Category Archives: Where To Fish

Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat

RBFF Hooks Nation with 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat
from The Fishing Wire

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has released their 2017 list of the Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat. The list of locations is bolstered by endorsements from celebrities and fishing pros, and the help of federal and state representatives. The announcement helps kick off the weeklong celebration of on-the-water activity that is National Fishing and Boating Week, June 3 – 11.

New this year, a group of distinguished contributors and experts have sourced the list, sharing their favorite family-friendly fishing and boating spots. Country music star Luke Bryan headlines this year’s contributors, alongside fellow musician Justin Moore, pro football player Alejandro Villanueva and a host of industry experts.

The full list of 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat is available at and highlights include:

Percy Priest Lake, Tenn. – Country music star Luke Bryan admits “a good fisherman never shares his best spot,” but still offers up his favorite place to escape his fast-paced world for some relaxing time on the water. Known for “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” Bryan’s favorite spot near Nashville is a natural addition to this year’s list. Bryan has a clothing line of the same name available at Cabela’s, and fans can catch the country music megastar on his HFE tour this summer.
Presque Isle Bay, Pa. – Professional offensive lineman and former Army Ranger, Alejandro “Big Al” Villanueva, picked this popular spot on Lake Erie, and knows a thing or two about the importance of good tackle and a strong line. When he’s not protecting the quarterback, Al says, “I spend a lot of my free time fishing and really cherish any time on the water.”
Degray Lake, Ark. – Having grown up in nearby Poyen, Ark., country music singer Justin Mooreoften frequented Degray Lake as a young boy, and passed down his love of fishing to his own kids. He remembers, “watching my oldest daughter catch her first fish all by herself has to be my favorite moment out there.”
Texas City Dyke, Texas – Professional angler Cindy Nguyen added this spot, noting, “I grew up fishing in Texas City Dyke and the surrounding areas. It’s still one of my favorite places to bring the family.”

Central Park, N.Y. – Host of South Bend’s Lunkerville, Michael de Avila, better known to his fans as Mike D., picked an unexpected fishing oasis in the middle of the nation’s largest city. Central Park offers three unique family-friendly spots at the lake, the pond and the Harlem Meer.

Webb Lake, Fla. – Women’s sportfishing advocate and outdoor writer Debbie Hanson loves the fishing at wildlife at Webb Lake. “Not only is Webb Lake great for numbers of largemouth bass and bluegill, but there are also some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. I’ve spotted sandhill cranes, great blue herons and white-tailed deer on my visits.”
South Padre Island, Texas – Pedro Sors, professional angler and Mexico’s most popular fishing TV show host, chose this popular spot for its ability to provide him and his sons with “a sense of freedom and a way to connect with nature and myself.”
Buckeye Creek, Calif. – Chelsea Day of the Someday I’ll Learn blog, fondly recalls memories at this picturesque spot in the eastern Sierras. “Our oldest son caught his first fish at this spot, and it was really special to be able to cook it right up and serve it for dinner at the campsite. Such a sense of accomplishment for him!”

“This year we decided to ask some of our friends and partners where they like to go fishing, and the response has been overwhelming,” said RBFF President and CEO, Frank Peterson. “While the locations are as diverse as the people who shared them, some key themes emerged. Fishing and boating are easy ways to escape life’s tensions, and you’re never too far from a quality body of water. So whether you’re getting over a stressful week at the office or simply trying to cut back on screen time, this is the year to get out on the water together to help conserve and restore our nation’s aquatic natural resources.”

We encourage all stakeholders to share the 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat list in the lead-up to National Fishing and Boating Week and beyond.

About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns to create awareness around boating, fishing and conservation, and educate people about the benefits of participation. Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar help boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign websites,, and , feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.

Fishing Pickwick Lake with Shane Cox

Last Wednesday morning I got up at 2:15 AM and drove to Iuka, Mississippi to meet Shane Cox, owner of Hammer Rods, to “do research” for a June Map of the Month Alabama Outdoor News article on Pickwick Lake. Pickwick is a big Tennessee River lake mostly in Alabama but its dam is in Mississippi and the north shore there is in Tennessee in that area.

It is as far north and west as you can go in Alabama. The six-hour drive is the longest one I do for any articles. I have driven it both ways and fished during the day in the past but I think those days are over! On my longest trip ever, a few years ago I met Karen Elkins at Neely Henry at 6:00 AM after driving for four hours. We fished until 9:00 that night – I was in the boat 15 hours – then had another four-hour drive home. That was my longest day, 23 hours!

Shane lives near Pickwick and is very good there. Week before last he had a five-bass limit weighing 30 pounds to win a local tournament. Pickwick produces a lot of big bass if you know how to catch them.

We ran to a river ledge where the bottom quickly dropped from 13 feet down to 30 feet deep. Shane kept the boat out over the deep water and we cast big crankbaits to the shallow water, cranking them down to bump the bottom. As they came off the bottom on the edge of the ledge, fish would hit it.

