February 22, 2012
Georgia's anglers are very fortunate to have such a broad array of fishing opportunities throughout the state. Our numerous reservoirs, streams, rivers and coastline hold about any sport fish that come to mind. Within a few hours drive, we have the option of dipping a line in cool mountain streams for trout, fishing warmer waters for bass, catfish and bream or we can head to the coast for a variety of saltwater species such as tarpon, shark and red drum.
Georgia's climate runs the gamut as well, but it is never too hot or too cold to go fishing in the Peach State. Anglers in every corner of the state can find good angling options no matter the time of year. Following is a sampling of what each month has to offer.
Winter is the best time to catch the big stripers. Finding the bait is key for finding wintertime fish. Start looking in the back of creeks and coves. Watch for surface activity, especially during early morning when the water is calm. Look for baitfish and stripers breaking the surface as they feed. Birds diving and working the surface is another sure indicator that baitfish are in the area and likely stripers.
Live bait such as shad or blueback herring hooked through the lip or nose with a 1/0 hook, allowing it to swim freely, is the typical offering. If fishing over submerged brush, a balloon tied to the line keeps the bait at the desired depth without affecting its movement.
A white bucktail jig is a reliable artificial option. Try a 1/2-ounce or in extremely cold conditions a lighter 1/4-ounce sinks slower to better imitating a sluggish baitfish.
For pursuing these big fish on lightweight tackle or fly rods, Guide Henry Cowen is the expert. His flies of choice are Cowen's Coyote and the Something Else.
For fishing tips or to book a guided trip, visit his Web site at www.henrycowenflyfishing.com.
Beaverdam Creek in Lake Sinclair holds warmer water from the Harlee Branch Power Plant. Look for schooled up crappie following the shad into the warmer water.
The rainbow trout in the Toccoa River's Delayed Harvest section have had a few months to feed and grow since being stocked. Single hooks on artificial lures only are allowed.
Carters Lake is one of few lakes in the state that harbors a respectable walleye population, and the lake's reputation is only getting better. Of course, it doesn't hurt that we Southerners are beginning to get the hang of fishing for these toothy critters. Also, most will agree that there isn't a tastier fish to serve at the dinner table.
For catching walleyes, fishing at night works best. Drop live bait, such as shad, worms and leeches to the bottom in 20 to 35 feet of water. Jigs worked slowly will draw strikes too. Concentrate around rocky points on the main lake. Walleyes bite gently so be ready to set the hook at any resistance.
Contact Bart's Bait and Tackle for more information at (706) 253-2248.
In Lake Seminole in the southernmost portion of the state, largemouths begin their move to shallow water this time of year.
It is no secret to those who live on the coast that wintertime can offer some great action for redfish. The water tends to be clearer so this is a great time to sight-fish for reds on the oyster bars.
Call Captain Greg Hildreth at (912) 261-1763 for guided coastal fishing trips.
March is prime time to catch white bass as they make their annual spawning run up the Coosa River. There are several boat ramps available and good bank access at Mayo's Bar Lock and Dam downstream from Rome.
Small crankbaits, curly-tailed grubs and white, chartreuse or shad-patterned 1/4-ounce jigs work well. Anglers using live bait have success with small shad or other minnows.
In Lake Oconee crappie are feeding and moving to the shallows for the spawn. Troll live minnows and jigs along ledges in the Oconee River above the Interstate 20 bridge.
The bass fishing in Lake Blackshear is heating up now. There are lots of shallow coves and cypress islands to target with spinnerbaits or plastic worms and lizards.
Lake Blackshear is crappie heaven. Anglers have cypress islands galore and a multitude of docks to cast around for white and black crappie. Average fish size is 9 to 11 inches, but 3-pounders are here as well.
Target shallow areas using minnows and small jigs. Later in the month try deeper flats along creek channels and around bridge pilings.
Another popular technique for papermouths is shooting or pitching jigs under docks. This time of year and into summer, try this around docks found in water ranging from 8 to 20 feet deep.
Bluegill fishing is in full swing at the many lakes of Paradise Public Fishing Area in the southern portion of the state, just east of Tifton.
The best chance for a smallmouth bass right now is on Blue Ridge Lake. This mountain reservoir holds some big ones too! Target points, creek channels, docks and rock ledges.
Check out the top spots for Georgia fishing for May, June, July and August on page two
Sight-fishing to these large, broad fish hot off the north end of Jekyll Island. Cruise inshore waters looking for light-colored shapes floating just below the surface. A tripletail will look very much like a trash bag floating in the water.
When a fish is spotted, ease up carefully so as not to spook it. A live shrimp or shrimp imitating bait likely will draw a strike. Tripletails can tip the scales at 20 to 30 pounds, put up a great fight and are good jumpers.
Redear sunfish, or shellcrackers as they are often called, are plentiful and easy to catch this time of year in Clarks Hill Lake. Drop a hook baited with red wigglers to the bottom near a shell bed and wait for a bite.
This is the perfect time for wade or float fishing the Flint River near Thomaston for feisty shoal bass. Be aware that the Flint remains high and muddy for a few days after a good rain upstream in the south Metro Atlanta area, so keep your schedule flexible.
Anglers have plenty of backwater sloughs for casting to shallow-water bass in Weiss Lake. The flooded hardwood bottoms that make up the sloughs can be tricky to navigate, but they make up prime habitat for largemouth bass.
