Dodge County PFA June Fishing
Whether you like catching bass, bluegill, catfish or crappie, this PFA lake has something for everyone this month.
Dodge County Public Fishing Area stole the headlines around the Southeast during the early 2000s by producing some huge bass from its relatively small 104 acres. The original year class of bass was reaching its maximum size during those few years. Since that time, intensive management of the lake through fertilizing and liming has continued to produce tremendous crops of fish each year, and June is a great month to catch them.
The primary species anglers fish for in the lake include bass, channel catfish, bluegill and crappie. Both bank and boat anglers are successful at the area, and there are even days when walking the bank or fishing from the pier are more effective than combing the entire lake from a watercraft.
During June the bass spawn is over, and the bass are typically feeding up ahead of the long, hot summer. It is a great month for numbers of bass, and you have a chance at a big fish, as well.
Two anglers who frequent the lake are Scott Peterman, of Warner Robins, and Cary Bentz, of Dublin. Scott has been bass fishing at the area for the last decade, and this spring caught his personal best, a 13-lb., 2-oz. monster that is currently swimming in the aquarium at the Macon Bass Pro Shops. Cary has been fishing the area since it opened and actually fished the lake on its opening day. He fishes at least three days per week at the area and then fishes ABA Couples Tournaments with his wife on the weekends.
“I love Dodge County Public Fishing Area because the two guys working there are always doing something to improve the fishing and keep it in top-notch shape,” Cary said.
The two agree that the bite from sunrise until the sun gets up is the best bite of the day in June. Both throw Rebel Pop-R topwaters first thing in the morning and expect that to be when they will catch their biggest bass of the day. Cary’s lure of choice sports a black back, silver sides, and a little patch of orange or red on the throat.
“That little bit of orange or red is the secret on the topwater. I’ve had them eat the paint off a Pop-R and still catch them until the bright throat color is gone,” Cary shared.
Scott also throws Pop-R topwaters, and he also has a Zoom Super Fluke rigged in case he needs to follow-up a missed topwater strike or in case the fish do not commit to a topwater well. He says that early in the day you can catch fish anywhere around the lake, but you will do best to key on bank cover and points where the fish move up to feed.
He rigs his Flukes unweighted with a 5/0 Lunker City Texposer hook and believes the bend of this hook is perfectly suited to the size of a Super Fluke. He says exposing the hook against the top surface of the lure has accounted for a much better hook-up ratio.
Scott has noticed over the years that the topwater bite in June typically shuts down when the sun starts to get high, and the fish are hard to find.
“From about 9 to 10 on sunny days, you might as well go get something to eat because the fish are repositioning and are hard to catch,” he said.
Cary typically fishes short trips during just the morning and evening peak bites, but Scott will hang around and fish through the heat of the day. He has found a crankbait pattern that gets cranked up during the heat of the day.
“About midday the bass will move offshore and suspend in the trees or off points in deep water just above the thermocline,” Scott said.
When that happens, he chases them with mid-depth crankbaits that dive 5 to 7 feet deep to get down at their eye level. Whether using a stop-and-go or steady retrieve, the key to triggering a strike is to bang the crankbait off of cover. Scott varies his retrieve until the fish tell him what they want each day.
“Any mid-depth crankbait with a little chartreuse will work,” Scott said.
Some of his better colors have been sexy shad, citrus shad and some of the natural bream colors with little flecks or stripes of chartreuse. He tries to match the size of the bream in the lake. For June, that will usually be a lure about 2 inches long (last year’s bluegill spawn).
Cary’s approach is to work topwaters first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening and small plastic lures the rest of the time. Because of the high pressure the lake receives, he scales everything down and catches fish that others cannot convince to bite.
“The fish are used to seeing big baits, so I finesse them,” Cary said.
He catches a bunch of small bass along the way, but he usually fools a few quality fish up to 5 pounds each trip. He does not beat the bank like most of the anglers at the area but finds offshore brushpiles and other cover and drop shots a plastic worm. It takes some time to find the various cover around the lake, but not many people fish the offshore areas.
