 or 3.  “I tend to pick brighter colors like firetiger or bluegill colors”, he said.  Learn more about walleye and other fishing opportunities at Carters Lake HERE.

Walleye_Hartwell_03.16.18 Rabern small.jpg

Other North Georgia Happenings

http://forum.gon.com/showthread.php?t=916420

  • Hit the Hooch

Fat stockers, abundant wild browns, and a few huge browns which like both of the menu items prededing them in this sentence…. What more could metro angler want?  Hit the Hooch – soon!

hit the hooch March 2018.jpg

Buford Hatchery Technician Andy Wentworth sez, “We’ve stocked some healthy fish below the dam the last few weeks. “

http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=115442&referrerid=9796

http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=115428&referrerid=9796

  • Fly Flingers

Are you caddis-ready?  The hatch has already broken out on the Hooch Tailwater, and several species will start popping like popcorn as the weather warms.  Have the right sizes and colors in your arsenal, and know what stage of the hatch is in front of you. Here’s more voluntary homework for interested students of the caddis hatch.

http://flyfishingthesmokies.net/the-life-of-the-caddis-fly-selection/

https://maineguideflyshop.com/2017/02/17/frustrated-with-caddis-hatches/

https://midcurrent.com/flies/anticipating-a-caddisfly-hatch/

https://www.hatchmag.com/articles/under-appreciated-caddisfly/7712759

 

Upcoming WRD Events

Here’s a reminder to check out our GoOutdoorsGeorgia app.  Our calendar of WRD events, from kids fishing days to hunter education classes to volunteer opportunities, can be seen here:

https://events.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com/Events/Events.aspx

 

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