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Dredger's Weekly Report - "River and Reservoir Recharge"

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  • Dredger's Weekly Report - "River and Reservoir Recharge"

    Well, we’ve gone from an Arctic Blast to a Midwinter Monsoon. These sure have been tough fishing conditions since Christmas, especially when we pile our cold and flu bouts on top of this crummy north GA weather. Hey, at least last week’s Gwinnett fly fishing show was a lot of fun, with great seminars, good deals for savvy shoppers, and lots of tall tales shared among fishing buddies, old and new. My new buddy is Flagler, who thought nobody here in JoJa would have ever had heard of his own home town, Califon. When I rattled off Shannon’s Fly Shop, the South Branch in the K.L. Gorge, Spruce Run, the Muskie, and Sandy Hook blues, he realized that he had another displaced Yankee in his midst. What a truly nice guy and a great teacher, one who is helping our next generation of angler/conservationist to learn the tricks of the trade. Thank you, Tightlines Tim!

    Now back to our midwinter depressions. Yep, it’s been very tough, and that was simply because of the cold weather. Now we’re starting to pile flash floods on top of them. How tough? Here’s the depressing summary from WRD’s Lanier biologist, Pat Snellings, today:

    Honestly, everything that I've heard has been super slow on Lanier. Stripers have been gorging on dying threadfin and will occasionally eat a medium shiner if you get it right in front of their face. Spots have been holding really tight to cover and been slow as well. Some finesse presentations are working for spots holding tight to brush and you can get one on the occasional spoon.

    That’s the problem, but what’s the solution? I suggest a net, even before wetting your line. Savvy Rabunites always use a net, the INTER-NET, the night before their planned fishing trip. From weather forecast sites like Intellicast, we learn about daily high and low temps, and the timing and volume (inches/hour) of rainfall. From river gauges we can see flow rates, water temperatures, and sometimes even the river itself, if we grab ahold of that remote Hooch Cam in Helen and aim it well:
    Bottom line: using the Internet can help put more fish InYerNet.

    We also have a Plan B ready, in case our favorite rivers are too high, too “YooHoo,” or both (see attached pic of Ami DH at Highway 53 that I took Wednesday (2/7) evening). Those Plan B sites are often small streams like Smith DH and Dukes creek at Smithgall Woods (try getting a no-show slot), small lakes like Vogel,
    or even sheltered reservoir coves, where a high sun hitting muddy water will raise its temperature, attract all of those freezing threadfins, and possibly lure in some spots and stripers for easy shad snacks. Watch those water temperatures and find some warmer water, then you’ll find the fish. As for flies, techniques, etc, consider looking back over your shoulder to the winter intel already provided in past weekly reports, archived here:
    And as we look ahead to spring, realize that those archived reports for springs-past are potential strike indicators for the months ahead of you! Start resupplying your hare’s ears, quill gordons, and march browns soon.

    Finally, in our glass-half-full approach to the rainy weekend ahead, we should realize all the good news bottled up in this muddy water. Consider these ideas:

    § High flows help state and federal hatchery staffs to spread out stocked fish on the DH streams. We’ll often stock more fish on the upper ends of DH streams when we know high water is coming. Instead of big pods bunched up in the few spots accessible to the stocking truck, the fish can distribute into quiet eddies throughout the river. The catching can be more consistent for good anglers, rather than the feast-or-famine deal of heavily stocked pools and nothing between them.
    Hint: Dredger always looks for gradient breaks, and will fish the head of the first nice, flat pool downstream from a long, steep riffle. If that pool begins with a bedrock ledge running across the main current, all the better. He calls these honey holes “flood refuges” and hits the upper half of them hard with (Pats Rubber) legs, eggs, and pheasant tails. Try the refuges on the Ami, Toccoa, and Tooga soon.

    § High flows recharge these rivers, the groundwater, and our hatcheries that depend on adequate water supplies to grow many of your stocked sport fish.

