October 04, 2010
Georgia is home to some of the best angling opportunities in the country. Whether it's smallmouths, largemouths, catfish, stripers or trout you want to go after, they are all here in abundance. What's more, excellent opportunities abound no matter what the season or the location around the state.
By Ronell Smith
Here are 36 of the best fishing locations in the state, but keep in mind there are dozens more just like them.
Striped Bass: Lake Juliette
Even with the water temperature solidly in the 40s, the stripers still are biting at this diminutive Monroe County reservoir, located just an hour outside of Atlanta and closer to Macon. Thanks to yearly stockings by Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division there are plenty of stripers, many of which are in the 10- to 15-pound range.
For consistent success, look for schools of bait near main-lake points or creek channel ledges and then drop live or cut bait down to the fish. If that doesn't yield any takers, idle slowly through creeks on the lake's upper end, drifting live bait on free lines and planer boards. Also, keep a soft-plastic jerkbait or 3/8-ounce tail-spinner lure tied on for fish breaking at the surface.
Alternatives: The 20 ponds on Fort Stewart Army Base offer anglers their best opportunity to catch a largemouth in excess of 10 pounds during the winter months. Fish Texas-rigged worms along brushpiles in 6 to 12 feet of water for the best chance of catching a lunker.
Large crappie can be taken in abundance this month on Lake Weiss. Look for fish along standing timber, in brushpiles or near docks in water 12 to 25 feet in depth. Target the crappie here with small jigs or minnow suspended below a bobber.
Spotted Bass: Carters Lake
Anglers can't do much better for catching spotted bass than heading to this northwest Georgia lake, which is home to numerous chunky 4-pound spots. A deep, clear impoundment, Carters is prime territory for large bass, with anglers catching fish over 5 pounds with regularity.
In February, the spotted bass can be found suspending along bluff banks, rocky points or brushpiles. Try a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce black-and-blue jig-and-pig combination for bottom-hugging spots. A small white jerkbait or 1/4-ounce jigging spoon should also be at the ready for those spotted bass situated higher in the water column.
Alternatives: Lake Russell provides anglers with a very good opportunity to catch 3- to 5-pound largemouths this month. Look for the fish along standing timber adjacent to the main-river channel, where the fish are easy prey for a well-placed Texas-rigged worm. Also, a small spinnerbait cast along the shore in pockets protected from the wind provides an excellent chance for an 8-plus-pound largemouth.
The crappie should be staging along the timber-laden river channels this month on West Point. Target the fish in 8 to 20 feet of water using small jigging spoons, 1/32-ounce jigs or live minnows.
Largemouth Bass: Jackson Lake
A perennial favorite for anglers chasing fat, healthy largemouths, Jackson Lake offers more hope than hype in March. With an abundance of bass in the 3- to 5-pound range, this lake can be dynamite for patient anglers.
Look for the fish to begin staging for the spawn this month. On the north end of the lake, target blowdowns using 3/8-ounce black-and-blue jigs. On the lower end of the reservoir, run chartreuse-and-blue crankbaits along rocky shorelines washed with sunlight for actively feeding fish. Additionally, target main-lake points with Carolina-rigged worms or jigging spoons.
For more information on Jackson Lake, contact guide John Copeland at (770) 787-0762.
Alternatives: For a chance at catching what is arguably the state's best-eating fish, Blue Ridge Lake is the place to be for walleyes. This gin-clear, deep lake surrounded by mountains is loaded with 'eyes. Target the fish along rocky main-lake points using flat crankbaits or black hair jigs. Drifting with minnows is also successful in these same locations.
The hybrid bass in Lake Oconee begin their annual migration up the Oconee River this month. These fish, many of which are in the 2- to 4-pound range, can be taken using small in-line spinners, minnows placed under popping corks, or small crankbaits.
Bream: Clarks Hill Lake
No lake in the state offers the chance to catch more large bream than Clarks Hill. With one of the healthiest populations of bluegills and shellcrackers -- many weighing more than a pound -- this northeast Georgia reservoir is a must-visit this month for bream.
