Category Archives: Where To Fish

Fishing Lake Hartwell with Matt Justice

A couple years ago, I met Matt Justice at Lake Hartwell to get information and pictures for my October 2016 Map of the Month article in Georgia Outdoor News. Between trips there I often forget it is only a little over two hours away, depending on traffic, and it is a beautiful lake with clear water and full of largemouth and spotted bass.

I left at 3:30 AM to meet Matt at 6:30 AM since I hate to be late. It was a good thing I did. I made it about 40 miles up I 85 north of Atlanta quickly since there was fairly light traffic that time of night. I was surprised at the number of vehicles headed north toward Atlanta, even at 4:00 AM. I guess they were trying to get to work ahead of traffic.

Suddenly I saw blue flashing lights and red tail lights a mile or so ahead of me. As I came to a stop traffic was trying to get to the right lane. When I got close enough a police officer had his car blocking the road and was routing traffic off the interstate.

I followed my GPS and some 18 wheelers through a couple of small towns to the next exit, about 10 miles north, where we got back on the interstate. That added over 30 minutes to my trip. I found out later there was a wreck with fatalities and the interstate was blocked for a long time. I am glad I was able to exit before the accident site.

I met Matt and we started fishing at daylight, casting topwater baits in a shallow cove. Matt caught a solid 2.5 pound largemouth on a topwater frog. The second place we stopped I caught 1.5 pound spot on a topwater plug back in a creek. Topwater fishing is fun and the strike is the most exciting one to me.

After fishing two more shallow areas to put on the map we started hitting main lake points, using topwater baits and drop shot worms to try to catch some spotted bass. Those points are usually good but there was no wind and no power was being generated, so there was no current. That made fishing tough!

On one of the holes, marked #3 on the map but actually the last one we fished, we both caught keeper spots on drop shot worms. But that was it for the day. I was in the car headed home by 10:30, which was great since it got me off the water before it got too hot.

The trip home was uneventful although the traffic was much heavier. But there were not wrecks so I was at home and napping shortly after 2:00PM.

Fish Are Biting On the Alabama River and Clarks Hill

Based on a couple of trips in November, fish are biting on the Alabama River and Clarks Hill. Based on time of year and weather, they are probably biting everywhere in-between too.

I met Peyton McCord and Cole Burdeshaw, two Auburn fishing team members, last Tuesday at Cooters Landing on the river just outside Montgomery to get information for my Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article. They won a team trail tournament there the end of September with ten bass weighing just under 30 pounds. They fish the river a lot, know it well, and are very good bass fishermen.

The River, as it is called locally, runs from the Lake Jordan dams near Wetumpka north of Montgomery for 80 miles to its lock and dam. It is not well known since it does not get the publicity of other nearby lakes. But it is a fantastic fishery.

Coosa spotted bass grow big and fight hard, and the River is full of them. It also has a good population of largemouth. They live in different places, with spots mostly on the main river channel and largemouth back in creeks and coves. Spots love current and live near it.

I stayed in Prattville at a Baymont Inn only 10 minutes from the ramp. Although we fished for only a few hours, we caught some nice spots in the 2.5 to three-pound range. Winter is a great time to fish it since spots are more active in colder water.

Peyton and Cole caught their fish in September on topwater baits, but that bite is about over since the water is cooler. They switch to jerk baits, crankbaits and a jig and pig for winter fishing.

It would be a fun winter trip to the River. There are good places to stay and eat nearby. And the bluff banks and points are easy structure to find and fish when you get on the water.

Last Friday I went to my place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill and fished for three days. On Sunday I met Joshua Rockefeller to get information for my Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article. Joshua is a student at Augusta College and on the fishing team. He grew up in nearby Harlem, only four miles from where I grew up in Dearing.

We put in at Soap Creek on the Savannah River side of the lake. My place is on the Georgia Little River, only 25 miles away by road but almost 60 miles by water. Clarks Hill is a big lake and I know little about that side of it since I have not fished it much.

The pattern Joshua showed me is fishing ditches, creek and ditch channels back in creeks. Bass move back in them as the water gets colder and he told me about the numbers and big fish he had caught out of them in the past few years.

The water was 65 degrees, about the same as it was on the Alabama River. We caught a lot of small keeper largemouth and a few small spots, but the bigger fish have not moved back yet. They will as soon as the water gets down to around 60 degrees.

Joshua fishes jigs, crankbaits and a sled, a jig head with a flat head that makes it stand up and raise the trailer to mimic baitfish feeding on the bottom. I caught several keepers on a Carolina Rig and shaky head, but he landed about twice as many as I did.

Fishing Lake Allatoona with Carter Koza

Carter with Allatoona largeamouth and spot


Bass are biting, if you do the right thing. A couple of trips in the past week proved my point that some people can catch bass, even on the worse possible conditions. On days I think they are just not biting because of one of my excuses for not catching fish, some are catching fish.

For years folks called Lake Allatoona “The Dead Sea!” After a trip a week ago, I won’t ever call it that again. I had a great trip with Carter Koza and his father Jamie Koza, owner of The Dugout, getting information for my February Georgia Outdoor News Magazine https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaOutdoorNews/ Map of the Month article.

