January 26, 2017
From trout in tiny mountain streams to tarpon in vast inshore bays, Georgia offers a variety of fishing not known in most states.
The state is full of public fishing areas, lakes, rivers and even wildlife management areas containing fishing ponds, not to mention the gorgeous coastal region. It is difficult to narrow this many great locations down, but here are 36 locales for anglers to consider this year.
JANUARY - Lake Sinclair Largemouths
Lake Sinclair is at the top of its cycle for producing quality largemouth. In the cold, often muddy water fish a crawfish colored crankbait slowly on clay bottoms. Also cast chartreuse and white spinnerbaits with gold willowleaf and silver Colorado blades around grass beds. Fish both baits slowly in the cold water.
The best areas are from the mouth of Little River up the Oconee River. Some current will make the bass bite better, and bright sun warms the water and turns them on.
OTHER OPTIONS: Freeline big blueback herring near main lake rocky points for stripers on Hartwell. The sheepshead bite is good along the coast, using fiddler crabs close to the bottom near structure.
FEBRUARY - Savannah River Yellow Perch
Yellow perch run up the Savannah River to spawn and stack up below the Lake Thurmond dam. The state record yellow perch of 2 pounds, 9 ounces, came from this area on February 27, 2013.
Fish small jigs and minnows in eddies below the dam. The best fishing is from a boat. Drift from the danger line at the dam downstream, fishing as slowly as possible in the current to hit the deeper holes where eddies hold fish.
There is good fishing from the piers and the bank from both sides of the river, too. Cast jigs and minnows to boils showing where eddies form.
OTHER OPTIONS: At Eufaula, troll minnows and small jigs in the mouths of creeks to half way back in them for slab crappie moving in to spawn. Fish the Toccoa River with winter stonefly imitations or small spinners in eddies for rainbow trout.
MARCH - Lake Oconee Crappie
Big schools of slab crappie move into creeks and shallow areas in the river at Lake Oconee to spawn. Troll small jigs and minnows from the main lake areas in front of creeks to near the back of them repeatedly, following schools. Or go up the river above the I-20 causeway and troll the main river flats near the old channel. Vary depth and jig colors to determine what fish want.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bluefish start moving into costal sounds and can be caught on shrimp or live minnows. Also fish flashy spoons or plugs where gulls dive. At Lake Thurmond, fish big live bream on the edges of the river channel above Raysville Bridge on heavy equipment for trophy flatheads.
APRIL - Lake Hartwell Largemouth Bass
Blueback herring and shad are spawning in April on Lake Hartwell and largemouth bass gorge on both species. Shad spawn near the bank on rock bottoms, but bluebacks spawn on gravel bottoms on more open water.
In the morning, look for surface activity in gaps between islands or islands and the shore that concentrate wind and waves that scour the bottom clean of silt in 2 to 10 feet of water.
Cast a big topwater plugs at swirls and splashes. Also try a spinnerbait, swimbait or crankbait. Later in the day cast a Carolina-rigged lizard in 10 to 12 feet of water. Cover like stumps or rocks improve the drops.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bluegill are spawning at Big Lazer PFA; catch them crickets. At Lake Seminole, fish grasslines in pockets in 5 feet of water or less with freshwater shrimp for shellcrackers.
MAY - Lake Lanier Spotted Bass
After they spawn on Lake Lanier, magnum spots move to main lake structure and will slam topwater baits. This is some of the most exciting fishing of the year for spots in the 3- to 4-pound range, with some much bigger.
After they spawn they go through a slack feeding period for a few days then move to main lake deep-water cover and structure, which coincides with the blueback herring moving back to deeper water.
Fish main lake humps and long points. There are manmade brush piles in 15 to 30 feet of water on every point and hump in the lake. Find them and cast baits over them for the best luck. If the fish don't want to come to the surface, run a Fishhead Spin about 15 feet deep, slowly reeling it along at a constant depth.
OTHER OPTIONS: Tie up under a bridge at sunset on West Point Lake with the crowds and hang a light over the side. Droop a small minnow or jig down to different depths to catch numbers of crappie. Fish spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged worms around wood in sloughs in the Savannah River upstream of Savannah for largemouth.
JUNE - Lanier Dam Brown Trout
The release of cold water at the Lanier Dam produces a year-round trout fishery from it to Atlanta. Trout have been stocked here since 1962 and some of the brown trout have grown to trophy size.
The Georgia DNR says most of the brown trout caught are between 12 and 14 inches long, but the state record 18-pound, 9-ounce brown trout was caught here in 2001. That record was broken in 2014 with a 20-pound, 14-ounce brown from the same waters.
Fish eddies behind rocks and undercut banks with small spinners and flies that match the hatch. The area can be waded, but be aware of rapidly rising water when power generation starts at the Lanier Dam. For big trout, use big spinners or crankbaits in deep areas, fishing slowly.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish dead shrimp on Jekyll Island beaches where run-outs concentrate current coming off the shore for whiting. Fish live blueback herring around Lake Hartwell main lake humps and long points for big hybrids.
