Your Peach State Angling Year
October 04, 2010
From Hiawassee down to Valdosta and La Grange and over to Augusta, every corner of Georgia offers great fishing. Here's a look a three dozen of those options for 2009! (Feb 2009)
Fish are biting somewhere in Georgia every day of the year, and, from offshore saltwater fishing to wading tiny trout streams in the mountains and everything in between, you have a lot of options for catching them. You can find something to catch near you whenever you want to go wet a line.
Whatever your goal, be it filling the freezer with filets or fighting fish that make your drag scream, something to suit your taste can be found every month in our state.
What To Expect: Spotted bass abound at Lake Allatoona, and boat traffic's at a minimum this month, so you can fish for them in comfort. The bigger spots hold deep on steep rocky bluff banks on both arms of the main lake and feed in the cold water. Smaller spots are more active in the same areas in shallower water.
How To: Fish bluff banks with a jig-and-pig or jighead worm on light line; move either in short hops, staying in contact with the bottom. Midday is often the best time to get a bite, as the sun warms rocks and water.
Contacts: Mike Bucca, owner of Spot Country Guide Service, email@example.com.
Other Options: Largemouths move into spawning areas early on Lake Seminole; you can catch them around bedding areas on Carolina-rigged lizards and worms on the flats.
Crappie at Clarks Hill Lake hold in standing timber on old creek and river channels at 11 to 20 feet deep.
What To Expect: Yellow perch run up the Savannah River in the winter, concentrating below the Clarks Hill Dam and feeding heavily in the pools and eddies. They can be caught on a variety of baits. Fish in the 1-pound range are common; bigger perch can be caught. The Georgia record is only 2 pounds, 8 ounces -- you might break it if you want to try.
How To: Fish small jigs and live minnows from a boat or the fishing piers to fill your freezer with these tasty fish. There is no limit. Use light line and tackle to get the best fight possible from these fish known for taste, not fighting ability.
Contacts: The Herring Hut, (864) 333-2000.
Other Options: The warm water discharged by Georgia Power's Plant Harlee Branch makes Lake Sinclair one of the best places to catch winter largemouths on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
The state-record spotted bass was caught at Lake Burton in February. Fish the ends of long main-lake points with a jigging spoon or a jig-and-pig.
What To Expect: Fat and full of eggs at this time of year, crappie at Lake Oconee move shallow to feed, readying for the spawn. Some of the biggest of the year are caught in early March, but the whole month is good for numbers of the tasty fish.
How To: Troll small jigs and live minnows on the ledges and flats up the Oconee River above the I-20 bridge. Keep your boat right on the lip of the drop and change speeds and depths you are fishing until you hit the right combination. Using several poles or rods with different colors and at different depths helps find what the slab-sized crappie want.
Contacts: For guided fishing, call Al Bassett, (706) 473-7758.
Other Options: Rainbow trout bite well in the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River below the Lake Lanier Dam. The area south of Sope Creek is restricted to artificial lures and catch and release this time of year.
Pre-spawn West Point largemouths move onto secondary points in coves and creeks and hit crankbaits and spinnerbaits in March.
What To Expect: The full moon on April 9 brings bluegills into shallow flats to spawn on Lake Seminole. Starting a week before the full moon, the fish congregate in huge numbers and make beds side by side that are easy to spot.
How To: Look for beds on sandy flats; offer the fish crickets, grass shrimp or Mepps No. 2 spinners. Anchor a cast away from the edge of the beds so you won't spook the bream and you can catch fish after fish.
Fish with ultralight rods and reels spooled with 4-pound line for a good fight, or go with the traditional cane pole. The bluegills don't care how fancy your tackle is, but rod and reel make it easier to stay back from the beds and catch fish.
Contacts: For information, call Wingate's Lunker Lodge, (229) 246-0658.
Other Options: Catch sheepshead on fiddler crabs and shrimp around pilings and rock jetties in bays at the Golden Isles.
