Peach State Angling Options

Peach State Angling Options

There are few states in the nation that can offer fisheries as varied as those in Georgia. Here's a look at three dozen you should try this year.

2004 FISHING CALENDAR


The calendar is in PDF format. The Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free here.

 

By Kevin Dallmier

From the mountains to the coast, Georgia offers something for every angler. Whether your passion is nymphing a mountain trout stream with a fly rod, paddling a kayak through the marsh in search of redfish, or blasting off for some early morning bass fishing on one of Georgia's many reservoirs, the Peach State can meet your needs. Let's look at a month-by-month calendar of the best angling Georgia has to offer.

JANUARY
Striped Bass:
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier has the premier reservoir striper fishery in Georgia. Striped bass are coolwater fish and find the winter temperatures to their liking. Expect stripers to be feeding heavily as they roam the lake during the winter months looking for schools of threadfin shad and blueback herring.

Tips: Study the structure to find the fish. Fish use the channels as highways, and any nearby point or hump serves as a rest stop where stripers can find a quick snack. For artificial lures, a bucktail jig is hard to beat. Too, even in the middle of winter, don't overlook topwater plugs, especially during low light conditions. For the best chance of success, live bait is the way to go. Downline or freeline shad or herring over good structure and hold on tight.

Alternatives: Lake Seminole is one of the best largemouth bass lakes in Georgia, and its southern locale means the fish are way ahead on the spawning schedule. Even in January, expect the fish to be in a pre-spawn pattern. Now is the time of year to catch a wallhanger.

Smith Creek, at Unicoi State Park, is managed under delayed-harvest regulations. All trout fishing from Nov. 1 to May 14 is catch-and-release using artificial lures with single hooks. It is a great place to sharpen your trout fishing skills, since the restrictions mean there are plenty of fish in the creek.

FEBRUARY
Largemouth Bass:
Dodge County PFA
This public fishing area near Eastman has become one of Georgia's best big-bass producers. The PFA's 104-acre lake gives up a few truly huge largemouths every year. Be prepared for a double-digit fish every time you set the hook, because it just might happen on this intensively managed lake.

Tips: On a warming trend, look for fish to move shallower. Slowly retrieve small crankbaits around shoreline cover near deep water. Be sure your plug is making contact with structure. During a cold snap, work deep structure with a jig-and-pig retrieved painfully slowly. Bites won't be many, but they are likely to come from big fish - maybe really big.

A WMA stamp and a regular license are required to fish the area. Contact the area manager's office at (478) 374-6765 for more information.

Alternative: Coastal anglers may catch the biggest striped bass of the year on the Savannah River as the fish begin their spawning run. The fishery is closed to harvest but offers some great catch-and-release action. Fish heavy jigs around bridge pilings on a moving tide.

Lake Sinclair anglers find that this month offers good fishing for slab crappie. Early on, troll small jigs offshore and then follow the fish to shallow cover as the spawn nears.

MARCH
White Bass:
Coosa River
March brings one of the most popular fishing events of the year in northwest Georgia: the white bass run up the Coosa River. Both boat and bank anglers can get in on the action, with several boat ramps available and good bank access at Lock and Dam Park at Mayo's Bar, near Rome. The run starts when the water reaches 50 degrees, and it peaks at about 55 degrees.

Tips: Good places in which to find fish are creek mouths, around blown-down trees in current, and along sandy banks. Fish deeper to catch the bigger females. A 1/4-ounce jig-and-plastic grub combo is a killer. Good colors include pearl, white and yellow. Live-bait anglers also do well with minnows.

Contact Floyd County's Lock and Dam Park at (706) 234-5001 for more information.

Alternatives: Walleye anglers will discover that this month offers good fishing for their favorite species at Carters Lake. Fish near the river shoals on the upper end of the lake to find walleyes congregated during the spring run.

Lake Blackshear is a good choice for largemouth bass. Fish the lake's abundant shallow cover with spinnerbaits and plastic lizards for fast action.