JULY - West Point Lake Hybrids
Hybrids chase small shad on the surface in the mornings on the main lake at West Point and anglers can see the splashing. When spotted, run to the school and catch them near the surface or on top. It can be very fast fishing with a fish on every cast.
Ride the lake from the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek to the dam early in the morning and look for fish splashing when the water is calm or for gulls diving anytime. Cast a small topwater plug, swimbait or spoon to them. Stay a little ahead of them and cast to where they will be.
OTHER OPTIONS: Ride the mouths of rivers where they enter coastal sounds and watch for tarpon rolling on top. Cast live menhaden, called pogies locally, to them. On the full moon, look for bluegill bedding at Rocky Mt. PFA and catch them with crickets.
AUGUST - Lake Harding Spotted Bass
Lake Harding is full of small spotted bass from 10 to 13 inches long. They are very aggressive and easy to catch and there is no size limit.
Watch for surface activity in Halawakee Creek early in the morning and late in the afternoon and cast small topwater poppers to the fish. During the day, target rocky points 10 to 20 feet deep with jighead worms and drop-shot worms. Also try boat docks when the sun is bright, skipping a jighead worm into the shade under deeper docks.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish big live bream on outside bends of the Altamaha River where the bank is undercut for big flatheads. Look for schools of big largemouth on the ledges at Lake Walter F. George and cast big crankbaits or big plastic worms to them.
SEPTEMBER - Lake Sinclair Carp
Carp are non-game fish but they are fun to catch and Lake Sinclair is full of them, and some get huge. Hook a 10-pounder on a medium-action spinning outfit for a great fight.
Carp feed on the bottom and can be attracted in coves with sinking catfish food, canned dog food or cattle feed. Put out fresh bait every day for a week at dusk then come back to fish for them at night.
Tie a short shank heavy wire No. 6 catfish hook on 8- or 10-pound test line and cover it with kernels of canned corn. Cast it out weightless and let it sit on the bottom.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish live shrimp on the bottom on an incoming or outgoing tide from the St Simons Pier for flounder. Go to the McDuffie PFA and fish liver on the bottom in any of the open ponds for eating-size channel cats.
OCTOBER - Etowah River Blue Catfish
The Etowah River from the Lake Allatoona Dam to Rome has a good population of catfish and it is best fished from a canoe or kayak, since the shoals keep bigger boats out, making for a pleasant, quiet trip.
Find deeper holes and undercut banks and fish small, live minnows, cut or prepared bait or liver. Use a fairly light sinker so the current can take bait to the waiting catfish. Most fish will weigh 10 pounds or less.
Unlike the nearby Coosa River, there are no restriction guidelines for eating channel cats from the Etowah River. But it is always best to eat smaller fish than the bigger ones.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish crankbaits around rocks on riprap and main lake points at Tobesofkee for quality largemouth. Take a float trip down the Flint River from the Marine Base Ramp at Albany and fish the shoals with small crankbaits for big shoal bass.
NOVEMBER - Conasauga Brook Trout
Brook trout are the only trout native to Georgia, with actual wild trout in some of the mountain streams. Tributaries of the Conasauga River, upstream of Little Rough Creek in the Cohutta Wilderness Area, that are above 2,500 feet are best for brook trout. The fish are tough to get to, which makes it more interesting.
Brook trout are trophies, not because of size, but because they are native, wild and beautiful. And they are difficult to catch. Anglers must approach streams with care, almost like stalking a deer. Some creeks allow artificial baits only, meaning anglers must match the hatch, but in unrestricted creeks, earthworms work well; check regulations carefully.
OTHER OPTIONS: The DNR stocks about 700,000 walleye each year in reservoirs on the north end of the state. Live earthworms on rocky points, particularly in Nottely Lake, work well. Cast a jig-and-pig to docks and other wood cover at High Falls for quality largemouth.
DECEMBER - Lake Thurmond Crappie
Big schools of crappie bunch up in the standing timber in the creeks off the Georgia Little River at Lake Thurmond this month. They suspend down about 11 to 12 feet deep over timber that comes that close to the surface.
Good electronics are required to find standing trees on the channel edges in Rousseau, Germany, Clay and Graves creeks. Isolated trees are better. Find a tree standing on an outside bend of the creek, with its base in at least 25 feet of water and its top 10 feet from the surface for a honey hole.
Keep boats over the tree and tight line small minnows or jigs straight down at 11 feet deep. Don't give the jigs much action. Even holding rod tips still jigs will still move enough to entice sluggish crappie in the cold water.
OTHER OPTIONS: Fish plastic worms in the ponds on Ft. Stewart for quality largemouth. The state record spotted bass came from Lake Burton. Fish a jig-and-pig on rocky points for big spots.