Whether you're a serious angler or just out to keep a hook wet while you sleep, the Augusta area offers an array of prime fishing options. Here are five favorite fishing holes of outdoors columnist Bill Baab.
1. Thurmond Lake: 70,000-acre lake on Savannah River above Augusta. Key species: Striped and hybrid bass, largemouth bass, crappies, bream, catfish. Easy access through public boat ramps (daily and annual user fees). From Augusta, take Washington Road through Evans to Pollard's Corner, then turn right on U.S. Highway 221 and cross dam to the visitors center. Or travel out Washington Road, turn right on Furys Ferry Road, cross over Furys Ferry Bridge into South Carolina to Clarks Hill community, turn left onto Highway 221 and turn right into road to visitors center.
2. Merry Land Brickyard Ponds: Fourteen ponds offer good fishing for largemouth bass, bream, catfish and crappies. To reach the ponds from downtown Augusta, take Gordon Highway to Doug Barnard Parkway and turn left. Turn left on the first dirt road and then right on the second dirt road and go to the office to buy your daily $8 permit. Ponds are open from 7 a.m. until dark. Fishing licenses are not needed. Crickets, worms and minnows are for sale at the office. Call (706) 722-8263 to learn more.
3. New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam: From downtown Augusta, take Gordon Highway and turn left on Doug Barnard Parkway. Turn left on Lock and Dam Road next to Augusta Regional Airport. There is a boat ramp above the lock and dam, and the Bob Baurle Boat Ramp is below it. Bait and tackle are for sale at Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle. Call (706) 798-3252. You can fish in the river off the dam.
4. Savannah River below Thurmond Dam: To reach the fishing platform below the dam on the South Carolina side from the Georgia side, take U.S. Highway 221 across the dam and turn right on the paved road opposite the visitors center. Go down the hill until you see the fishing platform. Farther down the road is a public boat ramp, and there is no user fee. You can cast bucktails and other lures off the platform and catch hybrid and striped bass. From late October through March, use small live golden shiners for spawning yellow perch. Bream, largemouth bass, white perch, shellcrackers, crappies and catfish can be caught in the river. A fishing license from either state is required.
5. McDuffie Public Fishing Area, Dearing: From Augusta, take U.S. Highway 78 through Harlem to Dearing, about a 45-minute drive. In Dearing, turn left onto Iron Hill Road and drive until you reach Ellington Airline Road. Turn right, and after about 500 yards turn left onto the paved road marked by the public fishing area sign. There are seven ponds on the 570-acre property offering good fishing for largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish (shellcrackers) and channel catfish. No bait and tackle are sold there, but are available from stores in Dearing. No outboard motors are allowed, but anglers owning boats can use electric trolling motors or paddle power. There are concrete boat ramps. Anglers 16 and older need a Wildlife Management Area license and a Georgia fishing license. Call (706) 595-1684.