I was sitting in the bottom of the boat taking notes when he made his first cast. He said “look at that” and I looked as two three pound largemouth wallowed on top, both hook on his plug. Then he got excited and said there was a four pound smallmouth following the two hooked ones! Since I was sitting down I could not see it. One of the three pounders came off but he landed the other one.

That made me quickly grab my rod and start casting. Shane was using one of his rods made for throwing big crankbaits, a 7 foot, 11 inch model. He could throw a crankbait about half again as far as I could on my 6.5 foot rod. That helped him get his crankbait down deeper than I could get mine to go.

I did catch a three-pound largemouth and a two pound largemouth, but he landed seven or eight, including two close to six pounds each and several more in the four pound range. His best five would have weighed about 25 pounds, one of the best limits I have ever seen caught in person.

The original plan was to run to his tournament hole and catch a couple of bass for pictures then go look at ten similar spots to put on the map. We stayed longer because Shane wanted to catch that smallmouth!

After a few hours of looking at the spots and me taking notes while he fished and caught several more three-pound bass, we finished up on hole ten. As I completed my notes on it Shane caught a hybrid. I got up and started casting but this ledge was deeper and I could not get my crankbait to run deep enough, so Shane let me use his rod. I had thought maybe it was his skill that allowed him to make longer casts, but I found with his rod I could cast just as far.

Shane caught another hybrid and a two-pound largemouth on a swimbait and I did not get a bite. I quickly get worn out cranking a big plug and Shane felt sorry for me and swapped rods. A swimbait is easy to fish, you cast it out and reel it in with little resistance. This pattern was let it hit bottom then start reeling and I managed to hang his bait and lose it.

Rather than lose any more of his baits I dug around in my tackle box and found a three-quarters ounce football head jig. I carry a small box with some tackle in it, mostly stuff I usually don’t use, on these trips. That jig has been in there for years and I have never caught a bass on a football head jig,

The first cast I made I let the jig hit bottom in 18 feet of water and drug it to the drop. As it started falling I felt a thump and set the hook and landed a three-pound largemouth. I did that on the next three cast in a row, then went three cast without a bite but caught my fifth fish in eight cast on the next one. All were three-pound fish so I had a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds in less than 15 minutes.

I would love to do that in a club tournament!

I left Pickwick at 3:30 PM and headed home, thinking I might be able to drive all the way. But after turning west rather than east onto I-20 in Birmingham, a turn I have made dozens of times coming home, I stopped just east of Birmingham and got a motel room for the night. I knew I was too tired to think straight.

Pickwick is a long way away but the fishing can be incredible!

Bartletts Ferry Lake

Thursday I met Jason Mitja at Po Boys Landing on Bartletts Ferry Lake to get information for a January Georgia and Alabama Outdoor Magazine article. It will run in both states since Bartletts Ferry, called Lake Harding in Alabama, is a border lake.

Jason is a young fisherman from Phonix City and went to Auburn and was on the fishing team there with the Lee brothers. Matt and Jordan Lee have become well known professional fishermen in the past few years and Jason hopes to follow them to the Elite trail.

When my clubs fish Bartletts Ferry I usually hope to catch a limit of spots weighing eight or nine pounds. That is usually a good catch. Back in the 1970s and 80s we caught a lot of four to seven pound largemouth there but since spots have gotten so plentiful the quality largemouth have been hard to find. I did win a tournament there in March with five weighing 13 pounds and had a five-pound largemouth but that has not been the norm.

Jason showed me some good fish are still there. Thursday was the first day of a strong cold front, usually the worst possible condition for catching largemouth. So I expected to catch some spots for pictures.

Jason picked me up and we idled to a rocky point about 200 yards away. I was dressed in my warmest clothes, the sun was bright, the wind was blowing and I just knew fishing would be bad. While telling me how to fish the point Jason pitched a jig and pig to a brushpile sticking out of the water.

He turned to say something else to me then quickly turned back and set the hook. After he landed the 3.5 pound largemouth he said as he turned to me he realized his line was moving out from the tree. That was a good start.

We fished a few more of the spots then, back in a creek, Jason threw topwater plug to the bank. He said he saw some minnows jump there. After twitching it twice a fish hit at it and missed, then came back and got hooked after Jason twitched it again. It was another three-pound largemouth.

I was surprised that the fish hit topwater but should not have been. The water temperature was 60 degrees, plenty warm enough for topwater. I just usually don’t think of fishing topwater this time of year.

By the time we had looked at all ten spots and Jason took me to the ramp he had landed another three pound largemouth on the jig and pig from a dock and we both caught some smaller keeper fish. And we had been on the water only five hours! Jason could have weighed in five bass weighing about 14 pounds, a very good catch to me, but all day he was showing me places where he had won tournaments with five weighing over 20 pounds!

Jason is fishing a two-day tournament at Bartletts this weekend and I will be interested in seeing how he does. I am on Jackson today for the last Sportsman Club and Flint River tournament of the year. I guess I better have a jig and pig and a topwater bait tied on!

