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February 2003
 
Back to Basics

BY JOHN TRUSSELL

GREAT FISHING HOLES FOR 2003

Georgians are indeed lucky to have some of the best and most diverse fishing opportunities in the Southeast. With over 500,000 acres of reservoirs and 12,000 miles of warmwater streams, plus unmeasured miles of saltwater coast and salt marshes, Georgia has more water than you probably could fish in a lifetime. But it sure would be fun to try!

To help you narrow down the best fishing opportunities, here are some suggestions for each month of the year, with some timely tips to help you put fish in the boat.

JANUARY - Bartletts Ferry

Striped Bass: Stripers are continuing to grow to mature sizes because annual stockings of Apalachicola-strain fish have taken place since 1992. Expect stripers to average 5 to 10 pounds, with occasional fish going up to 25 pounds or better.

For the best winter action, slowly drift live shad on South Carolina rigs over schools of fish you have located on your depthfinder. Stripers can be found bunched up in front of the dam or on main-lake points near the dam.  Other favorite baits are chrome spoons, Little Georges and large white marabou jigs.

To help you get in on the striper action, contact Johnny Chapman’s Guide Service at (706) 674-2640.

Alternatives: Carters Lake has received stockings of walleyes for several years, so you expect to encounter fish averaging 3 to 4 pounds, with some exceeding 10 pounds. In the wintertime, locate walleyes on the deeper points and use jigging spoons, deep-diving crankbaits or live night crawlers fished on leadhead jigs to catch them.

Crappie anglers at Lake Hartwell find an abundance of hand-sized crappie, with other crappie weighing more than 2 pounds. Fish around downed trees in 15 feet of water in the upper section of the lake and especially in Eastanollee Creek.

FEBRUARY - Lake Sinclair

Crappie: Lake Sinclair is a perennial favorite for Middle Georgia’s crappie anglers. The warmwater discharge of Georgia Power’s Plant Branch gets Beaver Dam Creek’s crappie in a spawning mood earlier than on other reservoirs, but don’t be shy about trying the upper ends of other nearby creeks.  Most anglers use multiple rods rigged with 1/16 or 1/24-ounce crappie jigs slowly trolled over break lines and creek channels. For stained water, use darker colors, such as brown, black or blue or a red-green-yellow combo jig.  “Shooting” jigs or dunking minnows under boat docks can really pay off, as does trolling minnows under a cork around the many fish attractors maintained by the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

Alternatives: On Lake Lanier the striped bass continue to grow bigger, with the average fish weighing 4 to 7 pounds, but some go 20-plus pounds. Try live trout, shad or bluegill baits over main-lake points near deeper water.  Called the “Crappie Capital of the World,” Lake Weiss has an excellent forage base that supports a quality crappie fishery. Try trolling small jigs or live minnows this month.

MARCH - Lake Seminole

Largemouths: Jack Wingate, the Sage of Seminole, says that this should be another very good year for largemouths. The reports from the WRD agree, noting a larger number of bass exceeding 12 inches than in past years.  Fishing should be very productive for numbers of 2- to 3-pound bass.  This 37,500-acre reservoir has big stretches of shallow water with accompanying weedbeds that cover approximately 40 percent of the surface. So to tie into the bass, get your lure into the open pockets of the weeds or drop the lure along the edges, near deeper water. Wingate recommends fishing lightly weighted Texas-rigged worms, casting white or yellow spinnerbaits, or tossing topwater lures at the crack of dawn or dusk.  For additional information or guide services, contact Jack Wingate’s Lunker Lodge at (229) 246-0658.

Alternatives: Excellent yearly spawns of crappie have increased fish numbers in Allatoona Lake. Expect to encounter good numbers of 8-inch-plus fish. Try the upper reaches of the creeks and rivers entering the lake, concentrating your trolling in 6 to 10 feet of water.

The WRD reports an abundance of large-sized crappie in Middle Georgia’s Lake Tobesofkee this year. Try trolling above the Thomaston Road Bridge for dependable action.

APRIL - Lake Blackshear

Shellcrackers: Lake Blackshear’s 8,500 acres are often described as a huge farm pond because of the large stretches of shallow water, standing trees, aquatic vegetation and excellent bream fishing. Shellcrackers usually start to spawn a little earlier than other bream species, and now is the time to find them in the 4- to 6-foot flats along the shorelines and in the backs of coves.

Many anglers slowly drift along, dabbling a live night crawler or cricket into likely spots until a concentration of fish is located. Then you can anchor and catch a mess of fish.

