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GEORGIA FISHING REPORT: MAY 10, 2024

by Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division

Georgia Wildlife Resources Division fisheries staff are hard at work with fish production and fish stocking. In fact, fish hatchery production has been so successful that we have now stocked a total of 1.5 million largemouth and 2. 4 million hybrid striped bass.

Other warmwater fish production efforts currently include channel catfish fry production at the Cordele Hatchery (one of two state hatcheries that produce channel catfish fry) with the goal to produce at least 500,000 catfish fry each year.

NEWS TO KNOW:

  • Proposed Regulation Changes regarding black bass species: Anglers and other interested persons are encouraged to provide input regarding proposed fishing regulations amendments regarding shoal bass length limits, and modification of daily creel limits for native black bass species with limited range and populations. Public Comment opportunities include a live Virtual Public Meeting (for black bass fishing regulation changes) via the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Facebook Page scheduled for May 21, 2024 (7 pm). Find more info at georgiawildlife.com/regulations/proposed

  • Two Saltwater Fish State Records: Georgia’s coastal waters have been kind to Telfair County anglers this week, with two individuals setting new saltwater state records for their catches. Jason H. Rich, 40, of McRae-Helena, reeled in a massive 23-pound, 15.04-ounce Almaco Jack (Seriola rivoliana) on May 2, 2024 and Molly M. Strickland, 27, of Lumber City, also landed a record-setting catch on May 4. While fishing near the South Ledge, Strickland hooked a hefty 30-pound, 14.24-ounce Blackfin Tuna (Thunnus atlanticus). Find out more at the Coastal Resources Division webpage.

This week, we have fishing reports from North, Central and Southeast Georgia. There is no time like the present to get out there and Go Fish Georgia!

NORTH GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Hunter Roop, Fisheries Biologist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts) 

RESERVOIR REPORT

Reservoir reports are courtesy of Ken Sturdivant’s Southern Fishing report and other contributions by WRD Fisheries staff, guides, and local anglers.

LAKE HARTWELL IS FULL, 70S

Bass: Bass fishing is good. As water temperatures rise largemouth bass to quickly move shallow and feed like crazy early and late. Try throwing Rat L Traps in chrome/blue back in clear water or red and crawfish in stained water. Some of the hottest baits lately have been the old standby, the crawfish Rapala Shad Rap in a #5 or #7 and the Bandit 200 crank bait also in crawfish patterns. Spinnerbaits, jerk baits and Chatter Baits are also good choices right now. Anglers are going from the points to the very back of the pockets and scanning the area with the Lowrance Structure Scan technology looking for bass and bait. Try fishing rip rap or red clay banks that are in the sun for most of the day. Some fish are even chasing bait in the backs of pockets. A lizard on a short Carolina rig will work well. The spotted bass are showing up in good numbers can in one foot of water out to 12 feet deep. A Carolina rigged, green pumpkin Zoom Finesse worm fished on any gravel banks should result in a quick limit.

LAKE NOTTELY (courtesy of WRD Fisheries Biologist Hunter Roop):

Lake Nottely Largemouth bass.

Spotted during surveys, this rare mirror carp at Lake Nottely.

Lake Nottely Striped Bass.

Lake Nottely Walleye.

This week, WRD Conservation Section’s Biologist Tiffany Penland and Union County’s very own Jim Marchman joined the Gainesville staff to conduct sportfish surveys on Lake Nottely. The relatively high-water temperatures have the bass in an early summer pattern, not quite vacating the shallows, but certainly not hugging the banks anymore. Bluebacks are congregating and spawning, and the spotted bass are hot and heavy in pursuit—jerk baits, flukes, swimbaits, and chatterbaits are all solid options for this time of year. A worm or crankbait worked off the rock and clay points south of Jack’s Creek will produce more largemouth than spotted bass. Striped bass are still shallow throughout the lake, but they are starting to make their way north from the Nottely River and will eventually find respite from the early arrival of summer near the Nottely’s forebay. We saw a good number of striped bass up to 12 lbs throughout our surveys, gorging on large blueback herring, similar to the spotted bass. We were also pleased to net our first walleye from lake Nottely in years! WRD has stocked walleye in Nottely the past two years in an effort to restore this native fishery, and while the numbers of walleye aren’t off the charts, it’s exciting to see this species return to its native waters of the Tennessee valley. Lastly, we netted this rare mirror carp in Conely Creek cove, a prized specimen for any carp anglers interested in pursuing this odd-scaled gem of the carp world.

