The 2015 BREAM SPECIAL
Biologists and local anglers pick the top lakes, rivers and hidden gems for bream of all flavors all across the state.
For most of us fishermen, drowning crickets and worms for bream is where it all started. And all across Georgia, if you can find a hole of water larger than your living room, you’re apt to come across bluegills, shellcrackers, redbreasts and more in varying populations and combinations. Obviously, some of those areas are better than others when it comes to filling a stringer—and since bream fishing is at its best in May, GON has put together a list of top producers from every corner of the state.
WRD fisheries biologists have been instrumental in helping us put this bream guide together and have also been busy on the water checking the status and condition of the state’s public-water fish of all species. One and all, they predict a banner year for bream fishermen, from ponds to rivers to lakes.
We’ve sectioned the state into seven areas, and while some may overlap, there are waters that produce excellently well year after year and other hidden holes that receive very little pressure at all. For instance, bordering “the best bream fishery in the state” is a secluded spot—not a public-fishing area yet open to the public—with more than 30 ponds that seldom see a hook get wet!
Bream fishing is not a complicated task, its simplicity being one of its foremost virtues. A few simple guidelines to remember include the following: when it comes to tackle, the lighter the better; crickets, worms and small artificial spinners are all the bait you’ll need. Find wood, find fish. When you’ve found them, be sure to take some home to eat.
Statewide, there are 10 WRD-managed Public Fishing Areas. You’ll find most of them on this list. They’re intensively managed to produce fish. Launch a boat, fish from a pier or bank, but take advantage of these public waters. We’re not forgetting the lake or river fisherman, either. Regardless of where you are in Georgia, there’s good bream fishing right now nearby.
Rocky Mountain PFA, near Rome, is home to good numbers of shellcrackers (redear sunfish) and bluegills, with hand-sized, 8-inch bream common.
“A lot of folks like to target full moons when fish are spawning,” said biologist John Damer. “Crickets or small Beetle Spins, in-line spinners and worms will all catch fish. Old roadbeds, if you can find them, can hold spawning fish during those time periods, as well as shallow coves.”
Those irregular features on pond bottoms are always good places to map on your fish finder, and if there’s a submerged stump, log or treetop, you’ll likely find fish.
For the fisherman, or family, who wants to get away from the crowd among some of the most scenic vistas Georgia has to offer, check out James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park or Fort Mountain State Park Lake.
At Sloppy Floyd, you’ll find grand fishing in two stocked lakes—not to mention the lonesome surroundings of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Just so you’ll know, there are two launch ramps, electric-motors only, with boat rentals available and a pair of ramps to fish from if you prefer.
The 17-acre lake at Fort Mountain, near Chatsworth, also features good bream fishing, but the sheer beauty of its surroundings makes it hard to concentrate on watching your cork. This is a great family spot, with a host of outdoor activities available in addition to the fishing.
If it’s bigger water you’re looking for, Damer suggests Lake Allatoona.
“Allatoona can be good at times, especially for shellcrackers. Upriver around Knox Bridge where the Etowah River flows into the main lake is a good place to start.”
Region Fisheries Supervisor Jeff Durniak put it well when he said, “Bream are a friendly species, and we have several areas that are fishermen-friendly.
“If you’re looking for big water, Lake Rabun, a Georgia Power reservoir, is a very scenic lake, with lots of boat docks and downed trees where you’ll find fish. Stay small, hide that hook with half a nightcrawler or cricket, and get the bait in the brush where the fish are hiding. You can find bream in these areas, but you may even have a walleye grab your worm, if you fish it down deep in Rabun.”
Quite a change from Lake Rabun is Lake Russell. No, not that one; the other one. When fishermen hear Lake Russell, most immediately think of the huge impoundment on the Georgia-South Carolina border. But there’s another one: 100 acres of secluded pristine beauty near Cornelia. This is a U.S. Forestry Service lake, and another with little to moderate fishing pressure. It’s long and narrow, features a boat ramp, again with electric-motors only, and is only a short drive from its much-better-known neighbor, Lake Lanier.
“On full moon periods, you’ll find bream beds along the shoreline and down near the dam where sediment has filled in,” Jeff said. “You can reach these easily from a boat or the bank.”
When biologist Keith Weaver talks, you can hear the excitement in his voice. He knows…
“It’s the best time of year for bream fishing statewide,” Keith says. “Fish are active, PFAs are really active, and I’d target any of them right now if I wanted to catch bream.”
But pinning him down on a favorite was not difficult at all.
“Marben PFA is getting really busy. Folks are starting to line up. Crappie are peaking, bass are picking up, as well as bream and catfish as they move into shallow water.”
But don’t let the remarks about getting busy keep you away. Depending upon how bad you want it, you can still find a hidden jewel or two at Marben, located at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Jasper and Newton counties.
“We sampled the first week in April, and were really impressed,” Keith said. “There were some really nice shellcrackers, which are not as utilized as they could be. There are 22 lakes there; most fishermen know of the bigger ones, but there’s good fishing in all of them. People either don’t know about the smaller ones or don’t want to walk a little ways to get to them. Guys have done a good job of cutting angler trails for easy access, and it’s well worth the trip. Folks need to remember that the public-fishing areas are there for people to have a good time; we want people to harvest fish. Harvest is good for our PFAs.”
One of the better bream lakes in Georgia is Lake Jackson, and it, too, is producing well already this year. As far as hot spots, check out the Tussahaw arm.