APRIL
Rainbow Trout:
Coopers Creek
Trout season is open and anglers should give this trout stream southeast of Blue Ridge a try. This Toccoa River tributary is heavily stocked. Public access is excellent, since much of the creek flows through the Chattahoochee National Forest. There are two public campgrounds on the creek, and fishing in these areas is a communal affair as everyone joins in on the fun.

Tips: If you don't mind company, fish the lower end of the creek near the campgrounds. This stretch is loaded with trout. Farther upstream, access becomes more difficult and the number of anglers drops off dramatically. Both stocked and stream-bred trout are taken here. A small in-line spinner is a top lure, and worms and corn are good bets for natural bait.

Alternatives: The state's Paradise Public Fishing Area, near Tifton, offers good fishing for bream, bass and catfish. Filling your fish basket with tasty bream should not be a difficult task on one of the PFA's many lakes.

Clarks Hill Lake, near Augusta, provides excellent bass fishing year 'round and April is no exception. Carolina-rigging a plastic lizard across flats and gravel poin

ts is sure to produce.

In May the Oostanaula River gives up striped bass like the one the author is hoisting. Photo courtesy of Kevin Dallmier

MAY
Bluegills:
Lake Seminole
Known for its bass fishing, Lake Seminole also offers fast bream action in May. The key is the mayfly hatch. As literally millions of these aquatic insects swarm shoreline vegetation, fat bream lie in wait below, ready to pick off any bug that ends up on the water.

Tips: Even a novice fly-rodder can have good success. Casting accuracy and delicate presentations aren't required. Just slap a buggy-looking fly down near where the fish are feeding, and get ready for a strike. A 5-weight outfit is a good choice, since it provides a fighting chance at landing any bass that may be in on the feast.

Contact Wingate's Lunker Lodge at (229) 246-0658 for a fishing report and information about planning a trip.

Alternatives: The lakes on Fort Stewart Army Base, near Hinesville, offer good fishing for largemouth bass. The post has many lakes managed for fishing, and a proven track record for lunker bass.

The striped bass run is on in the Oostanaula River near Rome. Shad, either live or as cut bait, is a favorite with anglers enjoying the best striper fishing of the year on this northwest Georgia stream.

JUNE
Largemouth Bass:
Bartletts Ferry Lake
June kicks off the night fishing season on this Georgia Power Company lake southwest of Atlanta. The lake gets heavy pleasure boat use during the day, but anglers rule the night, casting for both largemouth and spotted bass.

Tips: Fish the lake's many boat docks at night to fill your livewell. Lighted docks are best, but they also receive the most pressure. Dark docks can produce too if you do your homework and determine which ones provide the best cover.

Fish a plastic worm or pearl fluke around the pools of light off the ends of the lighted structures. The light attracts the baitfish, and the bass are sure to follow.

Alternatives: Soaking a piece of shrimp off the Tybee Island Pier for whiting is a pleasant way to spend the day and bring home the makings for a good fish fry too. Whiting do not grow big, but they make up for it with their eating quality and willingness to bite when nothing else will.

The Altamaha River is the premier destination in Georgia for monster flathead catfish. The spring floods are now past, so stable water levels and comfortable weather make June a good choice for catfishing.

JULY
Brown 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 the rainbow and brown trout found in the river. The nine units of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offer good public access to the river.

Tips: The best fishing is when the water is low and clear. The river comes up in a hurry when the turbines come on, so safety should always be kept in mind. The best way to fish is to float the river, stopping to wade the best shoals in search of hungry trout. Small inline spinners and tiny topwater jerkbaits are good choices. Spoons can be good too.

Contact the U.S. Park Service office at (770) 399-8070 for more information.

Alternatives: Blue catfish are abundant in the Coosa River, and fishing a piece of cut bait in a deep hole is almost guaranteed to produce some action. The lower end of the river near the Alabama state line is the best bet.

Floating the Flint River for shoal bass is a pleasant way to spend a hot summer day. Float from shoal to shoal, stopping to wade the riffles. Fly-fishing gear or light spinning tackle is the best approach.

