Lake Oconee Fishing Report February 2017

GON Staff | February 1, 2017

Oconee: Level: Full pool. Temp: Low 50s. Clarity: Light to moderate stain.

Bass: Tournament angler Aaron Batson reports, “Bass fishing is fair at Lake Oconee. Early this month, fish will be slow and deeper in the 8- to 10-foot range. Slow-moving baits like shaky heads and jigs will catch them on brush, rock and stumps. Try a 1/2-oz. Greenfish Tackle jig in darker colors. Dipping the trailer in clear JJ’s Magic will help increase the number of bites. Also try a Creeper Head rigged with a Missile Baits Craw or a Missile Baits Fuse Worm in darker colors. Later in the month with warmer temps, fish will begin to eat a moving bait a tad shallower. Target fish in 6 to 8 feet of water. Bandit 300 crankbaits and 3/4-oz. spinnerbaits will catch them. Keep the retrieve fairly slow and steady. Look for bass staging on points headed into creeks.”

Linesides: Very good. Guide Doug Nelms reports, “The live-bait bite will begin this month, and we will transition from spoons to live bait by month’s end. This is really exciting for us because it signals the beginning of our strong big-fish bite that happens every year on Oconee. The colder weather should bunch the bait up again, even though we have had spring-like temps for the month of January. The bait will get knotted up, the gulls will find them, and it will be a brouhaha for fish and fisherman. I love this time of year because I am bouncing back and forth between crappie to stripers, and the break is very much welcomed. This is a great time of the year to throw an A-rig or some type of swimbait, or drop spoons on the bigger fish feeding on the bottom. Begin looking from the Highway 44 bridge all the way down to the dam. They can be anywhere! Already this year we have caught Oconee stripers and hybrids in places that are brand new to me after 15 years of guiding on this lake. The gulls will typically give away where the fish are. Even if they are just sitting on the water and not flying, check it out. How these crazy birds can see 20 feet down into this murky abyss and spot bait just blows my mind, but if you see gulls—flying or sitting—bait is not far away. When you see birds diving, fight the urge to run right into them. Turn your big motor off as soon as possible, troll up to them, and cast from as far away as possible. I think we can get the fish to stay in their feeding patterns if you use a little caution. A 3-inch Sassy Shad on a weighted jig head works very well. Fast winding a small bait through a pod of schooling fish will get a bite every time. Of course I will have a spoon rod in my hand because I believe on most days the bigger fish stay on the bottom, picking up the easy scraps.”

Crappie: Excellent. Guide Doug Nelms reports, “February and March are the two months that I get really busy crappie fishing, and it is almost a guarantee we will boat the biggest Oconee crappie of the year. The days just before and after a big moon—new or full—makes these fish very active. This isn’t the ‘cane pole, bobber up against the bank’ type of crappie fishing. I have fondly termed it as ‘technical crappie fishing’ because I believe the difference in catching big fish or getting blanked are in the tiny, minuscule things an angler will do. First thing is the water is cold, so the bigger fish aren’t as aggressive, which means spider rigging or pushing is the way to present your baits. When I see fish on my Lowrance, I may just sit right on top of them until I get a bite, but 0.5 mph is as fast as you ever want to go. Secondly, you need to have an offering that they can’t resist. Many days, because of the time of the year, the water is really muddy, even beyond Oconee standards. I find that doesn’t bother the crappie so much, as long as the mud isn’t fresh. The old-timers told me it takes about three days after a good rain before the fish really get active. It can still be really muddy, but they don’t seem to mind it. I use 1/24-oz. Jiffy Jigs tipped with a minnow for my offering, and I do believe the color is important. Black/blue, black/purple, The Sexy Red Bug and last year’s new color, Doug Bug, are the four colors I never leave the dock without. J.C. Brantley at Jiffy Jigs will be happy to hook you up with the hottest colors on the lake. My set up—I fish 12 16-foot rods out the front of my boat, with a 1/2-oz. weight to keep the jigs are the right depth. The distance between the lead and jig should be about 12 to 16 inches. The areas we will be targeting are many. Try up the Apalachee and Oconee rivers above 278, Satellite Cove, Junkyard Cove, Lick Creek, Preacher Samples Cove and Rocky Creek. Finally, don’t be afraid to run up into the shallow water in the afternoons, especially if a warm day occurs. On many days we start off in the river channels fishing 12 feet deep, and by 3 o’clock we could be fishing in 3 feet of water with your leads hanging off the tips of your rods. It may be hard to believe, but it happens. I think the females run up into the shallow water and ‘window shop.’ I don’t think they are spawning, but just looking for a suitable place to bed. Now, I am not a biologist, and this may sound like horse feathers, but I have seen this so many times. When you push into an area so shallow and a 2-lb. female rips your crappie rod sideways because that is the only direction she can go. it’ll make a believer out of you too.” Guide Jody Stephens reports, “The crappie move is close! Crappie are staged mostly in channels, but some have moved shallow for a short period with the warm weather stretch we had mid January. Rain and cooler temps have pushed them back out some and made them feed sporadically. I would think that late February or early March will be the time ‘IT’ starts! But that is totally depending on rain and water temps the next few weeks. Fishing Jiffy Jigs in dark colors tipped with a minnow is your best bet. Long-line trolling will begin producing good fish later in February, as well. Use your electronics to find the wads of fish, and hope they’re in the mood to feed.”

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