Spotted Bass On Lake Lanier

Last Monday I met Tyler Schmidt at Lake Lanier just before sunrise to get information for a November Georgia Outdoor News article. He showed me ten good places to catch big spotted bass on the lake during November, which baits to use and how to fish them.

We ran to a rocky point and, on my very first cast with a topwater plug, a fish sucked it under. The fish fought hard and I said it might be a striper or hybrid, but it was fighting more like a spotted bass. It was big and I let it fight against the rod and the 12 pound line I was using.

When it got almost to the boat, just before we could see it in the clear water, it made a couple of strong runs, stripping drag. Then my line went slack. I said I could not think of anything I did wrong, I guessed it was one of those fish that was just meant to get away.

When I reeled in my Whopper Plopper plug the front treble hooks were gone. The fish had straightened out the split ring holding them to the plug, something I have never had happen to me. I was disgusted.

When I got home I posted a picture of the plug on Facebook and told the story of what happened. Several fishermen, a couple of them pros, said the hooks and split rings on that plug were sorry and you should immediately change them to stronger hardware before fishing the plug.

Those plugs cost between $15 and $20 and it is ridiculous they don’t put good hardware on them. At Martin I landed about 15 bass on that plug and never had a problem, but all those fish weighed less than two pounds. I was impressed how sharp the hooks were. Usually when I hooked a fish it would have one set of trebles in its mouth and the other set would have stuck into is further back, a sign of very sharp hooks.

But is does not matter how sharp the hooks are if the split ring holding them to the plug opens up!

Another plug, the Rat-l-Trap, are notorious for having bad hooks. They don’t straighten out, they just are not very sharp and are hard to sharpen. For years I have replace those hooks, but the plug costs $6.95 at Berry’s Sporting Goods!

The rest of the day We fished the places he put on the map and saw a lot of schooling fish, and caught some weighing about two pounds each, but nothing big. My biggest spot is a 4.4 pounder I caught in a tournament at Lanier last fall about this time. The fish I lost fought harder so if it was a spot it was a big one! But I almost hope it was a striper.

The guides at Lanier are posting pictures on Facebook of big spots they are catching right now, many on topwater plugs. They are also catching a lot of stripers. If you can stand the traffic a trip to Lanier would be great right now.

On Monday I left home at 5:40 and was a little surprised how much traffic was headed north that time of night. Georgia 20 was not bad and I 75 and 675 were busy but not crazy. But when I got on I 285 headed north, it was ridiculous. It was bumper to bumper at speeds less than 30 MPH all the way to I-85. And I was not even puling a boat.

The traffic is why I don’t go to Lanier more often. Its no wonder that more folks that have to drive in that every day seem so on edge and nervous all the time! It would drive me crazy.

These Map of the Month articles have been put into eBook format – one article for each month of the year, giving you 120 spots to fish! A book for Lanier and one for Clarks Hill are available.

Fishing Lake St. Clair

What are you waiting for? Get out fishing Lake St. Clair

You’d be crazy to not think about fishing Lake St. Clair this summer – especially when you consider the plethora of opportunities available there and the fact you’re a short distance from modern-day amenities thanks to it being situated in a major metropolitan area. Renowned for its smallmouth bass and muskellunge, this waterbody (situated between lakes Huron and Erie) is billed as one of the most unique systems in the region.

And it should be noted that Lake St. Clair is part of something much bigger. Besides it being situated between two of the Great Lakes, the connection between the lake and the St. Clair River is a diverse habitat with multiple channels and is considered a delta – in fact, it’s the largest freshwater delta in North America.

“Lake St. Clair is a phenomenal fishery,” said Cleyo Harris, a fisheries biologist based in Waterford. “It doesn’t need stocking and provides numerous unique opportunities for anglers who pay it a visit.”

Now you might ask: exactly what are those opportunities?

How about spearing for northern pike or yellow perch during the winter months? Lake St. Clair is the only waterbody in the state open to yellow perch spearing. The season is January first through the end of February and anglers can use a hand-propelled spear, bow and arrow or crossbow.

Additionally the daily possession limits for northern pike was recently switched from two to five, with a 24-inch minimum size limit, on Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River.

“It should be noted that Michigan has about one-third of Lake St. Clair within our jurisdiction and the other two-thirds are under Ontario,” explained Harris. “Canada doesn’t allow spearing at all so it’s important to be aware of where you are on the waterbody when you engage in this type of activity.”

Muskellunge and yellow perch are ideal targets during the summer months on Lake St. Clair as well – along with walleye and smallmouth bass. According to Mike Thomas, a fisheries research biologist stationed on Lake St. Clair – what makes these populations unique here is you can actually target them all on a single day.

You probably have a good chance of catching your limit of walleye and smallmouth bass and also catch a 50-inch muskie and target yellow perch – all in the same day on the same waterbody,” he exclaimed.

Thomas is quick to point out other opportunities the average angler isn’t aware of on Lake St. Clair; including largemouth bass along the shoreline, panfish opportunities in canals and marshes, white bass during the summer, good northern pike presence in the delta, and his personal favorite – hook-and-line fishing for lake sturgeon in the delta.

