If you’re a bream fisherman in Georgia, the month of May is as good as it gets. From the mountains up around Lake Blue Ridge to the humid rivers of south Georgia—and everywhere in between—the bream are biting right now.
And whether you like drowning worms, dunking corks, twitching a popping bug, or pitching a variety of lures for these tasty panfish, May is certainly your month.
To simplify the “where to go” and “what to throw,” I have interviewed WRD Fisheries biologists and other experts from across our state and compiled a list of the most promising bodies of water for this summer. And no matter where you live, most anglers will find one or more of these areas just a short drive away.
Starting way up in north Georgia, my first interview was with WRD Fisheries Technician Chris Looney of the Gainesville office.
“Though we don’t have as many large bream as some of the other areas in south Georgia, north Georgia is home to some great panfish waters,” Chris said.
For river anglers, he recommended the Chattahoochee above Lake Lanier.
“This stretch of the river has a great population of hand-sized fish that will keep any ultralight reels drag singing,” Chris said.
Top techniques in this stretch of Chattahoochee River involve flinging Beetle Spins and dunking crickets and worms. You can expect to catch mostly redbreast and bluegill, with the occasional shellcracker mixed in.
Up in northwest Georgia, Rocky Mountain PFA offers a good chance at some big shellcracker action this month. These big bream are best targeted with long casts from the bank or from a boat out from shore. Pinch a couple split-shot about 10 inches above a red worm, and fish it around structure and areas with a sandy bottom for success.
“There are also some great bream fishing opportunities in both Stone Mountain State Park and Fort Yargo State Park,” Chris said. “The past few years we have been seeing some shellcracker that are especially large come out of Stone Mountain State Park.”
Anglers fishing at Stone Mountain State Park should target shellcracker in deeper water with live worms fished on the bottom. With some of the bigger fish present, it pays to use a little bigger of a hook, like a No. 4, and a larger worm to entice bites from these trophy-sized shellcracker.
At Fort Yargo, try fishing shallow for bedding bluegill with crickets suspended about 18 inches under small corks. Bedding fish will also likely slam a Beetle Spin pulled through their spawning area.
As we take a look next at middle Georgia, bream fishing opportunities are virtually everywhere. When I interviewed Steve Schleiger, from the Fort Valley Fisheries office, he was quick to point out that the PFAs in this region are among the best in the state.
“We have been using intensive management and a lot of man hours, but it has paid off with some great fishing on our PFAs,” Steve said.
“It is hard to pick one area as the best, but if I had to, it would be Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center/Marben PFA,” he said of the area off state Highway 11 right at the Newton/Jasper County line.
With 20 ponds that range in size from 1 acre to 95 acres, there is something for everyone at Marben Farm PFA, including great access for bank-bound anglers. Steve said anglers fishing in May should have great success targeting bedding bluegill in 2 to 4 feet of water. Look for areas with lots of beds around shallow vegetation and wood cover. Fish a worm or cricket under a cork for nonstop action. Don’t hesitate to make a cast a little farther out from the bedding area, as some of the biggest bluegill will bed a little deeper.
Another middle Georgia PFA that is really producing as of late is Big Lazer PFA in Talbot County. With one lake at an impressive 195 acres, there are plenty of tasty panfish for the taking.
“This area is going to be on fire in May,” Steve said. “Big Lazer hasn’t received much pressure the past couple of years, and samples show there are an abundance of hand-sized bluegill and even bigger shellcracker,” Steve said.
Try fishing popping bugs on top early around the shoreline for big bruiser bluegill, and then fling Beetle Spins as the sun climbs higher in the sky. For those fishing from shore, there is a great fishing pier and lots of bank access around the lake. Try fishing with worms off the pier for above-average shellcracker and an occasional channel catfish that will likely give your worm a taste test. When boats aren’t launching, it is a good idea to fling a cricket suspended under a cork out over the boat ramp. Lots of hand-sized bluegill are caught this way by local anglers, particularly in May and June.
Flat Creek is another middle Georgia PFA that should be great this month. A good largemouth bass population has kept the bream population in check, resulting in fewer but much larger bream. For bluegill, try small minnow plugs early, like a Renosky Keystone Jig, followed by crickets as the temperature rises. Shellcracker are best targeted with worms in 8 to 10 feet of water in areas that have a sandy bottom and a little cover nearby.
When it comes to what area to bream fish in southwest Georgia, it is hard to beat Lake Seminole, especially for big bream action.
Costa Series bass angler and guide Clint Brown says, “If you’re new to fishing Seminole, it may be a little overwhelming at first, but it shouldn’t take long to start filling your cooler.”
Clint said that in May the bluegill will be spawning in the backs of creeks around heavy vegetation and timber.
