Southeast Georgia Fishing Reports With Capt. Bert Deener – May 12, 2023

Timely info on where and how to catch fish on various rivers and waters of southeast Georgia.

Capt. Bert Deener | May 12, 2023

Jake Duncan, of Brunswick, with a big bowfin from the Okefenokee Swamp.

This is a great weekend to hitch up the boat. The rivers are falling to fishable levels, the Swamp is firing on all cylinders and saltwater is beginning to warm up (and tidal heights are better this weekend). It’s time to go!

Alapaha River: The river dropped out last week, and reports have been great. I had a couple of reports of excellent redbreast catches from the middle river, and then Stan Rhodes sent in a photo of a cooler of beautiful redbreasts he and some friends caught in the upper river. They caught 67 panfish (mostly redbreasts but also some bluegill, warmouth and crappie) on bumblebee and crawfish Satilla Spins, crickets and crawfish. Take note that the Highway 129 Bridge boat ramp will be closed beginning May 22. It will be closed for a couple of months while the ramp and parking area are rebuilt.

Altamaha River: Jamie Hodge had the best panfish report I heard of this week. He caught 30 panfish (bluegill, warmouth, shellcrackers) on Friday in the Altamaha backwaters. Pink worms and catalpa worms fooled them. The river is still a little off-color, but it’s fishable. Fish better learn to eat in muddy water in that river system or they would starve to death. I heard of a couple decent reports of four to 20 bass per trip from the Ocmulgee this week. Most were caught with crankbaits or Texas-rigged worms. Some bass are still spawning in the backwaters, so look for activity near the edges and cast to the disturbance. 

Satilla River: The river dropped out a bunch this week, and folks started catching panfish. The water is still slightly stained, but it’s getting right in the upper river. This is a great weekend to try for panfish. The level should be high enough to be able to poke around in a boat and only have to get out and drag a little bit. The water is warming enough that the fish should bite well. I got reports of some decent redbreast catches, but nothing more than about 20 to 25 fish per trip so far. I expect the reports to be much better in next week’s report. 

Savannah River: Tyler Finch tried for panfish this weekend, but it just wasn’t happening. The fluctuating water levels had the fish in flux! A few catfish was all he could muster. 

St. Marys River: The river is still in great shape, and catches have reflected it. Brentz McGhin and Tim Bonvechio had a great day on Saturday. They fished crickets and Beetle Spins to catch several-dozen redbreasts, bluegill and warmouth. The couple dozen fish they kept were all bigger than hand-sized. Matt Rouse walked the upper St. Marys bank for a short time on Wednesday and got a few decent crappie to hit a plastic crawfish lure. Shady Bream Tournaments held a Thursday evening “working man tournament” last Thursday evening and had nine boats participate. Daniel and Darwin won first place (6.74 pounds) and big fish (0.9 pounds). They will be holding a co-ed tournament on May 27, so check out Shady Bream Tournaments on Facebook for more details.

Okefenokee Swamp: Warmouth fishing was mediocre from the reports I received (around a dozen per trip for those targeting them), but the pickerel and bowfin bites have been excellent. Jim Spencer came up from south Florida to meet his friends Tersh and Michael from Charleston to fish the east side on Friday and Saturday. The crew had about 40 pickerel (jackfish), 20 bowfin and a few fliers and gar. They fished the canals and prairie lakes with fly and spinning gear. Most of their jackfish were in the 12- to 18-inch range. Yellow/white, red/yellow and white/chartreuse Clouser minnows were the top flies. He was trying to reclaim his 8-lb. tippet world record from 2010 but fell just shy. His biggest was a 28-incher that he thought would be big enough, but it was only about 8 pounds on his certified scale. He and his buddies flung white-olive, chartreuse, and pink Mepps spinners and jackfish Dura-Spins for some of their fish. Chuck Dean and Jake Duncan trolled and cast fire tiger-silver blade, jackfish and black/chartreuse Dura-Spins on the east side Saturday morning until noon and landed 40 fish (including four pickerel). Most were bowfin, and their biggest was 9-lbs., 2-ozs. Marcus and Anna Lloyd fished the east side on Sunday and caught 53 bowfin. Their biggest was 3 pounds, and they caught them with white-red and firetiger-chartreuse blade Dura-Spins. The latest water level (Folkston side) was 120.30 feet. The creeks that feed into the swamp along Swamp Road and down Highway 84 toward Homerville produce some good catfishing when they drop out. Shane Barber fished off the bank in one of the creeks this week and brought home 30 bullhead catfish. He fooled them with crawfish, shrimp and worms.