LAKE LANIER IS 0.44 FEET OVER FULL POOL, 70S 

Bass (courtesy of Phil Johnson): Bass fishing on Lake Lanier is good to very good. The lake level is currently four inches over full pool, and the water temperature is running in the low 70s. Overall the lake is clear. There have been really good days over the last week and some challenging days mixed in. The fish are still in a little bit of transition from the spawn but are moving toward the true early summer patterns. More top water activity is showing up, but it is still somewhat scattered. The swimbait bite with the Slickstick in white on cloudy days and chrome on sunny days has been producing some good numbers of fish. Work this bait in the sandy pockets, over brush in fifteen to twenty-five feet of water and around reef poles for the most strikes. An IMA skimmer has been drawing some bites in the same areas and is a good choice for the schooling fish you see. A Jerk Shad in either FNH20 or Herring has worked well when worked with a slow steady retrieve and pause. Lots of bass will take this bait on the fall so be prepared for them to walk off with it. Humps, long points and over brush have been the main target areas for the Jerk Shad. If the moving baits are not producing, then go back through the areas with a green pumpkin or watermelon red worm on a three sixteenths shakey head. Concentrate on secondary rocky or red clay points along with boat docks in less than fifteen feet of water. On the docks be sure to work all the way to under the walkways to find where the fish are locating for the day. Its late spring and the fish are starting to set up for the summer patterns so it’s a little scatter so don’t get locked in on just one bait. They’re biting so Go Catch ‘Em!

Bass 2 (courtesy of Captain Mack’s Fishing Report): You’ll still have the advantage of catching fish on many baits, the same baits that have been effective in recent weeks will still be catching fish. The soft plastics, jerk baits, spinnerbaits, swim baits (both soft plastics and hard baits)and top waters continue to produce. One footnote on the spinnerbait bite I have discussed so much recently: as the fish leave the banks the spinnerbaits will still have application. The technique is the same as mentioned in earlier reports, just deeper. Fish the bait slowly enough that is following the slope of the bottom to get the bait down into 5 to 12 feet. a heavier bait may also be a plus in getting into the appropriate depth range. Banks with cover will still hold fish, it will most likely be that shallow offshore structures will be more prolific. Target long flat points, shallow humps, deep stump flats and shallow brush tops.

Keep an eye on the spawning Herring, find them and you find the fish. What to cast? Again, lots of choices will get the bite. Sashimmy Shads and Lanier Baits Magic Swimmers are a couple of consistent producers. Soft plastics on the lead head, and top waters should all get the bite. The same baits will have application for any schooling fish you see chasing bait, and that is occurring frequently now!

Striper (courtesy of Buck Cannon Guide Service): Lanier stripers has finally come to terms that spring is finally here. The fish are fattening up so expect some exciting action in the near future. Planer boards, weighted and unweighted flat lines and down lines will be methods to use. Blue backs, gizzards and shiners are all effective baits. Using your electronics locate the bait and put your spread out and give it 30 minutes and if they don’t cooperate move to the next bait location. Another method is to pitch live baits to humps and points. Throw from the sides not directly into the point. Thanks for spring time. Remember to wear your life jackets.

