JANUARY – LAKE THURMOND CRAPPIE
Crappie school in the tops of standing trees on the old creek and river channels in Lake Thurmond, and the area in Georgia’s Little River in front of Raysville Marina — the confluence of Big Creek and Little River and Soap Creek — all have good trees.
In the winter, some standing timber shows above the surface. Even better, use electronics to find trees that stand on the edge of channels in 30 feet of water but top out 10 feet below the surface. Drop a live minnow or small jig straight down on 6-pound line to the top of the trees. Try different color jigs and do not move them much. A slight quiver of the rod tip is all the action needed.
Other Options: Lake Seminole Largemouth: Largemouth start staging on flats and bedding. Carters Lake Spotted Bass: Big spots feed off bluff banks and a float-n-fly will catch them.
FEBRUARY – LAKE BURTON SPOTTED BASS
Lake Burton produced the 8-pound, 2-ounce Georgia record spotted bass in February of 2005.
Fish a small brown jig-and-pig on rocky points and humps that drop into very deep water. Start fishing 40 feet deep on the points and humps and slowly move shallow until finding the depth at which spots are feeding. Fish slowly, keeping baits on the bottom, moving with slow drags and small hops.
The points in Moccasin Creek near the trout hatchery, and the humps and points near the dam are good areas. Big spots eat smaller trout and grow fat on them. They also love crawfish, which a jig-and-pig imitates.
Other Options: Lake Lanier Stripers: Stripers feed on blueback herring on deep rocky banks, and flatlining live bait will catch them. Satilla River Redfish: Schools of reds feed on mud flats at the mouths of feeder creeks inshore of Cumberland Island.
MARCH – WEST POINT LAKE HYBRIDS
Hybrid striper/white bass run up rivers and creeks and school near the dam on a false spawning run. They feed on shad and can be seen schooling on the surface, and off points and humps.
Look for fish holding near the bottom on long, shallow points and humps in 15 to 25 feet of water. Points within sight of the dam and the roadbed in Half Moon Creek, as well as on the main river above the railroad bridge are good. After seeing fish, drop a live shad or spoon down to them. If they are suspended off the points they will hit but they feed much better if they are near the bottom.
Keep a heavy spoon or topwater plug ready to cast to any surface activity. Work both baits fast and watch to see which direction the school is moving. Cast ahead of them, keeping the spoon just under the surface.
Other Options: Rocky Mount PFA Channel Cats: Fish earthworms, liver or cutbait on the bottom in Antioch Lake. Jackson Lake Spotted Bass: Fish crawfish-colored crankbaits on rocky points and clay banks for numbers of fish.
APRIL – BIG LAZER PFA BLUEGILL
Bluegill bed around the full moon in April at Big Lazer PFA. The lake is fertilized and managed for quality fishing. There is a 15-fish limit on any combination of bream, and a Sportsman License or a fishing license and a Georgia Land Pass is required.
Look for beds on the bottom, a series of shallow depressions that look like a waffle in shallows in the upper end of the lake or on shallow flats near the dam.
The 195-acre lake is lightly fished. Good bank access and a boat ramp, as well as other facilities, offer a great place for families.
Other Options: Savannah River Largemouth: Fish backwaters of the river in the Savannah Wildlife Refuge near I-95 with spinnerbaits. Chattahoochee River Rainbow Trout: Float the river casting small spinners from Buford Dam to Azalea Drive for stocked trout.
MAY – LAKE HARTWELL LARGEMOUTH
Largemouth feed voraciously on spawning blueback herring on shallow gravel blow-throughs and points.
Herring spawn on blow-throughs in 4 to 6 feet of water and largemouth feast on them. Shallow points also provide this same kind of bottom.
Look for these areas from the I-85 bridge on the Tugaloo River to the dam. At first light cast a topwater plug to water a foot deep and work it back fast, like a bass chasing a baitfish. After the sun gets up back off and fish a 5-inch swimbait 5 to 15 feet deep.
Other Options: Lake Andrews Blue Catfish: Fish big, live bream below the Walter George dam at the headwaters of Lake Andrews. McDuffie PFA Bluegill: Bedding bluegill provide fast action on all the open lakes.
JUNE – CHATTOOGA RIVER TROUT
The small headwater tributaries of the West Fork of the Chattooga River hold native brook trout. They are small, averaging about 6 inches long, with a 12-inch fish considered a trophy. Native brookies are a pretty gamefish, but are wary and fishing for them is much like stalking game animals.
The small creeks are difficult to fish but offer an interesting challenge. Most good waters are a long hike but offer solitude and peace.
Other Options: Lake Sinclair Largemouth: Look for Mayfly hatches and fish a topwater popper around feeding bream for bass eating them. Jekyll Island Beaches Whiting: Fish run-outs with deeper water with pieces of shrimp on light bottom rigs.
JULY – ALTAMAHA RIVER FLATHEAD CATFISH
Big cats, up to 30-pound flatheads, are common in the Altamaha River from Jesup to Altamaha Park with numerous eating size fish around 10 pounds. Two 83-pound monsters from this river are tied for the state record.
