Fishing The Overlooked Oostanaula River
Access to this mid-sized northwest Georgia river is good, and so is the fishing for largemouth, spotted bass and redeyes.
Like the proverbial kid in the candy store, I couldn’t decide what I wanted first. Should I pitch a jig to slack-water log jam in hopes of a largemouth, or go after spotted a twitch bait in the eddy below the shoals? The Oostanaula River in Gordon and Floyd counties looks so good, if you are like me you won’t know where to start and then can’t believe it when you don’t catch a fish every cast.
Although it certainly wasn’t a fish on every cast, we had a fair day fishing on the river. During a five-hour float, we boated two good spotted bass in the 3-Ib. range, a 12-inch largemouth, and a feisty 10-inch redeye bass. There was no apparent pattern as to where the fish were holding or what they wanted to hit. One of the spotted bass hit a Johnson Silver Minnow with a pork trailer. The fish was holding near the mouth of a tributary entering the river, which is always one of the prime places to fish be it on a river or in a lake. The other spot hit a worm near the current break formed by a large isolated log. The redeye and the largemouth were hanging out where you would expect them to be: the largemouth in a pocket of still water on the back side of a sandbar, and the redeye in a shallow rocky area below a shoal.
When fishing a river like the Oostanaula, the key to bait selection is to think snagproof. There is so much timber, both visible and below the surface, that in most places it would be an exercise in frustration to try to fish anything but the most snag-resistant lures. The Silver Minnow and Snagless Sally are two baits that have been around for many years but are still very effective even though they aren’t s popular as in their heyday. These two baits along with a Texas-rigged worm ought to take care of any type of over you might find. The only exception would be a Rapala-type bait, which an be very effective when twitched in ie shoal areas around the rocks.
The Oostanaula River is formed by the confluence of the Conasauga and Coosawattee rivers near Calhoun in Gordon County. The river runs approximately 46 miles through Gordon and Floyd counties until it joins with the Etowah River in downtown Rome to form the Coosa River.
Boat access to the Oostanaula River is good, especially on the upper end, with five public, state-maintained ramps providing access. There are a number of shoals on the river, so you need to exercise some caution if you are unfamiliar with the stretch you are fishing. A small jon boat or canoe which can be dragged over the shoals if necessary is just the ticket for fishing on the Oostanaula.
As I mentioned, the Oostanaula looks like a bass fisherman’s paradise with miles and miles of cover-filled banks. Since I had never seriously fished the Oostanaula, I decided the best strategy was to motor up the river (launched at the Highway 140 ramp) what seemed like a good distance and then simply float back down. Even if it has been a fairly dry summer so far, there was still a strong current thai required a trolling motor to hold you in place long enough to get more than a couple of casts into one small area.
I have found floating downstream backwards, assuming you have a bow-mounted trolling motor, is the easiest way to maintain boat control. By adjusting the speed of the trolling motor you can either hold position or slow your drift down to whatever speed you desire. If you are used to fishing still water it seems very awkward at first to be fishing “backwards,” i.e. casting upstream and retrieving your bait with the current while the boat is drifting downstream, but I think it is the easiest and most effective way to fish.
In the area upstream to the Highway 140 bridge, the average depth of the river was in the 5- to 7-foot range, although there were a few holes dropping down to 12 feet deep. Of course this is subject to change depending on the water level of the river. Contrary to reservoirs, the prime fishing season on the Oostanaula is best during hot, dry summers when the water level recedes and makes the river easier to fish because of the slower current. Low water conditions also seem to concentrate the fish in the deeper holes. August through October should be the best time of year, barring excessive rainfall.
There are some big bonuses to fishing medium-sized rivers like the Oostanaula. We didn’t see a single water gnat (aka jet ski) all day, and on a sunny Saturday morning there were only two other trailers in the parking lot. Also, until the sun is directly overhead, at least one side of the river will be shaded by large overhanging trees which provide a welcome break from sweltering all day under the sun out in the middle of a large reservoir.
Other than tightlining some chicken livers on the bottom while we anchored in the shade to eat lunch, which didn’t produce any fish, my trip to the Oostanaula was focused on catching bass. However, according to Gary Beisser, senior fisheries biologist for the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, the Oostanaula supports a diverse fishery including a white bass run in the spring. As far as black bass go, largemouth and spots exist in about equal numbers, with a few redeye thrown in for variety.
The Oostanaula makes for a pleasant fishing float and makes a nice break from fishing more crowded reservoirs. It’s highly possible you won’t see anything but furred, feathered or finned creatures the entire time you are on the river.
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