Try Spring Creek or Limestone Creek and expect the shellcrackers to be nice hand-sized fish.

For additional information, call Campers Haven at (229) 268-9076.  Alternatives: Lake Nottely has plenty of older crappie, and 25 percent of the fish now weigh just less than 1 pound. Best spots are coves with fish attractors constructed by the WRD or Tennessee Valley Authority.  Lake Oliver, in the suburbs of Columbus, is well known for its excellent bream fishing. The average bluegill here is 6 to 8 inches. Night crawlers work best in the backs of coves and sloughs.

MAY - Lake Jackson

Largemouths: This 4,750-acre reservoir in Jasper, Butts and Newton counties continues to produce good numbers of larger bass, and last year 13 percent of the bass were greater than 15 inches. The average bass weighs 1 pound and can be found around the creek and river mouths. The lake also has numerous boat docks that are always hotspots for young, hungry bass.  Start your fishing with a jerkbait or Texas-rigged worm. For larger bass, try a deep-diving crankbait or Carolina-rigged worm in deeper water.  For additional information on boat ramps and bank-fishing opportunities, call the Georgia Power Company Land Department at (770) 775-4753.  Alternatives: Of all the lakes in North Georgia’s Tallulah River system, Lake Tugalo offers the best chance of catching a trophy bass. Each year numerous 10-pound lunkers are caught in the upper section of the lake.

White bass average around 1 pound each on Lake Chatuge. You can haul them in on hair jigs, plastic grubs or small white in-line spinners. JUNE - West Point Largemouths: Because of its fertile waters and 16-inch minimum size limit, West Point continues to shine as a premier bass fishery. Over 30 percent of the largemouths are within the 15- to 20-inch category, and the average fish weighs 1 to 2 pounds. Another positive is that 80-plus percent of all bass hooked are returned to the lake.

According to fishing guide Ron Savage, in June the bass have moved to deeper water around main-creek and river-channel structure. Locate breakline dropoffs, then probe them with a Carolina rig. His favorite baits are a 6-inch June bug, a red bug and a plastic worm. He works them very slowly across the bottom. The bites can be very soft, so be alert.  For guide services, contact Ron Savage at (706) 884-6232. For lodging, food or marina services, call George Marovich of Southern Harbor Resort and Marina at (334) 644-3881.

Alternatives: Lake Russell is a sleeper for bigger largemouth bass, with approximately 30 percent of the fish measuring more than 16 inches in size.  Largemouths are often found in structure 20 to 30 feet down in the clear water.

Use a jigging spoon or a heavily weighted South Carolina worm rig to reach the fish.

Sinclair has been heavily stocked with hybrid bass in recent years, resulting in plenty of fish for area anglers. Look for top-breaking hybrids in the Airport Area, or try chicken livers on the bottom around the dam. JULY - Flint River Shoal Bass: The Flint River is renowned for its excellent shoal bass fishing among its rocky shoals. The current state-record 8-pound, 3-ounce fish came from this river, and 3-pounders are fairly common. The lower water of July tends to congregate the bass in the deeper pools of the shoal areas, where they are more likely to locate your lure.

Favorite baits are crawfish-colored jigs and small crankbaits. In the upper Flint, try the Yellow Jacket Shoals area near Thomaston. On the lower Flint, try fishing below the town of Newton or upstream of State Highway 32 in Lee County.

Alternatives: The crappie on Lake Lanier average a half-pound this month. The best locations for catching them are the upper Chattahoochee arm in the Clarks Bridge area and Thompson and Taylor creeks.  Try night-fishing for best results, using live minnows.  Channel catfish were No. 1 among species harvested fish from the Ocmulgee River last year.

Try pink worms, cut bait or chicken livers around deep holes. Remember that fishing picks up at night.

AUGUST - Altamaha River

Flatheads: The mighty Altamaha River is home to one of Georgia’s foremost aquatic predators: the flathead catfish. Regardless of their size, all flatheads are excellent table fare.

To catch them, locate deep holes in the river with your depthfinder and drop a live bream or shiner to the bottom on a 1-ounce weight with a 2- to 3-foot leader. Be patient, as it takes a while for them to find your bait. If possible, set out two or three poles to increase your chances. Baitcasting reels and 30-pound line are recommended due to river snags and the large size of these fish, which often reach 30 to 50 pounds.  When the sun goes down, the fishing gets better and set hooks and limblines are popular. Altamaha Park, Oglethorpe Bluff and Beards Bluff Landing are flathead hotspots.

For additional information, contact the Jesup-Wayne County Tourism Board at (888) 224-5983.

