January 26, 2015
Some fishermen are just blessed to live in Georgia. After all, what other state offers such good fishing every month of the year for so many different species? Regardless of where you live in the Peach State, there is always some good fishing near you.
From the mountains in the north with streams full of trout and lakes teeming with bass, walleye and crappie, to costal waters where trophy tarpon test fishing skill and saltwater trout provide fantastic eating, you can't beat the Peach State. Pick one of these spots to catch a wide variety of fish any month you care to try.
Chattahoochee River Trout
Each year the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division releases more than 150,000 rainbow trout around 9 inches long into the Chattahoochee River downstream of Lake Lanier Dam. In addition, brown trout are reproducing there. This provides good fishing on the river in Atlanta.
Trout guide Chris Scalley says fly fishermen catch trout on nymphs, midges and streamers in the river. Some sections of the river have special regulations, so be sure to check the WRD website, as well as the water release schedule by calling 770-945-1466 to avoid high release times.
You can wade the river, but be careful of high water release, or drift some sections in a boat. Key on eddies and seams in the current. Expect good numbers of keeper-size trout with the possibility of a quality rainbow or brown trout.
Other Options: Spotted bass feed more in cold water than largemouth, and Lake Harding has a good population. Fish a small jig-and-pig or jig a spoon off the ends of long points near main river and creek channels. Walleye in Lake Raburn provide great eating, as they are actively feeding in January. Fish live worms or minnows behind a small spinner on deep rocky points.
Savannah River Yellow Perch
The Savannah River below Lake Thurmond Dam stops these excellent eating fish as they move up the river to spawn. Anglers can catch yellow perch big enough, averaging a pound each, to filet and delight the taste of almost anyone.
Two years ago, Grovetown angler Tom Lewis landed the 2-pound, 9-ounce state record in late February by jigging a small minnow rigged below a sinker in the river. Drift slowly with the current and use just enough weight to keep your bait near the bottom.
You can also catch perch from the fishing pier below the dam and from the bank. Although the pier is on the South Carolina side, your Georgia fishing license is good. Use a float to keep your minnow above the rocks and drift it with the current.
Other Options: Jackson Lake can produce some big largemouth during cold weather. Target rocky points and brush piles with a jig-and-pig. Crappie start moving into the creeks to spawn at Clarks Hill in February and you can catch them by trolling small jigs and minnows.
West Point Lake Largemouth
Big largemouth move to the spawning areas in March at West Point Lake, and you can catch a lot of quality fish on main lake and secondary points as the fish stage. The water clarity is better in March downstream of the Highway 109 Bridge.
Target main lake points at the mouths of smaller creeks and spawning coves on the main lake, and move into the cove and creeks as the water warms. Look for clay and rock on the points and bump the bottom with a chartreuse crankbait in stained water and crawfish colors in clear water.
Anglers can also drag a half-ounce jig-and-pig in the same areas. Use browns in clear water, and black and blue in stained water. Target areas 3 to 10 feet deep on the points.
Other Options: Hybrids feed heavily on blueback herring and shad on Hartwell this month. Fish live bait, both free-lined and straight down, on main lake points. Spotted bass typically start to spawn in March on Chatuge. Fish small jig-and-pigs around any rocks in water 2 to 12 feet deep.
Lake Seminole Shellcracker
Shellcrackers bed at Seminole in April, and the many acres of grassbeds there provide perfect habitat for these tough little fish. Each April, a shellcracker tournament held on Seminole produces a good many 25-fish stringers weighing between 25 and 28 pounds.
Fish sandy flats near weed lines with an earthworm on the bottom. Lily pads often grow on sandy bottoms, so they are good indicators of the right place to fish.
Tie a No. 6 hook on 4- to 6-pound line and cast it to the edge of the weeds, let the rig settle to the bottom and keep the line tight. Also watch for saucer-shaped depressions on the bottom indicating beds and fish those areas hard.
Other Options: Tripletail move near the Jekyll Island beaches, where anglers can sight fish for them with live shrimp. Look for fish lying just under the surface, especially around floating debris. To catch quality largemouths, fish spinnerbaits and crankbaits early in the morning around spawning shad on Oconee.
Lake Lanier Spotted Bass
Lake Lanier is a quality spotted bass fishery, with fish spending a lot of time feeding on blueback herring on top of the water in May, when anglers can catch many 3- and 4-pound spots on topwater plugs.
Herring spawn on shallow gravel points, humps and the saddles between islands or banks. Be on the lake at daylight and watch for swirling fish, indicating feeding. Cast big, topwater baits like a Zara Spook to the swirls.
As the sun gets up, slow roll a big spinnerbait or cast a big crankbait in a little deeper water in the same areas. Also try a Carolina-rigged lizard in 7 to 15 feet of water.
Other Options: Many believe Lake Weiss to be the "Crappie Capital of the World" and anglers can catch big slabs by trolling minnows or small jigs in the creeks. Largemouth are feeding heavily on Sinclair after the spawn and can be caught on topwater baits and spinnerbaits around docks and grass.
West Point Lake Crappie
As the weather gets hot, a good bet is to fish under a bridge at night for crappie, and West Point has five good bridges where fish bite well.
Tie your boat under a bridge as it gets dark, hang a lantern or 12-volt light over the side and relax. Put out several rods tight-lined with minnows straight down. Try different depths with separate rods until you find the depth they are feeding.
You will find you have plenty of company with bridges looking like small towns with all the lights under them. Also try fishing from the bank under the bridges, using corks to keep your bait off the bottom at varying depths.