Carter caught nine keepers in half day fishing, from 7:30 to 12:30, including a two-pound largemouth and two spots about three pounds each. All hit a Spro Rock Crawler 50 on rocks, the pattern for the article. It was what I consider the worst weather conditions possible for catching fish, first day of a strong cold front. Bright sunny skies. Windy, but that is usually a good thing. The water was very stained, but Carter said that makes for the best winter fishing at Allatoona – cold muddy water is a good thing there!

Carter is a sophomore in high school. Younger fishermen like him amaze me with their skills and knowledge. Cater had a great mentor in his father, and he learned well. He explained patterns, what the bass were doing and eating, and why he chose the bait he used, as well as any pro. His knowledge is better than mine even though I have been tournament fishing for almost 50 years!!

I would like to fish Allatoona more often, but its location up I-75 north of Atlanta means ridiculous traffic, especially pulling a boat. I avoid going inside I-285 whenever possible. Traffic is bad on I-285, but there are fewer bad merging places. The absolutely worse place, unless there is a wreck, is coming south on I-75 where it merges with I-85. I hate pulling a boat through there anytime since you have to change several lanes fairly fast to avoid exit only lanes, and with thick traffic it is dangerous with a boat.

New York’s Finger Lakes Country

A Visit to New York’s Finger Lakes Country
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from the Fishing Wire

Fall is a great time to be in Upstate New York. The cool breezes are blowing off the giant lakes, the leaves are turning, and the yard-long salmon and steelhead are pushing out of the open water and up into the tributary rivers where they provide some amazing action and draw some amazing crowds.

If that’s not enough, 40-inch muskies are coming out of their summer doldrums, and smallmouth bass are stuffing themselves into football proportions prior to getting iced in for the winter.

I had the opportunity to make a brief tour through the area thanks to an invitation from the Western New York Regional Development Council and Buffalo-based Hart Hotels to take a look at a public/private partnership being touted as a way to bring economic development, including recreational fishing and boating jobs as well as tourism, to the less-developed areas of the state. Over a week’s visit, we toured three prime fishing/tourism locations. Today, we have a look at Watkins Glen and the Seneca Lake region, southwest of Syracuse.

Watkins Glen, located on the south end of Seneca Lake, is part of the Finger Lake Country, a bear-claw scratch deep into the rolling hardwood terrain. There are lakes everywhere in this country, and most of them are stiff with fish. I met with guide Mark Moskal here, who operates not only a guide service but also a kayak rental operation on Seneca.

“We depend on visitors here for our income about 8 months a year,” he told me. “When the tourists leave in November, I look for odd jobs until spring—the hotel operation has been huge for us at bringing in more customers.”

Moskal works not only Seneca but also Cuyuga, Owasco, Waneta and Keuka lakes and the streams that feed them, depending on what’s biting where.

“Come at the right time and you can choose between brown and rainbow trout, lake trout, Atlantic salmon, muskies, smallmouth, largemouth and walleye,” says Moskal. “There’s outstanding fishing for all of them within 20 miles of Watkins Glen.”

He said one of his favorite fisheries occurs in October when Atlantic salmon and lunker browns run out of Cuyuga Lake into the Fall River, offering fly-rodders a shot at athletic, leg-long fish in some of the prettiest surroundings of the area, including a 100-foot waterfall that terminates their upstream journey just below the campus of Cornell University.

Muskie fishing is also impressive here—many anglers have fished for them for years without putting one in the boat, but Moskal says if you visit at prime time—late fall—on Lake Waneta, a heavily stocked 3-mile-long impoundment just west of town, you’re highly likely to get at least one fish in for a hero photo, and many are better than 40 inches long, a few over 50 inches.

New York Muskie


Monster muskies like this one are part of the angling action in the Finger Lakes Region, particularly on Lake Waneta, which is heavily stocked with the predatory pike. (Mark Moskal Photo)

“We get most of the fish trolling—we put out a spread of Rapala X-Raps, Williams Wobblers and Evil Eye Spoons, spacing them at 6 feet, 8 feet, 10 feet and 12 feet, and pull them fast enough to bring out a strong vibration. It’s a very dependable way to fish, and it doesn’t require the angler to fling those huge lures for hours.”

He said trolling is also the preferred tactic for lakers in Seneca, which typically hang at 70 feet and more and are reached via downrigger gear–the fish average 5 to 8 pounds, but 15 pounders are possible.

For more, contact Mark Moskal at www.summittostream.com.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel here is a big part of bringing not only anglers and boaters but travelers of all interests to the Finger Lakes. The upscale 104-room hostelry, recently voted one of the top waterfront hotels in the nation by USA Today, sits at the southern tip of Lake Seneca, with al fresco dining overlooking the city harbor. It’s got all the usual amenities including an exercise room, indoor pool and a business center where road warriors will appreciate the jumbo iMac all-in-one computers.

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is the result of a public/private partnership that helped bring the upscale facility to a small upstate town where jobs are at a premium. The result is a great spot for anglers, boaters and tourists to hang their hat, as well as a big boost for the local economy.

