Wash your hands…Wash your hands? C’mon Anglers – I mean, we GOT this part, right? You know after a day (or night) of fishing that you got to do some GOOD scrubbing to get them hands smelling decent.
Georgians, we know you are going through some tough weeks right now. Stay strong and do your best to get outside at least once a day (as long as you can stand the pollen). You can safely #socialdistance while fishing, and that would be an awesome way to put aside some of the stress and worry we all have. Let’s check in with some of the news to know this week:
- Hitting the Water: Stocking trucks are rolling and trout are hitting the water. Click HERE and HERE for more info.
- Are You Open? Click HERE for the news you need about Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Properties.
- Please check the U.S. Forest Service – Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests’ website for updated closures on National Forest land.
Now, let’s give you some good news you can use out there on the water. This week, we have reports from Central, North and Southeast Georgia. Stay safe, wash your hands, and Go Fish Georgia!
(Fishing report courtesy of Bert Deener, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
The neatest story of the week came from a pond in Brunswick. Check out this family adventure…..Little 5-yr old Bain wanted to go fishing so he and his mom and grandpa headed to a Brunswick area pond. Bain was tearing up the bluegills using his secret Slim Jim bait when a nice largemouth bass latched into the snack….I mean bait. Grandpa (Chester) set his pole on the dock and helped Bain land the bass. Immediately after snapping a photo of the bass, Chester’s rod went for a ride off the dock and into the drink. Folks in the area cast Rat-L-traps and other treble hook lures in hopes of snagging the line or pole to no avail. But, just a couple minutes later, mom (Ashley) while using a simple Texas rigged worm with an exposed (SINGLE) hook snagged the pole. She pulled it in, but just as it made it to the dock, it pulled off. The fish was still on the line! Several more casts with the treble hooks remained fruitless, but Ashley snagged the line AGAIN with the same single hook. This time, they grabbed the line quickly and got their hands on the pole. Bain was able to reel the fish in and pose for photos with pole-snatching catfish. You just can’t make that stuff up! Way to go, Bain! I think he’s a professional angler in the making!
The southeast Georgia rivers are getting mostly in the banks and close to fishable but are still a little too high to effectively fish, except for the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. Early indications from the Satilla are good. A friend fished the upper river on Sunday and caught 5 redbreasts (1 rooster) in just a short trip on crawfish Satilla Spins. River conditions were bad, but he still caught fish.
First quarter moon is April 1st…..no foolin’. At least that’s what the charts say….lol. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website HERE. For the latest marine forecast, click HERE.
ST. MARYS RIVER
Chuck Deen and a friend fished the tidal St Marys on Thursday and did well for panfish. They ended up with about 25 fish, including a couple crappie, a warmouth, and the rest redbreasts. Chuck caught all of his fish on crawfish Satilla Spins, while his friend caught most on beetlespins. Shady Bream Tournaments holds artificial-only panfish tournaments on the river. Check out their Facebook page for more information on their events. The river level at the MacClenny gage on March 26th was 2.9 feet and falling (about a foot fall since last week). The upper river will be tough to get around, but the tidal area below Traders Hill is in great shape.
Chris and Christy Nugent fished the Fargo area of the river last weekend and caught a nice mess of bullhead catfish (butter cats). Most of them were in the 10 to 12-inch range. They used shrimp on a Catfish Catcher jighead for their fish. The river level at the Fargo gage on March 26th was 7.8 feet and falling (72 degrees).
Scout Carter and a couple of friends fished a pond Thursday evening and landed about 20 bass up to 2 pounds on black flukes, black Trick Worms, and spinnerbaits. Chad Lee and Daniel Johnson fished Alma area ponds this week and put it on the smaller bass. They used senkos and lizards to fool 50 bass up to 2 pounds on Tuesday.
