Evans County PFA Is Back Open For Business
Bass, bream & catfish should be biting all summer long.
Perhaps that is the best way to describe Evans County PFA, one of Georgia’s oldest state-managed public fishing areas—which at the same time is also one of its newest.
“This is one of the first public fishing areas the Department of Natural Resources opened up, back in the 1970s, when we first started having PFAs,” said Area Manager Steve Mincey. “The big lake (Bidd Sands) was originally built in the 1950s. When we drained it to begin repairs on the dam, that was the first time it had been drained.”
Evans PFA is a 372-acre facility 8 1/2 miles east of Claxton on Hwy 280. From Claxton, turn right on Old Reidsville-Savannah Road, go 1 mile and then turn left on Old Sunbury dirt road. It’s easy to find, with signs showing each step.
As you enter the area, the 84-acre Bidd Sands is the first lake you’ll see. There is a chain of three lakes, separated by two dams, which have been totally repaired and rebuilt.
The middle lake is called Woodie, the last of the three is Longleaf. Woodie will be pulled down in the summer, low but fishable, to allow vegetation to grow throughout the upper end. This provides food for ducks, which can be hunted there beginning with an adult/child hunt in November. There will be a second hunt in December, and then the general hunt in January, each on a Saturday.
Bag limits will mostly be filled with wood ducks and a few teal.
While we’re on the subject of hunting, be advised that there are also a few alligators on the PFA, which can be hunted by anyone drawing a tag. Check the DNR regulations, when they become available, for details and dates for duck and gator hunts.
As far as the fishing goes, my son Myles and I visited Evans on May 14, a Wednesday and the day of the full moon. The area is open Wednesday through Sunday but closed Monday and Tuesday.
In a full day, we saw only two other boats. If you take a boat, remember that the area is trolling-motor only. There were a dozen or so bank fishermen, divided roughly half and half fishing for bream or moving along casting for bass.
“Weekdays are fairly slow as far as numbers of fishermen, but the weekends pick up pretty well,” Steve commented. “We’ll average 40 to 50 a day on weekdays, more when the weekend gets here.”
Keep in mind that we’re talking both bank and boat fishermen, and three lakes. “Crowded” is not the word you’re looking for.
The first boat we saw launched just ahead of us on Bidd Sands, not long after first light. In it were two bass fishermen who spent a little more than an hour and a half moving from spot to spot.
“We’re just kind of prospecting for bass,” one of the two said as they made their way back to the dock, and I asked about their luck. “This place is all new to us, and we wanted to see what it’s all about. We caught a few fish, but they’re small.”
And for now, that’s pretty much going to be the story. Not, however, for long.
The total makeover of Evans PFA was completed in December 2012, and water started going back into it. Little Bull Creek flows into Lake Woodie, out of it channeling into Bidd Sands, then back into the creek itself and on into the nearby Canoochee River.
Fish stocking began at the end of 2012, with bream, crappie and catfish introduced first. Bass were added in the spring of 2013, and the PFA reopened in June of last year.
Not all the bass, though, were fingerlings.
“We’ve had one 5-lb. bass caught out of here, then put back, which is what most of our fishermen do,” Steve said. “Bass have to be 14 inches to be legal keepers, and most of what we see now are in that 12- to 14-inch range. But you hardly ever see one taken out; fishermen have been really good about putting them back into the lakes.”
We wanted to check on the PFA’s progress and prospects a full year after its reopening, and it’s safe to say that the next year or two is going to produce a bass bonanza. These fish are growing like pigs.
The main reason for that is, of course, food source. You’ll see schools of shiners and other baitfish all over the lakes, and tossing a cricket on an ultralight outfit will provide a quick bucket of bait if you should choose to catch a few for bait. One of these shiners, by the way, is what that 5-pounder bit.
Give them another few months of feasting, and these largemouth are going to be shaped like footballs. For now, the top-producing lures, Steve says, are crankbaits and plastic worms.
“We do electro-sampling every Tuesday while the area is closed, so we keep a close watch on how each species is doing both health and growth wise,” he said.
Bidd Sands has a ton of cover, from the creek channel to hundreds of submerged and standing stumps and timber. There are dropoffs and brushy flats, the bottom of which are covered with clinging vegetation. Should you decide to fish on bottom or drop an anchor, you’ll pull up a couple pounds of it.
Steve said the catfish “have really taken off,” but most of the fishermen when I was there were after bream.
We caught a few but never found a bed despite the time of month. As is usually the case with my fishing, Steve said several beds were found the previous weekend.
“Earlier in the year and even up to last weekend, we had several fishermen catching limits of 10- to 12-oz. bream and shellcrackers,” he reported. “We have a group of ladies who comes out frequently and sits in the shade of the big pines by the dock. They probably catch as many as anybody.”
They were there on this day—catching fish, too, tightlining off the bottom with wigglers.
As mentioned, Lake Woodie at present is drawn down considerably. And just in case you’re interested, this lake is listed as Wood on the DNR website but called Woodie by Steve. I’m going with the area manager and the ducks; from the several hundred stumps dotting its bottom, Wood also applies.
Woodie, the middle lake, just looks fishy, and if you’re a fisherman, you know what I mean. As it is now, my boat was too large to launch, but there was a canoe being paddled all over it by a fisherman continually casting for bass.
He tossed quite a few back. Interestingly enough, I did see at least one bass here, and although he wasn’t a 5-pounder, neither was he a 14-incher. I’m guessing from the size of the top half of the fish’s body as he came out of the water slashing at a baitfish, he’d go a solid 3 pounds.
All this happened some 20 feet off the bank—right in front of a semi-dozing bream fisherman with a trio of big orange corks surrounding the action. He was suitably impressed.
While we’re on the subject of big orange corks, I’ll suggest that you not bring any along. My preferred bream rig—anywhere—is as follows: a yellow Dragonfly cork, two BB split-shot 2 inches above a No. 10 aberdeen ELW (extra light wire) hook on 6-lb.-test line.
This particular fisherman never caught a thing, despite fish constantly working around him. Myles, just yards up the bank, caught and tossed back bream after bream. Light tackle has proven itself to me over a lot of years.
As you go toward the back of the area, toward Lake Longleaf, you’ll pass the PFA’s archery range. It’s a really nice setup with open pasture and several targets in place.
Longleaf’s peaceful, pastoral setting makes it a great place for nothing more than relaxing, should you be looking for such. There are shaded benches, grills and tables, plus an open gathering-type area with stands providing information on fish and local wildlife species. Just a cool spot; never saw anyone fish the lake over the course of the day.
Evans County PFA is, indeed, once again up and coming. It is an out-of-the-way area, perfect for families, quite a few of which we saw, children in tow, on this outing. For now, lunkers may be few and far between; but that’s going to rapidly change. This little jewel of a getaway is in good hands, with Mincey and staff keeping a close eye on its progress.
It will be very interesting to see what’s coming out of here by the fall, following a full summer of feeding. Might be a good idea to do some prospecting of your own.
And remember the unique fish limits on PFAs: five bass, 14-inch minimum length; 15 bream, five catfish, 30 crappie. Those last, by the way, did well during the cooler months but have begun to slow down now, Steve said.
PFA fishing has always been a pleasant challenge; when you’ve reached one limit, assuming you’re keeping fish to eat, switch over and go after another species. Evans PFA is a good spot to catch ’em all.
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