The world-class (but pricey) Blue Pointe Restaurant offers an impressive variety–as an old waterfowler, I enjoyed the duck with andouille sausage risotto. The miso glazed salmon was also particularly good, all washed down with some good wine that not too long ago had been inside grapes growing on the surrounding hills—the area is famed as wine country.

Steelhead run into Catherine Creek at Watkins Glen in spring, providing great action for lunker fish in its narrow flow. (Mark Moskal Photo)
The hotel is within walking distance of Mark Moskal’s kayak operation, where you can rent a ‘yak to get out on the lake and have a really good shot at catching some quality smallmouths over 18 inches long, particularly during the spring spawn in May and early June when they move to the flats along the shorelines—soft plastic tubes are one of the favorite lures.

It’s also within a couple long casts of the Barge Canal, which leads spawning steelhead right into Catherine Creek in late March and early April. You can access the creek directly from State Route 14, which runs alongside it south of town for miles. Salmon egg imitations, and the real thing, do most of the damage.

It’s just over a half-mile stroll from spectacular Watkins Glen State Park, a must-see in this area, with 19 waterfalls over its 2-mile, 400-foot plunge through a gorge down to lake level.

The hotel also puts on a jumbo Ice Bar event fund raiser each winter—they carve an entire bar out of block ice, set up on the hotel patio—given the late January date of the event, thawing is not a problem—bring your long johns.

See full Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel details here: https://www.watkinsglenharborhotel.com

Other Attractions at Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen International Raceway is worth a visit if you’re an auto racing fan—many classic races have taken place here over decades. You can actually drive the family vehicle for a few hot laps on the track for a fee—I didn’t think my Pathfinder or my driving skills were up to it.

The western shore of Seneca has one of the densest wine tasting operations in the country—there are about 30 wineries and breweries with tasting facilities on the east shore, over 20 more on the west side, in the 30 plus miles from Watkins Glen to Geneva on the Lake, at the north end. Every winery has a half-dozen or more vintages they will insist you try—YOU NEED A DESIGNATED DRIVER. But that said, it’s a pleasant way to while away a rainy afternoon when you can’t fish—tasting fee is about $6 for a variety of “flights”, and most throw in some great local cheeses, as well. Learn more here: www.senecalakewine.com.

Winter Fishing Tips

Winter Fishing Tips and Tricks from Georgia DNR
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing is good in Georgia in winter


Whether you’re fishing for largemouth bass on Ocmulgee WMA or brown trout in the Chattahoochee River, fishing in the cooler months is relatively the same for any fish species. You’ll want to fish a smaller bait with a slower action. Fish are cold-blooded, so cooler water temperatures make them lethargic. Cooler temperatures will also slow their metabolism so they don’t feed as often or on as large of prey.

Bait and Action

You’ll need to consider the type of bait you will be using. Many food sources available in the spring and summer months aren’t in the winter. Frogs, grasshoppers, and leeches aren’t seen much during winter, so fishing with these lures will be unnatural to the fish. The same goes for fishing stream fish with larger dry flies. For stream fish try using small midge and nymph flies behind split shot weights. Drop them behind strike indicators so you can tell when you get a strike. On lakes and rivers, use lures that resemble crayfish or small baitfish such as minnows and shad. Soft plastics like small plastic worms, skirted jigs, and tube baits can be successful if fished slowly and patiently. The hardest part about fishing with artificial bait in the winter is slowing your action down to a crawl. If you think you are fishing too slow then you’re close to the speed that will get a response from your target. Live bait works well because it will move naturally with the water conditions. Minnows and shad will move slowly and provide their own action same as a nightcrawler or red wriggler. This way you don’t have to worry as much about bait size and action.

Location, location, location!

No matter what you choose to fish with, you have to know where these fish are going to be when the water temperature drops. You can use the perfect bait with marvelous presentation but it wouldn’t matter if you can’t put it in front of a fish. You might have heard of the term “turn over”. This is when the warm water on the surface gets cold in the fall and winter. This water then falls to the bottom and the bottom layer rises to the top “turning over the lake”. After this process, the deeper water will now be warmer than the surface. Fish will hang out in this warmer water in the deeper parts of the lake or pond where you are fishing. Try casting over deep spots where there are changes in the structure of the lake bottom, such as a ledge or hump. Any change in structure along with cover like a dock or weed bed can make great habitat for holding fish. This is where fish finder and hydrographic maps come in real handy. They make it generally easy to find the structure/cover combination you are looking for. Shallow, muddy water can also be a reservoir hotspot as the water warms and attracts baitfish. In streams, look for the deepest and slowest pools that provide slow-moving trout and bass a refuge from floods and predators.

Fishing is a fun pastime that many people enjoy, but it can seem frustrating if you don’t catch anything. These tips will get you closer to fish you’d like to have strike the other end of you line when the weather gets cold and breezy. If you’re looking for new spots or somewhere close to home, the GA DNR has public fishing areas all across the state. You can find your new fishing hole here: http://georgiawildlife.com/allpfas. The Wildlife Resources Division’s weekly fishing blog, https://georgiawildlife.wordpress.com/category/fishing/, is also a great site for timely tips and the latest fishing “hotspots,” even in the cold weather!