Put in at one of the boat ramps and find deep holes in the outside bends of the river. Drift a live bream with just enough weight to keep it near the bottom and let it go with the current under overhanging brush and undercut banks.
For eating size cats use 4-inch bream. Go bigger for larger cats and increase hook size and line test. At night, the best time to catch active fish, set up on a sandbar on the inside bend of the river and put out baits on the bottom in the deep holes off them.
Other Options: Lake Oconee Crappie: Tie up under a bridge in Lick Creek and fish live minnows under a light. Lake Allatoona Spotted Bass: Fish a small jig-and-pig or shaky head worm at night on rocky points.
AUGUST – ALTAMAHA RIVER TARPON
Big tarpon are in the sounds and rivers and can be seen surfacing around schools of baitfish. Buttermilk Sound and the Altamaha River downstream of Darien are good areas to find them.
Use live bait like Menhaden and cigar mullet for them. Catch bait in cast nets and fish them on a circle hook on flat lines where tarpon are feeding; they will be near bait.
A flat tide is best and high tide pushes baitfish into the sounds and rivers. After catching bait, slowly ease along until spotting tarpon; they are big and not hard to find. Get near and cut the motor to let the wind or current take boat and bait to the fish.
Other Options: Lake Seminole Largemouth: Big bass feed under hydrilla mats and can be caught on frogs, paddletail worms and punch baits. Ogeechee River Redbreast: Fish crickets or worms under a cork or small spinners in backwaters and slow current.
SEPTEMBER – LAKE OCONEE CARP
Few people fish for carp but lakes are full of them and they fight hard. Hook a 10-pound carp on light spinning tackle for a thrill. And they are cooperative even in the hot waters of September.
Find a cove near the main lake and throw out sinking catfish food or some canned kernel corn several late afternoons in a row. Go back at night and set up near the baited hole and put several kernels of corn on a short, heavy No. 6 catfish hook. Weightless is best. Let the bait sit on the bottom and line go slack but engage the bail.
Other Options: Flint River Shoal Bass: Low water makes wading Sprewell Bluff State Park shoals easier. Use small crankbaits and worms. Lake Lanier Spotted Bass: Drop-shot small worms in 35 to 40 feet of water around brush piles on humps and points.
OCTOBER – JACKS RIVER BROWN TROUT
The Jacks River trail in the Cohutta Wilderness Area fords the river more than 40 times, offering excellent access on public lands. Brown trout up to 8 pounds are caught often, but they are wary and it takes skill to catch them, especially this late in the season.
Fish deeper pools early in the morning, then switch to riffles and runs later in the day. Match flies to any hatch, or try a streamer. Tiny spinners are good for spin tackle fishermen.
Low, clear water and wary fish in the fall means a quiet, stealthy approach is necessary. Don’t dislodge rocks and rattle when wading.
Other Options: Lake Blue Ridge Smallmouth: Blue Ridge offers the best chance to catch a Georgia smallmouth. Use small baits on deep rocky points. High Falls Crappie: Troll small jigs in Buck Creek and on the main lake for quality fish.
NOVEMBER – ST. MARYS SEATROUT
Big schools of 2-pound seatrout feed around oyster bars in the sounds and creeks around St. Marys. There are also some bull trout up to 5 pounds mixed in with the schools.
Fish a live shrimp under a popping cork over the oyster beds when there is current on an incoming or outgoing tide. Pop the cork to get the fish’s attention, then let it sit while the shrimp swims under the cork. Use a soft tip rod to keep from tearing the hook from the fish’s mouth.
Anchor boats off the shallow oyster bar downstream in deeper water and cast baits upcurrent. Let it drift over the bar with short pops as it moves along. Make sure to not get caught on the bar in outgoing water.
Other Options: Okefenokee Swamp Fliers: A small yellow fly under a cork around lily pads will catch dozens of these aggressive pan fish. Lake Nottely Spotted Bass: Cast a small topwater bait around rocks for large numbers of aggressive spots.
DECEMBER – FT. STEWART LARGEMOUTH
Eight of Georgia’s top 50 biggest bass came from Ft. Steward. It is arguably the best bet to catch a 10-pound bass from public waters in the state, with 18 managed lakes ranging from 2.5 to 82 acres in size.
Pineview Lake, Pond 1, has produced two bass weighing more than 15 pounds. Dogwood Lake, Pond 28, was home of another 15-pounder. Metz Pond and Metz Lake, Pond 26, includes 53 acres and has produced four bass weighing more than 14 pounds. It is managed for trophy bass with a 24-inch minimum size limit.
Anglers must have a valid fishing license and get a $30 permit from the army at check in.
Other Options: Lower Etowah River Flathead Catfish: Fish live bream in deep holes from the Allatoona Lake dam to Rome. Goat Rock Largemouth: Fish crankbaits in current eddies in this small Chattahoochee River lake north of Columbus.