Anglers anxious to get out on the water should prepare themselves for some cold weather striped bass action. This time of year, it is common to catch five to 15-pounders, with the occasional landing of a 30-pounder or greater.
Striped bass are abundant in many reservoirs across the state thanks to the stocking efforts of the Fisheries Management Section of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. Stripers prefer water temperatures less than 75 degrees and tend to concentrate over river channels and around submerged islands where threadfin shad and blueback herring are abundant.
Wildlife Resources Division biologists recommend medium to heavy 6 to 7-foot rods equipped with 12 to 18-pound test line. Some common striper lures are 3/8-ounce white bucktail jigs, soft plastic jerk baits and large minnow bait. Anglers should cast to the shoreline or try trolling these artificial lures.
For more consistent results, live bait is recommended - 4 to 6-inch minnows or shad and blueback herring where legal (available at many local bait and tackle shops). Biologists recommend fishing live bait shallow, less than 10 feet, with a large bobber and no weight attached (free-lining), or fishing vertically (down-lining) with a 1-ounce sinker weight at greater depths of 10-30 feet. A size 2-4 hook is recommended for fishing these larger live baits and landing big stripers.
Striper fishing destinations
Lake Lanier: Right now, anglers should concentrate on the upper half of the reservoir and creek arms scattered around the entire lake. Late winter targets are creeks with stained (muddy) water on the north end of the lake which offer slightly warmer water temperatures triggering striped bass feeding activity on shad and blueback herring. If water temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, stripers go after smaller baitfish so anglers should switch to lighter line (8-pound line), smaller hooks and smaller bait when down-lining and free-lining.
Clarks Hill Lake: Clarks Hill is annually stocked and has an abundant baitfish population, including threadfin shad, gizzard shad and blueback herring. Target the Little River arm or below Richard B. Russell Dam, especially during power generation, which creates a current and stimulates a feeding response.
Lake Oconee: Target major creek arms, such as Lick, Sugar and Richland creeks, and then the deeper water near Wallace Dam.
Lake Richard B Russell: Anglers should target large creek arms, such as Beaverdam Creek, the upper reaches of the Savannah River and the deeper water around the dam.
Bartlett’s Ferry Lake: Striped bass have been annually stocked in this lake since 1992 to support the Gulf-race recovery in the Apalachicola River System. Anglers should target the dam during winter, and during periods of power generation at West Point Lake, Riverview and Crow Hop Dams. Favorite baits include spoons, bucktail jigs and popping corks with trailing jigs.
West Point Lake: Fishing with live shad is the most effective way of catching line sides on this lake. Jigs and spoons also work well. Concentrate efforts around the dam and deep channels during the cool months.
Lake Juliette: Many anglers concentrate efforts near the pump discharge located just above the dam. Successful methods include trolling creek channels during the cooler months, and drifting or fishing on the bottom with live or cut shad.
Chattahoochee and Flint rivers (Early, Dougherty and Worth counties): Anglers should try the Chattahoochee River just below Columbia Dam in Early County and on the Flint River below Lake Worth near Albany and Lake Blackshear where fish tend to be more active during hydroelectric operations from Warwick Dam.
Coosa River: Spawn-run stripers will pour into the river over the next few months on their annual migration from Lake Weiss. Live, cut or artificial baits can entice 5-30 pound stripers from the river’s murky waters. The Mayo Lock and Dam and downtown Rome areas of the river are typical hot spots.
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license to fish in public waters. Where can you get a license? Buy it online or find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
For more information about striper fishing in Georgia, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com/fishing .