Georgia's Top Hotspots For 2010
October 04, 2010
Regardless of where you live in the Peach State, there is great fishing nearby and year 'round. These 36 destinations can put you in the midst of that action!
No matter how and where you wet your hook, Georgia offers something for everyone. Some anglers may prefer fishing high-elevation streams for brook trout, Georgia's native trout species. Other anglers may pursue Georgia's favorite fish species, the largemouth bass, on sprawling man-made reservoirs. Yet others may prefer heading out to the deep-water drops and live bottom of Georgia's Atlantic coast.
The author caught this 5-pound largemouth at Rocky Mountain PFA. Those lakes are good bets in cold weather.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Dallmier.
No matter what size or shape they come in, all Georgia fish are fun to catch. Let's take a look at some of the best Georgia has to offer anglers throughout the coming year.
Largemouth Bass:West Point Lake
Look for clear water in the lower half of the lake and creek mouths that are holding plenty of shad. Find this combination, drop a jigging spoon down to the fish, and you may be well on the way to having a great day of winter bass fishing. Expect to find the fish holding in more than 20 feet of water.
If the month is mild and a warm spell heats the water a few degrees, then switch to shallow-water tactics and fish around shallow wood or rock with a spinnerbait or crankbait.
Other Options: The hybrids should be schooling strong on Lake Allatoona. The Gaults Ferry area of the lake is a consistent producer. Find the bait to find the fish.
A good warm and sunny day can pull redfish into shallow marsh ponds on the Georgia coast.
Largemouth Bass:Lake Jackson
This lake has the reputation of giving up some big fish during the winter. A good strategy is to hit deep points early in the day with jigs and jigging spoons, especially if you can find some brush.
As the day warms, target shallow rocks and seawalls. The sun's rays warm these areas a few crucial degrees, and you may be lucky enough to find a big fish that has moved up for a meal of crawdads or shad drawn by the warmth and protection offered by the shallow cover.
Other Options: Carters Lake walleyes are on the move up for the spawning season. Target rocky points and shoals far up the lake where the Coosawattee River enters.
Smith Creek at Unicoi State Park in White County is a delayed-harvest stream for rainbow trout and offers good off-season catch-and-release fishing.
White Bass:Coosa River
March kicks off some of the most consistent fishing in northwest Georgia. Annually, white bass make their annual run up the Coosa River, and year after year, anglers are there to intercept them. Boat- and bank-anglers can join the action. Both boat ramps and good bank access are found at Mayo's Bar Lock and Dam, down stream of Rome. The action starts early in the month and by mid-month should be hot and heavy.
Good places to find fish are creek mouths, blown-down trees in current, and sandy banks. A general trend is to fish deeper in the morning, and then as the sun warms the water, the fish move shallower. Make sure your casts land just inches away from the bank.
A 1/4-ounce jig and plastic grub combo is a great all-around lure because of its versatility. Small medium-diving crankbaits or Rat-L-Traps are good too. Top colors include pearl, white and yellow. Live-bait anglers do well with minnows or small shad.Other Options: Spring has sprung on the Georgia coast, and great fishing is available for Savannah River striped bass. Target bridge and pier pilings, or other structure when the tide turns.
The last Saturday in March is the opening day of trout season, and a good family trip is to hit any of the state's heavily stocked streams in North Georgia.
When the crappie have moved shallow to spawn, even casual anglers take notice. Fishing for this favorite panfish doesn't get any easier than when they have moved into the shoreline brush to add another generation to the population.
Try minnows or small jigs around shallow brush or wood. With their extensive root system, Blackshear's cypress trees provide plenty of this type of habitat.
Other Options: Clarks Hill's largemouth bass are more than willing to jump all over a spinnerbait or buzzbait fished around shallow cover this month.
Carters Lake is one of the best lakes in the state for magnum spotted bass. Try small soft plastics and crankbaits worked along bottom on secondary points.
Striped Bass:Coosa River
It's déjÃ vu all over again in northwest Georgia's Coosa River. Just like the white bass run in March, early May brings the peak of the striped bass run in that stream. Stripers move up from Lake Weiss to their spawning grounds literally in the middle of the city of Rome. Muddy water shuts down the bite, and the great fishing is a secret that got out long ago, but the Coosa still produces.
The low summertime flows and high water temperatures of several consecutive years of drought were hard on the more sensitive bigger fish, so expect the bulk of the stripers caught to be in the 5- to 10-pound range. But on the bright side, it's the spawning run, and you know the big females will be in town!
Gizzard shad, live or cut, fished on bottom with a Carolina rig in deep holes and around shoals should produce. Freelining live bait can be the ticket at times too.
For plug casters, there is good action with stick baits or topwaters fished around blown-down trees and sandy bars. Keep on the move until you find some action.Other Options: Various species of inshore sharks are thick in the sounds of the Georgia coast. Present cut bait on bottom when the tide is running. Match the tackle to the size of the fish for the most sport.
Bream fishing should be good at nearly any of the ponds found on the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield.
The waters off Jekyll Island are one of the best places on the coast to catch a tripletail. No one knows for sure why these fish congregate in this particular spot year after year, but no one is complaining either.
These fish float on their sides, and when unluc
ky baitfish decide to make good use of what they think is safe cover, the dinner bell rings.
This is just as much hunting as fishing. Idle slowly just off the beaches with a sharp eye peeled for fish floating on the surface. Cut the motor, drift into range. Then make a natural presentation of a live shrimp right to the fish without spooking it, which is easier said than done.
