Middle Georgia's Full-Moon Fishing

When the moon is full in May, it 's time for panfish to bed and bite. Here's a look at the phenomenon, and some ideas on where to take advantage of the action! (May 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

"I got another one!" Hal called -- but I was too busy reeling in my own bream to pay any attention to him. We already had full stringers of nice bluegills at our feet, but we continued to catch one on almost every cast.

Hal and I had dug some red wigglers behind the chicken house on my family's farm and then ridden our bicycles to Black's Pond to fish for bass and bream. We were very happy, since school would be out in just two more weeks and the long summer filled with fishing trips would start.

When we got to the McDuffie County pond owned by the family of a teacher at Dearing Elementary School, we tried for bass for several hours without much luck. Then we went to our favorite place to catch bream in the upper end of the pond. There were two boards on the bank, so we could stand side by side and cast without sinking into the soft bottom.

On most days we would catch a few bluegills near the scattered stumps in this spot and then move when they quit biting. Our tackle was simple: Both of us had Mitchell 300 reels on Conlon 6-foot spinning rods. The 10-pound-test line was good for all kinds of fishing. On the end of the line were a No. 6 hook, a small split shot and a cork.

This day we stood on those boards and caught fish until it started to get dark. We had to hurry back to our bikes and head home fast to beat the night. As we rode home, we commented that the full moon would keep it from getting completely dark, and that could be our excuse for being so late.

All week we talked about going back and catching a pile of bream again. The next Saturday we went back to the pond and caught one or two small bluegills from the same area that had been so good the weekend before. Back then we had no idea what had happened to change the fishing, and didn't realize that the full moon could have had anything to do with our good luck. We had simply hit a bedding area without knowing it.

Bluegills are common in all Georgia waters and are always cooperative. You can catch them on just about any bait, so they're great fish to start kids with, since youngsters can enjoy the thrill of catching something. But the full moon in May is a special time for Georgia bream fishermen.

Bream bed when the moon is full. Although bluegills start spawning as early as late March in Middle Georgia, and some bed every month from then until fall, May is the height of the bedding season. Add in the spawn of shellcrackers that also bed at the full moon in May, and you have a bonanza of great fishing this month.

This year, May 2 is the date of the full moon, so fishing should be good during the first week of the month. There is almost a blue moon in May, because another full moon occurs on June 1. That means that the end of the month should also be good.

Starting about a week before the full moon, bluegills move into the shallows and fan out a depression on a hard bottom. The female lays her eggs in the depression; the male fertilizes them. Both fish stay to guard the nest until the eggs hatch several days later. They hit anything that looks like a threat to their eggs, as well as anything that looks like food, for about a week.

Many bream fishermen claim they can smell these bluegill beds, and you often notice a distinctive odor near them. It is described as smelling like watermelon, but not exactly. It is a musty smell that you always recognize once you experience it. If you hit that smell, look for beds nearby.

To find beds, go to the upper ends of coves and look for them in shallow water, from 2 to 6 feet deep. If the water is clear, you can see the beds as light spots against a dark background. These are the depressions fanned out by the male to make the bed.

Bream like to bed in large groups, so you won't be looking for one or two scattered nests. A good sandy spot protected from the wind in the back of a cove often looks like a waffle on the bottom, with depressions almost touching each other. In muddy water the beds are usually in shallower water; in clear water they are usually a little deeper.

If you find beds one year, the bream are likely to be in the same place the next year. Any hard bottom will do, but sand seems to be preferred, and some scattered stumps make an area even better.

You can find beds from the bank, but a boat makes it easier. Cruise the shallows very slowly until you spot the outlines of the depressions. You will probably spook the fish, but if you back off and wait about 15 minutes, the bluegills will be back. It's a good idea to anchor your boat a long cast from the beds so you don't scare the 'gills while you fish.

Onshore, ease around until you spot the beds. Wear dark or camouflage clothing, and don't make fast movements. Keep a low profile, too; try to keep any bushes on the bank between you and the beds. While fishing, don't approach too close. Long casts are best to keep from scaring fish away.

You can find bluegill beds on any of Georgia's waters from rivers to big reservoirs, but smaller public ponds are your best bet. Scattered all across Middle Georgia are small public lakes and ponds that you can fish. The following list should contain some within a short drive of you.

Indian Springs State Park Lake is a 105-acre lake in Butts County four miles southeast of Jackson on State Highway 42. There is a good paved boat ramp; you can rent a boat there, too. Camping and cabins are available for longer stays. A $2 parking fee gives you access to bank-fishing or boat launching. Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower or smaller.

You can fish from sunrise to sunset year 'round. The lake has many protected coves where the bream bed, and the upper end has good shallow spawning flats.

Contact the park by at (770) 504-2277.

John Tanner State Park has two lakes. One covers 15 acres; the other is 12 acres in size. They are located in Carroll County, six miles west of Carrollton off State Highway 16. A $2 daily parking fee gives you access to both lakes for fishing from the bank. You can rent a boat, but you can launch your private boat only on the smaller lake. Campsites are also available.

Boats are limited to electric power only. You can fish from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily all year long. The lakes are small enough to cover easily in search of bedding areas. If you have a boat look for b

eds in areas not easily accessible to the bank-fishermen.

For more information, contact the park at (770) 830-2222.

The Clayton County Water Authority has three small reservoirs that are open to public fishing.

Blalock Reservoir is a 260-acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near U.S. Highway 19/41. Bank-fishing is allowed for a small access fee. The lake has a number of earthen piers to provide better access to the water.

