Juliette Stripers & Hybrids Go Deep In Summertime
Enjoy some peace and quiet without jet skis and wake boards on this 3,600-acre Georgia Power reservoir.
With a hint of excitement in his voice, Lake Juliette fishing guide Jeff Mooney said, “Watch that pole, it’s going down!”
He pointed at the rod next to Bob Turner and, as Jeff predicted, a slight bend in the rod became a deep arc toward the water as the striper pulled out line and the drag started to whine in reluctant surrender. Bob started to turn the reel handle and sure enough, he had a secure hook-up.
Bob held on as the striper made an initial run, and then the fish made its usual runs around the boat, tugging in short spurts until Bob’s confident angling skills wore the fish down. Soon Jeff slid the net under the 9 1/2-lb. striper. It was a beautiful lineside with clear black lateral lines and vibrant, shiny scales that glistened in the early morning sunlight.
After a couple of quick photos, Jeff released the fish back into the lake where it could continue to grow and thrill another angler another day.
Stripers can live for 30 years and reach huge sizes. Jeff and his clients have caught stripers in the 30-lb. range, and the Juliette lake record is a 40-lb., 8-oz. fish caught by Tim Adrien, of Gray, Tenn., on March 23, 2000. He was downlining live shad when the big lake-record striper hit.
The state-record striped bass is a 63-lb. tie between Kelly Ward, who caught his striper in the Oconee River on May 30, 1967, and Terry McConnell, who caught his fish in Lake Russell on April 3, 2009.
When discussing the world-record striper, you’ll need a bigger net. According to the International Game Fish Association, the world-record striper weighed 81-lbs., 14-ozs. and was caught from Long Island Sound in New York by Greg Myerson in August 2011. The heaviest land-locked striper comes from next door in Alabama’s Black Warrior River. Caught on Feb. 28, 2013 by James Bramlett, the fish weighed 69-lbs., 9-ozs.
Our day was already a success with that one fish and having been given the opportunity to be in the great outdoors and relish the splendor of the first rays of sunshine and the simple pleasure of being alive and taking it all in. However, we were not done and continued to put stripers and hybrids in the boat as we fished on June 7.
I was fishing with Bob Turner, the recently retired Chief Magistrate Judge for Houston County, and Alex Morrow, a prominent Warner Robins attorney.
We got strikes from hybrids, and Alex pulled in a couple of nice ones that he decided were going home so that he could try a new fish recipe. Hybrids are short-lived fish, living three to five years, according to WRD Fisheries Biologist Brandon Baker. However, if you’re not going to eat them, release them and catch them another day.
The Juliette record hybrid was caught by Wynoka Moye on March 21, 1995 and weighed 10-lbs., 3-ozs.
Brandon says that in the fall of 2021, the Georgia DNR stocked 21,000 stripers and 15,097 hybrids into Juliette, so this good annual stocking rate should keep the great lineside fishing going strong for many years.
Jeff targets deep water about 200 to 300 hundred yards out from the dam, and he slowly drifts the boat watching for activity on his Lowrance Elite 9 depthfinder in the main lake.
Whenever Jeff saw a concentrated gathering of fish on the screen that he believed to be stripers or hybrids 20 to 30 feet down, we pulled out the rods, hooked up live blueback herring through their noses and eased them down to the correct depth. A line counter on the Penn Warfare reel helped us to quickly get the bait down to the right depth, and then it was a waiting game. Sometimes the hook-up came quickly, but sometimes we just waited and waited. If the fish were in the sleep mode, we would pull in the lines and move around looking for another school of fish on the Lowrance.
We patrolled the lake from the dam back to the cooling towers of Plant Scherer and picked up a few fish along the way, but the fish never turned on in a big way. That is the nature of striper fishing, but we still put about 10 stripers and hybrids in the boat, including two in the 9- to 10-lb. range, so we were more than happy.
Stripers are stocked annually at relatively moderate rates, and since Juliette has deep water, it allows these fish to live in a healthy environment, even through the hot summer temperatures.
Brandon says he has been getting good fishing reports from anglers fishing for stripers and hybrids on Lake Juliette. Anglers have been reporting the stripers looking healthier than in years past and the numbers being caught are up compared to previous years. DNR has documented trophy-sized fish at 40-plus pounds. However, the average size striper is 3 to 7 pounds based on electro-fishing and gill-netting surveys recently completed on the lake. The gill net is placed along the bank in shallow water, then it runs out into the lake 200 feet.
Both Jeff and Brandon say that anglers should concentrate fishing efforts near the pump-discharge pipe located just above the dam when Georgia Power pumps water into the reservoir from the Ocmulgee River. Live bait, chicken liver or cutbait fished in the bottom can get a fish, most likely a hybrid or catfish.
Jeff said they have not been pumping water recently, but that will probably change soon with the lack of rainfall and the lake level dropping.
They say the target depth is where the timber is topped at 35-foot depths out from the dam. Oxygen levels below 35 feet are usually very low, so the stripers and hybrids look for that comfort zone, in the thermocline, with sufficient cool water and oxygen to survive.
Anglers also should target the flooded timber in the upper portion of the lake, especially during the summer. The portion of the lake where the old standing timber meets the open lake is a good spot to try, as is the main channel near the buoy markers, said Brandon.
If you want to camp, you can stay at Dames Ferry on Highway 23 that runs along the east side of the lake. It has 37 sites, with 30 of them offering power and a number of them offering RV parking.
Other fish species in the reservoir include bream, crappie, largemouth bass, channel cats, spotted bass, redear sunfish, bluegill and yellow perch. Since water is pumped up from the Ocmulgee River, Brandon says that any small fish in the river can possibly survive the trip up the transfer pipe into Lake Juliette. The lake does have flatheads, based on the recent gill-net survey. Spotted bass are present in the lake, but the largemouth are the dominant bass species, says Brandon.
There are boat launches at Dames Ferry and at Holly Grove Park on the north side of the lake. Boaters cannot use motors over 25 hp on the lake, and it is illegal to use jet skis or water ski on the lake.
Parking fees are required, but make sure to have $5 cash with you. No cards are taken. Just put your money into the small envelope and leave the pass on your dashboard where it can easily be seen.
Also keep in mind that spearfishing is not allowed in the very clear waters of Lake Juliette or in any Georgia freshwater river or lake. Most of you are probably wondering why in the world I wrote that statement. Well… on the weekend of May 18, 2022, Sgt. Travis Sweat and Cpl. Keith Page were patrolling Dames Ferry on Lake Juliette. As they were checking fishermen, Sgt. Sweat noticed three subjects trying to sneak away from them through the woods. Sgt. Sweat made contact with the three who denied they were fishing. After a quick look around, Sgt. Sweat located a bag the suspects had stashed in the woods with 18 fish (bass and bream) as well as a spear gun. All of the fish had open wounds from being speared. The three suspects were booked into the Monroe County jail and charged with fishing without a license and taking fish by illegal methods.
For an excellent guided fishing trip, contact Jeff Mooney at 678.656.0105 or email [email protected]. Jeff runs All Seasons Guide Service, and he is Lake Juliette’s only full-time fishing guide.
For your fishing supplies, including live blueback herring for stripers and hybrids, try Juliette Bait and Tackle at 12392 Highway 87 in Juliette or call 478.262.1015. They are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Give Lake Juliette a try for stripers and hybrids and enjoy a successful and quiet fishing experience.
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