In Georgia, late spring means outstanding bream fishing. Whether you're after bluegills, shellcrackers or redbreasts, you can't go wrong at any of these waters this time of year! (May 2006)
Sometimes it's nice to get back to your fishing roots -- to the simple pleasures that made you an angler in the first place. As a youngster, I used to wet a line in every tiny creek, pond and beaver dam that I thought might hold a fish, regardless of the small size of either the water or any potential catches in it. By the end of a successful day, I might have a small stringer dangling from my handlebars, and it would ordinarily be made up of bream.
One place sticks out vividly in my mind: Sandy Run Creek in Houston County. It ran behind my home, flowing through the center of a swamp that at the time I considered as exotic and mysterious as equatorial Africa. It took a considerable amount of effort to cut a 4-foot wide path down to it, but that done, I had my own fishing retreat, complete with a cut-off stump for a lawn chair and Y-forked branches stuck in the ground for rod holders. Life was good!
Those memories are revived every time I visit a small pond and cast out a worm or cricket to see if the bream are biting. Fortunately, Georgia possesses plenty of venues where I get to revisit those adventures. Here's a look at seven such locations around the Peach State.
We begin our quest for the best bream waters at Jones County's Lake Lucas. Only a few years old, and relatively unknown, this 625-acre impoundment is owned by the Macon Water Authority. The city used to maintain a water-treatment plant on the bank of the Ocmulgee River, but the flood of 1994 put it out of commission. In response, the water authority built a plant on higher ground in Jones County. Still, the vast majority of the water in the adjoining lake is pumped up through a large pipe from the Ocmulgee River. Only a small amount of the water comes in from Town Creek and there is little outflow. As a result, the water is very clear.
To ensure the purity of future drinking water, no gas motors are allowed on the lake; only electric trolling models can be used. This restriction obviously severely limits fishermen's mobility, especially on such a large reservoir. There is only one boat ramp, so you have to do some planning, watch the wind, and carry an extra trolling battery. You certainly don't want to run a long distance downwind and then not be unable to get back to the boat ramp because of a weak battery.
Despite this limitation, Lake Lucas offers fishermen an excellent opportunity to catch some good fish.
According to Steve Schleiger, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division, anglers at Lake Lucas can expect catch rates similar to what they would encounter on the much-larger lakes Oconee and Sinclair. However, owing to low water fertility, the growth rate of those fish is slightly below the state average.
Data from a recent fish electroshocking survey suggest to Schleiger that anglers can expect good numbers of small- to medium-sized bluegills, and dollar sunfish.
Bream, which rely on aquatic bugs, and on the shallow vegetation in which those bugs propagate, don't do as well in large bodies of water like Lake Lucas.
One very bright spot is that the redear sunfish (a.k.a. "shellcrackers") seem to be doing very well, probably because their diet is based on the small mollusks and freshwater crustaceans so numerous in the lake. Shellcrackers have grown well in Lake Lucas, with 40 percent of the fish 10 inches or larger. This makes Lucas an exceptional shellcracker destination. Bream this size will definitely put a bend in a fishing pole!
The hours of operation for Lake Lucas are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during Eastern Standard Time. Once Daylight Savings Time starts, those hours expand to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. An air horn normally sounds to announce the lake's closing.
Security is maintained on site during all hours of operation. The parking fee for fishing the lake is $5 per vehicle, and $10 for vehicles with a boat. During the months of December, January and February, the lake is closed.
For boat anglers and shore-fishermen the rules are the same as statewide fishing regulations, including creel limits. There are a couple of exceptions, however: Bank-anglers may not use no more than two rods or poles; also, live minnows may not be used for bait on the lake.
To reach Lake Lucas from Macon, take Upper River Road for four and a half miles to the northwest. Take a left onto Branch Lane and look for the small sign on the left.
For more information about Lake Lucas online, visit the Web: www.maconwater.org/about/fishing.aspx.
Paradise Public Fishing Area is located on 1,060 gently rolling acres in Berrien and Tift counties. With 525 acres of water in 75 lakes, this PFA provides excellent boat and bank fishing for bream. Over 350 acres of lakes are intensively managed for fishing.
The property is heavily forested, with planted pines interspersed with clusters of mature pines, which add to the beauty of the area. Paradise offers a relaxed setting for family groups and solitary anglers alike.
Some lakes are closed for physical improvements, renovation, and fish restocking in order to provide continued good fishing in the future. Others are reserved for special events such as fishing rodeos for children. Signs are posted indicating which lakes are closed.
WRD biologist Noel Jackson recommended Paradise PFA's 34-acre Horseshoe Lake No. 4 for bream action. In particular, try the shallow end near the lily pads.
At 112-acre Lake Patrick, concentrate your efforts around the islands on the northeast side of the lake. Jackson also mentioned the stump-piles in the shallow water of 60-acre Lake Bobbin and the standing timber in 50-acre Lake Patrick as profitable bream fishing sites.
The majority of bream found at Paradise PFA are bluegills and shellcrackers. However a few redbreast sunfish may be found in Lake Bobbin. Those fish enter the lake from feeder creeks.
For the best bream fishing on Paradise PFA, try the lakes in early June when the fish are bedding in shallow water.
To fish at Paradise, anglers 16 years of age and older -- except honorary fishing license holders -- must possess a valid wildlife management area stamp and a fishing license. Or you may buy a one-day license in lieu of
the WMA stamp.