Lanier Striper 2 (courtesy of Captain Mack’s Fishing Report): The bite is good, and the techniques are really the same as recent weeks. The fish are also using the same types of structures and areas, with maybe a little more emphasis on the Herring spawn. The fish are pretty catchable when you find them so stay in the move until you locate them. Free lines and planers continue to account for good numbers of fish, but the down lines are still producing and are perhaps a bigger part of the pattern than in the last few weeks.  Keep in mind the floating down lines, they are often a good technique at this point in the year. Herring and Gizzard Shad are catching fish, with shiners also still being effective, the shiners mostly on the free lines. Pulling the baits around shallow humps, reef poles, and points is a solid pattern, best in the am, but effective all day. Looking for the spawning bait fish remains a good strategy, find the bait fish spawns and the Stripers will likely be nearby. Shad and Herring may spawn on almost any type of rock or hard surface. Look around the ridge pilings, seawalls, rip rap or rocky banks. The fish that are around the bait concentrations may be shallow, especially early. After the bait fish activity slows or ceases, the Stripers may stay in the same area, just backing off into deeper water and relating very loosely to the structure.

Crappie (courtesy of Captain Josh Thornton): Crappie fishing is good. Crappie are 4 to 10 feet deep under docks. Look for docks with creek channels running under them. Try bright jig color combinations. The gear I recommend for crappie fishing is Acc crappie stix 1 piece rod and reel with a 4- or 6-pound test K9 line, along with Garmin Live Scope and Power Pole.

RIVER REPORT

This white bass catch earned an Angler Award for Jack Becker.

Striped bass catch from Chestatee River.

Chestatee/Chattahoochee (courtesy of WRD blog contributor Jack Becker): This week I went up the Chestatee River looking for Stripers returning from their yearly spawning run. I launched at Lumpkin County Park Boat Ramp and headed upriver toward Hwy 400. Keep an eye out on water temperatures as you travel from the boat ramp to the mouth of the Chestatee River. Water temperature was 67.5 degrees and climbing. I have recorded this section of the river with Auto Chart Live on my Hummingbird Helix.  There is a lot of water that is only 4 or 5 feet deep and you have small sections of 10 to 15 foot deeper pools where the striper and white bass like to hang out. We fished blueback herring on planer boards and free lines and tried spot-lock in the deeper pools with downlines.  Further up the river we found fish in 4 feet of water & caught two stripers.  Coming back down stream I got this good size white bass.  When you’re on the river be careful and watch out for other watercraft making their way through. An unfortunate passing of a jet ski over my planar board ended up costing me what would have likely been my personal best striper, which I estimated to be in the range of 38” -40”! However, my consolation prize was a Georgia Angler Award-worthy white bass, which measured just over 17”. So, all in all, it was still a great day! Jack Becker (Gainesville) aka Georgia Waterdog.  

TROUT REPORT

Stocked streams (courtesy of Stocking Coordinator and Biologist John Lee Thomson): This week’s heavy rains and storms on Thursday caused a change in the stocking plans this week. Some streams missed their weekly stocking and you should check the Weekly Stocking Report before you head out. An extra split shot can help get baits down fast in the high flows you will see this weekend.  Stocked trout will likely be hugging the banks or behind large boulders to escape the swift currents. Water temperatures are on the rise and mornings are going to produce more strikes in lower elevation streams. Good luck and Go Trout Fish Georgia!

Dad Alex Lunsford with son Fletcher with rainbow trout catch.

Forester and Fletcher Lunsford with rainbow trout catch.

If you are targeting trophy trout on public land, Dukes Creek at Smithgall Woods has to be a place for you to wet a line. Conditions were tough last weekend because the water was gin clear and the catch and release regulations have these trout wise to the tendencies of an understudied angler. Alex Lunsford who has guided in the past showed his kids Forester and Fletcher that Dad still knows his stuff. With his help, both boys landed quality rainbows. The most productive flies were a rubber leg stone fly and a yellow soft hackle. A reservation is required to fish this pristine water and can be made by contacting Smithgall Woods at (706) 878-3087.

