The line went tight moments after a perfect pitch to the base of a cypress tree where it met the tea-colored water’s surface. As I set the hook, the line rung out like an old, taut guitar string that had waited to be played.
On the other end of my line was an opponent only about 10 inches long, but with an attitude the size of a middle linebacker.
As I swung the fish in the boat, it was hard not to appreciate my hard-fighting foe. Thick across the back and sporting shades of green, black, orange and brown, I’ve come to love these beautiful little warmouth of the Okefenokee Swamp.
It was 9 a.m., two hours into my trip, and that fish completed my limit of 50 warmouth.
The one and only Okefenokee Swamp is home to cypress trees that have stood the test of time, alligators decades old, and some of the best fishing you’re ever going to find.
If exploring the natural wonder of the Okefenokee Swamp while catching lot of fish isn’t enough to plan a trip to southeast Georgia, I want to make clear you don’t need a fancy boat, expensive tackle or the latest gadget to catch plenty of warmouth. Most of what you will need you already have, and what you don’t you can purchase with a minimal investment.
With proper planning, results similar to mine can be achieved on your very first trip to the swamp. The technique I’m going to describe is also a great way to introduce small children to fishing. The action is almost always fast and fun.
The method I use involves a 10-foot bream buster, a matching 10-foot long strand of 12-lb. test line, and a fly called an Okefenokee Swamp Sally. This little jig is hand tied just miles from the swamp by a fine gentlemen whose name is Capt. Bert Deener. Bert writes often for GON, and he’s a region supervisor and fisheries biologist with WRD. Bert knows the swamp and the fishing there better then anyone I know.
He has a complete line of both freshwater and saltwater tackle designed to help you catch more fish. For a complete catalog, he can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To target warmouth in the swamp, a big question is where to access this vast area. There are two main entrances. The Fargo entrance on the west side, which consists of Billy’s Lake, Minnies Lake, the Suwanee River and other areas. The east entrance is the Suwanee Canal.
I won’t hesitate to tell you that in my opinion the east side is not only the best warmouth fishery of the two, but it is probably one of the best warmouth fishing spots in the country. The reason for this is simple—the warmouth fishing in the Suwanee Canal is so consistent. You have essentially a motionless river lined with cypress trees and heavy vegetation. The fish are almost always going to hold to wood cover, and they will really stack up when the water is hot.
The tricky part to finding fish is finding the unnoticeable spots that no one ever gives a second glance. Don’t get me wrong, you will catch a limit of quality warmouth by simply fishing the large cypress trees and their roots, but it is the small stumps surrounded by grass that will hold the monsters.
My wife once caught several 10-inchers back to back off one small, submerged root that you barely even noticed. It’s really not complicated—you just have to look for different structure. And when you catch a whopper, kill the trolling motor, and slow down and thoroughly fish that structure. You will almost always be rewarded with a couple more nice warmouth.
As far as technique goes, it’s really simple—find the cover, use your bream buster (aka your redneck fly rod) to pitch the fly and let it slowly sink. Right as it begins to sink, give it a twitch, and repeat. That’s it—it’s not complicated at all. And most of the time a feisty warmouth will slam the fly the second it hits the water.
Another interesting factor is you may have some other local contenders take a whack at your fly. Fliers are caught quite frequently in the waters of the Okefenokee, as are as the toothy bowfin and jackfish. A occasional catfish will even give the fly a try.
As far as color is concerned, you can’t go wrong with a yellow or pink Sally, but I won’t hesitate to say any color will work well under correct conditions. You just have to keep changing it up until you find what they want that day. It’s really not complicated—just trial and error until you get it right.
Keep in mind that heavy rains (greater then 1 inch in 24 hours) will usually all but shut the warmouth bite down. The rising waters will cause the fish to temporarily move into the dense brush. If you are confronted by high waters, just stay as close to the bank as possible and focus on pockets of water up in the brush, and that should help land a few decent fish.
There are special regs that apply at the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s a federal refuge and has an entrance fee, and a Georgia state fishing license is required. State creel limits apply. There is a 10 hp maximum on outboards. There are additional regulations, so make sure to visit the Okefenokee Refuge website at http://okefenokee.fws.gov.
Catching warmouth on the Okefenokee is a great way to spend time with family and children. Even when the action slows, you will be surrounded by some of God’s greatest creation, and that makes fishing the Okefenokee Swamp so special.