Regardless of the season, Georgia offers anglers some hot prospects for fast action on the water. Here's a look at 36 great destinations for the coming year. (February 2006)
From where the first trickles of runoff meet on a high mountain peak, to where that same water eventually reaches the rich saltwater estuaries, Georgia anglers are blessed with angling opportunities. High mountain trout streams down to tangling with tarpon on the coast, the Peach State offers something for anglers of all persuasions. Let's fill in your calendar with the best the state has to offer this year.
Lake Seminole is in the extreme southwest corner of the state, near Bainbridge. One of the Georgia's best lakes for trophy bucketmouths, its southern latitude permits early action. Even in January, expect the fish to be in a pre-spawn pattern. The lake's Spring Creek arm offers this prime fishing.
You have many excellent public access points to choose from.
Tips: During cold conditions, look for bass in timber along the channel edges. As the water warms, bass work their way towards shallow weeds. A heavy spinnerbait slow-rolled through the timber is a good choice, as are deep-diving crankbaits. For fish in the weeds, consider pitching or flipping a bulky soft plastic "creature" bait.
Options: Hit the weather right and you can enjoy excellent shallow-water red drum action in the Georgia marsh. Use bass fishing techniques like spinnerbaits and flukes to tempt shallow redfish working oyster bars on a falling tide.
Amicalola Creek is managed under delayed harvest regulations. Winter trout fishing is catch-and-release only, making for some fast action.
This month, Allatoona Lake offers anglers some of the best fishing of the year for stripers and hybrids. Mixed schools of stripers pushing 20 pounds and scads of hybrids in the 5-pound range can make for fast and furious fishing when the bite is on. The fish congregate around offshore structure, enjoying the cool water temperatures and gorging themselves on schooled-up bait.
Tips: Start your search around main lake points and humps. The Galts Ferry area of the lake is a good choice. Use your electronics to find offshore structure that holds bait. Fish frisky gizzard shad on freelines and hold on tight.
Diving gulls almost certainly mean that big fish below are pushing bait to the surface. When that action starts, it can be fast and furious.
Allatoona Lake is just off I-75 near Cartersville, a short drive north of Atlanta. Numerous public boat ramps and marinas are available to launch your rig.
Options: For hot crappie action, fish the heated water in Beaverdam Creek on Lake Sinclair. The outflow from Georgia Power's Plant Harlee Branch warms up the water and the crappies in this area.
Walleyes are beginning to run at Carters Lake this month. Fish points and shoals upriver for these tasty members of the perch family.
In northwest Georgia, March has one of the hottest tickets of the fishing year, as white bass make their annual run up the Coosa River. Both boat and bank anglers can get in on the action, with several boat ramps available and good bank access at Mayo's Bar Lock and Dam.
The action starts early in March and by midmonth should be hot and heavy.
Tips: Good places to find fish are creek mouths, around blowdown trees in the current, and sandy banks. To catch the bigger females, fish deeper. A 1/4-ounce jig and plastic grub combo is ideal. Good colors include pearl, white, and yellow. Live-bait anglers do well with minnows or small shad.
Contact Floyd County's Lock and Dam Park at (706) 234-5001 for more information.
Options: Lake Blackshear's largemouth bass are moving into the shallows to spawn. Target cypress trees and other shallow cover for a chance at a wallhanger.
It's springtime on the Georgia coast, and great fishing is available for Savannah River striped bass. Target bridge piers, pilings, and other structure when the tide turns.
Now that trout season is in, and anglers would do well to give this creek a try. The stream is heavily stocked, and public access points are easy and abundant, making the creek an excellent choice for your family fishing trip. A public campground is available, and a weekend fishing trip becomes a communal affair, with many families eagerly awaiting the first sign of spring.
Tips: If you don't mind company, fish the obvious access points. A few steps down a shoreline trail can usually separate you from the rest of the crowd, if that is what you're after. There are plenty of fish for everybody. Small Panther Martins or Rooster Tail spinners are top lures, and worms or corn make good bets for natural bait.
Rock Creek is reached off of Georgia Highway 60 southeast of Blue Ridge in Fannin County.
Options: Paradise Public Fishing Area near Tifton offers good angling for panfish. Filling your stringer with tasty bream shouldn't be a difficult task this month, in one of the PFA's many lakes.
