The mystique of truly giant bass swimming below the surface of a collection of small lakes has long lured anglers to southeast Georgia. These waters may be small, but they have produced untold numbers of 10-lb. and better bass, and a remarkable number of bass better than 14 pounds.
GON’s list of Georgia’s Biggest Bass of All-Time lists the heaviest bass ever caught and verified in the state, and among the Top-50, eight came from the collection of lakes on a Georgia military installation.
Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield (FS/HAAF) is home to 18 managed fishing ponds that total more than 400 acres. The ponds range from a 2 1/2-acre borrow pit to an 82-acre impoundment.
The most-common sportfish caught from these ponds are largemouth bass, including the impressive number that weighed in excess of 14 pounds. While bass are the big-ticket draw for people who travel to fish Fort Stewart, these lakes also offer very good fishing for bluegill, redear, channel catfish and black crappie.
Regular management activities by the installation’s Fish and Wildlife Branch include fish stocking, creating fish attractors, aquatic-vegetation control, water-quality monitoring, fertilizing and liming, fish-population sampling and mowing the grass on pond banks. During the fall fish-population surveys, the results indicated this should be a great year. Here are a couple of hints from the sampling — two bass in excess of 10 pounds each were netted and released in Pond 26, and another bass that tipped the scales at 8 1/2 pounds is still swimming in Pond 17.
Home of Giant Bass… and More
Pond 1, known as Pineview Lake, is where the No. 30 and No. 31 largest bass in Georgia history were caught, a 15-lb., 1.4-oz. bass in 1997 and a 15-lb., 1-oz. lunker in 2002. Pineview Lake is the largest pond on the property. Constructed in 1964, this 82-acre impoundment is a favorite not just for bass, but also bluegills, redears, channel catfish and even hybrid bass, making Pineview the most diverse at FS/HAAF. Numerous fish attractors made from recycled Christmas trees are located throughout the lake.
Pond 28, or Dogwood Lake, is the home of the No. 18 Georgia bass of all-time on GON’s list, a 15-lb., 12-oz. fish caught in 1993. Extremely dry conditions last summer left Dogwood with low water. This allowed aquatic weeds to become severe enough that the pond was closed. It was reopened at the end of September, though some weeds still persisted. Even with the difficulty of maneuvering through the remaining weeds, Fort Stewart Fish and Wildlife Branch was able to sample many nice bass, bluegill, redear and crappie during fall sampling. Herbicide work is being done early this growing season to prevent a reoccurrence of last year’s weed problem, and thus provide easier access within the pond for fishermen. Two concrete boat ramps are maintained at this 33-acre pond, as well as multiple earthen fishing piers to provide more fishing access.
Pond 26, also known as Metz Pond and Big Metz Lake, is 53 acres of pure Georgia bass-fishing history. This little lake has produced four of the Top-50 bass ever caught in Georgia — No. 47, 14-lbs., 3-ozs. in 1987; No. 36, 14-lbs., 14.4-ozs. in 2000; No. 22, 15-lbs., 9-ozs. in 1992; and No. 14, 16-lbs., 1.2-ozs. caught in 2001. This pond is managed as a trophy-bass pond, so the size limit for largemouth bass is 24 inches.
If you’re looking for an all-around great place to fish, Metz is your pond. In this pond you can find monster bass weighing easily more than 10 pounds, slab crappie longer than 14 inches, bluegill longer than 9 inches, plus redbreast, redear and warmouth. Metz is located in Area E19 of the installation, which has been closed for recreation due to ongoing construction of training facilities, but accommodations have been made to allow access for fishermen. Fishermen must visit the Pass and Permit office to get a decal, and then follow a specific route to prevent interference with activities in E19. The route is, from Highway 144W travel north on Fort Stewart (FS) road 5 for 6.6 miles, then east on FS road 8 for 0.8 miles to Metz Pond. The area is still closed during training exercises, so continue to check the daily status sheet on the website or call the Pass and Permit office to see when Pond 26 is open for fishing.
If you are looking for black crappie, try Ponds 1, 2, 3 or 26. Bluegill fishing is good in most of the lakes, but especially in Ponds 1, 17 and 26.
There is a fully equipped campground directly adjacent to Pond 3, so you can bring the whole family for a great fishing and camping trip. Better known as Holbrook Pond, Pond 3 has both wooden and earthen fishing piers for better access for bank-bound fishermen. You can easily wet a line from along the bank, or put your boat in at one of the well-maintained ramps to catch bass, bluegill, crappie or warmouth.
Located in the northwest corner of Fort Stewart, Pond 17 is a little out of the way, but it is well worth the drive. Fishermen were catching 7- to 10-lb. bass there this spring. The bluegill in this pond are hand-sized and larger. Though the redear are not as abundant as the bluegill, if you catch one, it will be good-sized.
Kids’ Fishing Lakes and Events
Each year the installation sponsors Kids’ Fishing Events (KFEs). Children under the age of 16 are invited to come out to Pond 30 at Fort Stewart or Pond 24 at Hunter Army Airfield and fish for free. The first KFE of the year will be held at Pond 30 on the first Saturday of June during National Fishing and Boating Week. Channel catfish are stocked prior to these events to ensure all the children have a great day of fishing! A number of the ponds are family-friendly, with elevated docks to fish from and easily accessible picnic shelters, so make your next fishing trip a family event, and bring the kids along. Renovations are under way for additional facilities and conveniences at Holbrook and Holstrom ponds.
Boats are welcome in all of our ponds, but internal combustion motors cannot be used (paddles or trolling motors only). Ramps are located at ponds 1, 2, 3, 17, 21, 26 and 28. Remember to remove all aquatic vegetation from your boat, boat trailer and fishing gear to prevent the spread of aquatic weeds. Creel and size limits are posted at each pond.
Before fishing any of the Fort Stewart lakes, anglers need a Georgia fishing license, plus they need a Fort Stewart Fishing Permit. Daily fishing permits may be purchased from the Pass and Permit office for $5. Annual passes range from $5 to $30, depending on military rank. Disabled persons and those over 65 can receive a free honorary permit.
Due to military exercises, ponds may be closed for training. To ensure angler safety and unimpeded military training, fishermen are required to check in using an automated access system. A list of ponds open for recreation, called the “Area Status Sheet,” and other information on FS/HAAF ponds can be found at <www.stewart.army.mil/dpw/fish/default.htm>. Anglers can also find maps of the ponds at the website.