    § High flows give a good “flush” to spawning gravels and clean out the silt and fine sediments that have clogged them during fall’s low flows. That’s good for wild, romantic rainbows in our headwater streams, which will soon start digging redds to cushion their eggs. with_spawning_of_naturalized_populations_of_rainbo w_trout_in_selected_headwater_streams_of_Georgia
    § Rivers usually dump into reservoirs, bringing in nutrients that will help the whole food chain: plankton production, hungry shad, and shad-chasing bass, crappie, and stripers. They also fill up, and we like full lakes with good spawning habitat (flooded vegetation) to produce bumper year-classes of bass, bream and crappie.

    § Muddy water heats up quicker and allows predators to hide in the shallows, where they kick up crawfish and easily ambush unsuspecting shad and bream. Our late, great Lake Lanier biologist, the legendary Reggie Weaver, would talk about his youthful jigpoling days on Tennessee lakes. This month, take Reggie’s jigging techniques and cruise the muddy shorelines of small lakes and big reservoirs near you.

    Enough of the hot-stove league conversations. Let’s get to the latest fishing reports by Georgia’s hearty winter souls.

    · Dukes Trophy

    · Toccoa DH
    o Report 1:

    o Report 2 (Jan 24)
    Hey Dredger!

    Just touching base
    Hope the rendezvous went well!
    We all planned to head up to the rendezvous last weekend but had a fellow fish junkie spend the weekend: My son’s old friend Gabe, who I helped raise for many yrs. He took a hand at tying some flies and whipping up some leaders for fly fishing Sunday. We even scraped up a set of old waders!

    Got an early start Sunday morning and all three of us were fishing by 10ish at the Toccoa DH. Weather was incredible and the water temp was warmer as well...according to my toes. Fish were landed! Legs and eggs of course😃. Gabe is a tournament bass fisherman but picked up the DFD quickly and after the first rainbow....he learned to reflexively set the hook at the slightest change in drift. Water visibility was very good and I literally saw pods of trout moving in the river!
    I think all together we landed close to 20 fish! I Hooked into another whopper and got a good look at him.....then my tippet broke...😝 We had a ball and it just never never gets old!
    I also saw some little black stoneflies coming off...
    Most bites were the pink, yellow, apricot, pink Ok all colors. Took several on olive rubber leg. Hope all is well
    - Boston Steve

    · Toccoa Tailwater

    · Smith DH
    This small stream is always a great Plan B for those times when heavy rains blow out our intended targets, the big rivers. This week I watched NGTO’s “Stinkbait” catch and release a handful of rainbows and a nice brookie from one honey hole while Euronymphing with his favorite, tiny midge pattern, suspended just above a heavy anchor fly. Not bad for just 30 minutes of effort!

    · Ami DH Catches and Cautions

    · Winter Trout Stockings
    Our larger fish have just about outgrown their homes, so we’ll be stocking some this month to a) allow the rest of the spring catchables to grow and to b) make room for small fingerlings (the 2019 crop of fish) coming from our egg hatching houses at Summerville Hatchery and Chattahoochee Forest National Hatchery. Keep your eyes peeled each Friday for updates at that last blue bullet, here:

    · Lanier Yakking Trophies

    · Lanier Bass
    Water Temp - 46 degrees
    Water Level - 3.4 feet below full pool

