Bluegills Are Bedding! Find A Kid And Go To Marben PFA

This public area just southeast of Covington boasts 22 ponds, many of which are teeming with bream that will be bedding heavily this month.

Cletus Buice | April 27, 2011

There’s no better time than May to go catch a mess of bedding bream with the kids, and Marben PFA is a great option. The 22 ponds are loaded with bluegills and shellcrackers, and access is good whether you fish from a boat or sit on a bucket.

Close your eyes for a second and think back to when you were a kid. Picture yourself fishing with your dad, or maybe it was your grandfather or grandmother. Chances are the first fish you ever caught was a bream.

Burned in many anglers’ minds are fishing trips with Grandaddy. Now, each time you lay eyes on a colorful bluegill, all those memories come rushing back. Bream fishing is the perfect way to make happy memories with a kid. Make time this spring to go catch a mess of bream with a kid who is special to you, and pass on that love of fishing.

This month, when the bluegills and shellcrackers begin bedding, is the best time to take a kid fishing. And if you’re looking for a place to go, Marben Public Fishing Area (PFA) in Mansfield is a very good choice.

Known by many as Marben Farms, this PFA is a great place to go catch bream and make memories. It’s on Clybel WMA at DNR’s Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. The ponds at Marben are loaded with bream, and right now they are ripe for the picking.

Perhaps no one knows the fisheries at Marben PFA better than Wes Beard, a DNR technician who works at the area and also fishes the ponds regularly. My son Hunter Jack and I spent a day on the water with Wes, and he gladly shared the tips and tactics to help you fill a stringer on your next trip to this excellent PFA.

DNR cuts and lays trees into the water to provide structure for fish. Bream love the ones that still have green leaves.

The 22 ponds and lakes range in size from 1 to 95 acres. Largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish and a few species of bream that include bluegill, shellcracker (redear) and the occasional warmouth swim in these waters. There is easy boat access for electric motors only via ramps at six of the lakes and ponds. Several of the lakes and ponds offer fishing piers, and there is also great bank access on every piece of water. So if you want to get into a mess of bream, this is the place for you.

Here is a breakdown of the area’s best bream waters, what to look for this month and how to catch them.

Lake Margery

Lake Margery is one lake that you have to fish if you are targeting bream. Margery is 49 acres with some great spawning flats the bluegills will get up on and do their thing this month.

If you are boat fishing, crank your trolling motor on high as soon as you hit the water and cruise past the fishing pier close to the ramp. The lake tucks into a cove where there is water flowing down the hill from Clubhouse Lake. This area usually holds a good concentration of bedded bluegills.

Live bait such as crickets or earthworms under a bobber will fool these little bruisers. And if they are feeding up, it shouldn’t take too long to see that bobber go out of sight. Wes prefers a No. 4 Eagle Claw hook and sets up his ultra-light rods and reels with 4-lb. monofilament line.

After hitting this area, crawl your way up the north bank of Margery and cast to any structure visible, such as fallen timber, stumps or overhanging trees. Wes explained that when looking for overhanging trees, pay close attention to the trees that have fallen in the water but still have green on them. A lot of times DNR will make a cut at the base of a Maple tree and lay it over into the lake. But they won’t completely chop it off from its root system. This allows for some continued growth and green-up in the spring.

The trees that hold some life in them seem to hold the fish better. Wes believes the green leaves attract insects the bream feed on, and he has had days when he’s filled his stringer off of one or two “green” trees. The shellcrackers tend to bed in a little deeper water than the bluegills, and a lot of times you can catch them off these trees.

As you work your way up the north side of Margery, be sure to fish all the way to the west end, because it gets very shallow back there. This is an area where the bream traditionally make a slew of beds.

Wes has seen the whole backside of Margery filled with bream beds before. Live bait will work great in this area, too, but don’t be afraid to tie on a trusty Beetle Spin and roll it through the shallows, as the bluegills are very aggressive this time of year and will fly off their beds to tomahawk chop a Beetle Spin.

The last good bedding area to key on is the far corner on the south side of the dam, where there is another really nice flat for the bream to bed on. This is an area where you can fish it well from a boat or the bank. The bank access is great in this location, as it is wide open, and you don’t have to worry about your son or daughter hooking you in the nose on a back cast. There is plenty of room for you to run.