Expect to find the larger fish near the shoreline in water less than 4 feet in depth along rockpiles, mussel beds or emergent vegetation. Try a red wiggler on a small hook and light line for best results. But the fish won't turn up their noses at crickets, tiny spinners or small grubs on a 1/64-ounce leadhead either. This action should remain stable throughout the month.
Alternatives: Whiting should be in large supply along the St. Simons Island coast this month. Bump cut shrimp or squid along the bottom in water 15 to 25 feet deep for the best success.
The bass on central Georgia's High Falls Lake are spawning in the shallow pockets on the small impoundment. Target them with tube lures, black plastic lizards, and spinnerbaits with a large single Colorado blade.
Spotted Bass: Lake Lanier
Now ranked as one of the best spotted bass fisheries in the country, Lake Lanier is home to innumerable spots in the 3- to 5-pound range. The spots thrive in the lake's deep, clear water, and the fish are nourished by an endless supply of blueback herring.
This month is topwater time on the northeast Georgia lake -- a time when anglers take large numbers of the fish on everything from buzzbaits along shallow grass to jerkbaits over humps, points and brushpiles. For the best success, look for brushpiles in 8 to 25 feet of water and "walk the dog" with topwater baits to get the spots to hit. Another technique that's popular on the lake is "waking" compact spinnerbaits on the surface, a tactic that pulls spots up from the depths to crash these baits.
For more information, contact Lanier guide Ryan Coleman at (770) 356-4136.
Alternatives: The abundant shoal bass in the Flint River provide anglers plenty of action this month. Look for the fish in the deeper pools, where they can be taken with everything from flies to small crankbaits, jerkbaits and worms.
live porgies off the Savannah coast is the quickest way to catch large king mackerel this month. However, keep large saltwater jerkbaits tied on for surface-feeding kings.
Flathead Catfish: Coosa River
The Coosa River in West Georgia is loaded with large flatheads. In recent years, anglers have taken numerous fish above 40 pounds, with cats in the 10- to 20-pound range being common. Winding, tree-lined sections of river offer anglers an opportunity to catch the fish from along shore or from boats drifting the current.
During the day, target the bucket-mouth cats in deep holes near laydowns using live bream. At night, however, look for the fish to come shallow along sandbars or points.
Alternatives: Lake Tugaloo bream should be easy to catch this month. Try nightcrawlers and crickets along shallow, shaded areas for the 1/2-pound-sized critters.
The largemouths on Lake Oconee won't be hard to find this month. Look for fish in the 2- to 3-pound range along points and docks. Baits should include 10-inch plastic worms, large spinnerbaits or deep-diving crankbaits.
Largemouth Bass: Lake Varner
What this 830-acre impoundment lacks in size it more than makes up for with action. Lake Varner, located just 45 minutes from Atlanta, is home to some of the state's best bass fishing, with largemouths of more than 12 pounds coming out of its waters each year. What's more, as an electric-motor-only lake, it's not subject to the crowds seen on larger bodies of water in the summer months.
In the morning hours, try buzzbaits and soft-plastic jerkbaits along any shoreline grass. As the sun comes up, fish 3/8-ounce jigs and Texas-rigged soft plastics near points and stump beds for large fish.
Alternatives: The trout in Lake Rabun should be ready for the taking this month. Though they normally haunt deeper water, these fish can be taken in water that is 18 to 25 feet deep by trolling minnows or crankbaits this month.
The tarpon action should be good this month off the Georgia coast. Fish baits such as pogy or mullet on the bottom where baitfish are concentrated.
Flathead Catfish: Altamaha River
Home to some of the best big-catfish action in the country, the Altamaha River -- located in the southeast portion of the state -- produces large numbers of cats in excess of 30 pounds. The large river, which winds its way through the heart of the South Georgia, features numerous laydowns, deep holes and sloping points that are all havens for skulking flatheads.
Try live bream on a 5/0 hook during the day in water 15 to 40 feet deep and near wood cover. At night, try live bait along the top edges of points to intercept the fish as they move in shallow to feed.
Alternatives: The small lakes located on the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area, near Rome, can be dynamite for summer largemouth action. Fish main-lake points with topwater baits and Carolina-rigged worms for the best success.