Your best chance for a Georgia smallmouth bass is Blue Ridge Lake; go with small worms, crankbaits or a jig-and-pig on main-lake points.
What To Expect: Blueback herring spawn on Hartwell in May, especially around the full moon; largemouths gorge on them. The blueback spawn offers some of the best fishing of the year for big bigmouths, since they are actively feeding and the baitfish make the lunker largemouths move shallow.
How To: Fish topwater plugs like Zara Spooks or soft jerkbaits like Zoom Flukes over shallow bars and humps on the main lake. Bluebacks like to spawn in "blowthroughs," -- places where an island near the bank concentrates the wind blowing over a shallow area. The wind and waves expose gravel for the herring to spawn on -- and bass will be nearby.
Contacts: Lamar's Fishing Cabin can be reached at (706) 376-1478.
Other Options: Catch mahi-mahi (a.k.a. dolphin) off the Georgia coast. Troll squid lures and spoons under birds off of Savannah.
The Ogeechee River is full of redbreast sunfish, which hit small spinners, earthworms and crickets under overhanging brush.
St. Simons Island
What To Expect: Both Spanish and king mackerel are chasing schools of baitfish off the coast. They're on reefs not far off the beaches, so long runs aren't necessary. Kings get big and will test your tackle; Spanish mackerel aren't as big; both put up good fights, and are great eating. On a good day, you'll get dozens of hits.
How To: Slow-troll live bait or artificials near natural and artificial reefs. Be prepared for screaming runs up to 200 yards if you hook a big king. Watch for birds feeding over schools of fish; get near them before starting to troll your baits.
The state-record king is a 75-pound, 12-ounce fish caught near Grays Reef by Joe Bell in 2004.
Contacts: Captain Mark Noble is the man to call at (912) 634-1219.
Other Options: Flathead cats feed heavily in hot weather on the Altamaha River. Fish deep holes with big live bream.
Waters Creek is a trophy trout stream; the big specimens are smart and hard to catch. To outwit a bragging-size trout, try a fly rod.
What To Expect: Lake Lanier is crowded with pleasure boaters during the day, but nighttime brings the spotted bass out to feed. Night tournaments are common on the lake; winning stringers usually include a 5-pound-plus spot. Some big fish can be caught in the dark at Lanier in the summertime.
How To: Start at dusk with topwater baits over offshore humps and long main-lake points. When it gets dark switch to big black spinnerbaits slow-rolled along the bottom in 18 to 25 feet of water, or a deep-running crankbait on humps and points with rocks and brush. Also, fish a jig-and-pig or jighead worm with rattles in the same areas, shaking it in one place to attract the fish.
You can get by with heavier tackle in the dark, but stick with 10- to 12-pound line for your baits. Fish an area slowly and carefully and return to places in which you catch fish, as a school's probably feeding there.
Contacts: Guide Ryan Coleman knows the fishing; call him at (770) 356-4136.
Other Options: Seatrout feed on oyster bars in the bays around Sapelo Island; catch them with live shrimp or jigs.
Put your boat in the Flint River downstream of Albany and fish topwater poppers late in the day for exciting hits from big shoal bass.
Lower Chattahoochee River
What To Expect: Big blue cats feed in deeper holes in the river below the Walter George Dam. From eating-size up to trophy-size fish, you can catch a lot of them there now. The current means a hard fight from cats grown fat on the fish killed by the generators at the dam. Fishing is best during power generation, which creates strong currents.
How To: Anchor at the heads of deeper holes and drift live bream or shad into them. Also, use cut shad on heavy line and stout tackle.
Tie a rig with a sinker heavy enough to get to the bottom and hold there with a swivel 2 to 3 feet above it. Tie the sinker on with lighter line so you can break it off if it gets hung up. Put a short dropper line from the swivel to a hook of suitable size for the bait you are using and the size of fish that you're after.
