Southeast Georgia Fishing Reports With Capt. Bert Deener – May 17, 2024

Capt. Bert Deener | May 17, 2024

A red/white-silver blade Dura-Spin fooled this 8-lb., 10-oz. bowfin in the Okefenokee Swamp for Mickie Smallwood, of Senoia.

Fishing has been hit-and-miss with the rains scattered unevenly around the different basins. Some of the “hits” were very good catches!

There is a fishing regulations virtual meeting coming up to discuss potential changes in the black bass regulations in Georgia. It will be held May 21 at 7 p.m., and you can find out more information at WRD Seeks Input On Proposed Bass Regulation Changes.

The meeting will be live via Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Facebook page.

Altamaha River: Jamie Hodge had a GREAT panfish trip on Wednesday in the backwaters. He had some big shellcracker and bluegill on catalpa worms. The lower river backwaters are where I would spend my time this weekend.   

Ogeechee River: Mark Vick and a buddy fished the river Friday after the rains moved through and did well. They caught a bunch of fish and only kept 13 of the biggest redbreast. They fooled their big fish with poppers and Satilla Spins (crawfish was best for the big fish).

Satilla River: The annual Satilla Riverkeeper fishing tournament wrapped up this week, and there were some really good fish entered. Ronald Murray caught the biggest redbreast (11.25 inches) and the biggest three-fish stringer. Gilbert Ellis, Jr. won the panfish category with a 13.5-inch crappie. Craig James entered the longest largemouth bass at 18.37 inches. For additional details, check out the Satilla River Facebook page.

The river has gone way up after this last round of rain, so plan to fish elsewhere this week.

Okefenokee Swamp: I had a couple of good trips this week on the east side of the swamp. Brent and Mickie Smallwood fished with me Saturday, and we caught 21 fish total. We didn’t catch any pickerel that trip but had 17 bowfin, including a couple over 5 pounds, and Mickie’s largest that weighed 8-lbs., 10-ozs. We also caught four fliers up to 7 inches on pink Sallies under a small balsa float. Crawfish-brass blade and red/white-silver blade were the best color Dura-Spins. We saw three big owls during the trip.

Trey Evans fished with me on Wednesday morning with the goal of learning the ropes of swamp fishing so that he could take his family in the future. We had a blast and started the day listening to gators bellowing all over the place for the first hour. Pitching catalpa-colored Sallies worked for four of the little panfish up to 8 inches before we switched to targeting big fish. We ended up with a total of 19 fish, including a 7-lb., 13-oz. bowfin and several pickerel up to 18 inches. Trolling Dura-Spins worked best, but we also caught a couple fish casting the spinners. Lemon-lime, firetiger-chartreuse blade and red-white-silver blade were the top producers.

Urs Ramel and a buddy fished the east side Sunday and Monday and caught some nice bowfin up to 4 pounds and a few gar. Their biggest bowfin and gar were caught with a crawfish-brass blade Dura-Spin. They were soaked to the bone but had a great time. The warmouth bite has not really picked up as fast as I thought it would. Every time it gets about right, we get a couple inches of rain that spreads them back out into the prairies. The most recent water level (Folkston side) was 121.22 feet.   

Dodge County Public Fishing Area (near Eastman): Ken Burke has had a great couple trips to the area this week. One trip produced eight bass that weighed just under 20 pounds. His biggest that morning was 4.5 pounds. His best five fish weighed about 14 pounds. All of those fish ate crankbaits. His best trip produced 21 bass weighing 45 pounds in five hours of fishing. His biggest was 4.5 pounds. All of his fish ate crankbaits, and they ate three different models. The fish were shallow (5 feet or less) that morning.

Local Ponds: Brantley Wester fished with me on Friday at a Waycross area pond, and we put it on the bluegill. We ended up catching 78 fish total, including a crappie, bass, shellcracker and a few redbreast, with the rest being bluegill. The biggest bluegill was a little over 10 inches. About half the fish ate Satilla Spins (stumpknocker and copperfield were best), and the other half ate white and bumblebee Super Sallies (looks like an Okefenokee Swamp Sally but has rubber legs, as well).