Lake Walter F. George provides excellent bass fishing year round, and April is no exception. Fish spinnerbaits and topwaters around shallow cover.
Early May is the peak of the striped bass run in the Coosa River. One of the nation's handful of landlocked striped bass populations that reproduce successfully, stripers run up from Lake Weiss in the spring to their spawning grounds, literally in the middle of the city of Rome.
High, muddy water from spring storms can shut down the bite, and catching bait is a challenge. But when everything comes together, the fishing can be fantastic. Most bass average 8 to 12 pounds, but 30-pounders are there to be caught.
Tips: Plan on catching bait in one of the backwater sloughs near the state line and then trailering to the ramp at Heritage Park in downtown Rome. Gizzard shad, live or cut, should produce when fished on bottom with a Carolina rig in deep holes and around shoals. Pluggers can enjoy good action with stick baits or topwaters fished around blowdown tr
ees and sandy bars. Keep on the move until you find some action. Low-light conditions are best.
A boat ramp and good bank access are available at Heritage Park, behind the levee just south the intersection of U.S. Highway 27 and Shorter Avenue in downtown Rome.
Options: Bream fishing is good at Dodge County PFA. Plying the shallows with a cricket under a float is sure to garner some attention and acquire ingredients for a fish fry.
May is a good month for catfish on the Altamaha River. The river is full of big flatheads that put even the heaviest tackle to the test.
June is night-fishing season on this Georgia Power lake near Eatonton. As darkness falls, the pleasure boats and personal watercraft return to their moorings, leaving a peaceful lake for anglers to enjoy while avoiding the summer heat.
Tips: To fill your limit, fish boat docks at night. Lighted docks are best, but also receive the most pressure. Dark docks can produce too, if you do your homework and determine which ones provide the best cover.
Fish a plastic worm or pearl fluke around the pools of light off the ends of the docks. The light attracts the baitfish. Predators, including bass, are sure to follow.
Options: Soaking a piece of shrimp off the St. Simons Pier, while enjoying the breeze off the sound, is a pleasant way to pass the time and bring home the makings for a good meal too. Whiting don't grow big, but they make up for it with their culinary attributes and eagerness to bite.
Wading in Middle Georgia's Flint River rapids for shoal bass is a great way to beat the summer heat and enjoy some topwater action from these aggressive strikers.
Hartwell bass are on their summertime pattern, which means they wait patiently in the cool depths with an upturned eye, looking for a pod of bait to pass overhead. Anglers can enjoy fast topwater action with largemouth, spotted, and redeye bass, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. Sunny conditions pull the blueback herring to the surface, resulting in a topwater bite that can last all day.
Tips: Look for bass to be holding on deep brushpiles or standing timber in 20 feet of water near shallow points and humps. Hazard markers make these areas easy to find. Fish topwater plugs and flukes anywhere you find bait working the surface. A little bit of breeze rippling the water helps seal the deal on a hard-charging bass headed to the surface for a strike.
Options: Bottom-fishing off the Georgia coast is heating up for red snapper and other species. Get together a party and charter a boat to head offshore and test your back muscles on these bottom dwellers.
Blue catfish are abundant in the Coosa River, and fishing a piece of cut bait in a deep hole is almost guaranteed to produce some action. The lower end of the river near the state line is your best bet.
The 'Hooch below Lake Lanier is one of the premier tailwater trout fisheries in the Southeast. The river is heavily stocked, and its abundant shoals offer good feeding stations for the river's rainbow and brown trout. The various units of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offer good public access to the river.
Tips: The best fishing is when the water is low and clear. When the turbines turn at Buford Dam and the water is cold, the river comes up fast, so safety is paramount. The best way to fish is to float the river, stopping to wade the best shoals in search of hungry trout.
Small spinners and tiny Rapala lures are good choices, and spoons can also be productive. For more information, contact the U.S. Park Service office at (770) 399-8070. Options: Ossabaw Sound at the mouth of the Ogeechee River offers small boat anglers a chance at aerobatic tarpon. Fish around rips and bars on an incoming tide to intercept tarpon following the bait.
Allatoona Lake offers good fishing for spotted bass after dark. Once night falls and the lake quiets down, try plastic worms and crankbaits on deep structure.