Other Options: The catfish population has exploded at Oconee, where there are a lot of big flatheads, blues and channel cats. Fish cut bait on points where current is moving. Cool off by floating and wading the Flint River below the Blackshear dam, fishing small crankbaits and plastic worms for shoal bass.
McDuffie PFA Bluegill
Everyone dreams of fishing a well-managed pond for big bluegill and the state provides many such ponds at Public Fishing Areas. McDuffie PFA near Dearing, has seven managed ponds from five to 37 acres where bluegills are plentiful.
Anglers can fish from the bank, piers and boats in most of the lakes. On the full moon in July look for beds, saucer-shaped depressions in the shallows, and drop a cricket or earthworm on them. Use a small split shot to keep it on the bottom.
Later in the month, drop a cricket or earthworm under a float around any wood cover or grass in the ponds. For bigger fish try an earthworm on the bottom around the old creek channels in the deepest water in the pond.
Other Options: Anglers wanting to find carp should put out some sinking catfish food in 12 feet of water at the mouth of a cove at Clarks Hill for several days in a row. Then fish the area with kernel corn on a short-shanked No. 6 hook. Afterwards, head south to Jekyll Island or St Simons Piers to try for shark on the Georgia coast.
Lake Eufaula Largemouth
The ledges at Eufaula are famous for producing quality largemouth during the summer. After finding a school of fish, anglers can catch big bass cast after cast. Five fish limits weighing 25 pounds are often caught, and most tournaments have at least one fish over 7 pounds registered.
A good depth finder is critical for finding the fish on the ledges. Ride the ledges, watching for drops from 5 to 10 feet down to 30-foot depths. A break in the channel ledge, where a ditch enters, concentrates bass, as do brush piles, stumps and rocks.
When current is flowing, the bass bite much better. Sit on the down current side of the drop and cast a big crankbait upstream, reeling it down fast to bump the bottom as it moves with the current. When current is not moving, cast to the shallow top of the ledge and bring a big worm or jig-and-pig down it.
Tarpon move into the rivers and sounds on the coast in the summer and you can catch them on live mullet and menhaden or big artificial baits. The Toccoa River is low in August and makes wading for trout easier.
Altamaha River Flatheads
The Altamaha River produces huge flatheads weighing more than 50 pounds each summer. Several state records have been set on the river since flatheads were illegally introduced, and there is no limit to the numbers anglers can keep.
For rod and reel fishing, anchor a boat upstream of deep holes or set up on a sandbar above the hole. Outside bends of the river where the bank is undercut are especially good. Use heavy tackle to land these big fish, by rigging a big, live bream on a 6/0 hook with a leader from a sinker heavy enough to keep the bait on the bottom in the current. Raise the rod tip, and let the bait move with the current into the deepest holes and under banks, before letting it sit.
Other Options: Tie up under the lower Soap Creek Bridge on Clarks Hill and drop live minnows down under a light to catch crappie. Most of the time, they will bite all night. Catch largemouth at Rocky Mt. PFA in Heath Lake, a trophy bass lake open the first 10 days of each month.
Coastal River Red Drum
Big red drum move into the shallows around St. Simons Island in October to feed, allowing anglers to catch 30-pound fish. Guide Mark Noble has often caught more than 300 pounds of reds in two hours during this time of year.
To be successful, get some live shrimp and artificial jigs, and tie them under a popping cork. Also, search the tidal creeks and rivers for oyster beds and fish over them; an outgoing tide is best.
Anglers can often see mud stirred up by the fish with their tails at the surface as they feed. When spotted cast ahead of them and let them move to the bait to keep from spooking them.
Other Options: Spotted bass are feeding as the water temperature drops in Carters Lake and will hit topwater baits and drop-shot rigs. Anglers can also catch a lot of quality crappie trolling jigs at High Falls Lake.
Lake Blue Ridge Smallmouth
The best chance to catch a Georgia smallmouth bass is on Lake Blue Ridge. While spotted bass seem to be crowding them out on this fishery, there is still a good population of smallmouth.
Start each morning with a small topwater popper, such as a Pop-R in silver or bone. Anglers should cast over long points, working from the bank out to water 12 to 15 feet deep. It's best to try fishing different speeds, from a slow pop a couple of seconds apart to a rapid steady pop.
As the sun gets on the water, keep the boat in deep water and cast a small brown jig-and-pig or jig-head worm with a green pumpkin Finesse worm on it to the tops of the points. Rocks attract smallmouth so concentrate on rocky areas.
Other Options: Largemouth bite well this month on Lake Tobesofkee and boat traffic is low enough to fish it with crankbaits. Lake Juliette produces big stripers on blueback herring in November.
Lake Hartwell Striped Bass
Trophy stripers swim in Hartwell and 30-pound fish are caught often. The big, clear lake has a high population of baitfish, such as shad and blueback herring, which the stripers feed on in cold water during winter.
Fish the lower lake by slow-trolling live herring over long, main-lake points. Standing timber off these points hold baitfish, as well as stripers. Be sure to always fish around balls of baitfish. Try downriggers if the fish are deep or planner boards and flat lines if they are shallow.
Always watch for surface activity and cast a big topwater bait, such as a pencil popper ahead of the feeding fish. Keep the boat as far away from the schools as possible to keep them on top longer.
Other Options: Allatoona has a lot of 12- to 14-inch spots and a jig-head worm is good that time of year. Try for trophy blue cats with cut bait in Lake Andrews downstream of Lake Eufaula.
These are just a few options for Georgia anglers. It's time to decide where to go and for what.