Use big baits for big cats or smaller baits for eating-sized fish. Frozen shrimp and small chunks of chicken breast work well for smaller cats. Whole shad and bream are best for trophy fish.
Contacts: Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for generation schedules at 1-(866) 772-9542.
Other Options: The flounder in the bays around Cumberland Sound at this time of year can be caught by drifting live minnows, bloodworms or shrimp.
Bluegills bed again on the full moon of Aug. 6, so take some crickets and earthworms to the Big Lazer Creek Public Fishing Area.
What To Expect: Red drum -- also called "redfish" and "channel bass" -- migrate out of the bays and rivers in the summer to congregate off the beaches and on reefs in the fall. This is the best time to land a big bull drum by surf-fishing or fishing wrecks and reefs.
How To: Cut mullet or blue crabs are the best baits for big drum in heavy surf at the mouths of creeks and rivers or fished on reefs and wrecks. Use heavy tackle to take these strong fish -- the state record is a 47-pound, 7-ounce fish caught off artificial reef "KC."
You can keep only red drum between 14 and 23 inches long; the daily limit is five fish.
Contacts: Miss Judy Charters can put you on fish; call (912) 897-4921.
Other Options: Stripers in the Coosa River seek out deep holes this time of year and can be caught on live bait and jigs.
For a change of pace, fray an 8-inch piece of white nylon cord and tie it on a silver spoon. Cast that rig to big gar on the surface in coves up the river at Lake Harding.
What To Expect: Introduced into the Ocmulgee by anglers, shoal bass took a liking to the river. Four- and 5-pound fish are common from the Jackson Lake dam to Macon, and fish even bigger are caught as well.
At this time of year, the river's low, so the bass are easier to find. Watch water levels: Power generation at Jackson Lake causes the water to rise rapidly. Shoal bass bite better when the strong current caused by power generation is flowing.
How To: Fish small crayfish-colored crankbaits at the heads of pools and work them by any rocks in the current. Drift a Texas-rigged worm with light lead in the current through cuts and into deeper pools.
Live baits like small crayfish and rock worms are excellent when drifted under a cork. Fish all baits naturally with the current.
Other Options: In the, fall big walleyes move onto main-lake points on Lake Rabun and can be caught on live earthworms and minnows.
Rocky Mountain PFA near Rome offers two lakes to fish for largemouths. Time your trip the first ten days of the month, when Heath Lake is open to fishing.
What To Expect: Cooling water makes Jackson Lake largemouths move to shallow wood cover and feed. It also means less boat traffic, making for a more pleasurable fishing day. Some of the biggest bass of the year are caught at Jackson during the cooler months since they are more accessible to anglers.
How To: Fish a jig-and-pig around blowdowns and brush near the main river and creek channels. Use a brown jig if the water is clear or black-and-blue if it is stained. Work the bait slowly, hitting every limb and letting it fall back to the bottom.
Wood cover in short pockets and small coves off the main channels are best -- bass can run into such shelter to feed and still have access to deep water nearby.
Contacts: For guide services, call Barry Stokes, (770) 713-8521.
Other Options: A good year-round river for rainbows, the Toccoa is outstanding in the fall.
Weiss Lake is known for big crappie in the fall. Target wood cover in deep water in major creeks with jig
s and minnows.
Clarks Hill Lake
What To Expect: Big stripers move shallow in the cold water to feed on blueback herring. Fish weighing 40 pounds and more are caught each year at Clarks Hill. The population of big stripers is solid; winter's the best time to catch them.
How To: Use planer boards to take live blueback herring in close to the rocks on main-lake points. At the same time, freeline live herring behind the boat in deeper water to cover a range of depths.
Contacts: For details, or a day of fishing, call Captain Dave Willard, (803) 637-6379.
Other Options: Largemouth bass feed in the Altamaha River in the winter. Fish a jig-and-pig or crankbait around main-river wood cover.
Look for gulls to point the way to hybrid bass schooling on West Point Lake; cast bucktail jigs to them.