    This report brought to you by: Jimbo Mathley - Jimbo on Lanier

    Well the conditions on the lake are changing! The rain we have been receiving has jumped the lake up nearly a foot and a half over the past week or so. The backs of the major creeks are heavy stained to muddy, and the main lake below Brown's Bridge is still clear. The waters above Brown's Bridge seem to be carrying more of a stain. The water temps are still pretty cold, but it looks we have some more seasonal, stable temperatures heading our way with no major cold spells on tap. This should help get the fish moving in their pre-spawn patterns in the next few weeks. I was out on vacation last week, but back on the water this week. The fish still seem to be mostly in a winter pattern. Our fish this week have been coming deep. The timber edges in and around 30- 40 feet have been productive with a Picasso Shake Down Head and worm combo. We have been dropping directly on the fish we are seeing on the Lowrance electronics. Casting in these areas can also be effective, but the drop down has been best, targeting specific fish we see on the graph. A drop shot is also working on these deeper fish - I have been favoring minnow imitations lately, like a fluke. The spoon bite is still there on some days as well, so make sure to keep that in your arsenal and ready for action. It just depends on the day, so be flexible in your choices. The steeper rock points and banks on the main lake and in the creeks have been productive at times also. The Picasso Shake Down head/green pumpkin worm combo along with a Chattahoochee Jig have done well in these areas. We have been presenting these baits very slowly in these steep rock areas. Look for the fish to be shallower in these areas on sunny days, and deeper on cloudy days. When the wind is up, try your SPRO Little John DD on the rocks as well for some fish. Don't expect a lot of bites, but some good ones. Don't miss the opportunity to throw a SuperSpin in the same places as well. Also of interest, in the afternoons of sunny days, we have found some biting fish in smaller, shorter pockets close to deep water. These fish have been in 15-25 feet and often around docks. Look for the areas that are protected from a north wind and get lots of sun. This pattern is just like an early spring pattern, so think in those terms as you pursue it. Sun and warming water is the key. It's still a great time to learn the deep winter bite and really learn the keys to catching fish when the bite is tougher. While the catch rates for trips this time of year is not as good as others, I believe the learning opportunities are at their best right now. And don't forget, that fun pre-spawn bite is just around the corner, so reserve your date now! Following is a list of my upcoming open February: 12, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28. Give me a call and let's get out and learn these deep winter fish as well as the early pre-spawn bite!

    Thanks to all and May God Bless!

    Jim "JIMBO" Mathley
    Spotted Bass Fishing Guide - Lake Lanier
    Mobile - 770-542-7764

    · Lanier Crappie
    Crappie Fishing Report February 8, 2018

    This Lake Lanier Crappie report is from Dan Saknini, member of the Lanier Crappie Angler’s Club. See our club’s website,

    Currently, the water temperature is 44 degrees, and a couple degrees lower in backs of creeks. The last several weeks, we have not had anything positive to report. To the die-hard fishermen that braved the conditions, fished during this time and boated 10-15 respectable-sized crappie, you should pat yourself on the back and high-five your fishing partner! We looked at previous years’ fishing reports to compare. There is a reason why we nickname our catches this time of year “cold water crappie”. Our average water temps in past years at this time have been 47 to 48 degrees, which is significantly higher than our current water temps of 42 to 44 degrees. Unlike previous years where the fish are suspended at 15 to 30 foot depths, this year the fish were well below thirty foot depths. This pattern was out of our comfort zone. However, I am making a bold statement, and hopefully won’t have to eat my words next week. But I believe crappie fishing is going to return to normal quickly, starting in the next few days. How can we make a statement like that? We look at water temperature and overnight lows. Over the next week, our nightly low termps will be close to and well above 50 degrees. The rain on warmer days will cause the stain to creep from the backs of creeks. As it spreads, it will cause the water to be moderately stained into the middle and toward the mouths of the creeks, and combined with warmer days, should raise the water temps quickly. For the last few weeks, our bait and our crappie have been held hostage in deeper water. The bait is going to move quickly to shallower water, and the crappie will follow. They need to eat to prepare for the spring spawn. If you notice bait and roaming fish nearby, tie a road runner to your line and fan cast toward them. You may need to experiment with the depth. My plan is to fish multiple times next week. My first trip will be to observe, hit as many pockets as I can, and look for a pattern. The fish may be roaming. Or they may be on stand-alone brush piles. They may be on docks, or on brush piles near docks. My second and third trips will become easier and easier. One helpful tip: use darker jigs in stained water. In moderate to light stain in the mouths of creeks, use lighter colors. Just experiment. If your fishing partner is using one color, be sure to use a different one until you figure out what they want. Also, don’t use any line heavier than 4 pound test. I use 2 pound test all year long. In summary, we can feel the bite coming on, so go out and enjoy! Stay safe on the water and wear your life jacket!