Miley and Colt fished with their dad, Craig, on Wednesday and caught 10 warmouth and a bass. They used finesse worms for their fish. Way to go! Charles Burch fished the swamp this week and caught big bowfin up to 11.2 pounds using white body-white blade Dura-Spins. The warmouth and bowfin bites should fire off big-time any day now.
SALTWATER (GA COAST)
I had very few reports this week, but folks said they caught mostly whiting and sheepshead. The redfish have moved out of their wintertime haunts and have spread out more. Whiting fishing is the ticket for the next month. Put a piece of shrimp on the bottom in an inlet and you should get bit. Check with Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle (912-634-1888) for the latest on the St. Simons Pier.
(Fishing report courtesy of Steve Schleiger, fisheries biologist and Region Fisheries Supervisor, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, 50’S
Bass fishing is good. As the water warms up during the day the fish move to the somewhat deeper water in ten to fourteen feet and look for some form of cover and stay in shady areas. Rocky ledges, rip rap rock under and near the bridges along with any and all submerged cover will be key places to concentrate your efforts during the hot afternoons. The early morning top-water bite is still present from time to time. As the water warms up use lighter baits such as the 1/4-ounce jig or a four-inch worm. Keep fishing simple and move from rocky point to rocky point with dark colored jigs and Carolina rigs. A fair crank bite is still present during the early morning and late evening hours.
CLARKS HILL IS .54 FEET OVER FULL, 50’S
Bass fishing is good. The Georgia Little River side is starting to produce some really good fish. Bass are moving up now and fish in the 4 to 8-foot range this week. Red Eye Shad and Fritt’s Side crank baits are working when the sun comes up. Cast these baits in red and crawfish colors and add a Rapala DT6 in hot mustard to the tackle. Concentrate on wood structure with jigs and creature baits. cA good crank bait bite should be present from time to time, especially on those rocky points and roadbeds when the wind is blowing. Number 5 Shad Raps and all-white spinner baits will work up in the rivers and on rip rap. Never go to this lake without a Carolina rig, Carolina Keepers and one-ounce egg sinkers on 14-pound Sufix Siege line. And add the Zoom green lizards to this rig.
LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 50’S
(This fishing report by Captain Mark Smith, Reel Time Guide Service) — The lake is full. The water temperature is 58-63. The lake is clearing some. It is not clear, but it is getting better. The south end and the Richland Creek side are lightly stained, and the main lake is stained from the 44 bridge north (but not muddy). There is still a lot of trash in the water so be careful.
Bass: Bass fishing is good. The fish are starting to move into the coves and creeks. You will need to match your bait to the conditions. Spinner baits with big blades fished around rip rap at the main bridges are working. The large rocks on the south end of the lake are also holding some feeding fish. Small crank baits are drawing some strikes around docks in Richland Creek. Also look for secondary points off the major creeks; work them with a dark-colored crank bait. Sugar creek has been the most productive creek over the past week.
Striped Bass: Striper fishing is good. Live bait like bass minnows, fished on flat lines, have been producing good catches. The shallow trolling bite has also picked up. Mini Mack’s have been working very well. Most of this action is on the south end of Richland Creek to the dam.
Crappie: Crappie fishing is good. The long-line (trolling) bite has picked up over the past week. The schools are moving into the coves and creeks. Locate the school depth with your Lowrance and troll to that depth.
WEST POINT LAKE IS DOWN 4.5 FEET, STAINED 60’S
Bass fishing is good. Bass are beginning to move into spawning pockets in a pre-spawn pattern lake wide. Most of the fish have been caught shallow in the first half of spawning pockets. Use mid-depth crankbaits in a shad pattern for these fish. Crankbaits to choose from are a Bomber 4A, Bandit 200 or a Rapala Shad Rap. Make long casts to the bank and retrieve with a slow to moderate retrieve. Lipless crankbaits are producing but received fewer bites as compared to crank baits. Spotted bass have begun to move up on lay downs and shallow rock on main lake. Use a 1/8-ounce shaky head with Zoom green pumpkin trick worms. Spotted bass will become more aggressive over the next couple of weeks leading to the spawn.