The hook-and-line lake sturgeon season is open on Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River from July 16 to November 30 with the possession season being from July 16 through September 30.

“I think this is one of the only places in the state where you have a realistic chance of catching a lake sturgeon,” Thomas said. “Not enough people seem to realize that.”

Being in a major metropolitan area means Lake St. Clair is often quite busy during the summer months, as evidenced by the vast numbers of boats milling about on the water. This activity is facilitated by numerous state-managed access sites to allow all types of boaters an avenue for getting out. This year anglers visiting those sites will likely see one of two creel clerks collecting data on the lake – for the first time since 2005.

“Creel is a big thing for us this year,” explained Harris. “We’ll be looking to collect catch information from anglers after their trips so we can continue to provide the best fisheries management possible for Lake St. Clair.”

Those new to the lake should heed this advice from Thomas in relation to the fact that despite being on average 12 feet deep, if the wind picks up it can get a tad treacherous.

“When you’re on the open waters you’ll just want to be mindful,” he explained. “On a calm day you can feel comfortable in a 14-foot boat, but if the wind comes up quick you could get uncomfortable pretty fast. The delta area of the St. Clair River is more protected and is a good place to fish on days when there’s too much wind.”

There’s still plenty of time this summer to explore Lake St. Clair. For more information, visit

Fishing Lake Weiss

Last Thursday I drove to Lake Weiss near Rome, Georgia to get information for my July Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News magazine article. Since this is a border lake, with most of the lake in Alabama but some in Georgia, and many Georgia bass fishermen go there, it will be in both issues. You do have to have an Alabama fishing license to fish the lake.

I met Wayne Boyd, a tournament fisherman from Rome that knows the lake well, at the boat ramp at 9:00 AM. We fished grass beds for two hours and he caught two nice largemouth about five pounds each on a chatterbait. This pattern will not work well in July so we then spent two hours looking at spots that will be good in July, although bass have not really moved to them yet.

Weiss is a very pretty 30,200 acre lake on the Coosa, Chattooga and Little Rivers that has an average depth of only ten feet. That surprised me when I first went there years ago. The lake is surrounded by low mountains and I thought it would be deep and clear like most mountain lakes, but it is shallow, stained most of the year, and full of grass beds and wood cover to fish.

Since Weiss is on the Coosa River it has a good population of those hard fighting Alabama or Coosa spotted bass. It also has a good population of largemouth bass but the lake is known as “The Crappie Capital” of the world. There is a ten inch size limit on crappie there but fishermen still fill their limits, even with those nice fish.

If you want a good trip to catch bass or crappie, a trip to Weiss in June would be a good choice.

Tips on Spring Inland Season

Wisconsin Offers Tips on Spring Inland Season Opening May 7
from The Fishing Wire

MADISON, Wis. – Warming temperatures throughout Wisconsin this week should make for a great bite when the general inland fishing season gets underway on Saturday, May 7.

DNR southern fisheries supervisor David Rowe holds a northern pike netted during a musky survey on Lake Monona in Dane County.
Photo Credit: DNR

Matt Andre  with big catfish

Matt Andre with big catfish

Lake Wissota, a 6,300 acre impoundment of the Chippewa River, is well known for its trophy musky. However, the catfish fishery has been gaining popularity and during the spring 2016 fisheries survey, flathead catfish over 20 pounds were a frequent occurrence with flatheads over 40 pounds not uncommon – including this one held by fisheries technician Matt Andre.
Photo Credit: DNR

David Rowe holds a northern pike

David Rowe holds a northern pike

Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes

Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes

DNR fisheries biologist Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes from Long Lake in northern Chippewa County. The lake’s walleye population is rebounding according to recent fisheries survey data and now totals 3.6 adult walleye per acre, up from 2.9 adult walleye per acre four years ago.
Photo Credit: DNR

Justine Hasz, fisheries director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said spring survey work on lakes and rivers around Wisconsin indicates healthy fish populations and great opportunities for anglers based on the walleye, bass, northern pike, panfish, trout, muskies and even catfish netted and promptly released by fisheries crew members in recent days.

“Wisconsin remains among the top three angling destinations in the nation and for good reason,” Hasz said. “Whether you prefer fly fishing, casting live bait, trolling or simply watching your bobber dip, our fisheries offer something for everyone.”

While fishing is a passion for many, it is also an economic driver for the state, with an estimated 1.2 million anglers producing a $2.3 billion economic impact, according to the American Sportfishing Association. That impact becomes clear as tens of thousands of anglers take to Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes, rivers and 13,000 miles of trout streams for opening day.

Walleye continue to be an important target for anglers and since 2013, the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative has worked to rebuild and enhance walleye populations throughout the state. The fish that have been stocked should reach legal size over the next two to three years although some anglers have reported increased catch and release activity from the young fish.

