Fishing is very popular in the Peach State, partially because Georgia contains so many great lakes, rivers and streams. In fact, the state offers opportunities for just about any type of fishing for which an angler desires, from the mountains to the coast, and everything in between.
Lake Hartwell Hybrid Stripers
Two years ago, more than 500,000 hybrids were stocked at Hartwell. Those fish will weigh up to 3 pounds now and there are much bigger hybrids in Hartwell from previous stockings.
Feeding schools of these hybrids can often be found by watching for gulls or terns diving on them. The lower lake is the best place to find them schooling, usually near humps and long points in sight of the dam. Cast white 1/2-ounce bucktails or silver spoons to fish hitting on top.
If surface activity is visible, ride humps and points on the main lake watching for baitfish with bigger fish under them. Drop a live blueback herring to the depth the bigger fish are holding. Those fish will also hit spoons or bucktails jigged. Anglers can also try trolling crankbaits and bucktails.
OTHER OPTIONS: Big largemouth bass move to spawning areas on Seminole in January. Fish rattlebaits on grassy flats just off the river channel. Rainbow trout are stocked below the Lake Lanier dam in the Chattahoochee River and can be caught on small spinners and nymphs in eddies.
Jackson Lake Largemouth Bass
Jackson Lake produces some big largemouth bass every winter, and February is one of the best months to catch a wall hanger at the lake, though anglers may not get many bites.
On sunny days, target pockets on the north bank that get sun all day, concentrating on seawalls, sandy bottoms and wood cover. A shad-colored crankbait in clearer water or a chartreuse bait in stained water, fished slowly around structure and cover, is a good choice.
Also try a brown jig-and-pig in clear water or a black and blue bait in stained water around the same cover. Fish very slowly to interest the sluggish fish. Bump every limb in a blowdown or brush pile to excite big bass.
OTHER OPTIONS: Large numbers of keeper-size spotted bass can be caught on rocky points and humps at Lake Allatoona on jighead worms during February. Or fill a freezer with yellow perch by fishing a small minnow or jig below the Thurmond Dam on the Savannah River, letting it drift with the current into eddies.
Walter F. George Lake Crappie
Crappie are moving toward spawning areas at Walter George (Lake Eufaula) this month. Anglers can easily get a limit by tying up under a bridge on one of the lower lake creeks or drifting over standing timber in the mouths of creeks with live minnows or Hal Fly jigs suspended at different depths. Change depths and jig color until finding what they like.
Anglers can also troll small jigs in creeks, following the channel, to find schools of fish. Once fish are caught, circle back over the same area since they are often moving in big schools.
OTHER OPTIONS: White bass are running up the rivers at Lake Allatoona and can be caught on small spinners and jigs from a boat or the bank in the channels. Catfish on Clarks Hill Lake move shallow in March to feed and spawn, and will hit live bream and shad on hard bottoms near channels.
Clarks Hill Lake Largemouth Bass
Largemouth bass are spawning and feeding on the shad and herring spawn in the shallows at Lake Thurmond. The herring spawn offers some of the fastest and best fishing for big bass of the year.
Fish the shallow gaps between islands or between an island and the bank, in the Georgia Little River arm of Thurmond. Have a big topwater walking bait like a Zara Spook ready to cast to surface feeding fish. Also fish big spinnerbaits or crankbaits over the gravel bottoms of these areas.
Fishing is best at first light when the herring spawn but anglers can catch fish in the deeper water between the islands on Carolina-rigged lizards after the sun gets up. Drag the lizard in 8 to 10 feet of water.
OTHER OPTIONS: Folks can choose from several ponds at McDuffie PFA to catch bluegills on earthworms or crickets, with fishing piers and clean banks offering non-boat anglers good places to catch fish. Consider sight fishing for Trippletail holding on the surface off Jekyll Island beaches with live shrimp.
Coastal Inlets Flounder
Flounder feed in the sounds and inlets on the coast in May, and these excellent tasting fish can be caught from the shore or from a boat.
An outgoing tide pulls food from the marshes and flounder wait on it anywhere a small creek comes out of the grass. Anchor boats to the side of the current coming out of the creek and cast small mud minnows or jigs to the edge of the current.
Anglers can get to some of these small creek and inlets from the bank on Jekyll Island. A good location is near the fishing pier on the north tip of the island.
OTHER OPTIONS: Redbreast sunfish are plentiful in the Ogeechee River, having come back from the bad fish kill a few years ago. Catch them on earthworms or crickets in eddy areas out of the current. Lake Lanier is a quality spotted bass fishery, especially when fish are feeding on blueback herring on top in May. Anglers can catch 3- and 4-pound spots on topwater plugs.
Lake Oconee Catfish
The catfish population at Lake Oconee is excellent, with anglers catching blues, channel and flatheads, some being of the bragging size.
To target catfish, anchor boats on humps or shallow points and let the current take cut shad or bream out from the boat. Put out several rods to cover the area. While current makes the catfish bite better, anglers can catch them when the current is not strong. Also, the current will move both ways, depending on generation or pump back at the dam.
During the summer, stick with main lake points and humps, or head to the bigger creeks. Shallow water areas that are near deep water are best, so a long shallow point with the channel bending off one side is an excellent place to set up.