LAKE JACKSON IS 1.5 FEET OVER FULL, STAINED, 60’S
Bass fishing is good. Tussahaw creek consistently remains clear. Big fish are falling for the jig. Spinner baits and crank baits are also fishing well. The spinner bait bite is best in the morning and crank baits should be used to search for staging fish throughout the day. Overcast skies and wind will help the spinner bait produce through more of the day. Rock has been a primary focus through the winter months. Fish are holding on hard clay and chunk rock bottom but pay attention to wood cover as well. Big fish are holding in the wood and will take a spinner bait in the morning. Use a 3/8-ounce chartreuse bait with gold Colorado blades. Probe the brush and blow downs with the jig and crank baits during the day. For cranking, a #7 Shad Rap and the Bandit 200 are among the best choices. In the colored water, choose a crank bait with some color. Fire Tiger is one good choice. A green pumpkin or black lizard can be used Carolina or Texas rigged. A jig of 3/8 ounce or lighter should be used for its slower fall. Go with black and blue in the stain. Green in the clear water.
Flat Creek PFA (More Info HERE)
- Surface Temperature: 66.9˚ F (19.4˚ C)
- Water Level: 2” Below Full Pool
- Water Visibility: 13”
- Flat Creek PFA Fishing Guide
As expected, the warmer temperatures have been kicking off some great fishing at Flat Creek and many anglers are leaving with heavy stringers and big smiles. This trend is expected to continue and even increase as we transition into the summer warmth. A recent sampling of Flat Creek revealed several nice-size crappie and several bass above 7 pounds with three of them over 9 pounds!! Bass fishing has been ok but better for those with a boat. The large bream have been getting caught close to shore and some anglers have been very excited over the sizes caught. Crappie fishing is the current buzz at Flat creek and the 1 to 1.5 pound sizes have not been uncommon.
Bass: Plum colored ‘Ol Monstor worms by Zoom. White Buzz baits. Minnows and worms (Pinks).
Bream: Worms (Red Wigglers and Pinks) on a Carolina rig. Worms on a Texas rig.
Channel Catfish: Most catfish caught has been bycatch while fishing for bream or bass. The last angler interviewed that was catching catfish had great success with worms fished on the bottom.
Crappie: Minnows have been the go-to bait, while jigs (John Deere or yellow and white colored Triple Ripple, or June Bug colored Teaser Tail) fished with light tackle to feel the slightest bite and trolled have been working very well! If you are bank fishing, try fishing near the pier as soon as the lights come on. If on a boat try cover (tree tops).
MCDUFFIE PFA (More Info HERE)
- Water Temperature: 68⁰F
- Water Visibility: 20 – 54+ in
- The Fish Cleaning Station is open.
Bass: Nice bass are being caught throughout the area, but especially in Jones, Willow, and Breambuster Lakes. Bass are chasing shad and other forage fish that are congregating where the siphon drains flow into the lakes. A couple very nice bass were caught on super flukes where the upstream siphon drain flows into Willow Lake. Lures that imitate small threadfin shad have been successfully catching numerous 2+ lb. bass in Breambuster Lake. Beaverlodge Lake isn’t exactly known for big bass fishing, but it may be worth fishing the submerged treetops back there.
Bream: The bream bite has started to really pick up. Clubhouse and Bridge Lakes have been the best for bream fishing lately, but several nice shellcracker were recently caught in Beaverlodge Lake as well. For large bream, Clubhouse is the lake to fish. Fish feeders at Jones, Beaverlodge and Breambuster Lakes are good spots to try for bream, as well as any structure in deeper water.