AUGUST
Tarpon:
Ogeechee River
Ossabaw Sound, at the mouth of the Ogeechee River, offers small-boat anglers a chance at aerobatic tarpon. On most days, weather conditions also permit getting out of the sound and searching the beaches for schools of pogies. A few good throws with a cast net provide the day's bait. Fish around tidal rips and bars on an incoming tide to intercept tarpon following the bait in with the tide. Heavy gear is a must to subdue one of these bruisers.

Alternatives: Allatoona Lake offers good fishing for spotted bass after dark. Once the personal watercraft riders have called it a day and night falls, try plastic worms and crankbaits on deep structure to catch spots.

The Toccoa River below Blue Ridge Dam has excellent trout fishing. The catch is mostly rainbows, but big browns are possible too. Since access is limited, a float trip is the easiest way to reach the best shoals.

SEPTEMBER
Hybrid Bass:
Lake Hartwell
Find the bait to find Hartwell's hybrid bass. Five-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.

Tips: Fish shad or herring over deep structure. Some anglers prefer to fish at night, using lights to hurry along the process by attracting the bait instead of going looking for it. Studying a lake map to locate likely structure such as humps and dropoffs is a must before taking your first trip.

Alternatives: McDuffie PFA is a good bet for collecting a stringer of channel catfish in northeast Georgia. The area has several ponds to choose from, so finding one where the fish are biting should not be a problem.

Largemouth bass at Lake Walter F. George are still on the summertime ledge pattern. Find channel dropoffs and fish them with deep-diving crankbaits when the turbines are creating the current that turns on the feeding switch.

OCTOBER
Largemouth Bass:
Lake Weiss
The Brushy Branch area of Lake Weiss just on the Georgia side of the state boundary with Alabama offers good bass fishing in autumn. The cooler nights are signaling the fish that winter is coming, and they begin to feed heavily in preparation for the cold days to come. All the backwater sloughs offer good bass fishing.

Tips: Target shallow cover with fast-moving lures like spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits. The sloughs are full of stumps, but the best stumps are found near the creek channels. Keep your bait in the water to cover as much territory as possible. Bumping your bait through woody cover in shallow water is the key.

Alternatives: October is a prime time to find redfish moving into the creeks and estuaries around Cumberland Island. Fishing oyster bars on a moving tide is a good strategy.

Clarks Hill Lake provides good fishing for large flathead catfish. Fish live bait on the bottom near channels and other offshore structure to catch one of these bruisers.

NOVEMBER
Spotted Seatrout:
Altamaha Sound
Cooling water temperatures drive the trout into the estuaries for the winter. Comfortable weather, few bugs and willing fish make this a great time to be on the water in the marsh.

Tips: Search for deep holes. Trout concentrate in these areas during the cooler months of the year. The mouths of tidal creeks are good places in which to find the deeper water the trout are seeking. A jig with a plastic trailer worked slowly near the bottom is a good producer, or you can use a float rig to drift live shrimp through a likely area. Fishing is best when the tide is moving. A slack tide is usually unproductive.

Alternatives: Lake Tobesofkee can be good for bass fishing as the lake calms back down after a busy summer season. Casting crankbaits over shallow points should turn up some of the fish gorging on shad before winter truly sets in.

Lake Burton anglers catch hefty brown trout grown fat on blueback herring this month. Fishing live bluebacks over rocky points is a good technique.

DECEMBER
Smallmouth Bass:
Blue Ridge Lake
Blue Ridge Lake has the best reservoir smallmouth bass population in Georgia. Other perennial favorites like Chatuge and Nottely have fallen by the wayside as spotted bass were illegally introduced and began replacing the smallmouths. But so far, Blue Ridge smallies are holding their own.

Tips: Fish shallow points with medium-diving crankbaits. Good patterns imitate crayfish. Many anglers have found the best fishing to be at night. Trolling the same areas can be effective as well.

Alternatives: Lake Juliette offers anglers a shot at trophy striped bass. The fish are feeding heavily in the cool water, so the action should be good.

Winter is the perfect time to canoe into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of bream when the weather is pleasant.



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