In 2015, Wisconsin stocked 760,000 extended growth walleyes, eclipsing the 2014 record of 720,000. For 2016, DNR intends to stock some 827,000 of the six to eight inch fingerlings, including some 229,000 fish from private and tribal fish farms and 598,000 from DNR hatcheries.

The trout population continues to make gains throughout the state and this year anglers will find 14 streams with upgraded classifications as well as 27 that for the first time have been documented as sustaining trout populations. Six of the newly classified streams have earned the coveted Class 1 designation.

Also new for anglers in 2016 will be simplified trout regulations designed to create more uniformity for anglers who fish on different trout streams and within small geographic areas. Under the new system, maps online and in the regulation pamphlet will indicate one of three regulations:

Green means go fish, with no length limit, a bag limit of five fish and no bait restrictions;
Yellow means caution, with an 8 inch length limit, a bag limit of three fish and no bait restrictions; and
Red means special regulations are in place. Anglers are advised to stop and understand the regulations before fishing.

Anglers targeting panfish also will find new, experimental bag limits to optimize panfish size on high potential lakes capable of producing large panfish. On these lakes, identified in the fishing regulations book, daily bag limits reflect efforts to limit harvest during spawning season or prevent overharvest of any one species.

New Go Wild licensing system makes it easier than ever for anglers to buy, display licenses

Buying a license is easy and convenient through the new Go Wild licensing system, with online access available 24-7. Visit, one of more than 1,000 vendor locations or a DNR service center to purchase licenses.

While the GoWild licensing system allows several new ways to display proof of your license purchase including use of a personal conservation card, authenticated driver’s license and pdf display on mobile devices, anglers fishing in boundary waters must use the paper printouts as law enforcement officials in the surrounding states do not have access to the Wisconsin database.

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Information about how to provide proof of your purchase may be found at by searching “Go Wild.”

The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 7, 2016 to March 5, 2017. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations and rules that apply on specific lakes, visit and search “fishing regulations.” For a complete calendar, search “fishing season dates.”

Anglers can find fish species information, boat access sites, shore fishing areas, lake information and regulations by downloading the free Wisconsin Fish & Wildlife mobile app, which includes a full array of fishing information. DNR has tackle loaner sites in 50 locations, including many state parks, making it easy for people to enjoy fishing if they don’t have their own equipment or if they left it at home.

Alabama River Fishing

The thunderstorms week before last did more than bring back memories of past storms and delay my trip to the Alabama River. Some areas of central Alabama had over five inches of rain that night. I saw the results of all that rain when I got to the Alabama River this week for the article. It was four feet high, muddy and the current was ripping.

I went out with one of the best river fishermen in the area, Erick Sommers. Erick wins a lot of tournaments there and knows it well. He warned me that fishing would be terrible with the conditions but due to my deadline I had to get the information for the article.

He showed me ten places on the river where he and his partners catch big spotted and largemouth bass. We fished hard but it was just about impossible to even fish most of the places due to the current. Erick said some current makes the fish bite better. When two or three turbines are running at dams upstream it is just about right. Four makes it difficult. There were five running the day we went!

On one spot we marked for the article he showed me a picture of his son, Chase, holding up two of the three five-pound spots he had caught in a youth tournament. One of them came off the place we marked. Chase had three spots weighing over five pounds each that day and won his tournament with three fish weighing over 16 pounds.

Erick also showed me pictures of some of the five and six pound largemouth he had landed in tournaments there. The Alabama River produces a lot of big bass on normal days. Erick’s best catch of spots ever was five weighing 29.83 pounds, an incredible catch anywhere but even more amazing that it was all spots. He says it takes five bass weighing 25 pounds to win most tournaments there.

Locals just call it the river but the official name is either Jones Bluff or Woodruff reservoir, depending on what government agency you check. No matter what the name, it runs 80 miles from the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers in Wetumpka down to the dam southwest of Montgomery.

If you plan a trip it is close to three hours to get there from Griffin. There are a lot of ramps and campgrounds open to the public. Go over there and catch your best spot ever!

The weather this spring has been its usual normal unusual. I always get excited when it warms more than expected in early March, but as often happens it turns colder in April than expected. And the bass often respond by doing unusual things.

One week it seems all the bass in the lake are shallow and getting ready to bed. They are fairly easy to catch no matter what you do. Then a cold front comes through and it gets tough. All you can do is wonder where the bass went.

Fish do not like bright sun most of the time. Even the bream in my pond won’t feed much when it is bright and sunny. On a cloudy day I can throw out floating fish food and they churn the water like a school of piranha. On a bright sunny day very few will hit the food as it floats along.

The usual response when bass fishing is to go to smaller baits and fish places where there is less light. You can fish deeper water or try to get your bait way back under a dock where the sun doesn’t shine. Sometimes those tactics work, other times you just get in a lot of casting practice. At least that is the way it seems to work for me.

There is a big BASS Elite tournament this weekend on the coast of South Carolina. It will be interesting to see how the top pros adjust to the high pressure cold front. They are fishing one of the rivers and swamps on the coast with miles of shallow water and cypress trees. I suspect those trees will play a big part.

