Hamburg State Park Lake Fishing Profile

This Georgia state park lake is full of stump fields, blowdowns and grass, perfect cover for bass, crappie and bream.

Scott Robinson | August 29, 2003

How would you like to have more than 200 acres of water with lots of stumps, grass, and lily pads, along with hungry largemouth bass, bream, and crappie, all to yourself? That was the experience that Joe Bradford and I had just a couple of weeks ago at Lake Hamburg at Hamburg State Park in Washington County.

GON readers have heard and talked a lot about the new small lakes in Georgia; lakes like Varner and Black Shoals that were built in the last 15 or 20 years and have produced some top-notch fishing. Lake Hamburg, however, is one of the oldest lakes in the state, and it still offers good fishing and a surprising amount of visible cover that makes it fun to fish.

This 225-acre mill-pond lake was first constructed in the early 1800s, when a former revolutionary war officer built a wooden dam on the Little Ogeechee River to provide water to power a grist mill. That dam stood for more than 100 years until a concrete, stone, and steel dam was built in 1920 just a few dozen yards downstream from the wooden dam.

Both of these dams captured the native fish populations of the Little Ogeechee, including crappie, bluegill, shellcrackers, and of course, largemouth bass. Generations of these fish have thrived for decades in the ideal habitat provided for them by the impounded waters. While the lake gets a fair amount of fishing activity on the weekends, there are rarely more than one or two boats on the lake, if any at all, during the week.

I met Joe Bradford, the DNR State Park manager at Hamburg, in early August to check out the fishing and learn some of the best techniques and locations on the lake. Joeʼs house overlooks the lake, and he and his 10-year-old son enjoy fishing the lake several days a week, so he knows a thing or two about where and how to catch them there. We met at daylight and had a perfect morning for fishing, with cloud cover all morning long and air temperatures in the low 80s.


A 14-foot jon boat was our ride for the day, and we launched on the new concrete ramp and started up the lake with the electric motor. Hamburg, like most State Park lakes, has a 10-hp limit on outboards, but you can use any size boat with a larger gas motor on it as long as you donʼt start the gas motor. Joe came to Hamburg from Mistletoe State Park on Clarks Hill, and he knows what fishermen like at a park. One of the first things he did at Hamburg was build a new concrete slab boat ramp. He and his staff were able to keep costs down by providing all the labor themselves rather than contracting it out. They removed the old concrete log ramp, completed the grading, built the forms, and finished the new concrete slab so only the materials had to purchased. Be sure to thank Joe and his staff if you see them while youʼre out there fishing, because they did a great job on the ramp.

Pitching jigs around stumps can produce Hamburg crappie year-round. Joe caught this fish last month near spot No. 3 on the map above.

As we eased away from the ramp, Joe pointed out a row of stumps along the bank just to the left of the boat ramp. “Normally I would start out right there along that bank, because itʼs a good one for bass and crappie,” he said. “The bass have been busting in there just about every morning, but I fished two days ago and did real well in the upper end of the lake, so weʼll head up there first this morning.”

The stump field he pointed out is marked as No. 1 on the map, and I did catch a bass there later in the day.

We traveled up the lake with the campground on our left and went around a big point with a fishing pier on it as the sun peeked over the trees. After we rounded the point a large stump field came into view in the upper end of the lake. Joe had caught several bass in this stump field two days earlier, but they came later in the morning, and we only got a couple of half-hearted bites as we fished our way through it. Toward the back of the stump field the Little Ogeechee River channel becomes obvious as it winds through lots of aquatic grass, lily pads, and stumps. Joe caught the first bass of the day in here on a grassy point along the edge of the channel, near spot No. 2 on the map. The 2-pounder hit a white buzzbait cast to the edge of the grass and pulled out past a stump. While Joe was bringing that fish into the boat, I tossed a Tennessee-shad colored Bandit crankbait up next to the point. A bass hammered it as soon as the Bandit started digging bottom, and just like that we had a double. My next two casts with the crankbait brought two more good strikes and two more bass in the boat, and then Joe caught another good one on the buzzbait.

After that fast and furious action I was sold on Lake Hamburg and loving every minute of it. All the grass, stumps, and lily pads scattered around this part of the lake looked like heaven on earth for fish and fishermen. We followed the river channel around a bend, fishing topwater lures and crankbaits. We caught several more bass in this area, with the buzzbaits consistently producing the best bass while crankbaits got more bites but smaller fish.

