South Georgia Rivers
Fishing Prospects

 

1999 South Georgia River Fishing Prospects

There are over 12,000 miles of warmwater streams in Georgia. Many of these streams are located in the south half of the state. The following is the 1999 fishing outlook for the Altamaha, Flint, Ochlockonee, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Ogeechee, Satilla, Savannah, St. Marys, and Suwannee rivers. The outlook for each river is based on annual sampling efforts conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. Information collected allows fisheries staff to determine recruitment, growth, condition, sizes, abundance, and mortality of important game fishes. We hope this publication will prove useful in planning your 1999 fishing trips, as well as inform you about the status of the fish populations in these rivers. Sampling efforts and the development of this publication is funded by the Sport Fish Restoration program.

The Wildlife Resources Division encourages anglers to participate in the Georgia Angler Award Program. All sport fish are eligible, but there are minimum weights your fish must meet or exceed. The fish must be legally caught on sport fishing tackle, weighed on scales certified accurate by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in the presence of two witnesses, and be verified to species by Fisheries Section staff. Recipients will receive a certificate and angler award cap. To learn more about this and other WRD programs, check the 1999-2000 Sport Fishing Regulations, or call a WRD Fisheries office.

DNR routinely tests the tissue of fish collected from rivers and reservoirs across the state. Based on the best scientific information and procedures available, guidelines for eating fish are developed to help Georgia anglers and their families evaluate the health risks of eating fish from wild populations. You should consult the 1999-2000 Sport Fishing Regulations to learn about the current A Guideline for Eating Fish From Georgia Waters@ or check DNRs internet web site at www.ganet.org/dnr/wild/

Fisheries Offices:

Albany

912-430-4256

Bowens Mill

912-426-5272

Demeries Creek

912-727-2112

Metter

912-685-6424

Waycross

912-285-6094

River

Best Bets in 1999

Office

Altamaha

largemouth bass, flathead catfish, crappie, bluegill

Waycross

Flint

Albany

Ochlockonee

redbreast sunfish, largemouth & suwannee bass, catfish

Albany

Ocmulgee

redear, bluegill, largemouth bass, flathead catfish

Bowens Mill

Oconee

flathead catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill

Metter

Ogeechee

redbreast sunfish, bluegill, redear, snail bullhead

Demeries Creek

Satilla

redbreast sunfish, bluegill, crappie, bullheads

Waycross

Savannah

redbreast sunfish, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, catfish

Demeries Creek

St. Marys

redbreast sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass

Waycross

Suwannee

chain pickerel, warmouth, flier

Waycross

 

Abbreviations: COE - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; DNR - Georgia Department of Natural Resources; WRD - Georgia Wildlife Resources Division

Altamaha River

The Altamaha River is a popular destination for southeast Georgia bass anglers. Over 30 largemouth bass tournaments are held yearly on the Altamaha River. Comparing bass tournament results on Georgia waters for the last several years shows that the Altamaha River consistently has one of the highest average catch-rates in the state. The largemouth bass population has remained stable in recent years with a lot of 10-14 inch bass and a fair number of larger fish. Therefore, bass anglers should be setting the hook frequently in 1999. Although largemouth can be caught year-round, bass fishing peaks in early spring as the spawning period approaches, and then again in late fall. Some of the more effective techniques for landing Altamaha River bass are casting spinner baits and pitching jigs around heavy cover in current breaks or back-water areas.

The Altamaha River has become known as one of the premier flathead catfish rivers in the southeast. Many large flathead catfish or "appaloosas" are thriving in the river. Flatheads are an excellent fish to eat, and unlike channel catfish, the flesh of large flatheads maintains a high quality taste. Although sport fishing interest has grown for flathead catfish, anglers are encouraged to fish for this abundant and underutilized resource. Fishing for appaloosas begins in early spring and peaks in the hot summer months when the river is well within its banks. The better fishing occurs in deep holes located along the outside bends in the river. An electronic fish finder is useful in locating the deep holes and fish. If using sporting tackle, a minimum of 30 pound test line is recommended due to the flatheads' large size (30-50 pound fish are not uncommon!) and the numerous snags in the river. Live bait is a must. Large worms (Louisiana pinks), shiners, and bream are some of the more popular baits. Set lines or limb lines are also a popular and effective way to harvest flatheads. Most anglers fish limb lines or trot lines overnight using "hand-sized" bream as bait. Since flatheads are more active at night, depth is not as critical with these gear types. For more information on flathead catfish, including additional fishing techniques and tips, obtain a free copy of the AFlathead Catfish Fishing Guide@ from your nearest DNR, Fisheries Section office. Flatheads are prevalent throughout the river, but some of the better launch sites are: Jaycees Landing (river mile 67) - both upstream and downstream from Jaycees landing on the channel side of the river; Altamaha Park (river mile 30) - the stretch of river directly across from Altamaha Park and just upstream from the railroad trestle; Oglethorpe's Bluff (river mile 72) or Beard's Bluff Landing (river mile 81) - Marrowbone Round & Strickland Bight (river mile 76) can be reached by launching at either of these sites.