Channel Catfish: The catfish action has been good lately. Bridge, Willow and Beaverlodge have been the best catfish lakes. Deep water around the siphon drain structures continue to be good spots. Fish feeders at Jones, Beaverlodge and Breambuster are excellent spots to fish for catfish, too. Remember, the PFA record catfish has not been set. Any channel catfish caught on McDuffie PFA that exceeds 12 lb. will qualify as an official PFA record fish. Please see application at kiosk for details.
Striped Bass: Stripers can be found in Clubhouse and Bridge Lakes. Large stripers have been congregating where the siphon drain flows into the Clubhouse Lake. These larger fish have been caught on crankbaits, swimbaits or umbrella rigs but smaller stripers are consistently caught on chicken livers.
(Fishing report courtesy of Sarah Baker, fisheries biologist, with help from Region Staff and local experts)
GO CATCH A TROUT! Our North Georgia hatchery crews have stocked the creeks full of rainbows this week and what a great time to hit the river; this weekend is going to be absolutely gorgeous! Grab your hat, and sunglasses, and take the kids to explore a local stream. Check out our Tips For Fishing With Kids. If you have kiddos under the age of 12, Moccasin Creek is going to be an excellent destination! Download and print out a coloring page for your kids to color during their car ride to your favorite fishing spot.
I know- you’ve heard it all over from everyone, but PLEASE adhere to social distancing. Let’s respect and honor the doctors, nurses, and first responders who risk their lives, and their families’ lives, each day in response to the Coronavirus. It is absolutely necessary to put public health first. If the river is crowded, please try again later. Have a backup plan. Recognize that efforts have been made by DNR to minimize the spread of infection, including closing some restroom facilities. Please plan accordingly.
Stocking Up: From WRD trout stocking coordinator, John Lee Thomson —the trout stocking trucks have been running all week and the WRD and the USFWS have stocked 50 waterbodies across north Georgia. Check out our weekly trout stocking report HERE to see if your favorite spot has been stocked. The U.S. Forest Service lands are open and accessible, but there will be no facilities or restrooms. Click HERE for more about US Forest Service closures. Good trout fishing etiquette is great social distancing. Don’t approach other anglers, and move up or downstream to find good holes that will hold trout. The high flows from heavy rains earlier this week will have trout spread out from stocking points. Good Luck and enjoy a beautiful Saturday trout fishing.
The Toccoa Tailwater: (Report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — was fishing very well before rain earlier this week, and should continue to pick up as the water clarity clears up towards the weekend. March Browns have been hatching and we’ve seen some pictures of Golden Stones coming out of the rocks. For dry flies, I would have some Griffith’s Gnats for midges and some Parachute Adams in a few sizes to match any dark bodied mayflies that you might see. Tan and Peach Chubby Cherynobyls in 8-10, Black and Tan Foam PMX’s, and Fat Albert’s are all staples on my nymphing rigs from now till October – I mostly use these flies as bobbers. For subsurface patterns, size 8-10 Pat’s rubber legs in brown, black, and tan/brown, size 10 Black Double Bead Stone’s, Brown Tungstones, and 20 inchers all find a place as my lead fly. For droppers, I like to throw rainbow warriors/lighting bugs, March Brown Jigs, Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles, Zebra Midges, and Clear Water Emergers.
The Upper Toccoa DH: (Report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — is still high and dirty. It might be floatable by the weekend, watch the flows on the US Geological Survey Gauge at Dial road – sub 800cfs is floatable, sub 500cfs is wadeable.
The Etowah River: (Report courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company) — should break loose any day now, if the water clarity begins to clear. We received enough rain yesterday to blow out the river below Pumpkinvine Creek probably through to next week. If you don’t mind muddy water, the Corps of Engineers has been reducing flows at the dam to fishable levels for parts of the day, and if you want to catch a big Spotted Bass, these fish should be in prespawn mode right now. While I probably wouldn’t leave home without some conventional gear in these water conditions, you can throw some flies at these fish – Schmidterbaits, Cowen’s Coyote, and any other flies that are going to move some water and create some commotion will work. I prefer colors like Black and Purple, Chartreuse and Pink, and Craw colors in stained water.