Fishing Kentucky’s Drakes Creek

Floating and Fishing Kentucky’s Drakes Creek
From the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
from the Fishing Wire

Map of Drake Creek

Trammel Fork and Middle Fork of Drakes Creek rise in the northern Highland Rim area along the Tennessee border in Allen County. The two forks flow into Warren County where they meet the main stem of Drakes Creek that drains into Barren River near Bowling Green.

The gravel substrate of Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek allows floodwaters to carve holes of varying depths, reminiscent of the world famous blue ribbon smallmouth streams of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks. The Drakes Creek system is vastly different water than smallmouth streams flowing through the limestone sections of Kentucky where the water is rarely over an adult’s head. Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek also hold largemouth bass, spotted bass, rock bass, bluegill and a few muskellunge.

Fisheries personnel with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources routinely see smallmouth bass from 15 to 18 inches long in this system. Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and Drakes Creek also have many riffles that make the paddling interesting, but are easy enough for beginners and families.

Western Kentucky University has a helpful website for paddlers on the Drakes Creek system called the Warren County Blueways at www.wku.edu/blueways. The website features an interactive and printable map with GPS coordinates, locations of put-in and take-out locations, floating mileages and other important information along with links to participating partners. This map corresponds with brown metal markers at the put-in and take-out locations on the river to avoid confusion and also on the map that accompanies this article.

In its journey from its spring-laden headwaters to its confluence with Drakes Creek, Trammel Fork has deep holes, gravelly shoals and riffles that make ideal habitat for smallmouth bass.

The first float on Trammel Fork of Drakes Creek begins near the Warren and Allen County line at the KY 240 Bridge on Woodburn – Allen Springs Road and ends two miles downstream at Boyce – Fairview Road Bridge in Warren County. Limited parking exists at the put-in at the KY 240 Bridge.

Trammel Fork in this section has many long, moderately deep holes interspersed with gravel bars and braided stream drops. This float makes an excellent half-day float for anglers pursuing black bass, rock bass or sunfish.

The second float begins at the Boyce – Fairview Road Bridge and ends five and one-half miles downstream at Romanza Johnson Park on Mt. Lebanon Road in Warren County. This float makes an excellent full-day float for those who plan to fish and half-day float on a straight paddle.

Boaters may put in at the KY 240 Bridge and paddle to Romanza Johnson Park on Mt. Lebanon Road for a seven and one-half mile float. Those who plan to fish should put in early in the morning and plan to take out at dusk on this stretch.

Fly rod anglers interested in smallmouth bass should try the Middle Fork of Drakes Creek. The Middle Fork is much smaller and intimate compared to Trammel Fork and offers excellent opportunity for fly casters to present black deer hair poppers and larger chartreuse cork poppers to woody cover in the flowing shoals and above and below riffles. The top-water bite grows stronger as the days shorten and water cools in September.

Kayak fishing on Drake Creek


Kayaks provide access to miles of good fishing on the forks of Drakes Creek near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Due to its small stature, deadfalls blocking the stream can be a problem on the Middle Fork and may require some portaging, especially after high flow periods.

The put-in for this float is on Goodrum Road in Warren County for a nearly four-mile paddle to the KY 240 Bridge on Woodburn – Allen Springs Road near the community of Drake. Parking for several vehicles and an easy carry down at the Goodrum Road access awaits boaters. However, the KY 240 Bridge access has limited parking and presents a long carry over private property that requires landowner permission. Paddlers can shorten this float to about three miles by putting in at the ford on Duncan Road, also known as White’s Chapel Road.

The next float is on the main stem of Drakes Creek. It begins at the KY 240 Bridge near Drake and concludes roughly five miles later at Romanza Johnson Park. Boaters need to paddle a short distance up Trammel Fork to the park which enters Drakes Creek on the right.

This section of Drakes Creek has many sharp turns that create flowing outside bends that hold smallmouth bass. Target these areas with a 4-inch black double-tailed skirted grub on a 3/16-ounce standup leadhead. Larger smallmouth bass prefer this presentation.

This stretch also features many sandbars slightly under water. Swim a 3-inch green pumpkin-colored curly-tailed grub just over bottom in these areas for smallmouths. Grubs really shine on hot days during low flow periods.

The next float begins at Romanza Johnson Park and ends about six miles downstream at Phil Moore Park in U.S. 231 near Bowling Green. This stretch is perfect for paddlers who want to spend a day on the water without worrying about time or difficulty of paddling. Both of these parks close at dusk.

Drakes Creek widens and deepens in this stretch and the same outside bends hold smallmouth bass, but anglers should also work the woody cover in the slower holes for spotted and largemouth bass. A pearl-colored weightless soft plastic jerkbait draws strikes when slowly worked alongside the submerged wood. A four-inch black finesse worm rigged on a 1/16-ounce leadhead and allowed to slowly fall beside this cover is also a deadly tactic for these fish.

Two take-outs await paddlers at Phil Moore Park. One is on the left just upstream of the U.S. 231 Bridge. Warren County Parks and Recreation installed a concrete pad for paddlers to land boats and gain their footing in current before ascending the steps to the parking area. The other take-out is about one mile downstream around a bend to the left. Look for a small set of concrete steps.