You can fish from dawn to dusk, Wednesday through Sunday year 'round. Many shallow areas are good for bedding bream. A boat allows you to cover this lake better than does fishing from the bank.

A boat ramp allows the launching of private boats, but they are limited to 16 feet or shorter, with electric motors only.

J. W. Smith Reservoir is a 250-acre lake in Clayton County, 10 miles south of Jonesboro on Panhandle Road.

Fishing is permitted Wednesday through Sunday, April 1 through Sept. 30 from sunup to sundown. To fish many areas of this lake effectively, you need a boat.

There is a boat ramp on the lake; you can pay a daily fee or purchase a season pass. Boats are limited to electric motors only.

Shamrock Reservoir is a 68-acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near U.S. Highway 19/41. There is a boat ramp and this lake is designated as a "kids' lake," so no adults may fish the lake unless they have a child 12 years old or younger with them. There is a user fee.

Boats are limited to 16 feet or less and electric motors only. The water is open to anglers from dawn to dusk, Wednesday through Sunday year round.

For details on Blalock, J.W. Smith or Shamrock reservoirs, call (770) 603-5605.

Fayette County owns a pair of small reservoirs that are open to angling.

Lake Horton covers 780 acres in Fayette County south of Fayetteville near State Highway 92. This lake is known for big bass, but its sunfish population is good, and spawning areas are scattered all over the impoundment.

There are two boat ramps. The daily fee is $10 for non-Fayette County residents. Boats are limited to electric motors only. The lake is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

Lake Kedron has 235 acres and is in Fayette County off State Highway 54 near Peachtree Parkway. There are no special fees for fishing here.

A boat ramp is provided, but only electric motors may be used. The lake is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

For details on lakes Horton and Kedron, call (770) 461-1146.

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park has two lakes: Lake Franklin, covering 23 acres, and Delano, which has 18. The park is located in Harris County, east of Pine Mountain on State Highway 190.

No private boats are allowed on the lakes, but rental craft are available. Camp and cabins are also offered.

You can fish Lake Delano year 'round; you can fish Franklin with a permit from September through May. There is a $2 parking fee.

Contact the state park at (706) 663-4858.

Barnesville Reservoir in Lamar County has 160 acres of water off State Highway 36 near Barnesville. There is a boat ramp. Yearly permits are required for fishing and boat launch. Boats are limited to electric motors only. The lake is open year 'round.

Contact the City of Barnesville at (770) 358- 3431 for additional information.

McDuffie Public Fishing Area has 13 ponds ranging from 1 to 28 acres in size. They're open from sunrise to sunset daily year 'round.

I grew up less than two miles from these lakes, back when they were private ponds. My mother loved fishing there, and I have the mount of a 2-pound, 6-ounce bluegill she caught from one of the ponds. The facility is owned by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and managed for fishing. All lakes are excellent for panfish.

A state fishing license and a wildlife management area stamp is required to fish here.

There are boat ramps on some of the ponds; boats are only allowed to use electric motors. Camping is available.

This PFA lies in McDuffie County four miles southwest of Dearing and off U.S. 278. For more details call (706) 595-1684.

Lake Meriwether floods 144 acres a mile southwest of Woodbury on State Highway 85 Alt. in its namesake county. The county government owns the lake.

A daily fee for fishing is charged. Private boats with electric motors are allowed on the lake. Campsites are also available.

For additional information, call (706) 672-1314.

High Falls State Park has a 650-acre lake and is in Monroe County, 10 miles east of Forsyth near I-75. This lake is very fertile and has good populations of bluegills. The upper ends of most feeder creeks are sandy and offer good bedding areas. The lake provides only limited access for bank-fishing because most of the shoreline is on private property.

There are two boat ramps, as well as boat rentals offered on the lake. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower; there is also a campground. A $2 parking fee is required. The lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily.

Contact the park at (912) 994-5080

Lake Olmstead in Richmond County is an 87-acre lake operated by the Augusta Parks and Recreation Department. The facility, just northeast of the city off State Highway 28, has good bank access and is open 24 hours a day, all year. There are no fees for fishing.

There is a public boat ramp. No camping is allowed. Motors are limited to 9.9 horsepower, except on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when there is no limit. This lake gets a lot of pleasure-boat traffic on days allowing big motors, so plan your fishing trips for the days on which motor restrictions apply.

For more information, contact (706) 796-5025

Hamburg State Park Lake's 225 acres lie in Washington County north of Sandersville and off State Highway 102. There is excellent bluegill fishing in the pockets and coves of this lake.

The facility has a boat ramp. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower or less. You can also rent a boat here.

The lake is open all year from sunrise to sunset; a campground is available. A $2 parking fee is charged.

For additional details, call the park at (912) 552-2393.

Big Lazer Creek Public Fishing Area has a 200-acre lake in Talbot County, northeast of Talbotton and off Pobiddy Road. The lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily all year. It is managed specifically for fishing and has excellent populations of bluegills and shellcrackers. You are required to have a wildlife management area stamp a well as a fishing license when fishing here.

There is no size limit on motors, but they must be operated at idle speed only. A boat ramp is provided. A primitive camping area is on site.

Contact the WRD's Manchester fisheries office with additional questions. Their number is (706) 846-8448

Houston Lake is in Houston County east of Perry on State Highway 127. There is a boat ramp, and good bank-fishing access to the 180-acre lake. No fees are charged at this lake. The lake is open during daylight hours year 'round and offers good bluegill fishing from boats or the bank. Motors of any size can be used, but at idle speed only.

For details on this lake, phone (912) 987-4280.

Find more about Georgia fishing and hunting at: GeorgiaSportsmanMag.com

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