OTHER OPTIONS: Sharks move into Georgia waters to spawn in the early summer and can be caught from piers on both Jekyll and St. Simons islands. To beat the summer heat, tie up under a bridge on West Point Lake at night and catch crappie on minnows and jigs.
Altamaha River Sound Tarpon
Tarpon move into the coastal sounds and river mouths in the summer. These huge fish, some weighing 150 pounds, can be seen rolling and feeding on top in hot weather.
Catch them by casting a live menhaden to tarpon feeding on top in the Altamaha River Sound or drifting near oyster beds with live menhaden free-lined in the current. Anglers can also troll big crankbaits or cast crankbaits or spoons to fish seen on top.
Anywhere the current breaks will attract feeding tarpon. Shell beds are good, but so are ditch and creek mouths. Current coming out of the marsh grass pulls baitfish out where the tarpon feed on them, so an outgoing tide is usually best.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish spoons or spinners over grass at Hamburg State Park Lake to catch chain pickerel, a cousin of the Northern Pike. Fish live bream in holes on outside bends of the Altamaha River for big Flathead Catfish.
Lake Andrews Blue Catfish
The state record blue cat, an 80-pound, 4-ounce monster, was caught in the upper end of Lake Andrews, below the Walter George dam, in the summer, and the area still contains a lot of big fish.
Anglers typically fish live bream or cut shad in the current below the Walter George dam. When current is strong from power generation, the bite will be better. Use a heavy sinker to get bait to the bottom and keep it there in the current.
Fishing from a boat is best but anglers can catch fish from the pier. Big, heavy tackle and line is required to land a big catfish. Smaller eating-size cats are also common in these waters.
OTHER OPTIONS: Folks can have a blast catching carp from a boat or the bank at Clarks Hill Lake by baiting up a hole on a flat near deep water with sinking catfish food. The fishing pier at Amity Park is a good place to do this. Try fishing small shrimp from the Tybee Island beeches in designated fishing areas to catch whiting.
Flint River Shoal Bass
Shoal bass fight hard, often reminding anglers of smallmouth. Native to the Flint River, shoal bass inhabit the shoals all along the river from near Atlanta all the way to Lake Seminole.
Anglers can access the river at most bridges to wade nearby shoals, fishing eddies and current with small crankbaits, spinners and Texas-rigged worms. Fish baits with the current by casting upstream and letting them drift.
Folks can also put in a johnboat or canoe and drift down to the next bridge to take out. Be sure to tie up at shoals and wade fish them as well.
OTHER OPTIONS: Go up the river at Lake Harding and find gar in backwater areas. Cast a spoon with a 6-inch frayed white nylon cord on the hook to them for fun and good eating. Cast small topwater popper or spoons to surface feeding hybrids near the Highway 109 Causeway on West Point Lake.
Lake Rabun Walleye
While walleyes are not super abundant in Lake Rabun, anglers can catch decent numbers of 2- to 4-pound fish by fishing small minnows and earthworms on shallow points on the main lake at night. Others catch them during the day by dropping nightcrawlers on channel edges near the points in 20 feet of water. Fish nightcrawlers on the bottom with small split shot
Light line is important to increase the number of bites. Use 6- or 8-pound line on a light to medium spinning outfit for the best action.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bull Red Drum move into the shallows around St. Simons Island this month to feed, providing opportunities to catch 30-pound fish on live shrimp from the beach. Also, consider fishing earthworms around standing timber in around 10 feet of water at Big Lazer PFA for big shellcrackers.
Toccoa River Rainbow Trout
The Toccoa River below Lake Blue Ridge Dam produces consistent catches of eating-size rainbow trout, with chances for a big fish. Several 9- to 10-pound rainbows have been collected during shocking samples by the DNR.
Wading the river in November can be cold but quite productive. Floating between access points in a canoe keeps anglers dry and provides access to less heavily fished spots.
Those who prefer live bait my use earthworms, but live minnows cannot be used on the Toccoa. Fly-fishers typically use nymphs and streamers, while small spinners and minnow imitations are good with spinning outfits.
OTHER OPTIONS: Blue, channel and flathead catfish are common in the Coosa River, with blues up to 50 pounds caught every year. Find them by dropping live bream into wood cover. Good size crappie can be caught at High Falls Lake by trolling minnows and small jigs in open water.
Clarks Hill Lake Striped Bass
Stripers around 10 to 15 pounds are common on Lake Thurmond, but 40-pounders are sometimes landed in December, as the big fish will often be in very shallow water chasing baitfish.
Freelining live herring around main lake points and humps is a good tactic, and planer boards will help get baits up close to the bank. Also try going up the bigger creeks like Fishing and Soap creeks and Little River to fish the backs of the channels.
Baitfish are the key; find schools of bait and stripers will be nearby. Baitfish move up the creeks and back in coves in December and may be all the way in the back and the stripers, even very big ones, will be there, too. Big baits like an 8-inch herring are usually best for big stripers, but if they are feeding on smaller herring or shad, try smaller baits.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Blue Ridge is the only lake in Georgia with a decent population of smallmouth bass. Catch them by fishing main lake rocky points with small crankbaits and jighead worms. Good catches of big largemouth bass at Walter George are caught near the ledges on big crankbaits this time of year.
Of course, there are other lakes, rivers and waterways in our state where the fishing can be quite good; these are just a few suggestions, a starting point, if you will, to help get you out of the house and onto the water this year.