Work a spinnerbait around stumps on the edges of creek channels running through the sloughs. Buzzbaits, plastic worms or lizards, and jigs are worth a try as well.
Fishing up the main river and pitching jigs or spinnerbaits towards logs along the channel edges is another successful tactic.
The reciprocal license agreement between Alabama and Georgia does not include Weiss Lake so be sure to have an Alabama fishing license if planning on crossing the border.
For big Altamaha River flathead catfish, drift a hefty live bream downstream into deep holes. Use enough lead to keep the bait on the bottom.
Sharks are abundant everywhere on the Georgia coast. Throw a chunk of cut bait into a channel or deep hole on a moving tide and your odds of hooking up are good.
Early in the month look for Lake Hartwell's largemouths to be seeking baitfish on points and main-lake humps. When the summer heat sets in the bass retreat to deeper and cooler waters.
A popular summer pattern for anglers is to target the fish in early morning and evenings with noisy topwater lures near reef marker points adjacent to deep water. If you hit it right, the bass will come out of their deep holes to strike on the top. Small crankbaits and spinnerbaits are successful when fished in creek channels and on points.
McDuffie Public Fishing Area has plenty of channel catfish that suit anglers of all ages. Fish nightcrawlers or stinkbait on the bottom.
Fishing the Ogeechee River for one of our prettiest sunfishes is another great summertime option. The redbreasts are abundant along the shoreline of this river.
Most Georgians are unaware that we have a great tarpon fishery here on our coast during the summer months. These fish can be seen rolling and
chasing mullet from St. Mary's north to Savannah, and they aren't as difficult to catch as one might think.
Tarpon can be enticed to eat a live pogie rigged under a big cork or free-lined, and they take big topwater plugs and even a fly.
Hiring a guide to go after these big silver kings is a good idea. They have the equipment and know-how to increase your chances of hooking up.
The upper section of the Chattahoochee River tailwater below Buford Dam is a good summertime option for cool-water angling. Chances of hooking into a brown trout are good here. Contact Chris Scalley at www.riverthroughatlanta.com for a guided float trip on the 'Hooch.
High Falls Lake is a relatively untapped resource for bass anglers in the middle of the state. Thirty-three percent of the bass in this reservoir are over 15 inches in length and weigh on average of 1 1/2 pounds.
Discover top spots for Georgia fishing for September, October, November and December on page three
Lake Walter F. George
Bass should still be in the summertime pattern of holding in deeper water adjacent to channel ledges. Fish these channel drop-offs with deep-diving crankbaits, large spinnerbaits or Carolina-rigged soft baits.
During the morning, running a Rat-L-Trap over hydrilla stands can be productive, as well as tossing topwater lures such as a Pop-R or a buzzbait.
The bite for catfish is a consistent one in Lake Oconee. Channel cats can be caught about anywhere with worms, crickets or chicken livers.
Allatoona Lake is a hotspot for hybrid bass, especially above and below Galts Ferry boat ramp. Live shad of 4 to 6 inches are the most effective bait.
As water temps cool the big bull redfish move into the surf and shallower waters. Following their spawn, they are feeding heavily to prepare for the winter months. Big red drum can be caught from the shoreline this time of year.
If fishing the surf, look for rips or current breaks. Throw live mullet or cut bait with a stout surfcasting rod, using a sinker that is heavy enough to keep the bait on the bottom. Heavy gear will help to land the fish quickly so that it can be released unharmed.
To book a guided trip, call Captain Carl Evans of Flatwater Outfitters at (912) 242-3919.
October is an ideal time to hike into the upper reaches of the Conasauga River for wild trout. Rainbows, browns and even brookies inhabit this clear-water stream.
Speckled trout are moving into the creeks and estuaries this time of year as temperatures cool. Conditions are perfect for the angler as well, with milder days and less bugs to contend with.
Delayed Harvest Streams
In preparation for the November 1 opening of our delayed harvest season, five of Georgia's streams are heavily stocked with trout. Along with a high number of 8- to 9-inch trout being stocked, a fair number of larger rainbows up to 18 inches are put into the rivers as well.
This is a great opportunity for fly casters to get out on some of our midsized and larger trout waters and catch fish all winter long. Anglers fishing delayed harvest stream must release all trout immediately and only artificial, single-hook lures may be used.
Visit www.georgiawildlife.org for a list of streams and regulations.
Lake Burton has a sizable chain pickerel population and these aggressive fish aren't picky. They will strike at a variety of lures and seem to especially like flashy spinnerbaits. Use heavy leaders for these toothy critters.
Lake Weiss crappie are plentiful back in the sloughs as they chase the shad. Expect to lose a few jigs, as the fish tend to hold in the heaviest cover.
Clarks Hill Lake
Winter is the best time to take a big striper in Clarks Hill Lake. They are moving to shallower waters to feed on blueback herring.
A popular fishing technique is to drift a blueback herring using the trolling motor. Planer boards are good for covering areas close to the rocks on main-lake points. Also try free-lining live herring behind the boat at various depths to increase your chances of getting a bite.
For December spotted bass in Lake Jackson try throwing smaller crankbaits and spinners. Topwater lures such as Zara Spooks and buzzbaits can attract bites as well. Anglers are encouraged to keep any spots brought to the boat.
The Peach State's stocking program has greatly increased the chances of catching a striped bass in West Point Lake. Using a live shad for bait is the best way to catch a lineside. Jigs and spoons work as well.