Lake Lanier Stripers: (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist Hunter Roop) — Gainesville fisheries staffers sampled Lake Lanier this week in pursuit of striped bass for annual population sampling. The data we collect from these fish provides insight into the population’s size structure, fish condition, survival, recruitment, and other information necessary to manage the population. Lake temperatures are now in the upper 50s, the upper reservoir is muddy-to-stained, but the fishing is great according to our sample and several conversations with striper guides along our way. Currently, stripers can be found feeding on bait (blueback herring, gizzard shad, and threadfin shad) in the early mornings on points and shallow flats in 8’-10’ of water. Target these shallow fish with live blueback herring on freelines or planer boards. Once the sun gets high, the bait and pursuing predators go deep. These deep fish are in 20’-40’ of water—too deep for our electricity to reach them! Target the deeper fish with live bait on downlines or by jigging a spoon or bucktail jig. Birds in the sky are great indicators of where the schooling baitfish are. If you’re really wanting to distance yourself from the other boats likely to be on Lanier this weekend, try fishing waaaay in the back of the coves with larger feeder creeks (think creeks around Three Sister’s, Flat, Balus, Taylor, Yellow, etc). Baitfish pile up close to the creek mouths, and you can find schooling stripers and plenty of spotted and largemouth bass. We found this 6.25 lb largemouth patrolling a feeder mouth this week, and she sized up to some of the stripers in our holding tank! Look to catch good numbers of 2-4 lb stripers, with the occasional 10 – 12 pounder.
Lake Lanier Spots: (Report courtesy of “Academy” Jack Becker) — Thursday morning started out cloudy, temperatures in the mid 50’s with winds as we launched at Van’s Tavern Boat Ramp to make a run South again this week. We found water temperatures of 58.7 and looked for pre-spawn fish to be staging on shallow water docks farthest back in small pockets midway back in creeks. Slow fishing early but by the afternoon the skies cleared and the temperature went up. We had a great afternoon of fishing. We caught a total of 23 Bass all Spots in water as shallow as 3’ in flooded brush and off docks. Soft plastics again on Shakey Head and Neko Rigs. Zoom split tail Flukes fished weightless in white ice also caught fish. Most of our fish were small 15 to 16” but my partner caught the best one of the day. 3.3 lbs.
Lanier Boat Ramp Closures: Lake Lanier has ramp closures throughout the lake. The current list of ramps that are closed can be found on the Army Corps’ GIS map for Lake Lanier. Refer to this map and the Corps Facebook page for updates on lake conditions and other pertinent announcements. Be safe!
Back to the Future (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist Hunter Roop) — Why back to the future, you ask? Because 138 “gently used” walleye broodfish from Go Fish hatchery were stocked back into Lake Lanier on 3/19/2020, along with 75,000 of their newborn fry (fry are larval forms of recently hatched walleye). Those mature fish going “back” will hopefully wind up on the end of a Lanier angler’s line, while those tiny fry will be eating and growing up quickly to be caught in the “future.” We hope you’ll get out and pursue this tasty fish sometime this spring, and if you want more information on how to catch a Lanier walleye, click HERE.
Hartwell Tributaries: (Report courtesy of Bob Lux) — I hit up my favorite Hartwell trib last night right before sundown. Flows are up a bit from the recent deluge, but still fishable. I decided to put the fly rod to the side due to the flows and went with a pumpkin seed Mister Twister on a 1/8 ounce jig head. For the short time I fished, I would rate the fishing as pretty decent. The water temps have come up a bit since last week as the bass were actively feeding getting ready for the spawn. I managed 3 good sized Spotted Bass and 1 Bartram’s Bass. Just when I thought that the walleye were gone, my lure got slammed in a downstream swing and I managed a nice eating sized walleye right before sundown. After 3 other unsuccessful walleye trips to this spot, I was about to throw in the towel for the year on walleye, but they are still in there. This time of year is always exciting on the rivers as you can get a mixed bag of sportfish. This particular area is good for crappie, bass, walleye, hybrids and you get those surprise stripers.