The crappie population has remained relatively stable over the past several years so angler success will be similar to 1998. The oxbow lakes that lie between US Hwy 84 and Seaboard Railroad offer some of the better crappie fishing opportunities in the river.

Historically, the Altamaha River was known for its outstanding bream fishery. Redbreast sunfish numbers have declined over the last decade from the impact of the illegally introduced flathead catfish. The high water levels that existed throughout the fall and winter last year stimulated survival and growth of redbreast, making 1998 one of the best years recently for catching harvestable redbreast sunfish. WRD=s sampling revealed a fair number of harvestable redbreast still present after peak sportfishing passed. Water levels started rising in late January. If the water levels remain fairly high for the rest of the winter, redbreast growth and survival should be high. The combination of good numbers of harvestable fish in fall 1998 and high winter water levels should result in good redbreast fishing in the spring and summer of 1999. Deep holes with cover along the main river channel are some of the more productive fishing areas for this species. Redbreast can be caught using both live bait and artificial lures. Some of the more popular live bait tactics are fishing with crickets and worms under bobbers or fishing them on the bottom with split-shot weights. Small beetle spins, rooster tails, and popping bugs (on a fly rod) are effective artificial lures for enticing redbreast sunfish to strike.

Unlike redbreast, bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcracker) populations have been relatively unimpacted by flathead catfish. Bluegill numbers were very good in 1998, with anglers reporting excellent catches of large bluegill. Like the redbreast, if high water levels are present through the winter, bluegill numbers should be very similar to last year, with an abundance of quality fish. Anglers should reel in plenty of 6-10 inch bluegill in 1999. Anglers also reported excellent catches of shellcracker in 1998 and they should be just as abundant in 1999 as they were last year. Most of the fishing for these two species is in the still-water (oxbow) lakes off the main river channel. Fishing picks up in late April when shellcracker and bluegill begin bedding and continues throughout the summer. Overall, it should be another good year for bream fishing with an abundance of quality sized fish being caught. Bluegill and redear sunfish can be caught using the same methods as described for redbreast sunfish, but slower moving water is usually better for these two species.

Due to the presence of high water levels in recent years, good chain pickerel fishing should exist in the grassy, backwater areas of the river. Shallow running crankbaits, like the Rapala minnow and rooster tail spinners, are effective lures for pickerel.

A AGuide to Fishing the Altamaha River@ is available from the DNR. The brochure contains a map of the river, access sites, and helpful fishing hints. Contact your nearest WRD office for a free copy.

Flint River (lower)

The Flint River has long been recognized for its outstanding shoal bass fishing. This unique bass is native only to a few rivers in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The largest shoal bass ever hauled out of the Flint by an angler weighed an impressive 8 lbs 3 oz. Shoal bass in excess of 4 lbs are routinely caught from the Flint. The later part of summer and early fall present the best opportunities to catch shoal bass. Some of the best action can be found in the shoal areas below Newton, in Baker County, and immediately upstream of Hwy 32, in Lee County. During spring, anglers are successful below the dams at Albany and Warwick. Shoal bass are not as numerous at these locations, but some of the largest fish caught each spring come from below the dams. Another productive section of river lies upstream from the mouth of Ichawaynochaway Creek. The small islands located in this section of river are good places to find shoal bass. During the cold winter months, shoal bass can be found near the many springs that are located in the lower Flint River. Shoal bass feed heavily on crawfish, so jigs and soft plastics in crawfish patterns are favorites among anglers. Fly fishing is a challenging and increasingly popular way to fish for shoal bass. Woolly Buggers should be a standard in any fly box.