    · Captain Mack’s Lanier Reports

    · River Bass
    WRD Fisheries staff captured and released this chunky spotted (Alabama) bass on the Coosawattee River below the Re-Regulation Dam at Carters Lake on Tuesday. Weighing a solid four pounds, it may not be the heaviest spot we’ve ever seen, but it’s doubtful we’ve seen them much fatter! We saw many other spotted bass in this section of river, along with plenty of largemouth, and even a few stripers, hybrids, and catfish. All these game species were most abundant in the section of river just below the dam. Access to this section is easy, thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers who maintain fishing platforms on both sides of the river. Recent rains and resulting high water may make fishing difficult for now, but anglers looking to catch a few fat pre-spawn river bass this spring should keep this spot in mind when flows return to normal. Get the latest flow data for the Coosawattee River from the USGS at:

    - John Damer
    Fisheries Biologist
    Wildlife Resources Division, Armuchee
    (706) 295-6102

    · Ken’s Reservoir Reports
    Fresh on Fridays:

    · Retirement is Good!
    What do you do after retiring from the GA State Parks Division? Fish, of course! Enjoy the photo of retired Parks Chief of Operations Wally Woods, who evidently is putting a licking on gulf seatrout and reds. Congrats Wally!

    · The Walleye Countdown Begins
    Interesting conversation here, just in time for late February walleye stirrings across north Georgia:
    Anthony’s Intel here:
    · $10,000 Lanier Striper Bounty is Back

    · Hooch Bucket Brigade- Feb 19
    Gainesville fisheries staff will hold their annual Presidents Day bucket stocking at Whitewater Creek access site on February 19, 2018. The stocking truck should be arriving at 10:00 AM and this is a great time to bring your kids to stock trout and then hook a few on rod a reel afterwards. We encourage everyone that wishes to participate to bring waders or rubber boots and a five-gallon bucket. We look forward to seeing you all there!

    To preregister for the event please click the following link.

    For directions to the parking lot

    EP 28 on the National Park Service Map

    Pat Snellings, fisheries biologist
    WRD- Gainesville

    · Flyfishing 101
    Here are some great tips by a local expert to get a neophyte started in the sport:

    · Trophy Trouting Tip
    This is why you tie or buy more than one of those hot fly or lure patterns. Always, always throw toward those logjams! While one may end up stuck in the wood, another may end of in the lip of a trophy!

    · Your Used Reels for Kids
    Sure, convince yourself you NEED that new reel for spring lunkers. Bring in a used one to Bass Pro Shops during their Spring Classic and get a coupon on your purchase. More importantly, BPS offers us (WRD) some of your used reels, and we put them in the hands of TU repairmen (thanks Rabunite Ray!), who deliver free reels to scouts and school groups. Now there’s a recycling program that we can all be proud of!

    · Nature Heals
    Finally, as we all struggle with foul weekend weather, colds and flu, and tight-lipped fish because of cold water, let’s put our woes in proper perspective and remember how good we have it here in north Georgia. We have wonderful opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. Nature heals, after all. It heals us from sickness, heartache, and despair. It gives us hope to last through another long work week just for that weekend rematch with the trophy we lost last month. It gives us great joy. Take a look here at Captain Mack and other real sportsmen and women who truly enjoy nature. With their reminders of the blessings of nature, maybe we can all “weather” this second half of winter together, with renewed spirit and hope.

    Maybe some of you will also choose to help with the “Nature Heals” campaign, too! From cash to a boat ride, your north Georgia opportunities to help fellow sportsmen and women abound:
    (see calendar of events)

    There, do you feel a bit better now? Is your fishing fever slightly recharged? Good luck dodging high water and cold fronts to go fish Georgia, as winter hopefully heads toward its finish line. As always, thanks for buying your fishing licenses and Trout Unlimited license plates.
    May our Tamiflu work wonders and get us back into our waders and bass boats soon!

    Jeff Durniak
    North Georgia Region Fisheries Supervisor

    Wildlife Resources Division

    Want to Help Ease DNR's Budget Woes? Buy a TU license Plate!