The last float on Drakes Creek begins at Phil Moore Park and ends about five miles downstream at the KY 2629 Bridge on Old Scottsville Road. The KY 2629 Bridge access has extremely limited parking and a long carry. Do not block the farm gates while parking vehicles here.

This section flows much more river-like and holds good numbers of largemouth and spotted bass. Anglers should also target sunken brush and tree tops for surprisingly large bluegill.

This section also holds some large muskellunge that migrate upstream from Barren River. Fish flooded timber with a large black and gold minnow-shaped crankbait for muskellunge.

Paddlers should consult the Drakes Creek near Alvaton, Kentucky gauge on the Kentucky Streamflow page at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website at www.waterdata.gov. For Trammel Fork and Drakes Creek, flows of at least 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) are best for minimal dragging with a 150 cfs minimum for the Middle Fork. Anglers can float these at lower flows, but expect to drag.

The upper stretch of Trammel Fork at the Concord Church Road Bridge and Blankenship Road Bridge in Allen County offers excellent wade fishing for trout at these two Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Voluntary Public Access Sites. Springs feeding Trammel Fork drop the water temperature low enough for trout to survive year-round.

Scottsville and Allen County offer plenty of antiquing for visitors to accompany paddling the Drakes Creek system. Both Allen and Warren counties’ strategic location on the main transportation routes from Louisville to the interior of the South provided much Civil War action in the area.

Scottsville/Allen County Chamber of Commerce:
www.scottsvilleky.info

Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau:
www.visitbgky.com

View a detailed map.

Can I Go Walleye Fishing In Georgia?

Walleye Fishing in Georgia
Georgia DNR

Georgia State Record Walleye


Wes Carlton with his state record 14 lb., 2 oz. walleye from Lake Rabun
Walleye is the most popular sport fish in the northern states and Canada, but it remains a relatively obscure species to most Georgia anglers. With expanding populations and an excellent reputation as table fare, walleyes are gaining the attention of increasing numbers of Georgia anglers. Walleye is a coolwater fish that is native to the Tennessee River and Coosa River Valley systems that flow through the heart of Fannin, Union, and Towns counties in northeast Georgia and in Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties in northwest Georgia. Rivers with Native American names like the Coosawattee, Conasauga, Etowah, Oostanaula, Toccoa, Nottely, and Hiwasee once contained native walleye populations.

Native walleye declined in the state many years ago for a variety of reasons including loss of spawning habitat and overfishing. To rebuild and expand their distribution across North Georgia, a walleye stocking program was initiated in the 1960s. These early stockings were largely unsuccessful in all but a few mountain lakes; therefore, the walleye stocking program ceased in 1968.

During the 1990s, declining numbers of walleye coupled with the rapid expansion of illegally introduced blueback herring sparked a renewed interest in reestablishing the walleye stocking program. In 2002, a fledgling walleye stocking program was reborn in Georgia. Today, eleven lakes receive annual stockings of walleye. These include lakes Seed, Rabun, Tugalo, Yonah and Hartwell in the Savannah River drainage, lakes Chatuge and Blue Ridge in the Tennessee Valley plus Lake Lanier, Carters Lake, and two lakes in the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area.

This guide was written to provide anglers with seasonal information on where, when and how to catch walleye in Georgia. GADNR staff is also available to answer more specific questions. Contact information for walleye lakes in Georgia is provided in the table below.

Lakes Burton, Seed, Rabun, Tugalo, Yonah, Hartwell, Chatuge and Lanier

706/947-1507, 706/947-1502 770/535-5498

Blue Ridge Lake, Carters Lake, and Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area

706/295-6102

Late-Winter / Early-Spring Fishing Tips

By late-winter, the natural instincts of adult walleyes draw the population to the spawning grounds for the annual ritual of laying and fertilizing eggs. Identifying potential spawning areas is critical to angling success from February to April. For most lakes in Georgia, the major walleye spawning areas are in the headwaters in very shallow water with rocky bottoms, like the picture below of a major spawning area in the headwaters of Lake Rabun. Pre-spawn walleye stage in deeper water near the spawning grounds for several weeks while they wait for the water to reach the critical temperature of 48oF to 50oF. No fancy gear or tackle are needed to catch these fish. Simply drifting nightcrawlers slowly along the bottom through these staging areas is the best way to catch prespawn walleye. Walleye are finicky feeders and may prefer small jigs tipped with minnows or a curly tailed grub or even a crankbait, such as a sinking Rapala or Shad Rap. Maintain a slow but steady retrieve as you work these lures across the river bottom. Be patient and stay focused for a light tap or steady tug on the line.

Male walleyes will be the first to reach the spawning grounds in late-February, and they will remain in the area through mid-April. At night, male walleyes will swim into very shallow water with rocky bottoms in hopes of finding a female ready to spawn. During the day, they will retreat to the shelter of nearby deeper water to avoid the bright sunshine. Female walleyes behave much differently than their male counterparts. Females will only move in and out of the spawning grounds for brief periods at night to broadcast their eggs onto the rocky bottoms where they will be fertilized by several males. When her heavy egg sac is emptied, she will leave the spawning grounds for the season. Because of the differences in spawning behavior between male and female walleyes, anglers can expect the bulk of their catch to be males that range in size from 2 to 4 lb. GADNR has been stocking walleye into north Georgia lakes since 2001. This is sufficient time to allow many females to reach trophy size. In fact, GADNR biologists have collected walleye over 12 pounds during the spawning season on some lakes. The state record was caught in February 2016 and weighed 14 lb 2 oz.