Although largemouth bass don=t receive the same attention as shoal bass, fishing can be good in certain areas along the Flint. The largemouth population from the Warwick Dam downstream to Hwy 32 is in excellent shape. This stretch of river receives relatively little bass fishing pressure and a large percentage of the bass are over 3 lbs. The best location to find a largemouth more than 6 lbs is in the two-mile stretch of river below Warwick Dam.

Beginning in February, white bass, striped bass, and hybrids begin their run up to the Albany Dam. Most people cast Bucktails for hybrids and striped bass, but crank baits, like Shad Raps and Rapalas, work well too. White bass anglers often fish with cut bait, like frozen shrimp or liver. The striped bass population continues to improve in the Flint River. In the spring of 1998, WRD staff noted several fish over 40 lbs making their annual spawning migrations.

Flathead catfish are a favorite among Flint River anglers. The number of flatheads has remained stable over the years, but the number of big flatheads (over 20 lbs) has declined since the late 1980s. Most of the flatheads caught in 1999 will weigh less than 10 lbs. The best fishing usually takes place during the summer months as river levels recede and flatheads occupy the deeper holes in the river. Live bait is a must, with bream and shad being the baits of choice. Some of the more productive river sections can be found above Hwy 27 in Dooly and Sumter counties, downstream of the Marine Corps ditch in Albany, and Hwy 32 bridge.

The Flint River is not noted for its quality bream fishing. However, anglers have been reporting good catches in recent years. Bluegill fishing should continue to be above average in 1999. The section of river from Lake Worth upstream to Abram shoals should offer good bluegill fishing during 1999. Also, the average size of redbreast sunfish should be up this year. Redbreast are more abundant in the shoal areas of the river, particularly below Newton.

Ochlockonee River

The Ochlockonee River may not be as familiar as the other major rivers in south Georgia. However, this slow-moving blackwater stream offers excellent fishing opportunities for redbreast sunfish. Catches of redbreast sunfish or Ared bellies@ should be plentiful in 1999. Many of the redbreasts caught this year will be greater than six inches. Redbreasts are more numerous in the lower portions of the river, from Hwy 93 to Hadley=s Ferry Road, but larger-sized redbreasts are more abundant in the upper portions of the river near Thomasville. Redbreasts can be caught on a variety of baits. Anglers will usually fair better using live crickets and worms during early spring and switching to artificial lures, such as beetle spins and popping bugs, as spring progresses and water temperatures rise.

The Ochlockonee River has a fair largemouth bass population. Most of the bass caught this year will range from 12-14 inches. The backwater areas near Thomasville and the section of river upstream from Hwy 93 are good largemouth locations. Anglers fishing on the Ochlockonee will often encounter a unique member of the sunfish family, the Suwannee bass. The Suwannee bass is smaller than its cousin, the largemouth, and is found in only a few streams in south Georgia and north Florida. The current state record Suwannee bass (3 lbs 9 oz) was caught in the Ochlockonee. Unlike largemouth bass, the Suwannee bass typically prefers swifter water.

Catfish are a good bet on the Ochlockonee River. Anglers looking to catch a mess of catfish would be wise to try the Ochlockonee after water levels recede within the banks. Your favorite catfish bait fished on a simple bottom rig should be effective on a variety of native species including channel catfish, white catfish, and bullheads. One catfish that is not native to the Ochlockonee River is the flathead catfish or Aappaloosa cat.@ There are no confirmed catches of flathead catfish from the Georgia section of the river. Anglers who suspect they have caught a flathead should keep the fish and call the Albany Office as soon as possible.

Ocmulgee River (south of US Hwy 280)

This portion of the Ocmulgee River flows through the Upper Coastal Plain in south central Georgia. It flows some 91 miles from the bridge at Abbeville until it combines with the Oconee River to form the Altamaha River near Hazlehurst. It is a large, sluggish river with many meandering bends and some oxbow lakes. Montgomery Lake, an oxbow lake in Telfair County, produced the world record largemouth bass in 1932. This lake will probably not produce another world record because it is much shallower than it used to be and is only connected to the river during high water periods.

Anglers unfamiliar with the river should obtain AGuide to Fishing the Lower Ocmulgee River@, which is available from any DNR, Fisheries Section office. The guide contains a map of the river and directions to improved boat ramps.

Fishing for two popular fish species, bluegill and redbreast sunfish, was better in 1998 than it had been for several years. Numbers and size has increased for both species. This all adds up to better fishing in 1999, as long as the river has its normal period of high water during the winter and early spring.