Trout and More (This report courtesy of Unicoi Outfitters): Check out Unicoi Outfitter’s regular “Angler Management” fishing reports HERE. UO’s trout reports are always chock-full of timely reports for successful trout tactics from stocker streams, private waters, and wild trout, too!

Lanier Tailwater 1 (courtesy of georgiawildtrout.com): The trout fishing below the dam on Lake Lanier has been excellent for the past couple months. There is something for just about everybody. Small midges will always be the best way to attract bites from nearly every trout around. If you’re throwing bigger than a size 20 you can be sure you’re leaving trout behind, especially the wild browns. The river has been crowded on some afternoons during the week and around the clock on weekends. A ten-to-fifteen-minute walk will put plenty of distance between you and 80-90% of other anglers. A great challenge for experienced anglers is the dry fly bite. The midge hatches have been excellent in the mornings and following generation. The wild browns are very selective but can be fooled with a slow approach and good presentation. This video will demonstrate how I approach these fish eating on the surface. The number of trout to hand is far less than what you may see fishing seams with a euro rig or indicator setup but can be far more exciting. Steer clear of the the dry flies on windy days. It’s a brutal process and typically more frustrating than anything else.

Chattahoochee Tailwater Streamer season is here

Lanier Tailwater 2 (courtesy of Orvis fishing reports): Chattahoochee Tailwater Streamer season is here, so be sure to book your trip with River Through Atlanta now for your best chance at a mature wild Chattahoochee brown trout this year! The lower temperatures at night and shorter periods of sunlight should have the wild brown trout feeding more actively and aggressively as we get closer to spawning season. Stratification (lake turnover) has started for the year, and water coming out of Buford Dam is very murky, with dissolved oxygen at its yearly low. Fish further south, around Island Ford, for best results. If you have any questions at all, feel free to come in and we will be happy to get you set up! For the Chattahoochee, state regulations require a certified personal flotation devise be worn by all anglers from Buford dam south to highway 20. Pay special attention to water release info online or call the number below for release schedules. Make sure to call the Corp of Engineers release hotline at 770-945-1466 before making your trip.

CENTRAL GEORGIA

(Fishing report courtesy of Hunter Roop, Fisheries Biologist and NEW Region Supervisor for Central Georgia with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, with help from Region Staff and Local Experts) 

RESERVOIR REPORT

Reservoir reports are courtesy of Ken Sturdivant’s Southern Fishing report and other contributions by WRD Fisheries staff, guides, and local anglers.

LAKE RUSSELL IS FULL, 70’S

Bass fishing is good. Now head toward the southern end of the lake as this section will warm last. The fish will take flat sided crank baits like the good old faithful Bomber Flat A or a Thundershad coffin bill. Try the Greenfish Tackle shaky head with a Reaction Innovations Flirt. Use soft plastics that anglers can see when casting shallows this week. Have a small sinker on a drop shot rig and slowly work shallows shady areas mid-day. At the upper end of the lake the fish will be in the post spawn mode, and they will be in the same locations as they were in respawn as they head back out. These fish will still bite just not as well. These fish are ready and willing to strike but lure selection can change daily. Be ready with the small spinner baits, small buzz baits, green plastic frogs and a trick worm. The flat sided or lipless crank baits are also worth some casts well as a Weed less Wonder lead head with a Zoom finesse worm in green pumpkin.

CLARKS HILL IS FULL, 70’S

Walker Crowe with a WHOPPER of a blue catfish from Clarks Hill.