Shepherd Lake

If Lake Margery isn’t producing the action you are hoping for, head down the dirt road and fish Shepherd Lake. Again, this lake is set up well for bank fishing or boat fishing, as they have a brand new boat ramp just waiting for you to use.

Shepherd is a smaller lake at 18 acres, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold fish. As you pull out from the dock, you will notice some brush sticking up out of the water. DNR has placed sticks of bamboo sitting straight up there, and since bamboo is hollow, they stand up perfectly. It is a great fish attractor that holds fish year-round, especially shellcrackers and crappie.

Be sure to sling lines toward the bamboo before making your way to the banks. The whole right side of Shepherd is a long flat, and the bluegills will pull up on the flat once the water gets warm enough. They will be in search of a meal, and nothing looks tastier than a squirming cricket or worm dangling in front of their faces, that’s easy grub to them.

There are quite a few blowdowns all along the banks of Shepherd, and the bream will tuck themselves right inside the limbs and fire out to eat a meal throughout the day.

One thing to look for in the blowdowns are wasp or hornet nests. The bream are drawn to them like a magnet, as sometimes the larva will drip down and drop into the water. The bream suck that stuff up like candy. Be very careful though, and play at your own risk, especially if you’ve got a kid in the boat. Getting too close to a nest can turn a fun day of fishing into a bad day really quickly.

Wes said there is a good population of big shellcrackers found in Shepherd, but the way to catch them is to use a bass-fishing technique. He likes to fish a live earthworm or a red wiggler on the bottom with a small split-shot to help keep the bait down there. Now, we’re not talking about fishing 20 feet deep, but about 5 to 6 feet deep right off the edge of the flats. Just slowly crawl the worm like a Carolina rig back to the boat — or to the shore if you are bank fishing — and the shellcrackers will be there on the bottom ready to suck that worm into their bellies.

The bank fishing on Shepherd is very good, as the whole dam and a good section of the east bank are wide open and can handle a family reunion of fishermen if need be. The west side has several well-built wooden fishing docks that can handle about two people. They look made for a father and daughter to spend some quality time together. Shepherd Lake is a good lake to fish when the other lakes are crowded and you want that peaceful day of bream fishing.

With so many different waters to choose from, it can sometimes be a difficult decision to make on which lake to fish first. Here are a couple more of the better bream ponds.

Greenhouse is a great little 5-acre pond to take your kids fishing on, and it is strictly bank-fishing. So no one will motor in on your spot once you settle in. There are some hungry bream in it, too.

Stump is a little gem at just 3.1 acres. It holds some big bream, but be sure to bring a bucket, as it’s a little bit of a walk to get to. From the parking lot it’s probably about a 400-yard walk. So when you start whacking bream, you will want a bucket to throw them into.

On any of the lakes, if you can time your fishing trip around the full moon in May, which is the 17th this year, then you might have to call crazy Uncle Ronnie over to help you clean all the fish you caught.

Wes talked about seeing the “old-timers” out there and watching them “smell ’em out.” They literally get downwind of the bream beds and smell the fish as they work up the lake until they find the mother-lode of bream beds. Then they proceed to catch fish after fish. This seems to work best around the full moon.

Like any PFA, there are rules you need play by, and if you are 16 years or older you must have a valid fishing license and a WMA license, or you can purchase a three-day fishing license and be covered to fish at Marben Farms. If you have a lifetime or sportsman’s license, you are also covered. The daily limit of bream is 15, and fishing is from sunrise to sunset.

Marben PFA is a great place to start making some memories with your family right now. Put the video games up, and tell your kids you are about to go outside and play. There are very few things better than springtime in Georgia. The flowers blooming like crazy, and the lush green leaves have woken from their winter’s nap. Below the water’s surface there is a mess of fish waking up, too. And guess what… they are hungry and want to get out and stretch their fins.

So take your kids fishing, and stretch your legs, also. I have a really good feeling your legs aren’t the only thing that will be getting stretched if you head out to Marben PFA with a tube of crickets. Your lines will be getting stretched, too.

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