The best time to fish for bluegill will be between mid-April and mid-June, depending on water levels and temperature. Popular baits include crickets and Catawba worms fished near the bottom below a light cork. Try pitching your bait around cover along the shoreline in oxbow lakes, sloughs, slack-water areas, or eddy pockets.

Popular fishing methods for redbreast sunfish include fishing crickets or worms in and around structure near the creek and river channels. Also try the head and tail ends of sandbars. Fish your baits suspended below a float just above the bottom or straight-lined on the bottom. In an attempt to stimulate the recovery of the redbreast sunfish population, the Fisheries Section of WRD has experimentally removed flathead catfish from the lower Ocmulgee River for the past two summers. At this point, it is not known whether the observed increase in the redbreast population is due to the removal of flatheads or to the extended period of high water last fall and winter. Plans are to continue the experimental removal and to monitor the status of redbreast sunfish.

The Ocmulgee River continues to produce large redear sunfish (shellcrackers). They are not as abundant as redbreast and bluegill, but they make up for it with their large size. It is not uncommon to catch shellcrackers that tip the scale at a pound or better. The best fishing will occur in early spring when the redear move into shallow water of the sloughs and oxbow lakes to spawn. Favorite baits include red wigglers or crickets fished near the bottom under a cork.

The largemouth bass population remains relatively stable and good catches have been reported in recent years. Most of the fish caught will be around the minimum legal size limit of 14 inches, but there are some lunkers out there waiting to be caught. Oxbow lakes and slack-water areas containing overhanging willows are popular locations, especially in the spring. Later in the summer, try fishing eddy pockets, the downstream end of sandbars, and heavy cover along the banks. Popular lures include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic worms or lizards.

Catfishing in general should be good this year. Channel catfish appear to be making a strong comeback. Last year=s harvest of channels, in number and in size, was higher than in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue. Flathead catfish or Aappaloosa cats@ are abundant in the river and fishing for them continues to be good, although the average size is declining. Since they have impacted the abundance of sunfish populations, anglers are encouraged to harvest them. All sizes of flatheads are good to eat. Flatheads can be caught on heavy-duty sporting tackle and on limb or trot lines. Live bait works best. Try fishing shiners, bream, or Louisiana pinks around snags in the deep holes along outside bends of the channel during the day. After dark, flatheads tend to move into shallower water to feed and you will have to move with them to be successful. Flatheads can be caught year-round, but the best time is from late winter to late summer. Experimental removal efforts are planned for the summer of 1999 from the US Hwy 441 bridge near Jacksonville downstream to Gray=s Landing on the Altamaha River. Flathead fishing may not be as good in this stretch of river because of the removal efforts, so plan your trip accordingly. For more information on flathead catfish, including additional fishing techniques and tips, obtain a free copy of the AFlathead Catfish Fishing Guide@ from your nearest DNR, Fisheries Office.

Oconee River

The largemouth bass population in the lower Oconee River has remained stable since 1993 and should provide good fishing in 1999. The size structure and density of the largemouth bass populations in the Oconee River compares favorably to the other rivers in the Altamaha system, yet this river receives the least amount of bass fishing pressure. Most of the bass caught will be in the 12-14 inch size range. A fair number of larger, lunker sized bass are also in the river.

Angler catches of bream in 1999 should be similar to those of last year. Although catch rates will be low, most of the redbreast sunfish should be of quality size. The decline in redbreast numbers are probably the result of variable water levels which hurt spawning success and flathead catfish predation. Most of the bluegill caught this year will be 6 inches or smaller. Anglers will have the opportunity to catch some larger, quality sized redear sunfish. Fishing live baits such as worms or crickets on the bottom using split-shot weights under a bobber in slack water areas, or around structure in flowing waters are effective methods. Crappie should provide good fishing opportunities in the winter and early spring before the bream and bass fishing picks up. Anglers will be most successful by fishing woody cover in slack water areas. Live minnows and small artificial jigs tend to be the best baits.

Flathead catfish remain a favorite target on the Oconee River, and their numbers have increased in recent years. They grow quite large and provide anglers an opportunity to catch a trophy size fish. Fish limb lines or trot lines set overnight and baited with a Ahand sized@ live bream for best success. Flathead catfish are an introduced predator to the Oconee River, and anglers are encouraged to harvest all they catch.

