Opening-Day Fishing Blast At Ocmulgee PFA

Hundreds of anglers turn out for the first day of great fishing at the state's newest Public Fishing Area.

GON Staff | June 26, 2006

By mid-morning, Randy McGahee (left) and Nathan Obrien, both of Warner Robins, had caught some catfish as well as a half-dozen bass that ranged up to five pounds. The bass were short, fat and thick. “You’ll see more of us here, I guarantee it,” said Nathan.

At daybreak, Saturday June 10, two years and a day from breaking ground, the Ocmulgee PFA opened to the public and the opening-day fishing was fantastic. Hazlehurst angler Glen Soloman was so excited about his day on the lake he sent this account:

“F1 Tiger Bass. Bam! Coming to you at the new Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area in Houston County. Forget working the slow, soft plastics and bring the fun hard baits — these bass are aggressive!

“My wife Cindy and I arrived at 4:45 a.m. and were fortunate enough to be the first in line Saturday morning, first to launch, and first, as far as I could tell, to catch a bass at the new PFA.

“We went straight across the lake from the ramp to the opposite bank and began popping a Chug Bug across the slick, calm surface. Small shad and minnows were breaking and skipping all about. As I neared a point, I slung my lure across foamy fish bubbles. One jerk and there was an explosion of spraying water: Missing In Action Chug Bug! After crossing his eyes and a short tug-of-war, I landed the fattest, 5-lb., football-shaped bass I’ve ever seen.

Cindy then threw into a geyser of airborne minnows with a Mepps Black Fury and stopped a 13-inch largemouth bullet in its tracks.

In the next few minutes, I had two more big bass strike and miss my Chug Bug.

I looked around and I could see people in boats and on the bank getting attacked by catfish and bream. On the edges, in the middle, around the flooded timber, there was no escaping them. The fish were on the small size, but they were overwhelmingly abundant and just right for pan-frying. Everywhere you looked people were laughing and talking and catching fish.”

James Taylor of Hawkinsville keeps an eye on his 3-year-old grandson Tyler Meeks, who was whipping a small jig far out into the kids’ fishing pond. Minutes later, Tyler pulled a small hybrid from the lake.

The 106-acre lake on Ocmulgee WMA between Cochran and Hawkinsville is the latest gem in a string of high-quality fishing lakes developed by the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) Fisheries Section. If you attended opening day, two things were immediately clear: There is a tremendous interest in fishing, and if you build a great fishing lake, fishermen will come. WRD estimates that nearly 2,000 people visited the lake on opening day. Bank access is excellent, and the banks were lined with anglers of all ages. On the lake a small flotilla of fishing boats patrolled the standing timber for bass, bream and catfish. The Georgia Trappers Association was set up along the entry road handing out tubes of crickets free. Those crickets caught hundreds of small bream and catfish. In a year, the lake is expected to provide good crappie fishing, too, but at present those fish are small.

Big, uneducated largemouth bass were a huge draw. Glen Soloman tied on a Hellcat topwater lure that had been the gift from the son of Glen’s long-time bassin’ friend Clinton Royals, now deceased.

“Michael (Clinton’s son) had given me an old Hellcat that belonged to his dad and said, ‘Take this and catch one in dad’s name.’ I did better. I caught two bass, battled and lost one, and two more blew up on it. All were in the 5-lb. range, and all in less than 30 minutes. Not only that, I lost another one in a viney treetop that would go much bigger. According to DNR, these fish are only two years old.”

According to WRD Region Supervisor of Fisheries Les Ager, some of the bass stocked in the lake were F1s, the super-fast-growing Florida/Northern-cross strain of largemouths. Too, all the bass stocked were female.

“A bass grows according to the energy it expends,” said Les. “We stocked all female bass, and when you eliminate reproduction you keep the density low, and the fish grow rapidly. The fish don’t have to fan beds and go through courtship or have to guard eggs and fry — that’s energy saved that goes into growth. The lake has an incredible amount of forage, and the fish are growing rapidly. The bass are two years old, and they average about 4 1/2 pounds, with some exceptional fish in the 6- to 7-lb. range.”

Robert Sapp of Cochran and his son Randy caught small catfish and bream by fishing crickets under a float in submerged timber in the center of the lake.

Forage in the lake includes shiners, threadfin shad and bluegill. Les expects to see bass in the 10-lb. range by next year. All bass fishing is catch-and-release.

“If you want big fish in numbers, you have to put them back,” said Les. “We are likely to keep that restriction, and we know what will happen: the lake will grow a lot of big bass.”

According to Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver, approximately 1,100 yearling bass were stocked in the lake, and between a third and half of those fish were F1s.

Unique to the lake at Ocmulgee PFA is a pump system that circulates the entire water column every 24 hours. This mixes the layers of water so that there will be no stratification, and no deep, dead water during the summer. With no stratification, the lake is productive from top to bottom year round.

Gavin Pierce, 14, of Macon with one of five hybrids he caught from the kids’ fishing pond. He said he also caught about 25 fish from the big lake.

At 10 a.m. a dedication ceremony was held on the banks of the kids’ fishing pond. DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb, Sen. Ross Tolleson (R- Perry), and Bruce Henderson, manager of the Bass Pro Shops store being built in Macon, made brief comments.

At the end of the dedication, the three-acre kids’ fishing pond was opened to fishing, and if the day held a disappointment, it was that the hybrid bass in the kids’ pond failed to cooperate with 50 or so children eager to catch a fish. When the pond was opened to fishing, 50 bobbers were launched onto the pond. Then — nothing. While there were eventually a few hybrids caught, the fishing under a hot, late morning sun was slow and many of the kids and their parents gradually shifted back to the big lake and the more cooperative catfish and bream.

At noon, the kids and their parents were treated to a hot-dog and soft-drink lunch provided by the Bleckley County Sportsman’s Club.

Buddy Churchwell of Macon caught several hybrids in the 2- to 3-lb. range by throwing a Shad Rap in 15 feet of water near the water-control structure. The hybrids were overflow escapees from the kids’ fishing pond.

Glen Soloman and his wife were still enjoying fishing on the big lake: “We did take us a few minutes to catch a mess of catfish for supper,” said Glen. “Didn’t take long. You could catch fish anywhere you stopped. The lake has all kind of structure, roadbeds, ditches, channels, humps, flooded timber, stickups and brush. Bank access is excellent, and you can use minnows to fish this lake. Anybody with common sense can tell this lake is going to be dynamite — let the F1 Tigers roar!

“P.S. If you come across any of the DNR personnel while fishing at Ocmulgee, show them your appreciation for a fisheries job well done.”

For directions, regulations and more information about Ocmulgee PFA, go to the DNR website at <> and follow the fishing links to PFAs, and finally to Ocmulgee PFA. You will find a detailed contour map of the lake that provides GPS coordinates for structure placed in the lake to enhance fishing. The PFA office phone number is (478) 783-2557.

Bank anglers have great access near the boat ramp (far left) and the parking area.

Ocmulgee PFA Pier

Ocmulgee PFA Kids pond

Ocmulgee PFA Map


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