You may use only two lines while fishing on the PFA; live minnow may not serve as bait. If you catch a grass carp, it must be returned immediately to the water. The limit on bream is 15 per day. The fishing area opens at sunrise and closes at sunset year 'round.
An information shelter and map of the area are adjacent to Lake Windy near the entrance. A barrier-free boat dock, fishing pier, comfort station, and pay phone are located in the picnic area near Lake Patrick. In addition to fishing the area offers picnicking, hiking, and primitive camping in designated areas.
Bait, fishing licenses and WMA stamps are not available on site, so pick them up before you visit.
Paradise PFA is eight miles east of Tifton on the Brookfield/Nashville Road, just south of U.S. Highway 82 near Brookfield. For more information call (912) 533-4792.
HIGH FALLS STATE PARK
The State Parks and Historic Sites Division of the Georgia DNR operates High Falls State Park. The 650-acre lake here lies only partially in the park, so it has some private shoreline as well.
Bream, the species targeted by most anglers, account for over 80 percent of the total harvest. For some visiting anglers, bream fishing is a passionate pursuit, according to park manager Craig McInvale. Bluegills, shellcrackers and redbreasts are all available in the lake, and he pointed out that the best place to get one on a line is the upper end of Buck Creek. This creek arm runs all the way up to Interstate 75, and ambitious anglers with small boats can fish under and about a quarter mile west of the I-75 bridge.
Cast your worm or cricket around the visible stumps, vegetations and fallen trees in the shallow coves and arms of this creek for best results. Small Beetle Spins in the 1/16-ounce size in white or yellow colors are deadly, too.
Two boat ramps provide public access to the lake: one at the park office near the dam, the other in Buck Creek. The lake is open to fishing during daylight hours only; the operation of outboard motors greater than 10 horsepower is prohibited. Boats with outboard motors greater than 10 hp may be used with electric trolling motors, if the outboard motor is not operated.
High Falls State Park is located north of Forsyth and just east of Exit 198 on I-75 in Monroe County. For more information, call (478) 994-5080.
KOLOMOKI MOUNDS HISTORIC PARK
In southwest Georgia, this State Parks and Historic Sites Division facility offers good fishing for bluegills, shellcrackers, warmouths and redbreasts. Park manager Matt Bruner said bream anglers have good luck in both Lake Yohola and Lake Kolomoki.
Yohola means "running water" in the ancient language of the Creek Indians, and the lake of that name covers approximately 50 acres; Kolomoki's area is 80 acres. Both, built back in the 1930s, have silted in over the years, but still the average depth is 6 to 10 feet, offering great conditions for south Georgia bream fishing.
Memories are revived every time I visit a small pond and cast out a worm or cricket to see if the bream are biting.
For the springtime, Bruner recommended the shallow sandy areas of these lakes, especially around the lily pads and other vegetation. Don't pass up the chance to toss a worm up next to any tree that has fallen into the lakes.
The bream tend to start breeding earlier here than at more-northerly lakes, so you should certainly be seeing their circular beds in shallow water by May.
Anglers may use motors up to 10 horsepower on these lakes; many just use a trolling motor. Larger motors are only allowed to load or unload a boat.
According to Bruner, the park rents both canoes and johnboats. Rental fees are $5 per hour, $15 for four hours or $25 for all day. Normal fishing times run during daylight hours, although some limited night-fishing is allowed if anglers check with him first to let him know they'll be on the lakes.
For additional information on Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park, go online to www.gastateparks.com, or call (912) 723-5296.
Lake Rabun, an 834-acre lake on the Tallulah River in the northeast Georgia mountains, is a long, narrow highland reservoir with a steep, rocky shoreline. At this venue near Clayton, bluegills and shellcrackers are the favorite targets of local bream anglers.
Unlike other large lakes that only harbor small panfish, Lake Rabun is known for good bream fishing. Bluegills and shellcracker weighing up to 1 pound are common.
Bream are easiest to catch during the summer, when they congregate around boat docks. One popular method to catch these fish at docks is to target the bottom around the dock pilings. Use a live worm for bait; pinch on a small split shot weight about 6 inches above the hook. Cast this rig and slowly crawl it across the bottom beside the posts -- and you should catch plenty of bream!
Two small public fishing piers are located at the upper boat ramp on the reservoir.
For more on Lake Rabun, visit the Georgia Power Company's Web site, www.southerncompany.com/gapower/lakes.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN PFA
In Northwest Georgia, another great fishing spot for bream is the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area. The PFA offers two large lakes: 202-acre Heath Lake and 357-acres Antioch Lake. Both offer good bream fishing.
The bream fishing is the best in the springtime and early summer, especially in June, when the bluegills and shellcrackers start to spawn. Look for the bream to bed in 4 to 6 feet of water on a sandy bottom. Often you can see the beds under the surface as bowl-shaped depressions. Just drop in a worm, cricket, or Beetle Spin in the bed -- and hold on!
If bream beds aren't visible, try fishing next to any stump, root ball or vegetation you can find. If you don't get a bite pretty quickly, move to a new location.
Rocky Mountain PFA, 15 miles north of Rome on Big Texas Road, is open from dawn to dusk year 'round. A parking fee is charged. The site offers camping, picnicking facilities, restrooms and boat ramps. You can use any boat/motor combo, but only idle speed is permitted.