Tired Creek Lake in north Grady County has been in the works for years, and it was finally opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend. The crowd size seemed comparable to a Friday night football game against rival Thomas County Central, and folks were just as excited. The throng included my brother Matt and me, who were parked at the boat ramp waiting anxiously in line behind many others well before daylight. When it was our turn to launch, the sky had just begun to grey. With overcast skies forecasted throughout the day, I was optimistic for a good day of fishing but still unsure of what to expect.
The lake looks like a giant turkey track, with three finger creeks that merge into the main lake. The water is a deep black like many of the tannic-stained creeks in north Florida, and there is cover everywhere in the form of standing timber and submerged vegetation. The lake isn’t just some shallow bowl either. There is depth to it, and in some areas it’s as deep as 30 feet. Our first challenge was just figuring out where to start on this fishy-looking chunk of brand-new water.
We idled north slowly away from the ramp through a dense fog. Wood ducks flew off amid high squeals and a lone osprey winged past us heading to a nest in a bald cypress. We followed the osprey up the middle finger, hoping to get away from other boaters. Matt and I worked our way into the back of the middle creek and began throwing to shoreline cover, of which there is an abundance. On my brother’s first cast, he hooked up with a 3-lb. bass on a brown Zoom Fluke before he even twitched it. I followed him up with a smaller, yet healthy,
2-pounder on a green Zoom Horny Toad. I then lost a 4-pounder at the boat. We continued down the bank boating several more bass, mostly in the 2-lb. range. My brother switched to swimming a weightless lizard, and I continued with the frog, but the results were the same. These fish were hungry and not used to lures, which made for a great morning.
My brother and I were both rigged with 30-lb. Power Pro braid. My frog was paired with a 4/0 extra wide gap Eagle Claw hook. Heavy braid will be a must on Tired Creek Lake because of all the heavy cover. Matt used a 4/0 offset Eagle Claw hook.
As the sun rose a bit, the bass bite seemed to die down a tick, and we decided to see how good the bream fishing was. On a small spinning outfit rigged with a little cork and a piece of split-shot, I casted out a live worm next to some standing timber. It was 6 feet here, and I wondered if I wasn’t fishing a touch too deep. My fears proved unfounded when seconds later my rod bent over, and I was battling a fish. I thought maybe a wayward bass had found my worm, but soon enough a hand-sized copper-colored bluegill emerged from the water. Excited, I quickly rebaited my hook and cast out again, but the bream were scattered, and I didn’t get another bite there.
Using the trolling motor, we moved farther back into the creek. I kept pitching worms to likely looking targets, while my brother began fan casting all around with a chartreuse Beetle Spin. It was soon evident that his way was more effective as he was catching two bream to my one. I switched over to a Beetle Spin as well and began having more success. The bream were all out deeper than the bass were and much more widely scattered. They were hungry though, and we soon had enough for a fish fry. Nearly every bream was hand sized, and all fought wonderfully on our light spinning rods.
By 10 a.m. the skies had darkened and rain was threatening, yet the lake was crowding up even more. We released all our bass and went back to the boat ramp hoping to beat the mad dash that was sure to occur if the skies opened up. Both Matt and I were thoroughly impressed with the lake. My brother was so enthralled that he went and bought a new jonboat.
I spoke with several friends who were also out fishing opening weekend, and they were all catching bass. A lot of folks caught fish dragging worms and throwing swimbaits, but buzzbaits and frogs seemed to draw some of the bigger strikes. I believe the topwater bite here will remain good throughout most of the year.
Among the crowd fishing that first Saturday was local legend and former Bassmaster Classic angler Pam Martin Wells, who caught a nice 9.2-lb. bass on a frog. When I asked her thoughts on the lake, she said, “I think it’s excellent, they did a fantastic job.”
She liked the abundance of cover and said that she could see some similarities to Lake Seminole on a smaller scale.
“Right now they got a good thing going if they manage it properly. Hopefully they will practice some catch and release.”
Mrs. Wells also advised that once things settle down, the bass will start to get into their predictable patterns, and she believed that swimbaits worked on the edge of the grass and flipping vegetation will both be productive tactics.
Satisfied that the lake held healthy population of bass and bream, I returned to the lake for another trip, this time with my dad and armed for speckled perch with curly tailed jigs instead of bream bait and bass lures. We decided to go during the middle of the week, thinking the crowds would be down some from the weekend blitz. Our thinking was right, but not by much. There were still plenty of fishermen.
Again we arrived before daylight at the Cedar Creek East boat ramp just off Gainous Road, and again we had to wait in line to launch. Unlike the first trip, the day was a clear one with bluebird skies.
A buddy of mine had previously clued me into a spot that paid off for him on the opening weekend, and that’s where we headed. Opposite the dam, on the north end of the main lake is a mass of standing timber surrounded by submerged grass. By trolling the edge of the grass, we were able to catch plenty of perch and a few bream. For bait, we were using chartreuse-and-white curly tail jigs. We were also able to get bit by just trolling the main lake, particularly along the mouth of Sapp Creek. Three hours after launching, dad and I had all the perch we could eat, so we left them biting to go fire up the grease. The trip was a special one for my dad, as he has heard talk about the possibility of a lake here his whole life, and it was a real joy to take him on his first trip to Tired Creek.
I’ve been to the lake several times now, and there is definitely something for everyone. For bank-bound anglers, the area around the boat ramp on State Park Road will hold the most opportunity. There is a large boat dock there and a huge jetty that allows for plenty of elbow room. There have been nice stringers of bluegill coming out of there, mostly caught with worms. There is not a lot of room at the boat ramp around the Cedar Creek East boat ramp just off Gainous Road, and the water at the Cedar Creek West boat ramp is too shallow right now to hold many fish.
Tired Creek Lake will be a good one for smaller jonboats, kayaks and canoes, particularly for those wanting to get back into the creeks. Bigger boats will do fine in the main-lake area, but care should be used when going into the tighter areas. There are thick areas of submerged grass and stumps near the creek mouths that need to be navigated. Anglers should also expect to fish around others, at least for now, as folks have been flocking to the new lake in droves.
Since it has opened, the lake has been hit hard by anglers. On the opening weekend multiple 5-lb. and better bass were caught including the monster 14-pounder caught by Sherry Vann. Some fishermen even had 30- to 50-bass days. The fish have begun to adjust to the pressure though, and things are starting to normalize a bit. If folks do like Mrs. Wells suggests and practice some amount of catch and release, this should continue to be a quality fishery.
There are three public boat ramps at Tired Creek Lake—Gainous Road, State Park Road and a dirt ramp on Cedar Springs Road. The lake is county maintained, and there are no use fees for Grady County residents. Folks who live outside of the county must pay $3 for daily use. Currently there are no permanent bathroom facilities at the ramps.
Author’s Note: I’ve been advised they are going to put stricter bag limits in place at Tired Creek Lake, though they haven’t yet announced what those will be. I’m told they will make public those restrictions at the Lake Authority meeting in July.