The dog days are winding down, and Lanier's famous spotted bass are feeding aggressively. Topwater is a fun way to get in on the action. Although summer still lingers, spots won't hesitate to charge from the depths to hit a surface plug properly presented in the right area.
Tips: To find the fish, look for main-lake humps in about 20 feet of water. Humps with isolated piles of brush and abundant bait are best. Fish a Zara Spook, fluke, or other topwater lure over the cover to draw a fish from the depths. Keep on the move until you find a good bite. Use your electronics to scout the area for brush and bait to avoid fishing unproductive water.
Options: The Toccoa River below Blue Ridge Dam has blue-ribbon tailwater trout fishing. Rainbows are common, but big browns are possible too. Since shoreline access is limited, a float trip is the easiest way to reach the best shoals.
McDuffie PFA has plenty of channel catfish that should be willing to bite this month. Try night crawlers or stink bait fished on bottom.
Weiss Lake offers good fall bass fishing. Many anglers have traded their bass rods for a deer rifle, so pressure is down. Still, the cooling temperatures signal that winter is not far away, and the bass move into the shallows to fatten on an abundant supply of shad. With the right combination of shallow cover and lots of bait, the backwater sloughs just inside the state line are good areas to consider.
Tips: Target shallow wood. Use fast-moving lures like spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps to cover lots of water, but focus your efforts on shallow flats near the creek channels. Stumps sticking out of the water are worth a few casts, but a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a constantly roving eye can spot the submerged stumps that casual anglers miss. Guide your lure to bump the stump and draw reaction strikes.
Boat ramps are available off Georgia Highways 20 and 100.
Options: Clarks Hill Lake provides good fishing for large flathead catfish. To catch one of these bruisers, fish live bait on the bottom near channels and other offshore structure.
Lake Burton brown trout are finding this month's cooler water to their liking. Slowly troll the depths around rocky points with a diving plug or blueback herring to catch a monster trout.
When fall foliage still clings to the trees, the scene
ry around this undeveloped North Georgia reservoir can be breathtaking Mountain nights are downright cold by now, and a day on the water likely calls for bundling up, but spotted bass love the cool water and are feeding on schools of shad. Carters Lake always has trophy potential when it comes to spotted bass, and fish of more than 5 pounds are possible.
Tips: Carters is extremely deep, and the water is usually clear in the winter. If you want to be successful, lowland bassin' tactics have no place here. Keep your line light and downsize your baits. Fish will finesse worms or small jigs on rocky points with brush. Work the lure extremely slow through any brush you find, just gently shaking it off the limbs.
Crankbaits that imitate small shad are good, too. Drag them along the sides and across the end of long tapering points near deep water.
Options: Chilly nights start to pull the speckled trout into the estuaries for the winter. Crisp days, very few biting bugs, and hungry fish make this month a great time to be in the marsh.
Small lakes like the one at Big Lazer Creek PFA can turn on quick when a few days of unseasonably warm weather draw the largemouths back into the shallows for one more late-season feeding binge.
Blue Ridge Lake
Blue Ridge Lake has the best reservoir smallmouth bass population remaining in Georgia. Smallmouths in old standbys like Chatuge and Nottely disappeared with the illegal introduction of spotted bass. Spots are in Blue Ridge, too, but so far, the bronzebacks are holding their own and still provide a viable fishery.
Tips: Smallmouths take the cool water in stride, so don't be afraid to move shallow even at this time of year. Cranking shallow points with medium-diving crankbaits like Shad Raps is a consistent producer on the lake. Good patterns imitate crayfish.
For those stout of heart, the best fishing can be at night. If you want to cover a lot of area, trolling the areas mentioned can also be effective. Don't be surprised to end up with a mixed bag of smallmouths and walleyes when using these techniques.
Blue Ridge Lake is just off U.S. 76 near the town of Blue Ridge.
Options: A portion of the Chattooga River in northeast Georgia is managed under delayed-harvest regulations. Winter fishing in this section is catch-and-release only. High numbers of fish improve your odds for a good day of winter trout fishing.
Lake Jackson, Georgia's oldest major reservoir, has a long-standing reputation of giving up trophy bass to cold-weather anglers. On a sunny afternoon, the big fish may move up to feed, providing the opportunity for a bass of a lifetime.