Another group of fishermen are at Hartwell for the Ray Scott Championship. It is a very different fishery from the coast. Jordan McDonald qualified to fish it and I hope he does well, adjusting to the conditions and catching fish.

Where To Fish In Georgia Each Month of 2016

Georgia Fishing Calendar

Species: Hybrids
What To Expect
Two years ago over 500,000 hybrids were stocked at Hartwell. Those fish will weigh up to three pounds now and there are much bigger hybrids in Hartwell from previous years stocking.
How To
Feeding schools of hybrids can often be found by watching for gulls or terns diving on them. The lower lake is the best place to find them schooling, usually near humps and long points in sight of the dam. Cast white half-ounce bucktails or silver spoons to fish hitting on top.
If you don’t see surface activity, ride humps and points on the main lake watching for baitfish with bigger fish under them. Drop a live blueback herring to the depth the bigger fish are holding. Those fish will also hit a spoon or bucktail jigged at the depth they are holding. Also try crankbaits and bucktails trolled at the depth they are holding.
Big largemouth bass move to spawning areas on Seminole in January. Fish rattle baits on the flats just off the river channels around grass. Rainbow trout are stocked below the Lake Lanier dam in the Chattahoochee River and can be caught on small spinners and nymphs in eddies.

Species: Largemouth Bass
What To Expect
Jackson Lake produces some big largemouth every winter and February is one of the best months to catch a wall hanger there. You may not get many bites from largemouth but may land your biggest ever.
How To
On sunny days fish pockets on the north bank that get sun all day, and concentrate on seawalls, sandy bottoms and wood cover. A shad colored crankbait in clearer water or a chartreuse bait in stained water, fished slowly around structure and cover, is a good choice.
Also try a brown jig and pig in clear water or a black and blue bait in stained water around the same cover. Fish very slowly to interest the sluggish fish. Bump every limb in a blowdown or brush pile to excite big bass.
Large numbers of keeper size spotted bass can be caught on rocky points and humps at Lake Allatoona on jig head worms during February. To fill your freezer with yellow perch, fish a small minnow or jig below the Thurmond Dam, letting it drift with the current into eddies.

Species: Crappie
What To Expect
Big crappie move toward the spawning areas at Walter George this month. You can easily get you limit and fill your freezer with fileting size keepers.
How To
Tie up under a bridge on one of the lower lake creeks or drift over standing timber in the mouths of creeks like Bustahatchee Creek with live minnows or Hal Fly jigs suspended at different depths. Change depths and color of jigs until you start catching fish.
You can also troll small jigs in the creeks, following the channel, to find schools of fish. When you catch a crappie circle back over the same area since they are often moving in big schools.
White bass are running up the rivers at Lake Allatoona and can be caught on small spinners and jigs from a boat or the bank in the channels. Catfish on Lake Thurmond move shallow in March to feed and spawn and will hit live bream and shad on hard bottoms near channels.

Species: Largemouth Bass
What To Expect
Largemouths are up shallow spawning and feeding on the shad and herring spawn at Lake Thurmond this month. The herring spawn offers some of the fastest and best fishing for big bass of the year.
How To
Fish blowthroughs, shallow gaps between islands or between an island and the bank, in the Georgia Little River arm of Thurmond. Have a big topwater walking bait like a Zara Spook ready to cast to surface feeding fish. Also fish a big spinnerbait or crankbait over the gravel bottoms of these areas.
Fishing is best at first light when the herring spawn but you can catch fish in the deeper water off the sides of the blowthroughs on Carolina rigged lizards after the sun gets up. Drag the lizard in eight to ten feet of water.
You can choose from several ponds at McDuffie PFA to catch bluegills on earthworms or crickets this month, and fishing piers and clean banks offer the non-boat fishermen good places to catch fish. Sight fish for Trippletail holding on the surface off the Jekyll Island beaches with live shrimp.


Species: Flounder
What To Expect
Flounder are feeding in the sounds and inlets on the coast this month. These excellent tasting fish can be caught from the shore or from a boat.
How To
An outgoing tide pulls food from the marshes and flounder wait on it anywhere a small creek comes out of the grass. Anchor your boat off to the side of the current coming out of the creek and cast a small mud minnow or jig to the edges of the current.
You can get to some of these small creek and inlets from the bank on Jekyll Island. A good one is near the fishing pier on the north tip of the island and you can park and walk to it and fish from the shore.
Redbreast are plentiful in the Ogeechee River and have come back from the bad fish kill a few years ago. Catch them on earthworms or crickets in eddy areas out of the current. Lake Lanier is a quality spotted bass fishery and they are feeding on blueback herring on top in May. You can catch many three and four pound spots on topwater plugs this month.