Alternatives: Lake Oconee is loaded with 11-inch or smaller largemouths that make up 50 percent of the total bass population. The WRD encourages anglers to harvest some of them for a fish fry so the bass in the protected slot limit (11 to 14 inches) can grow. Small Texas-rigged worms and white spinnerbaits tossed around standing timber or stumpfields pay off with plenty of action.

Goat Rock Lake continues to be one of the Peach State’s top choices for channel and white catfish. Channel cats up to 10 pounds and whites to 2 pounds can be caught this month.

SEPTEMBER - West Point Lake

Hybrid Bass: With the cooling temperatures of early fall, you can bet that the excellent hybrid fishing will roll around after the dog days of August.  West Point has maintained its renowned hybrid fishing, due to high stocking rates and good lake fertility. The average hybrid weighs about 1 pound, but numerous fish in the 3- to 7-pound range are available to stretch your line.

The best early fall locations are on main-lake points and just off the old river channel. Locate the fish first using your depthfinder, then drop a line. The No. 1 bait is a medium-sized shad pulled from the lake with a casting net. For a great day of West Point hybrid fishing, contact Todd Snider Guide Service at (706).

Alternatives: In southeast Georgia, the Ogeechee River is building a reputation for largemouth bass angling. Two good spawns have resulted in a large number of bass in the river.

Work the banks with a spinnerbait or jig-and-pig combo.  Successfully stocked for several years, hybrids are numerous and are an underutilized species in High Falls. Cash in with live shiners or bream in the main lake near the dam.

OCTOBER - Tidal Rivers

Seatrout: The fall season is a great time to go after seatrout in the coastal rivers of tidal Georgia. These fish are popular for their sporting value and for how good they taste on the plate.

Generally, an incoming tide is the best time to be drifting a live shrimp under a cork in the deeper holes and along grasslines. Catch one good seatrout, and you’ll likely see that more of his buddies are around.  For guide services, contact Captain David Newlin in Richmond Hill at (912) 756-4573.

Alternatives: Spotted bass continue to increase in availability and size in Lake Rabun. Spots are most abundant along the steep, rocky shorelines on the lower end of the lake.

There are numerous public piers along the Georgia coast, all of which offer good fishing for sheepshead. These fish are common next to the barnacle-covered pier pilings, but their stealthy bite is hard to detect.

NOVEMBER - Blue Ridge

Smallmouths: This 3,290-acre reservoir on the Toccoa River near Blue Ridge in Fannin County is Georgia’s best coolwater fishery for smallmouth bass.  Smallie numbers have remained constant over the last few years, and these acrobatic fighters should provide some exciting fishing this year.  Smallmouths prefer rocky shorelines and points. Tie on dark-colored hair- or rubber-skirted jigs for bottom action, or try a small crankbait for the middepths.

Access becomes tricky in the fall as the lake level drops, so contact Lake Blue Ridge Marina at (706) 632-2618 regarding boating information.  Alternatives: Clarks Hill is a 71,535-acre reservoir that has produced three consecutive strong year-classes of largemouth bass. The result has been abundant 12- to 14-inch fish in the lake.

Best bets for good fall fishing are Grey, Lloyds and Rousseau creeks in the Little River arm of the lake. Also consider Soap, Murry and Fishing creeks in the Savannah River section.

The WRD lowered the minimum size for largemouth bass on Lake Walter F. George

to 14 inches back in November of 2000, so more bass are available to fishermen. Best locations are near Lake Point Resort, riprap at the dam, the State Highway 96 causeway, and the mouths of feeder creeks.

DECEMBER - Lake Burton

Brown Trout: Several thousand brown trout have been stocked into Lake Burton to help control the rapidly growing blueback herring population. The trout find Burton’s habitat and food base very suitable and grow rapidly. Winter temperatures drive the bluebacks into shallows, so look for the browns to be stalking the herring in skinny water on rocky points.  Fishing live herring, golden shiners, or night crawlers below a cork works, as does casting minnow-type lures.

For additional information, contact the WRD office on Lake Burton at (706) 947-3112.

Alternatives: Located near Macon, 3,600-acre Lake Juliette offers Middle Georgians the best chance to catch a trophy striped bass. The lake record fish tipped the scales at 40 pounds. Try drifting live or cut shad in the creek channel during the winter.

Lake Seminole is our southernmost reservoir and produces good wintertime crappie action. Your best bet is to use minnows and jigs in the open areas near the dam. Concentrate on the old channels of the Chattahoochee and Flint river arms.


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