Joe pointed out a stump in an opening about 40 yards wide just off the channel and said, “I had a real nice one blow up on my buzzbait there two days ago, must have been a 6- or 8-pounder.” Since no fisherman worth his tackle can resist that kind of temptation, and I certainly couldn’t, we headed over there to see if the big one was still home. We plowed through the grass beds and lily pads to the opening, and Joe worked his buzzbait along one side of the stump while I just watched and waited. There is something about a buzzbait gurgling along that builds the anticipation, and as he brought it by the stump a second time the bait disappeared in a swirl and a slurp! A few seconds later the bass made a jump, and we had a good laugh as he brought the 2-pounder into the boat. Not the monster we were hoping for but fun for sure.

The next area we fished was the stump field we came through earlier that morning, marked No. 3 on the map. We caught several bass and one nice crappie in the stump field the second time, slowly working our way through it, casting to any visible stumps and also making blind casts around the boat. There are so many stumps in this area that a blind cast often bounced off one.

The cloud cover hung over us all morning, and the topwater bite also stayed active but slowed down as the morning went on. For topwater lures, Joe prefers a white buzzbait or a silver Chug Bug at Hamburg because the water is fairly clear and the white and silver in clear water resembles shad, which are present in the lake. The topwater lures, especially buzzbaits, definitely produced a better-quality bite over the Texas-rigged worms and crankbaits that we also caught fish on that day.

Pitching crappie jigs around the stumps at Hamburg can also be productive if crappie are your preference. The stumps in deeper water and near the channel will produce crappie all-year long, and the stump field at No. 3 on the map can be good in the spring and fall. According to Joe, area No. 4 on the map is good for crappie, and you canʼt miss this spot because it is a stretch of shoreline 100 yards long with one blowdown tree after another along a nice steep bank. We stuck with bass fishing in this area, and I lost a crankbait in here to a bass that grabbed it and popped my line without ever slowing down. Working a red shad or junebug-colored worm through the blown-down treetops produced three more bass and several strikes.

As we fished around toward the campground, Joe pointed out two fairly small stick ups about 20 yards apart that are between the big stump field and the campground. While we didn’t catch any fish there that day, he said the stumps are always a good place to make a few casts for either bass or crappie, so donʼt pass those by without giving them a try. The location is marked on the map as No. 5.

Directly in front of the campground at location No. 6 on the map, and just around the bend from all the blowdowns, is a large sandy flat with grass near the shore and a few scattered stumps. Joe says this is a good place to find bream and shellcrackers year-round. He pointed out the spot where a 6-year-old girl caught a huge, 2-lb. shellcracker just a couple of years ago while fishing from the bank along the campground shoreline. Check out her picture on the bulletin board of the park office if you go during business hours — itʼs impressive. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few impressive fish pictures on the bulletin board there, and if you stop in you can take a look at those and catch up on the latest fishing report.

Near the big point at the campground the channel comes in closer to the shore, and we tried some deep cranking and Carolina rigging there with no luck. Even though it didn’t produce for us that day, Joe recommends giving the area some casting attention while fishing the lake for bass, bream, or crappie, especially in the summer or winter months. If bank fishing is your preference, or if you have some kids along and donʼt want to take a boat out, there is a small fishing pier on this point as well as good bank access. There is also a fishing pier in the tailrace below the dam near the park office, and while there is not a lot of room to fish there, lots of fish are caught there each year.

If you are in a boat, donʼt overlook the submerged stumps across the lake from the campground, along a more subtle, rounded point with a pasture on the shoreline. The stumps are about a half cast off the bank in 10- to 15-feet of water, and theyʼre marked by the No. 7 on the map.

The last location, No. 8, doesn’t come into play much this time of year, but Joe has good success trolling for crappie in the deep water there in the winter and early spring, so keep that in mind for cooler weather.

On our trip we caught 15 bass, the largest one being 2 1/2 pounds. This isnʼt a bad day in my book, considering itʼs the dog days of summer.

Hamburg Park is just south of Ogeechee WMA (update: Ogeechee is no longer a state WMA), and it is a little bit off-the-beaten-path for most of us, but itʼs not a bad drive from the east Atlanta area, Augusta, or Athens, and even closer to Milledgeville. To get there from Sparta, take Highway 15 southeast from town about 3 miles and turn left on Shoals Road (look for the State Park sign). Follow Shoals Road about 7 miles to the intersection with Hamburg State Park Road and turn right. The park office is on the right side of that road, and just past the office and over the bridge a right turn will lead to the new boat ramp. The lake is open to fishing from daylight to sundown, and there are 30 nice campsites with power and water if you want to stay overnight.

Call ahead if you plan to camp since the campground tends to fill up on the nicer weekends, especially during spring, early summer and fall.

The park address is 6071 Hamburg State Park Road, Mitchell, GA 30820. The Hamburg Park office number is (478) 552-2393, or click here for more information.

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