From March through early-April, walleyes are easiest to catch in the evening hours when they venture into the shallows of the spawning grounds. In fact, some anglers talk about the “golden hour” right before nightfall as the time when walleyes bite best. Shallow water walleyes are most easily caught using a 3/8 oz jig tipped with a live minnow, nightcrawler, or plastic grub. Shallow running minnow imitations are also effective during the nightly spawning run. Whatever your preference of baits or lures, the presentation is similar. Cast across the rocky structure and make a slow but steady retrieve. The bite is rarely aggressive but feels more like sudden resistance. A slight upward swing of the rod is all that is needed to set the hook. Walleyes in shallow water are easily spooked, so finesse and stealth are critical, even at night. The rocky, shoal areas below the dams at lakes Burton, Seed, Tugalo, and Yonah offer easy bank access for nighttime anglers. Boats are required to reach spawning fish on lakes Tugalo, Hartwell, Lanier, Carters, and Blue Ridge. Use caution when fishing below dams because water levels may rise suddenly. Check water release schedules before your trip.

Late-Spring / Summer Fishing Tips

After the spawning season, walleye return to the main lake to resume their daily ritual of finding food and searching for sheltered resting areas. Because walleye prefer cool water temperatures (65 to 72oF), small schools of walleye will congregate together in deeper water during the summer months where temperatures are more suitable. Walleye orient to structure, especially bottom structure, in their preferred depth zone, only leaving these hiding spots for opportune moments to feed on herring, shad, yellow perch, sunfish, and crayfish. The key to successful walleye fishing in the summer is to determine areas of the lake where walleyes are most likely to congregate. In the mountain lakes, likely congregation areas occur on points and the mouth of coves at target depths that range from 15 to 25-feet in early summer and progressively increase to 30 to 50-feet by summer’s end. During the summer, most walleye can be found on the lower half the lake.

The best presentation for walleye in the late-spring and summer months is a simple nightcrawler that is worked slowly along the bottom near structure. Slow trolling can also be effective under lowlight and nighttime conditions using a weighted bottom bouncer armed with an in-line spinner and tipped with a nightcrawler or lively blueback herring or even deep diving crankbaits in perch, fire tiger and shad color patterns. Long points, humps, and weed beds on the lower end of the lake are the best places to search for summertime walleyes. Structure fishing with finesse and diligence will ultimately be the keys to hooking into some walleyes during the warmer months.

Several reservoirs in north Georgia are summer standouts because of their relatively small size and ease of locating deepwater fish. Lakes with excellent summer walleye fishing include Lake Yonah, Lake Tugalo, and Lake Rabun. The search for summer walleye should begin on the lower one-third of the reservoir in the mouth of coves, on long points, or around any deepwater structure. There is one unusual twist to the traditional summertime, deepwater pattern on these lakes. After heavy rain events, walleyes will frequently move into the shallow headwaters to feed in the fast-flowing, turbid waters. These opportunities are unpredictable but worth taking advantage of when they occur because the walleyes that move into the shallows are generally big and hungry!


Fall Fishing Tips

When the tree leaves turn colors during the cool days of October, walleyes emerge from their deepwater refuge to search the shallows for unsuspecting prey. During the fall, walleye actively feed during low light conditions and throughout the night. The moon phase can also influence walleye fishing success, with the best night time fishing occurring under a full moon. Once again, search the points and adjacent flats on the lower one-third of the reservoir at dawn, dusk or at night for shallow water feeding activity.

Cool weather walleye feed on a wide variety of prey items, including blueback herring, shad, yellow perch, bluegill, minnows, and crayfish. During the fall months, walleye will typically bunch up around downed trees and other structures in 20 to 40-feet of water, especially in the outer bends of the river channel. Anglers should nibble around the edges of these structures with a small jig that is tipped with a minnow or nightcrawler. Trolling with live herring or deep-diving crankbaits is a secondary option at this time of year.

Winter Fishing Tips

From December through February, water temperatures on most north Georgia lakes dip into the mid to low 40s. Cold winter temperatures reduce a fish’s desire to feed. For those brave enough to endure the cold, live baits presented around bottom structure at depths from 30 to 60-feet, especially near the dam, can produce a few strikes. Although winter walleye may be bunched up, they are largely inactive. Patiently dangling a live herring or medium shiner or even a jigging spoon in front of their nose may be sufficient temptation to draw a strike. If one fish is caught or located, you can be sure that others are nearby. The key to successful winter fishing is to work your baits slowly around every nook and cranny of bottom structures.

In late winter, warm rains can concentrate walleye in tributary areas of the lake. Tributary runoff is often a few degrees warmer than the main lake and sometimes more turbid in color. These conditions are favorable to the baitfish that walleye prey upon. Follow the warming water to the bait and you will find the predators, including walleye.