Bass fishing is good. The chrome and blue combination 1/2-ounce Rat L Traps has been good for bass in the same locations. Use the dark smoke red and green worms in the Zoom u tail style on a light Texas rig. The Texas rigged worm and a 3/16-ounce weight cast on and around the bank cover and around docks in the creeks will get strikes. With the water temperatures warming, presentations can be faster. The bass are all over the lake. Up lake in the rivers and up lake creeks, jig and pig in reds and black combos along with the Uncle Josh matching trailers worked on points and around docks will draw strikes for bass. It’s been better to fish these lures in the same location for a few casts and this can make the better fish strike the lures. Once the lure is in contact with the underwater structure stay in the cover as long as possible. Zoom’s pumpkinseed lizard on a Texas rig has been good for these bass in the same locations. The suspending Ito Vision 110 and a Rouge in almost any color has been catching a lot of shallow bass on and around any cover in the creeks around any cover. Docks and wood are key areas. Try some extra scent on these lures and make several casts into the same location. A Culprit red shad worm on a Texas rig placed right on the banks and in the pockets will find some shallow bass.

CLARKS HILL BIG OL’ BLUE

Youth angler Walker Crowe was fishing live bream on rod and reel on the Broad River arm of Clarks Hill this week when he felt that not-so subtle tug on his rod that every angler dreams about. After about 20 minutes of fighting, he landed this giant blue catfish, which earned him a Georgia Angler Award by easily exceeding the 20 lb threshold. In fact, this fish is currently being evaluated by GON to break the current lake record for Clarks Hill! Congratulations to Cope for landing this whopper of a blue!

LAKE OCONEE IS FULL, 70’S

Bass fishing is good. Lots of fish are shallow in 1 to 3 feet of water looking for food Work any shallow cover very slow with Texas rigged Zoom lizards, Wackem Crazy Baits Big Tater Bug and a wacky rigged Senko. Good colors are June bug, black or redbug. Fish the cover slowly just and pick every on every piece of cover apart. Bass are probably there and need some time to bite. Late in the month look for the shad spawn to start on rip rap and seawalls. Fish buzz baits, Chatterbaits and spinnerbaits in white or black up tight on the rocks and shad spawn. It can happen fast in the mornings and be over in 30 minutes or less but can be very productive.

LAKE SINCLAIR IS DOWN 1.5 FEET, 70’S

Blue Catfish from Lake Sinclair

Blue Catfish from Lake Sinclair.

Bass: Bass are still biting in most of the lake. Spinner baits, buzz baits, soft plastics, and crank baits have all produced good results lately. Many fish are still in coves, but more are moving out to main creek and riverbanks also. Large spinner baits with double Colorado blades in gold or chartreuse are catching a few large bass early each morning. Good skirt colors are chartreuse white, chartreuse blue, and solid chartreuse. Try bulging it on the surface over stumps, blow downs, grass, points, docks, or other cover. Large buzz baits in chartreuse white are also catching quality fish from the same places. Be sure to use a trailer hook on both baits. Shad are spawning in the central lake around rip rap, seawalls, grass, overhangs, etc. One of several baits could be the best. Try small white spinner baits, Zoom Fluke in pearl, #5 Rapala Shad Rap, a Tiny Torpedo, and Pop R. More shad will soon begin spawning all over the lake. Weightless trick worms and Flukes are good on some mornings around shallow cover. Use a #5 crane swivel about 6 8 inches above the bait. Try a #3 Gamakatsu EWG hook on the Trick worm and a #4 with a Super Fluke. Crank baits and Carolina rigs are working on points, docks, and brush piles. Try a #5 Shad Rap RS and Rapala DT10 in fire tiger. For the Carolina rig, try a Zoom Finesse or Trick worm in June bug or green pumpkin. Most of these fish are 5 to 10 feet deep. Lightweight worms are also working around shallow cover.

Lake Sinclair Hybrid (Photo courtesy of Dillan Greeson Fishing).

Lake Sinclair Striper (Photo courtesy of Dillan Greeson Fishing).

Striper (courtesy of Dillan Greeson Fishing): Dillan reports that the water temperatures on Sinclair on in the mid-to-upper 70s this week, placing the linesides at a variety of depths, but mostly in the 15’ – 30’ range. Downlines and flatlines with threadfin shad have produced. Target the main lake and mouth of creek points, with an emphasis on points earlier in the AM. When the bait are hard find, trolling artificials like the mini Mack off points will be effective.

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