Fall Fishing On The Ocmulgee River
Low water levels and less fishing pressure can make catching a mess of bream a breeze in October.
Is fall the best time to hunt, or is it the best time to fish? Actually, October is a great time to be in the Georgia outdoors, whether you’re slinging arrows, letting lead fly, or a casting a fishing line.
But why choose? I try to do it all!
Lately, I’ve been wanting to get on the Ocmulgee River while the water was down to try some bream fishing. In the fall, with a lower water level, the fish get cornered up in less available water and stack up around the pools and eddies.
Also, the clearer water this time of year makes it a little easier for the fish to locate your bait, and a slight drop in water temperatures that comes with cool October nights can improve the feeding activity.
David is well known in Bonaire. After starring on the Warner Robins High School basketball team back in the mid 1960s, he then played for Stetson University in Deland, Florida. Returning home, he was owner-operator of Davidson’s Grocery for many years. These days, David fishes every chance he can on the Ocmulgee River, which is just a few miles from his front door.
The other angler on our trip was Joe Pearson, from Peach County. Joe has been a peach and cotton farmer for many years. He is now semi-retired and loves to fish.
We began our fishing trip at Knowles Landing, the boat ramp at Highway 96 at the Houston-Twiggs county line. David had gassed up the boat and stopped by the Houston Hardware and Garden Center in Bonaire, owned by Tom Williams, to pick up plenty of worms and crickets. You can also stop by the friendly folks at Chucks Gun & Pawn to pick up bait.
At the boat ramp, David fired up the motor, but after only a short distance downstream, he cut the motor and started getting out the poles and spinners. David said that you can catch bream just about any place on the river, and you don’t have to travel far either up or down the river to catch fish. He pulled up to a section of the river bank and used ropes to tie onto some branches to hold us steady in the current.
He said specific locations to catch fish on the river aren’t a thing because the river is constantly changing with the rise and fall of the water level. The fish are where you find them, so he moves from spot to spot until he gets into the fish. To avoid getting tangled in the submerged structure, David advised to drop the cricket or worm straight down to the bottom and keep the line in a steady position. If you drag the bait across the bottom, you’ll end up getting hung up and losing a lot of terminal rigs.
We had slip corks on our light lines, with No. 6 bream hooks and small weights a few inches above the hooks. We moved around to several locations, mostly small pockets of water behind tree tops or sections of quieter water, and we caught numerous medium-sized bream. David says that the bream are numerous and good eating size, but larger, 1-lb. and better bream can be hard to come by. He says those huge bream are like a 300-yard drive on the golf course… very nice, but difficult to repeat. River bream have to work for a living in the strong river current, and large catfish are always feeding on them, too.
Joe Person’s technique for catching river bream is a little different than David’s, but both are equally effective.
Joe uses a popping-cork method that can really get the bream into a biting mood, and he proved it on our trip. He uses a Beau-Mac in-line slider drift float (see photo) that comes with a float stop that attaches to the line, so you can easily adjust the depth.
He uses a No. 6 long-shank bream hook, which has a home-made, steel wire soldered to the top to make it weedless. He uses very thin steel wire and wraps it one time around the hook shaft, just below the eye of the hook. He then solders on the wire to ensure a good connection. He makes these at home.
He says the small weedless hooks that you buy are spring loaded against the barb and hinder a good hook set, so he started making his own, which you can duplicate in your workshop.
In demonstrating his fishing method, Joe would ease the boat along the bank with the trolling motor and cast the rig into good looking pockets of water near overhanging willow branches or behind fallen trees, where bream might be hiding.
Once the cork settled on the water, he would gently pop the cork a few times to draw the attention of the fish, which often resulted in a strike. Once successful, we put that fish in the cooler and repeated! We only fished from about 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and caught 30 nice bream, so we had a great productive day.
Another successful middle Georgia bream fisherman is Raymond Tyndal, of Macon, who fishes out of the Bullard boat ramp in Twiggs County. Raymond grows his own big red worms and uses a glob of them on his bream hook to catch whatever’s biting—bream, bass and catfish. He uses 20-lb. test line on a Zebco 33 and holds the rig on the bottom with a 1/2-oz. egg weight that is pressed on the line about 2 feet above the hook. He anchors along a promising section of the river bank and casts downstream to avoid hanging up. He then just takes up the slack line and waits for a fish to find the bait, and they do find it! On Sept. 12, Raymond and his brother Larry caught a stringer full of bream, several nice bass and a large channel cat.
This middle section of the Ocmulgee is generally under fished compared to the big reservoirs and even other sections of Georgia rivers.
You can access the Ocmulgee at Popes Ferry near Juliette, at Spring Street in Macon, at Bullards Landing in Twiggs County, or at Dykes Landing in Bleckley County. For a full listing of the 140 public boat ramps around Georgia, go to georgiawildlife.com and click on boat ramps to find some good river fishing close to your house.
For many years, the Ocmulgee River boat ramp at Highway 96 was nearly unusable, but in 1995, John Knowles, a local catfisherman, and I did a magazine story on his techniques for catfishing in the river, mostly with limb lines, and we had a great fishing day on the river.
We caught a lot of catfish and passed on a lot of his knowledge of successful river fishing in the story. We both lamented the poor condition of the boat ramp, and we started working with local elected officials and the Georgia DNR to replace the boat ramp. Houston County purchased 3.2 acres of land and built a nice paved parking lot, while the Georgia DNR built a new boat ramp that is now seeing a lot of use by middle Georgia anglers. David Davidson was a frequent fishing partner in John Knowles’s boat for many years, and they became good friends. Eventually, the Houston County Commissioners named the ramp “ Knowles Landing,” in honor of John, who was also a World War II veteran who carried a Browning automatic rifle across northern Africa, fighting the German army.
Unfortunately, John Knowles passed away a few months ago, but his love for the Ocmulgee River will live in the hearts of every angler who visits these peaceful waters.
However, a word of caution is in order for anyone venturing out for a fishing trip on the Ocmulgee River. With few people on the river, go prepared for emergencies such as a broken prop or running out of gas. The moving current, trees falling into the river, rocks, stumps and shallow water can present special challenges. Take your cell phone, extra drinking water and extra supplies.
If you see another angler on the river, pay attention to any signs of distress. In recent years, this writer has pulled two anglers back to the boat ramp who experienced motor problems. You never know, it might be me that needs help next time, so let’s look out for each other.
Whether you like to hunt or fish in the fall, or if you’re like me and love it all, a good dose of October will do a man’s soul a world of good!
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