Lake Oconee Fishing Report – February 2019

GON Staff | January 25, 2019

Oconee: Level: Full pool. Temp: Mid 40s. Clarity: Muddy from both the Oconee and Appalachee rivers down to Lick Creek. Stained from Lick Creek to the dam. Richland Creek is muddy for first 1/2 mile, then stained down to dam.

Bass: GON’s Karl Pingry, a tournament angler, reports, “Brutally slow. Fishing has been tough with the heavy rains and cold fronts. A few fish can be caught on seawalls, rip-rap and docks early and on the sunny afternoons, but you have to work hard to find the bass. Fish the seawalls with flat crankbaits and Shad Raps fished really slow. ChatterBaits, spinnerbaits and redeye shad baits are other choices to have on the deck. Fish the docks with a slow-rolled spinnerbait, jig or shaky head. If you get a bite, stay in the area and really work it thoroughly. Creating a pattern throughout the lake is just not happening at all right now. The other technique to try is a jigging spoon in 15 to 25 feet on the south end. Some of the fish you mark on your graph will be stripers, but any bite is welcome right now—it’s that tough!”

Crappie: Fair. Guide Jody Stephens reports, “This is the month that the long poles (16-foot Wally Marshalls) have been waiting for since last April. We start pushing for these monster crappie on Lake Oconee.” Guide Doug Nelms reports, “On my Ranger 2360 in February, I use 12 rods, 16-footers, and slowly push though the cold, muddy waters of the north end of the lake. We will start catching the big ones if we get some sunny days, and by the time the big moons of March come around, we will be in full combat crappie fishing mode. I have a theory, and it is just a theory, so please no one write me with an argument. On a typical day, we will start up the Apalachee River, Redlands, Windmill or Indian Mounds fishing in about 10 to 12 feet of water, basically in the river channel. On the warm sunny days, the fish will move from that deep water and run up into the shallow flats. Now I think this happens more in March, but if we get the sunny days, it will start in February. You will mark lots of fish on your Humminbird, then suddenly they’re all gone. When they disappear from the deeper water, you have to get out of the river channel and target the flats. I have caught crappie in the month of February in 1 foot of water. I know it is hard to get your head around it, but it does happen. Then when you go back in the morning, those crappie will have moved back into the river channel again. I don’t think they are spawning as much as they are just looking for a place to spawn in the future. I call it window shopping. If there was a radio tracker you could attach to them, I think it would amaze all of us at just how much they move. In one particular spot I have seen the fish move 500 yards in the matter of just a couple of hours. On the business end of the rods, I always us Jiffy Jigs. I will miss talking with the owner and my buddy JC Brantley about crappie fishing this year as he passed away in 2018, but I am happy to say that his son and family have stepped into his big shoes and are working hard at Jiffy Jigs to keep it running like clockwork. My favorite colors are black/blue/black, black/purple/black, and the Sexy Red Bug and the Doug Bug will be on my spread every time I go out. I will have them all tipped with a nice lively minnow, on 6-lb. test line. Even if you don’t use those colors and you have a great idea about a certain color combination, just give them a call. They’re a great company.  One more thing about my set up—I use 1/2-oz. finesse weights to keep the bait down on those windy days. You can probably push with 12-footers or 14s, but I use 16-foot rods because my Ranger 2360 puts off such a large signature in the water. I want the fish to see the bait long before they see my boat. I think that is one reason why the back of the boat is normally the equivalent of fishing in Dubai or the Dead Sea. On the new boat is has a wider deck, so I have added a third Millennium boat seat up front, so three anglers can manger the huge spread of rods and be close enough to each other to talk the occasional smack. When you see it, you’ll know why they call it spider rigging. Water temperature and moon phases are a must to watch this month. I think crappie are the most finicky fish in Oconee, and any kind of weather front or moon phase can immediately change the bite. My prime dates are always three days before or after a new or full moon, and those dates always fill up quick. The mud is always a factor up the river, but there is a rule of thumb about that too. Again a theory… but I don’t think the crappie mind the mud as much as we do, but what they don’t like is a lot of new, fresh water coming into the lake. It normally takes about three days after a rain of an inch or more for the fish to get back in the groove. But if it looks muddy, don’t let that keep you away. Next month we will be in full swing with the long rods, but by the middle to end of this month, the long pole bite will begin and life will be good again.”

Linesides: Guide Doug Nelms reports, “This month is when the fish start getting restless. One day there won’t be anything, then you’ll hear about someone going to the dam and slamming then. You’ll go down there, and poof, where did they go? They’re just restless because I think the days getting longer, the water starts warming a little, and they know its getting close to that time. We are fishing so many methods this month, and I will try to list them all. Live bait is really simple. On 10-lb. test, float a bass shiner 50 to 100 feet behind the boat where you mark fish. The gulls will help you find the fish. If there are gulls sitting on the water, the bait is close by, which means the fish are too. I run about eight lines out the back using Cast-A-Way tackle planer boards, and sometimes I add a small split shot about 6 feet up the line to sink the shiner just a little bit. If fast trolling is your thing, tie on a Mini Mac A-Rig, and get to it. You can buy them at Sugar Creek Marina, and it is a great bait for locating and encouraging stripers to bite, even when they’re not feeding. The reaction to these baits is really something, and they are catching on more and more on Oconee. My favorite way of fishing this time of year is casting to them. I love watching fish blow up on top, chasing bait, and when we find them, there are so many ways to catch them. You can throw a Mini Mac, spoons, plastic swimbait—just about anything that has a smaller profile. The fish will be concentrating on threadfin shad about 3 inches long this time of year, so you don’t wanna toss a 7-inch swimbait into the fray. Remember, elephants eat peanuts. The fish will be all on the south end of the lake, waiting patiently to make their way to the dam to spawn, and there will be a huge group of fish that always hang out just north of Highway 44 Bridge. I think those are the fish that will spawn up the Oconee. Either way, you can’t go wrong striper fishing this month!”

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