Species: Catfish
What To Expect
The catfish population at Lake Oconee is excellent and you can catch blues, channel and flatheads, with some quality bragging size fish available.
How To
Anchor your boat on humps or shallow points and let the current take cut shad or bream out from the boat. Put out several rods to cover the area better. Current makes the catfish bite better but you can catch them when the current is not strong, too. The current will move both ways, depending on generation or pumpback at the dam.
During the summer stick with main lake points and humps or those in the bigger creeks. Shallow water near deep water is best, so a long shallow point with the channel bending off one side is an excellent place to set up.
Shark move into Georgia waters to spawn in the early summer and can be caught from piers on both Jekyll and St. Simons Islands. To beat the heat tie up under a bridge on West Point at night and catch crappie on minnows and jigs.


Species: Tarpon
What To Expect
Tarpon move into the coastal sounds and river mouths in the summer. These huge fish, some weighing 150 pounds, can be seen rolling and feeding on top in hot weather.
How To:
Cast a live menhaden to tarpon feeding on top in the Altamaha River Sound or drift near oyster beds with live menhaden free-lined in the current. An outgoing tide is usually best. You can also troll a big crankbait or cast a crankbait or spoon to the fish you see on top.
Anywhere the current breaks will attract feeding tarpon. Shell beds are good but so are ditch and creek mouths. Current coming out of the marsh grass pulls baitfish out where the tarpon feed on them.
Fish a spoon or spinner over grass in the lake at Hamburg State Park to catch Chain Pickerel, a cousin of the Northern Pike. Fish live bream in holes on outside bends of the Altamaha River for big Flathead Catfish.
Species: Blue Catfish
What To Expect
The state record blue cat, an 80 pound, 4 ounce monster, was caught in the upper end of Lake Andrews, below the Walter George dam, in the summer. There are many big catfish in the area.
How To
Fish live bream or cut shad in the current below the Walter George dam. When current is strong from power generation the bite will be better. Use a heavy sinker to get your bait to the bottom and keep it there in the current.
Fishing from a boat is best but you can catch fish from the fishing pier there, too. You need heavy tackle and line to land a big catfish. Smaller eating size cats are also common in these waters.
You can have a blast catching carp from a boat or the bank at Thurmond by baiting up a hole on a flat near deep water with sinking catfish food. The fishing pier at Amity Park is a good place to do this. Fish small shrimp from the Tybee island beeches in designated fishing areas to catch good eating whiting.


Species: Shoal Bass
What To Expect
Shoal bass fight hard and remind fishermen of smallmouth. Native to the Flint River, they inhabit the shoals all along the river from near Atlanta all the way to Lake Seminole.
How To
Access the river at any bridge and wade nearby shoals, fishing eddies and current with small crankbaits, spinners and Texas rigged worms. Fish your baits with the current, casting upstream as you wade.
You can also put a jon boat or canoe in and drift down to the next bridge to take out. Plan your trip for a section of the river that will match the time you have to fish. Stop and tie up at shoals and wade fish them, too.
Go up the river at Lake Harding and find gar in back-outs. Cast a spoon with a six inch frayed white nylon cord on the hook to them for fun and good eating. Cast a small topwater popper or spoon to surface feeding hybrids near the Highway 109 Causeway on West Point.

Species: Walleyes
What To Expect
Although walleyes are not abundant in Lake Raburn, you can catch decent numbers of two to four pound fish. The Walleye is claimed to be the best eating freshwater fish so catch some at Raburn in October to find out.
How To
At night, fish small minnows and earthworms on shallow points on the main lake. During the day fish nighcrawlers in 20 feet of water on channel edges near the points. Fish the nightcrawlers on the bottom with a small split shot
Light line is important to increase the number of bites you get as well as letting the walleyes fight more. Use six or eight pound line on a light to medium spinning outfit for the best action.
Bull Red Drum move into the shallows around St. Simons Island this month to feed and you can catch 30 pound fish on live shrimp from the beach. Fish earthworms ten feet deep around standing timber at Big Lazer PFA for big shellcracker.


Species: Rainbow Trout
What To Expect
The Toccoa River below Lake Blue Ridge dam produces consistent catches of eating size rainbow trout with the chance of a big fish. Several nine to ten pound rainbows have been collected during shocking sampling by the DNR.
How To
Wading the river in November can be cold but productive. Floating between access points in a canoe will keep you dry and give you access to less heavily fished spots.
You can use live bait like earthworms but no live minnows on the Toccoa River. Artificials for fly fishermen like nymphs, wet flies and streamers are best in November. Small spinners and minnow baits are good for spinning fishing.
Blue, channel and flathead catfish are common in the Coosa River, with blues up to 50 pounds caught each year. Fish wood cover with live bream. Good size crappie are caught at High Falls Lake by trolling minnows and small jigs in open water this month.