Overall, fishing in the Oconee River should compare to previous years. In general, fishing should be better in the lower portion of the river below I-16 south of Dublin.

Ogeechee River (upstream of U.S. Highway 17)

The Ogeechee River does not have its flow regulated by dams which allows the river to rise and fall due to rainfall in the basin. This natural fluctuation in river level plays a big role in fish growth and fishing success. Spring and summertime conditions for fishing are ideal when the river drops near the three foot mark on the USGS gauge at Eden. However, anglers should not overlook the excellent fishing opportunity that occurs during April and May while the water level is still relatively high (5-7 feet) and water temperatures start to warm. These months have the potential to produce some memorable fishing trips.

The Ogeechee River has traditionally provided excellent redbreast sunfish fishing. According to anglers, 1998 was a banner year for redbreast fishing and 1999 has the potential to be even better! Seventy-two percent of the redbreast sunfish are larger than 6 inches in length. This will not last forever, so get out there and try your hand at catching some of these large redbreasts. The majority of fish are on the outside bends around heavy cover. Try pitching crickets or live worms near heavy cover for some world class redbreast action.

Other sunfishes in the river include bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), black crappie, and spotted sunfish (stump-knockers). Anglers should expect good bluegill and redear fishing upstream of Midville near the Jenkins County line to McCroans Bridge, south of Louisville. In addition, good-sized specimens can also be caught in the freshwater tidal area around US Hwy 17. Scattered pockets of black crappie provide exciting cold weather fishing from Hwy 204 upstream as far as Jenkins County. Live bait, grubs, and small feathered jigs work well. Although smaller than other popular panfish, the spotted sunfish is plentiful in the backwaters and should not be overlooked.

The Ogeechee River has never been viewed as a major largemouth bass stream among anglers. Less than 3% of harvest from the river will be largemouth bass. However, largemouth bass are plentiful and healthy. Thirty-four percent are longer than 14 inches. Look for good bass fishing in the spring as water temperatures rise and water levels drop. April continues to be the best month for catching numbers of bass. Work the banks with spinner baits or flip a jig and pig into those tight places where big bass love to hide. Take some time this spring to tap into this unique largemouth bass fishery.

The catfish population is healthy and there are high numbers throughout the river. The snail bullhead is most numerous, followed by white catfish, and yellow bullhead and channel catfish. The highest concentration of fish will be found in be outside bends of the river. Like redbreast sunfish, catfish will be concentrated where there was a combination of swift water and heavy cover. Snail bullheads are common throughout the river, while white catfish are more numerous near the estuary. Fish the outside bends for channel catfish. Even though they are less common, most of the large catfish caught will be channel catfish. Try using cut bait or live minnows to catch these large fish.

WRD continues to determine if the flathead catfish have been illegally introduced into the Ogeechee River. Fortunately, none have been collected so far. Flathead catfish have some fine qualities as a sport fish, but they are not native to Georgia=s coastal rivers. An illegal introduction of flathead catfish into the Ogeechee River, or anywhere for that matter, will cause changes to the existing fish populations. Anglers must be aware that once introduced, flathead catfish cannot be completely removed once they gain a foothold. It is illegal to move fish from one lake or stream to another and this can cause unexpected and irreversible changes to the fish populations.

A guide to fishing the Ogeechee River should be available by the summer of 1999. The brochure will contain a map, access sites, and helpful fishing hints. Contact your nearest WRD office for a free copy.

Satilla River

The Satilla River is one of the premier redbreast sunfish rivers in Georgia, as well as the southeast. Water levels were low during early winter, but have risen to full-bank levels by late January. If this high water continues into spring, quality fish (8 inches or larger) should be a frequent site in angler creels. The Satilla River is your best bet for catching a redbreast sunfish over a pound!

If you are looking for a cure for your Acabin fever,@ a few redbreast can be caught in March, mostly using worms or crickets on the bottom. If you prefer to wait for the best chance for success, April and May are it. The fishing usually peaks when the water warms and recedes well within the banks. Common methods include fishing crickets and worms under bobbers or fishing the bait on the bottom with split-shot weights. As water temperatures increase, anglers often switch to artificial lures such as small beetle-spins and rooster-tails. Fly fishing can be very effective after the water warms. Try popping bugs on a fly rod to fool some true Arooster reds.@

Although other bream species like bluegill and spotted sunfish (stumpknockers) receive less attention than redbreast, they are plentiful. Populations of these fish species have remained stable over the past few years. Oxbow lakes and beaver ponds off the main river channel are prime locations for catching a good Amess@ of panfish. The lower sections of the river around the Burnt Fort area provide some of the better bluegill fishing. Crickets and worms are productive baits.