Bluefin Tuna Fishing

Boat-Shy Bluefin Tuna Fishing Off Southern California
By Greg Stotesbury, AFTCO Tackle Sales Manager
from The Fishing Wire

Catch bluefin tuna


The past few years in Southern California we have seen epic runs of bluefin tuna as close as 3 miles off the Southern California bight. The schools of bluefin have been showing up in late spring and staying all the way to December or longer. It’s unusual for this many tuna to migrate into our waters and stay for most of the year, but these welcome visitors, in addition to our usual summer fishery for striped marlin, dorado, yellowfin tuna and yellowtail, have created a “new” and exciting opportunity not seen here since the late 1930’s. Our local Bluefin are tough to catch, but worth the effort and are the best eating of any of our local offshore species.

When the bluefin show in the California bight they can usually be located over the offshore banks and ridges, such as the 43, 182, 289 and San Clemente Island ridge in purple-blue 62 to 68-degree water. One of the keys to locating bluefin is to look for fast moving spots of terns or petrels fluttering over the surface and crashing on bait. Bluefin spend a great amount of time at the surface feeding and “breezing”. Their surface roaming, tight schooling behavior makes them particularly vulnerable to the fleets of purse seine boats from Mexico and San Pedro. By the time these fish reach local waters they have usually been harassed several times by the relentless seiners. This makes them even more boat shy and sensitive to engine noise, generators and sonar pings.

Bluefin are notoriously boat shy and difficult to hook from small private boats with smaller live bait capacities than the bigger party boats. Party boats can chum tremendous amounts of live baits and attract the bluefin to the boat, but smaller private boats must take the baits to the bluefin and use stealth tactics to get their share. This requires some modified techniques to get them to bite consistently.

After locating an area with schools of bluefin showing on top and bird schools working around them, we immediately start glassing with gyro-stabilized binoculars to find the larger spots of fish and birds. This past season you could even watch for “jumpers” (free jumping tuna) in the working bluefin schools and then target the spots with the bigger fish. Our secret to getting the bluefin to bite was to turn off all the sonar units, both up-and-down and side scanning, then position the boat above the direction the fish were working. We would then shut down the motor and wait for the bluefin to get into casting range of our fly-lined sardines and mackerel. Many times, the bluefin would shy away or go down for no apparent reason, but occasionally, the whole school would be crashing bait all around the boat in a virtual frenzy! Even when actively feeding, the super-shy bluefin would only hit a perfectly presented bait that swam as soon as it hit the surface. Bluefin tuna can be the most frustrating fish in the world, but there is nothing like the thrill of the first run of a fat Bluefin hooked on medium tackle on your own boat after a stealthy approach!

Kites have also become super popular for trolling imitation flying fish or squid through the boat shy bluefin, but we find the kite fishing to be many hours of trolling with limited bite windows. Therefore, we prefer the stealth approach with live baits. We have also had success using the kites with live baits while drifting or slow-trolling, but the conditions must be perfect and the fish willing to stay on the surface for the kites and live baits to work consistently.

Our favored Bluefin tackle is a medium-fast action, roller-guided 6.5’ to 8’ live bait rod with the best lever drag 2 speed reel available, spooled with 500 yards of 50- 80lb spectra backing, with a long 50-80lb fluorocarbon top shot. Many of the schools of Tuna run 25-75lbs, but then there are the occasional schools of 80-200-plus giants that require the lever-drag, 2-speed reels to land. You won’t land many of the 100-250lb bruiser-bluefin on the medium gear, but then you’ll never get the bite if you don’t use tackle that can fly-line a live sardine or mackerel. We had several tragedies on big tuna this past season, but we also landed a fair amount of fish to 210lbs on the medium live bait gear. We tried using 100-130lb fluorocarbon leaders, but found we got bit the best using 60-80lb pink-tinted 100% fluorocarbon with a 3/0-5/0 ringed Mutu circle hook to suit the bait size. The circle hooks reduce the bite-offs from the larger sharp-toothed Bluefin, but we still lost some of the bigger models to chewed leader after long fights on the light gear.

Due to their superior quality on the table, we handle the bluefin we catch in a special way. Our AFTCO stain protection fishing shirts help to ensure don’t we ruin our clothes in the process. Ideally, we head gaff the fish to avoid any gaff holes in the precious loins or bellies. We then immediately cut a couple of the gill arches with a pair of poultry shears, then make a small cut at the base of each side of the caudle peduncle (tail) just down to the backbone. Once the gills and tails are cut, we place the tuna head down in a bleed tank of circulating sea water and let the tuna bleed out completely before gut and gilling and slipping them into an insulated fish bag full of ice and saltwater slush. This process insures all your efforts to catch the elusive and boat-shy Bluefin Tuna are rewarded with prime sushi loins and bellies at the end of the day!

Loving Lake Martin

Largemouth I caught while fishing with Michael Ward

Although I grew up on Clarks Hill, have been fishing it all my life and still have a mobile home on a lot at Raysville Boat Club, I think Lake Martin in Alabama is my favorite lake anywhere. Last week I got to spend a day on it with Michael Ward, doing “research” for an Alabama Outdoor News September Map of the Month article.

