Bustin’ Bream At Dodge PFA

In a boat or from the bank, the bream are biting in May.

John Trussell | May 1, 2008

Well known for its ability to produce large bass, Dodge PFA near Eastman is also a standout for brilliantly colored, pan-sized bream. On April 10, 2008, I made a trip to Lake Bell, the 104-acre lake at the PFA, to catch the beginning of the prime season for bream which normally runs from April to June when the bream spawn. However, as I was unloading the boat, something unusual caught my eye. Fishing from the public dock was hot!

I noticed one or two nice bream being pulled in, then a few more, so I thought I had better check this action out. A quick assessment revealed that 25 anglers on and around the dock were having good success with the bream, primarily bluegills with a few shellcrackers mixed in. Small to medium hand-sized bream were dominant, but there were plenty of 1-lb. bream making their way to the fish stringer.

Clyde Blankenship, a retiree from Milan, had staked out the bank near the rocky outcropping on the west side of the dock with his lawn chair and his buddy Jackie Ashley. He was tightlining his live bait, red wigglers, on the bottom in about 7 feet of water. When he saw the rod tip twitching, he would start watching intently but wouldn’t react until a noticeable bend appeared in the rod tip. He had about 10 bream in his wire fish basket and considers Dodge PFA a great place to fish.

On the dock, all the anglers seemed to be sharing in the good fishing action.

Bobbie Jones, 73, said, “Take my picture, I want to be on the front cover of Vogue Magazine” which made me chuckle. I said I didn’t have any connections at Vogue but might be able to get her name in Georgia Outdoor News, and she said that would be great, too. She was fishing with Rudy Oliver and Ruth Garrison, and they had squatters rights to the west end of the dock. They used closed-faced spin tackle rigged with light 6- to 8-lb. test line and fished red wigglers under a small cigar-shaped cork.

Bobbie Jones told the author to put her in Vogue magazine. With these three keepers, she’ll have to settle for GON

Homer Yawn Jr., a retired worker from Seven Hardwoods, hails from Chancey and is nearly an everyday angler at Dodge PFA. Buddy Ragan, a retired banker from Eastman, is another regular bream angler. They were all in uniform praise of the good fishing at Dodge PFA and thought it was a great investment of state funds in outdoor recreation for middle Georgians.

After staking out a piece of turf next to the rocky outcropping near the pier, Milan angler Clyde Blankenship had some luck fishing red wigglers on the bottom for big bluegills and shellcrackers.

Especially important to the anglers are the facts that the PFA is close to home so they can save expensive gas, and they can also catch fish without a boat. At Dodge PFA, boatless does not mean fishless as good angling can be had both from the dock and around the shoreline. A key factor to the good dock fishing is the fish feeder that helps attract fish to the location. It dispenses sinking-type pellets three times daily, said Dodge PFA Manager Dan Stiles, and really helps hold fish in the area. Although the dock and bank fishing is good now, it actually starts improving during any extended warming period in late January and February, said Dan. The lack of natural insects around the lake during winter helps the feeder attract more fish as they try to get ready for the active spawning period.

Dan suggested that if the dock gets crowded, anglers should try the lake areas around the sitting benches which are spread on the lake’s western shore, near the parking lot. Especially productive are the benches near the DNR work barn. Dan said there are a lot of submerged stumps in the lake at this location. Also good is the next cove south of the work barn and the point that projects out to the island. The dock fishing will decline some in the coming weeks as the bream move into shallow bedding areas around the lake, said Dan, but it still will be fair to good because of the feeder.

After leaving the dock anglers and launching, I moved around the lake in my boat. I saw no active bream beds, only old bass beds as the bass bedding period is over. My offerings of red wigglers and Mepp’s Rooster Tail spinners only produced a few medium-sized bream and numerous small bass around the lake, but in May and June, the bream beds will show up frequently in the shallow areas around the lake.

One of the top bedding areas is around the only island on the lake, but it will be a little noisy as there are about 20 nesting geese on the island. There are a bunch of sunken limbs around the island and lots of sandy bottom for bedding bream. Particularly good is the water between the island and the closest point, said Charles Sloan, a Dodge PFA regular. He likes to cast a 1/24-oz. yellow chenille Hal Fly as he says the feather tail waves when retrieved and makes for a good imitation of a swimming minnow. The bright color and very light weight allows it to be used in very shallow water with a slow cranking action. He also likes a 1/24-oz. Rooster Tail in chartreuse or white with a silver blade. To be able to cast this light lure, he uses 4-lb. test line. Charles said the bream fishing was slow that day, but he did manage to catch and release a 6-lb. bass.

Although worms seem to be the bait of choice for big Dodge PFA bream, good artificial baits are (from left) Rooster Tails, curly tail jigs, Hal Fly jigs or Beetle Spins. Sizes in 1/24- or 1/16-oz. are good, and colors to try are yellow, white or chartreuse.

In addition to the island area, Dan recommended the following locations as good bream bedding areas to try during May and June.

No. 1: Directly across the lake from the boat ramp, cast your bait up along the bank, which drops off quick- ly to deeper water. No. 2: Near the north end of the dam, look for the line of small red maple trees near the water’s edge and look for bream beds in the shallow water. No. 3: On the south end of the dam, near the corner, try around the submerged logs in about 6 feet of water. No. 4: From the southern end of the dam, move along the south shoreline and fish 10 to 20 feet out from the first small trees you come to. No. 5: Farther down this same bank, try the two small coves you pass, looking for numerous small circular, sandy- colored bream beds. No. 6: From the very back of the lake, where the main stream flows in, try the first two small coves on the right as you move back down the lake.

Dan said visiting anglers will be pleased that some of the parking lot, approximately one-quarter of it nearest the boat ramp, has been paved, along with the entrance road from near the office to the boat ramp. The pavement is the permeable type, thus water will run through it, reducing run off into the lake. Plans are also being discussed to replace and enlarge the fishing dock, but this could take years to accomplish.

The lake does not have an aeration system like those found on more recently constructed PFAs, but stratification of the oxygen level in the summertime is not a major problem, said Dan. Since the PFA was opened in 1991, there was only one minor fish kill in 2003 and then only 200 or so fish perished. Dan suggested whatever species of fish you are after, whether it’s bream, crappie, bass or catfish, think shallow with your bait from July through early September. During this time many anglers will fish out in the standing timber in the middle of the lake. Aim to keep the bait in the 4-foot- deep range.

The limit on bream is 15, and anglers must quit fishing when they have 15 bream in the boat, said Dan. Also, the PFA is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Anglers should note that legal sunset is about 30 minutes before dark, so when the sun drops below the horizon, it’s time to head to the truck. You can check your local newspaper for official sundown times.

Feeders around the pier keep bream accessible to bank anglers year-round, but when they start bedding this month, they will also be easy to find in the sandy shallows.

I couldn’t help but notice that the shallow lake bottom is becoming littered with cans and bottles. Let’s all do a better job of disposing of litter as there are trash cans at the dock and office.

Dodge PFA is located 1 mile south of Eastman near Hwy 341. As you proceed south from Eastman on Hwy 341, look for the PFA sign on the right side of the road and turn left.

In the near future the DNR website will have a revised Dodge PFA map, so check it out. Also grab some kids and head over to the Dodge PFA kids’ fishing event. The exact date is not set yet, but it is normally held in June. Call the PFA office at 478.374.6765 for more information. The bream should be biting right now so go catch a few GO at Dodge PFA!


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