WAYCROSS — Fishing, or more accurately “catching,” is about to bust wide open in south Georgia rivers, thanks to river levels dropping within the banks, according to personnel with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Catches were already improving this past May as the water temperatures warmed, but then consistent rains pushed the rivers back into the floodplains,” said Don Harrison, fisheries biologist. “When the river is out in the floodplain, fish of all species have increased foraging opportunities and their survival rate is higher as they are more spread out — so more food sources and less predation provides for bigger and more plentiful fish.”
A research study on redbreast sunfish growth, conducted by fisheries staff during the previous decade, found that redbreasts grew extremely fast when the river was out in the floodplain with the largest increase in growth rate when this occurred during late spring and early summer. These are the conditions Georgia has experienced this year, so fisheries personnel expect anglers to catch some of the biggest river bluegill and redbreast seen in years. The prime fishing time will come when the river level drops to well within the banks.
Fishing tips for panfish, such as redbreast sunfish and bluegill, include using crickets suspended underneath a small float and to target around shoreline cover. Those anglers who can make pinpoint-accurate casts can sling artificial lures into shady haunts to pull out some true “rooster” redbreasts. Some of the more effective artificial lures for these species include small spinnerbaits with rubber band skirts or small plastic beetle bodies, in-line spinners and popping bugs.
Safety while fishing on rivers is important. Anglers are encouraged to wear a life jacket. Flood events change rivers by moving logs and sandbars in river channels, so be careful while boating.
Anyone who needs information about what type of license to get before fishing can go to www.georgiawildlife.com/PFA/WhatToKnow. Licenses may be bought online, from retail license vendors listed at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or over the phone by calling 1-800-366-2661.