Tripp, Charlotte and Waylon fished a Guyton area pond Saturday with black/chartreuse Bert’s Bugs and whacked the big bluegill, shellcracker and small bass.

Joshua Barber fished a Waycross area pond on Saturday from his kayak and fooled a dozen crappie, 10 bass, 10 panfish, a few bowfin and a big jackfish. The jack fought him for several minutes on his ultralight tackle. Live minnows worked best for him.

Capt. Cason Kinstle had fun this week watching fish blast Zara Spooks. He and his family caught several species on the topwater lure.

Teddy Elrod and a friend fished a Brunswick area pond on Thursday evening and had a good trip for bass. They ended up with 15 bass up to 4 pounds and a few catfish. All of their fish ate mid-depth crankbaits (shad colors).

Jimmy Zinker kept up his assault on nighttime bass. Sunday night he had a double-digit double-header. The first one was a giant 10-lb., 6-oz. bass that inhaled his Jitterbug at 1:30 in the morning. Just 15 minutes later, he had a bite from a couple-hundred pounder…of the lizard variety… and lost his lure. On Wednesday night, he had six bass between 4 and 5 1/2 pounds on his custom Jitterbug.

BJ Hilton sent me a photo of a GIANT bluegill that he caught in a Brunswick area pond. The fish was over 12 inches and probably weighed close to 2 pounds. Bluegill fishing is wide open right now in ponds.

Saltwater (GA Coast): Tommy Sweeney and Nick Atwell braved the rain and winds this week and fished the Brunswick area. Nick caught his biggest trout on the east coast during the trip. He fooled a 20-incher with a Vudu Shrimp.

On Monday a local charter caught 16 keeper trout on Berkley Power Baits rigged on Zombi Eye jig heads. On Tuesday, the same charter caught a mixed bag of nine trout, four reds and two flounder on live shrimp under a Harper Super Striker Float. Wednesday was a tougher bite, but they still had eight reds, a black drum, a trout and a flounder for their bag. They also had two oversized redfish. On Thursday, the trout bit well again, as they caught 12 keepers up to 22 inches, five slot redfish (including a tagged redfish) and two oversized reds. Water temps are around 80 degrees in several places, and there are a lot of baitfish around.

Wat-a-melon Bait and Tackle in Brunswick is open Friday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. each week. They have plenty of lively shrimp and fiddler crabs and also have live worms and crickets for freshwater. They’re on Highway 303 just north of Highway 82. For the latest information, contact them at 912.223-1379.

Keaton Beach/Steinhatchee, Florida: Capt. Pat McGriff of One More Cast Guide Service out of Keaton Beach had some good catches recently. On one trip his folks caught their trout limit on live pinfish under Back Bay Thunder Floats. The next day the trout bite was slower with Bill Cochran, Zim Johnson and Mark Binion, but they had a great redfish bite. They started their trip out in 5 to 7 feet and caught some trout bouncing stinky pink and pink ghost Assassin 5-inch shads and also live pinfish under Back Bay Thunder Floats. They only caught a few, so they moved in close to the hill when the tide was right and busted the redfish on the grassline and shell bars. They caught 15 reds (kept three) in the 20-knot-plus winds. On the way in they stopped at another spot in 4 to 5 feet and fooled a few big trout up to 21 inches.

Full moon is May 23. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website. For the latest marine forecast, check out

River gages on May 16, 2024 were:
Clyo on the Savannah River – 11.3 feet and rising
Abbeville on the Ocmulgee – 6.8 feet and falling
Doctortown on the Altamaha – 9.2 feet and cresting
Waycross on the Satilla – 14.3 feet and rising
Atkinson on the Satilla – 9.5 feet and rising
Statenville on the Alapaha – 12.7 feet and rising
Macclenny on the St Marys – 4.2 feet and falling
Fargo on the Suwannee – 9.1 feet and rising

Capt. Bert Deener guides fishing trips in the Okefenokee Swamp and other southeast Georgia systems and 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 email him at [email protected].

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  1. SVP on May 19, 2024 at 5:05 pm

    It would be nice to see a Canoochee or Ohoopee report too.

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