When conditions are not favorable for bream, largemouth bass, crappie, and several species of catfish are readily available. During the colder months, good catches of crappie can be made throughout the river. Wood cover in slack water away from the main channel is the best habitat. Live minnows and small artificial jigs are productive baits for crappie.

While not known for its largemouth bass fishing, the Satilla contains sufficient numbers to provide an enjoyable bass fishing outing. In late winter and early spring, while river levels are too high for successful bream fishing, largemouth bass fishing is at its peak. Although the bass population is down slightly this year, anglers should be greeted with decent numbers of fish in the 12-17 inch range. Typical bass lures work, but it is hard to beat a diving minnow lure at this time of the year.

Catfish fishing should remain very good this coming year. The river supports a very healthy catfish population. Snail, yellow, and brown bullheads, as well as channel catfish, are numerous. A proven method for catching catfish is to use worms, chicken livers, cut bait, or your own Asecret@ bait on the bottom in deeper holes.

Flathead catfish have been illegally introduced into the Satilla River. They are in very low numbers and are not having any effect on the redbreast population in the prime redbreast habitat of the upper river. WRD has initiated a flathead removal program in the Satilla River. WRD is removing flathead catfish by electrofishing and donating them to local food banks. This effort is designed to keep the flathead catfish from becoming dominant as they have in some other southern rivers. If you catch a flathead catfish of any size, please take it home with you. They are excellent to eat..

It is illegal to move fish from one lake or stream to another and this can cause unexpected and irreversible changes to the fish populations. If you have information about anyone moving flathead catfish, please call the TIP number 1-800-241-4113, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

A guide to fishing the Satilla River is available from WRD. The brochure contains a map, access sites, and helpful fishing hints. Contact your nearest WRD office for a free copy.

Savannah River
(downstream of New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam)

Stream flow in the Savannah River below Augusta is largely controlled by releases from Clarks Hill (Strom Thurmond) Dam. Electricity needs dictate water release schedules and often cause regular weekly river level fluctuations during the summer fishing season. Angler success for many species is affected by changing river levels which limits the number of days when flow is good for fishing. Fishing is usually best when river levels drop within the five to six foot range on the USGS gauge at Clyo. Many anglers find that river oxbows and oxbow lakes provide excellent fishing. River oxbows are recognized as shared waters under Georgia=s reciprocal fishing agreement with South Carolina. State boundaries did not change following past channel modifications, but run down the middle of these oxbows. Anglers should refer to USGS topographic maps and carefully identify these man-made oxbows. Some naturally-formed oxbows and lakes exist totally within the boundaries of South Carolina and are not covered by the reciprocal agreement. See the 1999-2000 fishing regulations for an explanation of the reciprocal agreement with South Carolina.

Redbreast sunfish, bluegill, channel catfish, and black crappie are the species most harvested by anglers fishing freshwater. Although largemouth bass make up a small percent of the catch, the population is doing quite well with 48% reaching lengths greater than 12 inches. A significant number of bass range from 20-25 inches. Anglers should do well in most areas of the river, but concentrating efforts around structure at the mouth of creeks during October and November will probably increase your chances of landing more big bass.

The river supports fair numbers of catchable redbreast, redear sunfish and bluegill and good numbers of all sizes of channel, white, and bullhead catfish. Expect to catch large channel catfish in 1999. Catfish are generally night feeders, but can be coaxed from their daytime hiding places with live bait. Try fishing the swift water produced in the outside bends.

Altered flow conditions in the Savannah River Harbor since 1977 resulting from harbor modification projects impacted the success of striped bass spawning. The resulting failure of natural recruitment brought about a drastic decline in the striped bass population. The focus of Georgia fisheries biologists since 1990 has been the re-establishment of Savannah River striped bass spawning stock. Steps have been taken to restore the natural flow characteristics of the river channel complex near Savannah and reclaim spawning habitat in the Back River critical to the recovery of this species. Georgia=s management strategy since that time has been to rebuild striped bass brood stock through supplemental stocking of advanced-size fingerlings (up to 10 inches in length), monitor natural reproduction, and enforce the closed season on the taking of striped bass from the Savannah River.