Martin is a pretty Alabama Power Company lake on the Tallapossa River about 2.5 hours from Griffin. Its clear water is full of spotted bass. I caught my first spot there in 1975 in a Sportsman Club tournament, my first trip to it. I have been going back at least twice a year every year since then.

All three clubs here in Griffin have a two-day tournament there in October each year, so I am not used to fishing it during the summer. Michael suggested we start at 3:45 AM to beat the heat and catch fish. Sounded like a good idea but after fishing lighted docks for two hours with only one bass, it was clear that didn’t work too well.

As the sun came up we tried topwater, still with no bites. But after it got bright and hot we started catching some bass from deep brush piles Michael had placed in the lake. He fishes tournaments every week on Martin and does well in them, partially because he works to create cover for the fish.

The fish hit shaky head worms and jigs during the day, a good pattern on any lake. Those spots fight hard and are fun to catch. We did catch a few largemouth, too, but spots are the dominate species in the lake.

I usually camp at Wind Creek State Park but stayed in a motel in Alexander City on this trip. I prefer camping. It is cheaper and more relaxing but when doing an article, I usually just stay in a motel on my trips since it is somewhat easier, and, after all, these trips are work trips!

Plan a trip to Martin this fall. You will enjoy the scenery even if you don’t go fishing.

Fishing Weiss Lake

When your wife decides everything in the house you have lived in for 37 years is unsatisfactory and plans to renovate it, that is a good time to go to the lake for a couple of weeks. So I did, heading to Lake Weiss for five days and then straight to Clarks Hill for another week.

Unfortunately, work was slow and I came home a week too early!

Weekend before last the Spalding County Sportsman Club held our June tournament at Lake Weiss. Ten members and two guests fished 16 hours in two very hot days to land 45 keeper bass weighing about 80 pounds. There were two five-fish limits and two fishermen did not catch a keeper.

Jay Gerson won with nine bass weighing 14.74 pounds. He had a limit the first day and four the second day. Glenn Anders on brought in six keepers weighing 12.49 pounds for second, my six at 9.74 pounds was third and Raymond English was fourth with eight bass weighing 8.52 pounds. Kwong Yu had a 4.95 pound largemouth for big fish.

I spent two days trying to find a pattern for the tournament. The first day I quickly hooked a keeper on a buzzbait so I thought that would be a good way to start each morning. But then I fished shallow water hard to land only one keeper on a worm in the next three hours of casting buzzbaits and worms.

All afternoon, until a thunderstorm drove me off the lake, I rode open water ledges and points looking for fish. I could see fish on my electronics but could not get them to bite. Fish in open water often just hold in place, not feeding, until current makes them active. There was no current.

Friday morning, I caught a nice keeper up shallow around some grass on a chatterbait but that was my only bite shallow. Again, I rode deep structure and found excellent cover like brush piles and rocks, with fish on them, but got no bites. Since some Weiss bass are known to feed very shallow, even in hot water, and I could not get any bites out deep, I told my partner Chris Davies we would probably fish shallow all day both days.

Saturday morning we started on a rocky bank and within a few minutes I landed a 3.46 pound Coosa spotted bass on a spinnerbait, a good start. That fired me up but in the next hour I missed one bite on a frog and nothing else fishing spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and frogs while Chris tried a variety of baits.

We then fished some docks and I landed a little largemouth on a shaky head worm, so I hoped that was a pattern. Over the next five hours we fished all kinds of shallow cover, and Chris caught five keepers, the only other limit in the tournament, but I never hooked one.

At 1:00 on a windblown rocky bank I landed my third keeper on a spinnerbait. That was it for the day and at weigh-in Chris was in third place with 7.66 pounds and I was in fifth with 5.57 pounds, a very disappointing day. There were two four-pound bass weighed in making my spot third biggest fish, but most with a big fish caught only one or two more to go with it, like me.

Sunday morning, we tried a different starting place, running to some lighted docks, but got no strikes. As it got light we ran way up a creek to some grass beds where I have caught fish in past years but did not get a bite. At 7:30 we fished up a shady bank and I landed a small keeper on a spinnerbait, then on another small grassy point I caught two keepers close together on the spinnerbait.

For the next six hours we tried everything we could think of, fishing different places and a variety of baits, but neither of us ever got another bite.

At weigh-in Jay, after leading the first day, held on to first with his four keepers. But the others ahead of me the first day either zeroed or had one small fish. Glenn moved up from sixth to second with three nice fish and I moved up to third with my three small ones. Raymond moved up from seventh to fourth with four keepers, the most anyone other than Jay caught that day.

You never know what will happen in a tournament, as this shows. That is why I try to never give up until the last cast is made.

I heard the better fish were caught on buzzbits, but Chris and I never got a bite on one. I guess we were fishing the wrong places. I caught only one on a shaky head in two days but Chris caught all five of his on Saturday on one. The fishing was very tough and inconsistent!

Hope you had a great, safe Independence Day and remembered the reasons we celebrate, and kept the military that keeps us free and safe in your thoughts.