Imagine fighting a 20-pound bream on tackle light enough to toss a live shrimp under a small float, and that's tripletail fishing.
Other Options: Allatoona Lake offers good fishing for spotted bass after dark. Try plastic worms and crankbaits on deep structure to catch the bass.
Lake Sinclair is a good place to catch a stringer of channel catfish for a weekend fish fry. Chicken livers, stink bait and night crawlers all are favorite baits.
Largemouth Bass:Lake Walter F. George
Summer means ledge fishing on this sprawling reservoir spanning the Georgia-Alabama border. The old river channel ledges are haunted by some big bass, with plenty of smaller fish also prowling the ledges looking for an easy meal.
To catch these fish, you've got to get down. Try rooting a deep-diving crankbait along the most defined ledges you can find with your depthfinder. Slow-rolling a heavy spinnerbait is a local favorite, and a Carolina-rigged soft plastic can be a good way to cover lots of water looking for that sweet spot on the ledge.
Other Options: Floating the Flint River for shoal bass is a good way to stay cool on a hot summer day. Float from shoal to shoal, stopping to wade the riffles.
The Altamaha River is well known for its huge flathead catfish. Target deep holes with live bream for a chance at the biggest thing you're likely to hook in Georgia's fresh water.
Rainbow Trout:Chattahoochee River
The Chattahoochee River below Lake Lanier is one of the top tailwater trout fisheries in the Southeast. The river is heavily stocked, and its abundant shoals offer good feeding stations for rainbow trout. As a bonus, brown trout reproduce in this stretch of river. The summer of 2009 produced a 16-pound, 13-ounce monster.
The best fishing is when the water is low and clear. The river turns cold and rises very quickly when the turbines come on, so safety should always be first.
A good way to fish is to float the river, stopping to wade the best shoals in search of hungry trout. Small in-line spinners are good, as are tiny spoons. There is plenty of room for fly-fishing as well.
Other Options: Follow the bait to find Lake Hartwell's hybrid striped bass. Two- to 5-pound fish are common, and 10-pounders aren't out of the question. The deep water near the dam is always a good place to try.
Ossabaw Sound at the mouth of the Ogeechee River offers small-boat anglers a chance at acrobatic tarpon. Fish around rips and bars on an incoming tide to intercept tarpon following the bait.
September can be a tough month for some species, but catfish are actively feeding. Lake Oconee has plenty of pan-sized white and channel catfish. Also, the numbers of flatheads and blue cats are increasing every year.
For channels and whites, you can fish just about anywhere with chicken livers or stink bait and expect some action. To have a shot at a big blue cat, flathead or overgrown channel cat, then target the deep-water breaks with a palm-sized bait fished on bottom, either live or cut. Both bream and shad are good.
Other Options: The Toccoa River below Blue Ridge Dam offers blue ribbon tailwater trout fishing. Rainbows are common, but big browns are possible too.
Lake Seminole is a largemouth bass factory. In late summer, the fish should still be relating to deep weedlines.
Spotted Bass:Lake Lanier
The summertime boating frenzy is long gone and Lanier's famous spotted bass are aggressively feeding. Topwater fishing is a fun way to get in on the action. Although the days may be cooler, spots won't hesitate to charge from the depths to hit a surface plug properly presented in the right area.
Look for main-lake humps in about 20 feet of water to find the fish. Humps with the magic combination of isolated brushpiles and abundant bait are best. Fish a Zara Spook, fluke or other topwater lure over the cover to draw up a fish from the depths.
Keep on the move until you find a good bite. Use your electronics to scout the area for brush and bait to avoid wasting time fishing unproductive water.
Other Options: McDuffie Public Fishing Area has plenty of channel catfish that should still be willing to bite this month.
Lake Burton brown trout are finding this month's cooler water to their liking. Slowly troll off deep, rocky points with a diving plug or blueback herring to catch a monster trout.
Largemouth Bass:Lake Weiss
The Brushy Branch area of Lake Weiss on the Georgia side of the state line provides great bass fishing in autumn. Shad should be thick in the backwater sloughs, and the bass find the lethargic baitfish to be easy pickings.
All the backwaters offer good bass fishing, but as the month wears on and the lake level continues to drop, crossing over the shallow bars into the sloughs can be tough. Once you cross that obstacle, there should be plenty of fishable water inside.
Hit all the shallow woody cover you can find with spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps. There are plenty of stumps to target, but the best ones are near the creek channels.
If the weather has been really cool, then think about switching to a slower moving bait like a jig-and-pig. Good numbers of keeper fish are there to be caught with plenty of bigger fish as well.
Other Options: Cooling water temperatures means spotted seatrout are in their wintertime hangouts in estuaries.
Autumn brings some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of the year to Blue Ridge Lake. Target windblown deep flats and points with stick baits and crankbaits.
Brown Trout:Chattooga River
Taking a winter fishing trip as far north as you can go and still be in Georgia may not seem like a good idea, but it is if you are an avid trout angler. The Chattooga River from Burrells Ford up to the northeast corner of the state at Ellicott Rock has blue-ribbon trout fishing and the reputation of being a good winter fishery. Mostly wild browns are present, but a big one is possible.
Try to time your trip to catch a warming trend, but avoid the river if it's high and muddy. Ma
tching the hatch isn't as important as making a good presentation, which this time of year usually means slow and deep.
Other Options: The hot water discharge in the Beaverdam Creek arm of Lake Sinclair should be attracting plenty of crappie by now. Slow troll a spread of jigs or live minnows.
Anglers at Rocky Mountain PFA can enjoy a good bass bite on jigging spoons.