Local Ponds: A Brunswick angler fished for two hours in a Brunswick pond on Friday morning and caught 10 bass and lost another half-dozen fish. His biggest five fish weighed 20 pounds. Crankbaits (shad-colored) worked best for him. The fish are feeding up in a strong postspawn mode. Chad Lee fished some Alma area ponds this weekend and landed more than 40 bass. Most were in the 2- to 3-lb. range. Senkos, hollow-bodied frogs, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits fooled them. Jay Turner fished a Savannah area pond and caught a few channel catfish on a white Gulp Minnow pegged on a Zombie Eye Jighead and some smaller bass on a green-pumpkin frog Keitech Noisy Flapper. Later in the weekend, he fished another pond and caught some nice bass up to 4 pounds on the same Keitech topwater and then switched to a mullet-colored Paul Brown Softdine XL and caught a dozen nice bass up to 5 pounds. 

Steve Hampton, of Waycross, caught this 14-inch flounder from the Jekyll Island pier on Wednesday while flinging a Hoodwink plastic.

Saltwater (GA Coast):  Capt. Tim Cutting ( had some great trips this week. He smashed the trout on Tuesday with live shrimp under floats set 6 to 10 feet deep. They kept 24 trout that day. On Thursday morning, they fooled a bunch of trout with mullet-colored paddletails rigged on Zombie Eye Jigheads and gold flake DOA shrimp in 6 to 12 feet of water. They had a limit of trout in less than two hours with those lures. They also had a handful of oversized redfish in the 24- to 27-inch range this week mixed in their catch. Whiting fishing has been consistent but not off the chain. The best bite has been around low water in the 18 feet range in the rivers. The beach and sounds have been too rough with the winds. He suggested going this weekend before the water warms and the “other” fish arrive (sharks, croakers, stingrays, catfish, etc.). An angler fishing the Brunswick area on Saturday reported catching a limit of sheepshead on fiddlers. His fish were up to about 13 inches. Steve Hampton fished the Jekyll Island Pier on Wednesday, and he had the only two keepers caught on the inside of the pier. He fooled a 14-inch flounder and a 17-inch trout with a Hoodwink plastic (flounder with a white and the trout with a chartreuse color). For some current flounder information from the piers, check out Flat Fish Fanatics on Facebook. Tommy Sweeney had some good trout catches this week in the waterways behind Jekyll and Cumberland Islands. He caught them with Keitech swimbaits rigged on 1/8-oz. Zombie Eye Jigheads. Capt. Greg Hildreth ( had some good charters this week and caught a bunch of trout. He said that the water is improving coming off last week’s big tides, and the trout have responded. All of his fish were caught with live shrimp suspended under a Harper’s Super Striker Float in 4 to 6 feet of water. For the latest fishing information or live shrimp in the Brunswick area, check with J&P Bait and Tackle on Hwy 303 (912.282.9705). 

Keaton Beach/Steinhatchee, Florida: Capt. Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service ( out of Keaton Beach said that the trout bite has been great despite the wind some days. For the most part, the big oversized trout are shallow, while the slot fish seem to have moved out some. They had trips where they didn’t catch a keeper for four hours then limited out in the last hour of high tide. The neatest story was that he had a client catch a personal best 26-inch trout (released it) and then his partner followed it up with a 23 1/2-inch trout (it was their personal best and they released it) and THEN followed that fish with a 29-inch personal best redfish. On Sunday, his charter released three trout over 21 inches on three consecutive casts. Most of the fish have come on live pinfish under Back Bay Thunder Floats, but some keepers were fooled with northern minnow-colored Assassin 5-inch shads under the original Cajun Thunder Floats or on violet moon, Laguna shrimp, and golden bream patterns bounced on a 1/8-oz. jig head. They had a short cobia on his charter Tuesday, but anglers targeting them caught them. Capt. Evan Snow of Apalachee Inshore Charters had a 55-pounder earlier in the week. Capt. Kenny Mullins of Epic Charters landed three cobia on Tuesday. 

New moon is May 19th. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website ( For the latest marine forecast, check out

River gages on May 11, 2023 were:

Clyo on the Savannah River – 5.2 feet and rising

Abbeville on the Ocmulgee – 6.1 feet and falling   

Doctortown on the Altamaha – 8.7 feet and falling

Waycross on the Satilla – 6.7 feet and falling

Atkinson on the Satilla – 9.1 feet and falling

Macclenny on the St Marys – 2.1 feet and rising

Fargo on the Suwannee – 2.1 feet and steady

Capt. Bert Deener makes a variety of both fresh and saltwater fishing lures. Check his lures out at Bert’s Jigs and Things on Facebook. For a copy of his latest catalog, call him at 912.288.3022 or e-mail him at [email protected].  

Capt. Bert Deener fishes all over southeast Georgia and is very connected with the fishing community.

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