“It’s a good idea to mark areas, especially where you find lots of spawning activity, because the bluegill will use those same areas year after year,” Clint said.
Use your polarized glasses to look for saucer-shaped beds in shallow water. On days when water clarity isn’t great, you can use your ears to locate hungry bluegill. By listening for the popping sounds bluegill make while sucking bugs from under pads and weeds, you can quickly locate areas with lots of aggressive bluegill.
“Once you find them, bluegill are super fun to catch. You can pitch Beetle Spins or popping bugs, but I love to catch them on a cricket under a cork. There is just something about watching that cork go down,” Clint said.
“Shellcracker fishing is a little more difficult in May on Seminole. The spawn ends in April usually, and now the fish are moved into deeper water. Still they are worth fishing for,” Clint said.
He focuses on deeper water 8 to 12 feet, and a sandy bottom is crucial. The main river channel on Seminole is a good place to look, as are the creek channels.
“When you locate a likely area, bait up a spread of rods with red wigglers, and fish that area for 20 minutes or so. If there is no action, move on and try another area,” Clint said.
By doing this, it shouldn’t take long at all to have your drag screaming, and don’t be surprised if it is a pound-plus Seminole shellcracker.
“We catch them big as dinner plates on Seminole,” Clint said with a smile.
If you would like to book a trip with Clint, you can give him a call at (850) 491-9199.
Southeast Georgia offers perhaps the most diverse opportunities for bream fishing in the Peach State. When I spoke with Fisheries Biologist Capt. Bert Deener, who is supervisor at the Waycross Fisheries Office, you could practically hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about the bream fishing for 2017.
“This is going to be a phenomenal year for panfishing, and southeast Georgia rivers are going to be tops again for big rooster redbreasts. And there are some lakes and PFAs producing some big bluegill and shellcracker,” Capt. Deener said.
When the fisheries office conducted shocking analysis on Banks Lake in Lakeland in April, they found a good population of 3/4- to 1-lb. bluegill surveyed. Pitch crickets to one of the lake’s many cypress trees, and get ready. Early in the morning, try pitching a Swamp Spider on top with a Bream Buster rod. Let those legs wiggle. The Swamp Spider is a popping bug I make, and it is available in south Georgia tackle stores. Similar to a Betts Bream Spider, except built larger with a big No. 4 Eagle Claw hook, this bug has been producing some real nice fish this year.
Capt. Deener also recommended Paradise PFA for bluegill action.
“You won’t find lots of huge fish at Paradise PFA, but the key ingredient for a fish fry is obtainable,” he said. “Try bank fishing with crickets under floats, and put a worm on the bottom for a chance at a good shellcracker.
With 68 ponds and lakes totaling 525 acres of water, there is something at Paradise PFA for every angler.
The real story in south Georgia is the rooster redbreast. This sunfish with a bright red belly and a bad attitude draws anglers from across the state hoping to tangle with a 1-lb. and better trophy redbreast. Numerous south Georgia rivers have great populations of these sunfish, and of these, the Satilla River is one of the best.
Thanks to plenty of rain in recent years, the Satilla redbreast population is thriving. Lots of large stringers full of 3/4-lb. and better redbreast are the norm this year. There are access points up and down the Satilla, but the areas around Waycross and Blackshear are tops for great red-belly action. Many anglers fish worms or crickets on the bottom, but for larger fish, Beetle Spins and other small lures work well. One particular lure locals use is a Satilla Spin. I like to fish mine on a 6-foot, 6-inch ultralight Vexan Rod and ultralight reel spooled with 6-lb. test Trilene XT line. This tiny spinnerbait regularly produces 50 to 100 fish days, and the majority of these fish are above hand size. You can find this lure at tackle stores throughout south Georgia. Top colors are bruised banana and crawfish.
My favorite way of catching monster red bellies is by pitching a GA BOY Lures Swamp Spider on top with a 10-foot Bream Buster pole paired with 12-lb. Trilene Big Game line. The foam on this bug is slightly absorbent, so I spray it with Java Reelsnot. The coffee scent seems to make redbreast inhale the bug, and the Java Snot helps me to bury the Eagle Claw hook in the fish’s mouth. With all the shady areas on the Satilla, you can pitch this bug on top all day long, and it is by far the most productive way to catch the biggest redbreast.
Without a doubt, May holds a lot of promise for some great bream action. No matter where you choose to drop a worm, fling a Beetle Spin or pitch a bug, it shouldn’t take long to have your rod bent over and a smile on your face.
If you have any questions about the areas or techniques mentioned in this article, or would like to order a Swamp Spider, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can give me a call at (912) 282-3838.