The action for seatrout should be good this month around St. Catherines Island on the Georgia coast. Use shrimp-imitating soft-plastic lures or live shrimp around docks, piers and other cover.
Striped Bass: Lake Hartwell
The striped bass should be schooling on top this month on Lake Hartwell. The deep, clear lake on the upper Savannah River brims with linesides and is home to some of the state's best striped bass fishing. Thanks to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division's yearly stocking efforts, there are plenty of 10- to 20-pound stripers, with some fish topping the 40-pound mark taken from the lake each year.
For consistent action, target fish busting shad at the surface with topwater baits. Cut bait, free-lined shad and trolled crankbaits can also be used for these active fish. A minnow-imitating soft-plastic lure and a tail-spinner are other good choices for fish swirling at the surface.
For more information regarding Lake Hartwell, contact guide Lance Carter at (706) 377-3804.
Alternatives: The crappie at West Point Lake can be found in schools near brushpiles and standing timber in water 12 to 25 feet deep this month. The papermouths can easily be taken with minnows, in-line spinners or small jigs.
Lake Chatuge spotted bass are feeding on top this month, making them easy targets for soft-plastic or hard-bodied jerkbaits. Also try small spinnerbaits and crankbaits along rocky points.
Hybrid Bass: Bartletts Ferry Lake
Some of the best fall action for hybrids can be found on this West Georgia body of water, which is home to plenty of linesides of more than 4 pounds. The Georgia WRD stocks the lake with these fish each year.
This month, the fish can be found throughout the main lake, where they can clearly be seen busting shad at the surface. Target these active feeders with noisy topwater lures and jerkbaits. Also try trolling live shad on free lines or planer boards.
Alternatives: Anglers can take plenty of Lake Sinclair largemouths this month. Use crankbaits and jigs near the points immediately downstream of Georgia Power's Plant Harlee Branch's warmwater discharge on Beaverdam Creek.
The grouper should be plentiful and biting this month along the reefs offshore of Savannah. Use 4-ounce jigging spoons to pull these fish off the bottom around the cover.
Walleyes: Blue Ridge Lake
Though the walleyes are still holding in deep water this month on Blue Ridge, they can provide excellent action. The reservoir, which has a plentiful supply of 1- to 2-pound walleyes, has in recent years yielded several fish that were above 6 pounds.
The key to catching the fish this month is to locate them suspended over river channel ledges or at the edges of expansive flats, where they ambush shad. Good bait choices include deep-diving crankbaits and jerkbaits and 1/2-ounce jigging spoons. Also try trolling with deep-diving crankbaits.
For more information regarding Blue Ridge, contact Bart's Bait & Tackle at (706) 636-2248.
Alternatives: Largemouth bass on Lake Walter F. George can be found along points in 8 to 15 feet of water this month. Use 3/8-ounce jigs or Carolina rigs with a small sinker in front of a soft-plastic creature bait.
The stripers on Lake Russell should still be milling around the shallows looking for blueback herring and shad. Try soft-plastic jerkbaits and free-lined herring.
Brown Trout: Lake Burton
The aggressive brown trout should be feeding this winter on Lake Burton. With the Georgia WRD stocking the lake for the last several years, the fish have grown fat on blueback herring, with numerous fish caught that weigh in ex
cess of 3 pounds.
In December, target browns by trolling crankbaits and small in-line spinners along the mouths of feeder creeks that enter the main lake. Also, keep a sharp eye open for fish actively feeding at the surface. These trout often take a small topwater lure, especially those of the chugging or walk-the-dog variety.
Alternatives: Look for Lake Seminole largemouths along the edges of or ensconced underneath hyacinth mats. Use heavy jigs or soft-plastics with a 5/0 hook and a 1-ounce weight to get to these fish.
Though not specifically targeted by many anglers, the yellow perch on Lake Lanier are fat and healthy. Look for them at the mouth of the Chattahoochee River. Use baits such as small jigging spoons, wads of nightcrawlers or small deep-diving crankbaits in water 15 to 30 feet in depth.