“It’s a real popular area,” Weaver remarked, “a long, narrow arm with shallow water and lots of structure. Anglers are real successful there. You can find some big catches at Lloyd Shoals, right next to the dam. There’s a fishing pier and attractors there, so from the bank, you can fish shallow and deep water. There’s not a lot of bank access on Jackson, but Lloyd Shoals provides a great spot to drown a few crickets.”
“We manage that lake to produce maximum bream.”
What else do you need to know?
Biologist Steve Schleiger is speaking of Flat Creek PFA, a little over 3 miles off Interstate 75, on Hwy 341, near Perry. Conjure up in your mind a picture of that one old farm pond that you always wanted access to, the one rumored to produce phenomenal catches… Well, this is it!
Flat Creek is a 108-acre cereal bowl of a lake surrounded by pasture—and filled with fish. Boat ramps, fishing piers, fish-cleaning station, standing timber, bushes, shallow flats with drop offs nearby… Flat Creek has it all.
“This is also a bass-heavy lake with lots of predation, which allows bream to grow to bigger sizes,” Steve continued. “It has a really good shellcracker population, and because of the oxygen pumped in, no dead areas that don’t hold fish.”
For more information on Flat Creek PFA, turn to page 30.
Big Lazer Creek PFA in Talbot County is a lake that doesn’t get much fishing pressure and has a good bass population, which in turn produces an excellent bream fishery. There are good numbers of large bluegills, as well as shellcrackers here. Plus a pair of boat ramps and fishing pier are there.
McDuffie PFA, 10 miles from Thomson, features seven ponds from 5 to 37 acres. A number are managed for particular species; some for trophy bass, which again also produces big bream.
Before leaving this area, we’d be remiss in not mentioning a pair of rivers known far and wide for their bream populations: the Ocmulgee and Flint.
“Folks catch really good bream and redear in spring on the Ocmulgee, and redbreast on the Flint,” Steve said. “On both of those rivers, focus especially on downed timber and in backwater areas.”
Rob Weller makes no bones about it: “Lake Seminole is the best bream fishery we have. It is a huge fishery for shellcrackers, and fish up to a pound are not at all uncommon.”
Areas to begin the shellcracker search on this giant of a lake include the Flint River and Spring Creek arms. Too, Reynolds Park Landing features one of DNR’s new Go-Fish ramps. On the lake, look for open patches of sand among the hydrilla in 3 to 5 feet of water. Pitch wigglers and crickets, and hold on.
There are no PFAs in this region, but adjacent to Seminole is Silver Lake WMA. Located in Decatur County, it has some fantastic fishing open to the public, says Rob. Not many take advantage of it.
“There’s a lot of ponds and a lot of management to take care of them,” Rob related. “There are over 30 ponds, more than 480 acres of water, which includes 300-acre Silver Lake. Many have good ramps and good fishing, with courtesy docks on them as well. Shore fishing can be a little tight because of button bushes, but you can take any kind of boat; car-top, kayak, canoe or jonboat. Silver lake is 300 acres, stumpy with a lot of weeds, and fish can be hard to find. But there are some remote lakes, and if you’re looking for bream, I’d concentrate on the smaller ponds. Pressure is seasonal. It gets fished most in spring and very little after that.”
“When the gauge at Waycross gets down to around 5 to 7 feet, the Satilla River is at its optimum level,” says Don Harrison. “And it’s just getting right, right now.”
That’s great news for lovers of the redbreast, the Satilla’s most sought-after resident.
“We had a heck of a year last year, and we should have another good one this year. The fish are in good shape, and you can catch them from any of the ramps scattered up and down the river. The St. Marys River is not quite as good for redbreast, but we’re already seeing bluegills up to three-quarters of a pound out of it.”
If river fishing is not for you, how about Tifton’s Paradise PFA. It has around 60 bodies of water, eight or nine with boat ramps and many more with spectacular bank fishing. It’s better known for huge bass, but Paradise annually produces equally impressive stringers of bream.
Finally, in that same vein is Dodge PFA outside Eastman.
“That bream fishery is turning on right about now,” Don remarked. “Dodge has been a good bream lake for quite a while; it got a little bass crowded there for a bit, but we’ve got it turned back around.”
The return of spring rains over the past two years to wash away drought conditions has resulted in a bream bonanza in this region. River fishermen haven’t had it this good in years.
“Redbreast are going to be off the charts because oxbows in the Ogeechee and Savannah rivers are flooded and have been for some time,” says Tim Barrett, fisheries biologist out of Richmond Hill. “We expect fishing to be super for all the bream in the oxbows off the main channels. The Savannah probably has more acreage available as far as oxbows simply because it’s bigger. But for the shellcracker fishermen, try the Ogeechee. There’s not a ton of shellcrackers in that river, but they are some of the biggest in the state. The main stem of the river is a great place for trophy shellcrackers.”
Biologist Joel Fleming echoes those statements, saying, “The Ogeechee and Satilla are neck and neck for best redbreast fishing in the state. Since 2013’s fall samplings, it has been unbelievable how the fish populations were reacting, the tremendous growth and numbers of fish in the Ogeechee. The fishery is unbelievable right now, better than it has been in 15 years, and that’s just about anywhere above Morgan’s Bridge boat ramp near Pembroke.”
And there’s one final, up-and-coming spot: Evans County PFA near Claxton, which was re-stocked three years ago. Check out the new fish attractors along the dam, marked by red buoys every 40 yards or so off the rip-rap. That’s where some of the best bream fishing is, and it will continue to get better as the pond ages.
Take a youngster with you bream fishing this month, and introduce them to fishing.
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