“Something I’ve done the last couple years that has helped me keep from getting hung up as much is bending my long, thin drop-shot weight a little so that it is shaped like a banana,” Cary said.
Cary uses spinning tackle with 6- or 8-lb. test fluorocarbon to increase his number of bites. He uses Strike King Super Finesse Worms in green pumpkin or junebug hues.
On a typical half-day trip, both said that if they catch fewer than a dozen bass, with a couple large fish mixed in, it would be a slow day. And, bass may not be the only thing you catch with these techniques.
“I catch catfish on many trips, most over 5 pounds, while throwing a crankbait,” Scott said.
Channel catfish have typically been the species that have accounted for the most harvest (by weight) each time the DNR has taken a survey of the anglers’ catch (2006 was the last survey). Mike Watson, of Eastman, has caught his fair share of those catfish each year, as he fishes the area on most mornings. He is well-known for finding and catching nice catfish, often when others cannot find them. Based on his fishing log, he caught 462 catfish last year. His biggest from the area was about 20 pounds, and his biggest so far this year was an 18-pounder. The average fish he takes home range from 3 to 8 pounds.
Mike’s approach is not fancy, but it is extremely effective. His favorite bait is a flat-tail worm, but he uses pink worms if he has trouble getting his favorite type. He has caught fish with chicken livers in the past but frequent rebaiting got aggravating when the “nibblers” were around. He rigs with a 1/0 hook and suspends his bait about 6 feet deep under a 3-inch cigar-shaped foam float. About 18 inches above the hook, he adds a split-shot just large enough to tip up the float.
He said you can catch catfish all over the lake, but a few of his favorite areas that are accessible by boat are the rip-rap along the dam, the standing timber out from the boat ramps, and the middle of the backs of the coves where the water is about 6 to 8 feet deep.
“During June the oxygen is highest in the upper 6 to 8 feet, and that is where the fish are located,” Mike said.
His favorite areas to fish from the bank include the fishing pier, the area near the last bench on the trail behind the group shelter and right out from the boat ramp. The key to fishing the pier is getting there early before all the stomping back and forth spooks the fish. To effectively fish behind the group shelter, walk along the fishing access trail until you get to the last bench before the powerlines, and cast out toward the standing timber. He said that in the morning as boats are putting in and stirring up the water around the boat ramps, that area is usually good for a few catfish.
Mike also frequently targets bluegills in June. He said you can catch bluegills all around the lake, but the bedding areas are the prime spots. He has spent enough time on the lake that he knows the locations of bedding areas. If you are not sure, just keep fishing until you find the bluegills. Some areas to start looking are around the island and on both sides of the long cove near the dam.
“From my experience, if I am catching little bream, that is all I can expect to catch, so I move on. If I am catching big bream, that is the size I can expect to keep catching, so I hang around that area longer,” he said.
He targets bluegills using crickets suspended a few feet under a small foam float. A small split-shot clamped about a foot above the cricket completes his rig.
While June is not typically thought of as a peak month for crappie, Area Manager Dan Stiles said some slabs up to 2 pounds are caught each year. Minnows are not allowed for bait, so folks catch the big fish on artificials.
“Trolling jigs or crankbaits is the best way to cover water and catch slabs,” Dan said.
His favorite combination is a black-and-chartreuse curly tailed jig fished on a 1/32- or 1/16-oz. jighead. One effective trolling run is to head uplake from the ramp on the left side of the timber and troll the edge of the timber up to the left of the osprey platform above the powerlines. While you will likely not catch a limit of crappie, the ones you catch will likely be large. To target the truly huge crappie in the lake, troll a crankbait. A chartreuse or gold/orange version that dives from 4 to 6 feet deep is the ticket. Expect some big crappie to suspend over deep water near the dam, as well as the creek channel in the middle part of the lake.
If you would like to introduce a child to the lifelong sport of fishing, bring them to the Kids’ Fishing Event sponsored by DNR and the Dodge County Sportsmen’s Club held at the area on June 5.
For more information, contact area staff at (478) 374-6765. No matter what species you target, June is a great month to fish at Dodge County PFA.
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