Flat Creek PFA’s Limit-Out Bream Fishing
Here's a wonderfully managed lake in middle Georgia.
Public Fishing Area. OK, stop for a moment and erase all preconceived notions. You’re about to find out what a PFA is supposed to be—and how to make the most of it.
Flat Creek State Park and Public Fishing Area lies just south of Perry in Houston County, hard by I-75. For the fisherman, it’s one of those love at first sight deals: 102 acres of standing timber, submerged bushes, grassbeds, flats, drop-offs, rip-rap, golf-course-trimmed banks and easy access to all of the above.
You will see bank fishermen, dock fishermen, kayaks, jonboats, bass boats…
And, most importantly, fish.
The afternoon of May 12 was overcast, and an easterly breeze blew rather cool over Flat Creek as siblings Taylor and Hannah Branham launched a trolling-motor-powered jonboat to search for bream. A third member of the family, brother Hunter, was already afloat in a kayak, paddling gently and pitching the banks for bass among flooded bushes.
The trio hail from Kathleen, not far up the road, and the picture they presented pretty much sums this area up:
“It’s just a nice place to get away for an afternoon or all day,” Taylor remarked. “It is so peaceful and quiet here.”
As he was talking, less than 50 yards away on the water Hunter was landing and releasing a 5-pounder.
The unsettled weather on that day put a damper on the fishing for most, especially the half-dozen scattered bank and dock fishermen. There were never more than a dozen fishing at any one time, and I saw one fish caught off the dock, a shellcracker, that would top a pound. It seemed that most on hand were families simply enjoying the outing, along with a couple others on a scouting trip.
As I found out the following Wednesday while surveying a very impressive 30-bream stringer, scouting pays off.
DNR Wildlife Technician Maxie Gray knows a lot of the folks here on a first-name basis, and says, “The majority of what I see are bank fishermen well-dispersed around the lake. Once folks come here, they usually keep coming. We keep it cut all the way around so that there’s access to just about any place you want to walk to, although it’s a haul around to the other side. You don’t see many bank fishermen on that side across from the launch site.”
Maxie knows Flat Creek from the ground up. Literally. He can point out every submerged brushpile, roadbed, fish attractor and rockpile.
“We started fresh here, with the lake backed up in 2005-2006, stocked in ‘06 and opened in June of ‘09,” he said. “There’s pretty much any kind of structure you’d care to fish, and the submerged roadbed runs all the way across the lake with ditches on either side, so you have a lot of drop-off areas for predators like bass and catfish to hide.”
But it was the bream I came back to see, and when the husband and wife team of J.D. and Patti Jackson came off the water Wednesday morning, I did, indeed, see ’em!
The Jacksons hail from Lizella, outside Macon, so it’s easy for them to hit I-75, roll south to Exit 134, zip off west on Highway 41 a half-mile to the traffic light, then turn left. The PFA entrance is just more than 2 miles from that light. See the sign on the right, the big white farmhouse on the left and turn beside the house. You’re there.
In giving you a mental map of Flat Creek PFA, we’ll work from the launch ramp, which like everything else here is in like-new condition.
J.D. and Patti left the dock trolling toward about two on the clock if you’re facing the lake, headed three-quarters of the way across to a line of submerged bushes in 4 feet of water. In less than an hour, they had limited out with 30 bull bluegills, 15 apiece, that Maxie and I agreed would weigh at least 20 pounds.
“It didn’t take us but about 45 minutes to catch them,” Patti related, “but we were throwing small ones back as we caught bigger ones, and we kept having to count to be sure we didn’t have too many.”
Just so you’ll know, this was the first time the couple had fished Flat Creek.
“I came over last Sunday and looked around and talked to some people fishing, but this is the first time we put the boat in,” J.D. said. “I really liked the look of those bushes and trees, and they paid off.”
This was as fine a stringer of bream as you’d expect to catch from any well-maintained farm pond—and that’s the key.
“We’ve done everything you can imagine to make this the best it can be, and it has been that way since Flat Creek opened,” said Maxie. “The fish even help manage themselves; there’s a 14-inch minimum length on largemouth, and those bass help keep the mid-size and smaller bream thinned down and allow the big ones to grow.
There has been a 13-pounder caught here, and we’ve shocked up quite a few 7- and 8-pounders. The bass stack up in droves along the grassbeds in the southeast corner (the end to the right of the dock), and when we get a good rain, run-off there will also stack them up.”
That south end also contains the submerged trees and bushes where bream gather to bed, as the Jacksons discovered. If you use the roadbed—and you can easily trace its trail by seeing where it enters and exits the water —as a guide, there is a series of flats in the 4-foot depth range on either side that will also hold fish.
“You can find fish on any structure on those flats,” Maxie said. “Fishermen can pick up a map from the information kiosk as they come in that will show everything we’ve placed on the bottom to attract fish. Or they can run their depthfinder. There’s a lot of stuff down there that will show up.”
While J.D. and Patti Jackson were making extremely efficient use of their time on this trip, there were reasons why they were successful—and some others weren’t. The Lizella couple fished light spinning tackle, what appeared to be 6-lb.-test line and matching ultralight hooks, split-shot and corks. Once they hit the water, those corks would never stop.
In making the rounds and talking with others, both from the bank and boat, who had not caught fish, one culprit was immediately evident: too much tackle!
For instance, that Wednesday morning, I was there to see the first boat launched, and chatted for a couple of minutes with the fisherman in it. I noticed a handful of rods decked out with 12-lb. or so mono and round, orange and yellow corks the size of lemons.
Ironically, that boat came out hours later—fishless—at the same time the Jacksons did, after having circled some of the same brush-filled territory. In other words, light tackle is a key in this clean, clear lake, which really is more like a very large farm pond.
We’ve talked about the shallow south end and areas of flats, but there are also depths nearing 20 feet as one approaches the dam. While there is a standard misconception of “fish laying down deep in the summertime,” that just might hold true here.
I don’t want to tell you more than you need to know about water “turning over” and the thermocline; suffice it to say that in ponds and small lakes, there’s not enough oxygen to hold fish at 20 feet, resulting in a lot of lower-half dead water.
But not at Flat Creek. Every foot of this place is maximized for fish survival and, indeed, phenomenal growth. That’s where the air diffusion system (the what?) comes in.
When the lake is in its normal glass-smooth state, you may notice eight areas that are fairly bubbling, as if hiding submerged springs. In actuality, DNR has provided more acreage of fishable water by installing a system of eight coils of hose connected to a pump station, providing oxygen to even the deepest areas. It’s called an air-diffusion system, and these areas draw baitfish which in turn attract predators. Find the bubbles, check the area map mentioned earlier to find nearby submerged structure, and you’re in business.
Then, when you’ve limited out (and the limits of each species are posted all around), use the on-site fish-cleaning station, and take home your catch ready for the frying pan. Or, if you care to make a day of it, there are restroom facilities, covered picnic tables and other amenities.
The PFA, open Wednesday through Sunday from sunrise to sunset, is at the heart of surrounding Flat Creek State Park, an 850-acre WMA which provides hunting for deer (archery only), turkey, small game, including a dove field and waterfowl. There’s also an archery range on site.
Flat Creek State Park and PFA is a largely overlooked but extremely productive spot for the outdoorsman. As with all state-managed areas such as this, you’ll need a regular fishing license plus a WMA or temporary license; info is available online at www.gofishgeorgia.com.
Check it out. This is one PFA you don’t want to pass up.
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