Striped bass stockings have been successful and well received by anglers eager to begin harvesting striped bass. However, it is important for anglers to realize that most of the striped bass they now catch were stocked by Georgia DNR. Population monitoring shows that at least 65% of the striped bass in the river were stocked and only 30-35% were naturally produced. Monitoring also shows that many of the striped bass in the river are small and too young to contribute significantly to the spawning population. Striped bass do not become productive spawners until they reach the 20-40 pound range (7-10 years old). As long as egg production in the Savannah River estuary remains at low levels, the closed season on taking striped bass must remain in force.

St. Marys

The St. Marys River is one of the better redbreast sunfish rivers in southeast Georgia. Although redbreast are not as numerous as in the Satilla River, the chances of catching fish 6 inches or larger are excellent. Fishing methods used in the Satilla River work well in the St. Marys. Crickets and worms are good baits, as are small lures such as beetle-spins when the water warms.

The river also supports a healthy bluegill population. Catching bluegill weighing 3/4 pound or larger should be fairly common for anglers. The better bream fishing can be found in the lower half of the river, from the Trader's Hill Recreational Area downstream. Fishing worms or crickets around cover in the creeks and oxbows of the lower river are your best bets for catching a stringer of bluegill.

The St. Marys River is considered by some anglers to be a quality trophy bass river. Although bass are not as plentiful as in other rivers such as the Altamaha, anglers frequently land wall-hangers. The better bass fishing can be found in the lower section of the river in the King's Ferry area. As with the Altamaha, try casting spinner baits and pitching jigs or worms around heavy cover in current breaks or back-water areas.

The St. Marys River is one of the few coastal plain rivers in southeast Georgia that has not been colonized by flathead catfish. Moving fish from one water body to another is illegal, and can have profound detrimental effects on native fish populations.

Suwannee River

The 33 mile portion of the Suwannee River in Georgia offers a unique type of fishing experience. The dark Atea stained@ waters are excellent habitat for chain pickerel, warmouth, flier, and bullheads (catfish), but due to the highly acidic waters (pH values less than 4.5) the river offers little in the way of bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, or channel catfish fishing.

Chain pickerel or "jack fish" continue to be abundant. Anglers can expect to catch good numbers of jack fish 16 inches in length or larger in 1999. Shallow running crankbaits like the Rapala Minnow or Rooster tail are particularly effective. Jointed, colorful lures with their increased action also work well.

Good numbers of warmouth are present. The majority of warmouth are 6 inches or larger. Several individuals weighing 1 pound or greater will be caught. Anglers should have good success in catching half-pound or larger warmouth in late April and May. Warmouth are distributed throughout the river with a slight increase in abundance as you travel downstream to Fargo. Flier (shiner) continue to be abundant in the upper reaches of the Suwannee River near the Okefenokee Swamp. Good flier fishing should continue in the river, especially in the sloughs and backwaters. Anglers can expect to catch plenty of 5-8 inch fliers.

Many of the young bullheads in the river have been preyed on by the abundant chain pickerel population. As a result, anglers can expect to wait longer between bites when fishing for bullheads. Bait such as worms, chicken livers, dead shrimp, and crickets fished off the bottom in deep water along the bank edges should be effective for this species. There is virtually no channel catfish fishery due to the highly acidic waters. Fishing as a whole in the Suwannee River should continue to be about the same as in 1998.

 

Publications available from the Fisheries Section:
Guide to Fishing the Altamaha River (map)
Guide to Fishing the Satilla River (map)
Guide to Fishing the Upper Ocmulgee River (map)
Guide to Fishing the Lower Ocmulgee River (map)
Flathead Catfish Fishing Guide
1999 Georgia Reservoir Fishing Prospects
Trout Streams of Georgia (map)
Introduction to Georgia Trout Fishing
1998 Small Lakes Open to Public Fishing
Georgia Professional Fishing Guides (list)
Public Boat Ramps in Georgia
1999 Guidelines for Eating Fish from Georgia Waters
Guide to Accessible Outdoor Activities
1999-2000 Sport Fishing Regulations

Visit the Department of Natural Resources web site www.ganet.org/dnr/wild/
to answer fishing regulations questions
to purchase a fishing license
to register a boat
to find a place to fish
to obtain weekly fishing conditions
and more

 

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