Hugh Gillis PFA: New Trophy-Bass Pond Potential In Laurens County

Brad Bailey | April 26, 2006

Ron Davis of Dublin with a fat largemouth from the 109-acre Hugh Gillis PFA lake. The fish hit a spinnerbait.

For the first 2 1/2 hours that we fished Hugh M. Gillis PFA, we did not catch a bass.

On March 12, I was on this brand-new public fishing lake with Ron Davis of Dublin. And while our day started slowly, this 109-acre lake set on a 700-acre Laurens County tract holds the promise of great things for local fishermen.

Ron Davis is as close as there is to being a regular angler at the PFA that opened just last August. Since then, Ron has fished the lake 10 or 11 times.

You can put any size boat and motor in the lake, but gas motors are allowed at idle speed only. Ron has seen everything from pontoon boats to bass boats to kayaks. Mostly, however, you see jon boats. The morning we fished, we crossed the lake from the ramp and began throwing spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and Trick Worms.

There are lots of casting targets, including standing timber, grass, brush, logs and blowdowns. We worked south to the point before the first cut. There we spent some time fishing a patch of standing pines in three or four feet of water. It looks like prime Trick Worm water, but the bass ignored us.

We fished into the cut behind the pine trees, a place Ron and his son Hunter had caught fish before, but no bites for us. I tried fishing a Shad Rap briefly, but there is a good crop of grass — aka filamentous algae — growing in the lake. The treble hooks were a problem in the greenery, and it’s likely to get worse as the water warms and the grass grows. Soft jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are likely to do well here.

We fished around the point that separates the two main arms of the lake and finally found bass willing to hit. We had been mostly working the banks, but I turned and made a cast toward deeper water with a chartreuse/white spinnerbait, and the bait got slammed immediately.
The bass was typical of what you can expect at Hugh Gillis, deep green, short, and fat. The bass weighed about 1 1/2 pounds. We continued to fish the shallow flat and shortly had boated three more bass. One was a carboncopy of the first, the other two were smaller. We caught one more short fish in the very back of the cove, then our sixth fish on the same flat on the way out. That fish hit Ron’s Rat-L-Trap.

To date, all bass fishing is catch-and-release.

“We wanted to protect the bass to get in one more good spawn before we allow harvest of bass,” said Neal Niblett, the manager of Hugh Gillis PFA.
Stocking of the lake was hampered by low water during the drought. When the lake was completed and the dam closed, the lake came up to about 30 acres and held at that size. Bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) were stocked at the full-pool, 109-acre rate of 400 bluegill and 100 redear per acre.

Later, the lake was stocked with 100 F-1 largemouths per acre. Growth and survival was initially slow due to the low water, said WRD Fisheries biologist Ted Will. The original stockings were supplemented with bass brought in from Lake Oconee (thus the occasional 3- to 5-lb. bass being caught already.)

“Because of the drought, we delayed the harvest of bass to be certain we had one more good spawn,” said Ted.

Beginning June 1, 2004 the daily creel limit for bass will be five, with a minimum length limit of 14 inches.

“A trophy-bass fishery is one of the objectives,” said Neal. “That’s the reason for the F-1s. (Fisheries) has had such good luck with trophy bass at Dodge County PFA, we hope to imitate that here.”

The key to a trophy-bass fishery will be keeping an algae bloom on the lake by way of a fertilization program, said Ted.

“The potential is there if we can keep the water green all summer, we will increase the productivity significantly,” he said.

Too, the fish are being fed pelletized feed from solar-panel-powered feeders.

“The feeding will help increase growth and increase catch rates,” said Ted.

Bank fishing access is good from the dam all the way up past the office. There is also a fishing pier in front of the office. Neal says plans are to extend the road beyond the boat-ramp and around the upper impoundment to improve bank access.

The upper impoundment is a shallow pond created by a dam that was once an old railroad bed. The depth of the upper pond is only about three feet deep, said Neal.

The PFA includes two kids fishing events ponds that are available to special groups. WRD received a hand from the community in developing the kids fishing ponds.

“The Laurens County Rotary Club has sort of adopted us,” said Neal. “They have done a world of things to help us. They financed the construction of a pavilion at the kids fishing pond and have provided a lot of labor for the pavilion and other projects.”

If you have a depthfinder in your boat, there is some interesting structure in the lake. On the east end of the dam is a round, scooped-out area where dirt was removed to build the dam. According to Neal, the north part of this depression is where dump trucks drove down to the lake bed. This old roadbed with bluff banks — essentially a big ditch — should make good structure for bass.

Your graph will mark the deepest water — about 20 feet — in front of the dam. The old creek channels are poorly defined, according to Neal.

Bass aren’t the only show in town. When we returned to the ramp, we met Wade Mimms of Scott and Wayne Palmer of Cedar Grove who had spent about a half day fishing for bream. They had two limits of bream that included mostly fliers, with some bluegill and shellcrackers that they had caught on worms and crickets.

The good numbers of fliers, which normally inhabit swampy, beaver-pond type water, have been both a surprise and a bonus to bream fishermen.

“There have been a lot of limits of fliers,” said Neal. “We expect that the bluegill will eventually outcompete the fliers, but in the meantime, the fishermen are enjoying catching them.”

The daily limit for bream is 15.

The lake was also well-stocked with channel catfish. Neal reports good catches of fish in the 1- to 2-lb. range, with an occasional 3-lb. fish.

“Catfish are just beginning to show up now,” he said. “When the water warms up by the end of April, the catfishing will get good.”

The daily limit for catfish is five.

According to Neal, approximately 2,000 crappie were stocked in the fall of 2003, and a crappie fishery is at least a year away. In January, 50 Christmas trees were sunk just off the point where the two arms of the lake come together. This area will be good for jig pitchers and minnow dunkers as the “white perch” fishery develops.

For the day, Ron and I caught nine bass. Our last bass of the day, caught near a 4X4 post standing off the bank in front of kids fishing pond No. 2, weighed about 1 3/4-pounds. Six of our bass hit a spinnerbait and three hit a Rat-L-Trap.

For the next year or two you won’t have to worry about lunker largemouths at Hugh Gillis knocking the rod out of your hands, but as the fish grow, this Laurens County lake will soon be earning its reputation as an excellent big-bass lake.

“It’s not going to be long before you can come back here with a chance to get your arm broke,” said Ron.

To fish Hugh Gillis PFA, you will need a fishing license and a WMA license, or a Sportsman’s license. One-day fishing licenses are also available from license dealers. There are no license sales at the PFA.

To get to the PFA take Hwy 80 east out of Dublin. From where Hwy 80 turns from Hwy 29 go 10.2 miles and watch for the PFA sign and Keens Crossing Road on the left. Take Keens Crossing for 1.3 miles and the PFA will be on the right

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