Species: Striped Bass
What To Expect
Ten to fifteen pound stripers are common on Lake Thurmond but 40 pounders are landed every December. The big fish will often be in very shallow water in the winter, chasing baitfish.
How To
Freeline live herring around main lake points and humps. Planer boards will help you get them up close to the bank, big stripers may be in very close and shallow. Also try going up the bigger creeks like Fishing and Soap Creek and Little River and fish the backs of the channels.
Baitfish are the key. Find the schools of bait and stripers will be nearby. Baitfish move up the creeks and back in coves in December and may be all the way in the back and the stripers, even very big ones, will be there, too. Big baits like an eight inch herring is usually best for big stripers, but if they are feeding on smaller herring or shad try smaller baits.
Lake Blue Ridge is the only lake in Georgia with a decent population of smallmouth bass. Fish main lake rocky points with small crankbaits and jig head worms to catch one. Good catches of big largemouth bass at Walter George are caught on the ledges on big crankbaits this time of year.

Farm Ponds and Small Lakes Offer Excellent Fishing

Farm ponds and small lakes offer excellent fishing earlier than other waters

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us from Lee McClellan of the Kentucky DFWR, but the advice applies to farm ponds and small lakes everywhere this spring.

Farm Pond Bass

Farm Pond Bass

FRANKFORT, Ky. – When air temperatures crest the 70-degree mark for the first time in March, anglers swarm reservoirs and state-owned lakes to fish. The warm weather stirs up high expectations, but these anglers often return home frustrated after a fishless day.

These big waters still retain their winter cold and a few days of shirt-sleeve weather doesn’t warm them up enough to get largemouth bass, bluegill or catfish active. They still feel the lethargy of winter.

Farm ponds and small lakes less than 10 acres are the perfect antidote for this situation. Their small size and relatively shallow waters warm up quicker in spring than large reservoirs sprawling over thousands of acres or state-owned lakes several hundred acres in size.

The extended warm front forecasted for this week is the ideal situation to catch the biggest largemouth bass of the year. “A lot of those largemouth bass are moving up into shallow water with these warm temperatures,” said Jeff Crosby, Central Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “If we get a nice warm rain coming up this week, the water temperatures will jump and it will be ‘katy bar the door’. The big gals are moving up right now. It is going to get hot.”

Three days or more of air temperatures warmer than 70 degrees bring largemouth bass into water two feet deep or less, especially after March rains color the water. They nudge their noses right up on the bank and hide in shoreline cover, small cuts in the bank or even among clumps of shoreline grass that extend out into the lake.

Largemouth bass use objects such as stumps, rocks, grass clumps or fallen tree tops as reference points in muddy water, much as humans use objects to navigate a dark room.

Parallel the bank with a brown and orange shallow-running, square-billed crankbait and retrieve it as slowly as the lure allows. A 4-inch green pumpkin-colored lizard rigged weightless with a 3/0-worm hook and crawled slowly along the bottom is deadly in this situation.

A 1/8- or 3/16-ounce black jig paired with a black and blue trailer also excels as does a 4-inch boot-tailed grub in the pumpkin pepper color. These lures work well in both murky and clear water.

Banks that fall off quickly into deeper water are best for fishing a parallel retrieve for largemouth, with the dam face being the paramount choice on small lakes.

March rains that cloud the water also pull largemouth into shallow waters in coves on small lakes and the upper end of farm ponds. Any isolated cover on the shallow flats should be probed with the jig and trailer combination, the lizard or the grub. Cast on the bank and gently pull the lure into the water to avoid spooking fish.

Stealth is vitally important to fooling largemouth bass in water a foot deep. Walk softly, keep low and wear drab colors, even if the water is muddy. Careless anglers who stomp around the shoreline may notice V-shaped wakes heading off toward deeper water formed by largemouth bass spooked from their shallow lairs. These fish won’t bite again for hours.

Bluegill anglers can find great sport in early spring on farm ponds or small lakes. Water clarity dictates how and where to fish.

Murky to muddy water means anglers should fish small in-line spinners or 1-inch white or yellow curly tailed grubs near any available cover. Many farm ponds are simply gouged out bowls in the ground and have little to no fish holding cover. Simply cover water with these lures until a bluegill strikes.

In clear water, fish redworms near cover either on the bottom or suspended under a bobber, threaded on a No. 6 Aberdeen hook. Bottom fishing works best on bright days.

The new soft baits designed for panfish that broadcast scent work extremely well fished on the bottom or to tip a 1/32-ounce yellow feather jig fished near cover and suspended under a bobber.

Prolific breeders, keeping and eating bluegill benefits the pond or small lake and provides a tasty, nutritious meal as well.

Channel catfish move toward the shallow flats of the upper end of a farm pond or small coves in the section farthest from the dam in a small lake during a March warm front. Rains that tint the water with runoff draw huge numbers of catfish into these spots, gorging on worms flushed into the pond or lake.

Nightcrawlers threaded onto a 4/0 circle hook and bottom fished in these areas can lead to some of the fastest catfish action of the year. Dead minnows, chicken livers or commercial prepared stink baits all work for channels in small lakes and farm ponds in murky water or clear.

The warm winds of March are here. Forgo the big lake and hit a small lake or farm pond instead. Remember, the new fishing license year began March 1 and you must now purchase a new one before fishing in 2016.

By Lee McClellan, Kentucky DFWR,