Oostanaula and Coosawattee Rivers: (Report courtesy of WRD fisheries biologist John Damer) —Armuchee staff continue to sample the rivers in the Coosa basin to check on the status of the striper run. All this rain continues to make sampling very difficult and inefficient, but we are still finding a few. Probably not enough fish around to risk fishing in the dangerously high flows we are seeing right now. As I write this the Oostanaula and Coosawattee are both at daily record highs. Best to fish some flatwater this weekend. Look for flows to drop out possibly toward the end of week.
Chattahoochee River: Chattahoochee River NRA public facilities and parking areas will be closed and reassessed in two weeks.
SMALL IMPOUNDMENTS REPORT
Small Lakes Option – Check First for Closures (Courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver) —Due to current events, many county lakes are closed for public use. Travel is also limited but that doesn’t mean to put the rods back in the closet. Maybe you know of a private pond or one of the many Georgia State Park Lakes you can visit to enjoy for a day. Most folks think of visiting Georgia’s larger reservoirs or rivers when it comes to fishing but there might be a great fishing spot just around the corner. One of the best things about small lakes in middle Georgia is that most fishing techniques can be used.
My two cents: Anglers will find most water temperatures hovering in the mid to low 60s this time year. Expect these temperatures to fluctuate as rain and ambient temperatures will impact these waters much differently than a larger reservoir. Also, consider that these small water bodies will stain (muddy water) much quicker and thus could impact fish behavior. (Important note: I know many anglers who wish they could fish stained waters all the time.)
Species Techniques for Smaller Water Bodies or private ponds:
- Largemouth Bass – Bass are extremely aggressive right now and this aggressiveness is very beneficial for anglers seeking “lunkers.” A variety of techniques can be used this time of year when targeting bass. Texas rigs, crankbaits, slow and fast fishing, shallow and deep just about everything is working! Look for bass to mainly be in 5 to 10 feet of water. Bass will be occupying a variety of habitat from flooded timber to shallow points. Schooling shad in the morning are often good targets while targeting rocky banks and points on windy days. Anglers should also consider targeting big bass after rain events. Muddy water will typically move bass into the shallows as they search for forage fish.
- Crappie – Crappie will remain the most sought-after fish in middle Georgia – at least through April. Crappie can be found in 5 to 10 feet of water from early morning until evening. Submerged timber is a very popular target when targeting this fish. However, crappie can also be found hanging around rock piles and edges. Reports of anglers catching crappie ranging in size from one to two pounds are common. Yellow jigs and live minnows remain the most popular baits. The best thing about crappie this time of year is that they remain aggressive throughout the day. Do not be surprised if the stringer fills quickly!
- Bream – Look for bream fishing to really pick up, especially as more stable weather patterns emerge. Typically, anglers will notice shellcracker being the most dominant catch followed by bluegill. But if you are like me, any big bream is good!! Look for these fish in 5 to 7 feet on sandy bottoms. Anglers can find this easily by walking the banks. Worms and crickets remain the bait of choice by most anglers. Bream can be caught throughout the day but most anglers find midday to be the best time. Look for bream to be the most aggressive during the spawn while protecting their territory. Reports of shellcracker weighing over a pound are not uncommon this time of year. If it is quiet on the lake, that means the fish are biting. Rarely does one give up their favorite fishing spot!!
Right now, in Georgia times are stressful, as families have a lot on their plates from finances to just day-to-day living. Fishing can bring a relaxing break to many. It also allows folks to get out and enjoy the many resources Georgia has to offer and those small resources may be just down the street. Everyone be safe and GOOD FISHING!