Nearly four years ago, the Georgia Legislature increased specialty license fees sharply due to the state budget crisis. The public revolted, including me, by refusing to renew our specialty tags.
Prior to the 2010 law, there were 541,000 wildlife license plates on Georgia’s highways. That number has now dropped below 150,000.
House Bill 730 waives the $35 license plate manufacturing fee and the tag fee is reduced from $35 to $25. It also doubles the money assigned straight into fish and wildlife programs – $19 of the first-year fee and $20 of the renewal fee.
So don’t wait. The deadline for public response has arrived. Contact your state senators and representatives today and urge them to support this bill. The future of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Non-Game Program is at stake. It doesn’t receive support through the general fund, but must rely upon fundraisers, grants and specialty license plate sales.
• My friend, David Orr, wants to remind retired men and women 50 and older that the Old Geezers Fishing Club meets the second Thursday of each month at Harbor Inn on Wrightsboro Road at noon. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (706) 831-0134.
Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, fulltime professional guide specializing in hybrids, striped bass and trophy largemouth bass. (Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 (www.crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) – Water temperature is in the low 50s and the lake is lightly to heavily stained depending upon where you go. We’re hoping for an early spring, but we’re starting to catch a few stripers on these nice days. We’re pulling planer boards with live herring. Early morning has been best since it’s gotten windy after lunch. Lloyds, Rousseau and Germany creeks have been producing the best fishing for me. We’re pulling the boards really slow.
Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide specializing in largemouth bass. (706) 831-8756 – Kurt Daniel and I fished Wednesday and this (Thursday) morning. Kurt caught and released 40 bass on a Rat-L-Trap and a Yellow Fellow on Thursday. We caught them in the back of Cherokee Creek. I didn’t catch a fish. We fished Wednesday and caught nine bass including a 6-pounder he caught and a 3½-pounder I caught. All the fish had eggs.
Fishing with Ralph Barbee airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. on Comcast Channel 21, WRDW-My12, WOW! Ch. 7, Atlantic Broadband (Aiken) Ch. 7 and Charter Ch. 9 (Fort Gordon).
William Sasser’s Guide Service, (Capt. William Sasser, Capt. Bradd Sasser, Capt. Andrew Tubbs, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, full time professional guides specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass). (706) 589-5468 (William), (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – The lake is at full pool and the warmer air temperatures have pushed water temperatures into the low 50s. This has jump-started the fish into feeding again. Hybrids and stripers are lingering in the mouths of the creeks around secondary points in the mid to lower lake areas. Pulling blueback herring behind planer boards or free lines around points and off the sides of underwater shoals have yielded some nice catches. Some downline hybrids in the 1- to 4-pound class have started showing up around mid-morning off underwater points 30 to 35 feet deep, with the fish coming in tight schools 20 to 25 feet down. Biggest key at the moment is to find creeks with large schools of bait fish in the mouths. Examples are Germany Creek, Lloyds Creek and Grays Creek. Some stripers weighing 15 to 20 pounds have been caught around Baker Creek up South Carolina’s Little River on gizzard shad pulled behind planer boards. Warmer weather also has persuaded crappies to move into the shallows to spawn. This week, we enjoyed fishing with Ricky Liplichter, Aiken; Daryl Jameson and Glenda Jameson, Beech Island, S.C.
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Bill Speer, The Fishing Coach, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass fishing on Lake Russell (www.thefishingcoach.com) (706) 421-6630 – Change is in the air! Well, at least for the moment. Warm air temperatures have caused a sharp rise in Russell’s surface temperatures (50 degrees-plus) and that’s causing the bass to get active. I am hitting the first points in the south-facing coves and any structure or cover in those areas. You can throw a small Alabama Rig and fool some fish. I am still throwing the Greenfish 3/8-ounce swim jig and a small jerk bait, as well as a 3/8-ounce jig with trailer and bumping it along the bottom. On Russell, I always put in at Beaver Dam Marina where you can have a safe launch as well as a nice lunch. The marina is open Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:30 until 6 p.m.
NORTH GEORGIA MOUNTAIN STREAMS
Carter and Hunter Morris, licensed professional guides specializing in fly fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout. (706) 833-1083 (www.flyfishingnorthgeorgia.com) (facebook.com/flyfishing.northgeorgia) – As icy as it was last week, it’s hard to believe temperatures have been getting into the 60s in the north Georgia mountains. We highly recommend taking advantage of this first wave of spring-like weather. Typically, trout move up into the riffles at the top of each run. Drop a rainbow warrior or a flashback pheasant tail below a big dry fly and hang on tight!
MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS
Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, Gene Kirkland, (706 722-8263) – We’ll start our night bass tournament on the first Friday after the time change. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Entry fee is $20 per man. Tournament entrants will meet at 6 p.m. next Friday, Feb. 28, at the check-in station off Molly Pond Road to discuss rules and regulations. Brickyard report: Blake and Michelle Quiller caught 10 catfish, 14 crappies on minnows and worms in the Membership Pond. Willie Williams caught 14 crappies in the Ditch on minnows. Mel and Sharon Langston caught 26 crappies and eight bass on minnows in the Cornell Pond. J.C. Skinner and Gene Kirkland caught 36 crappies and seven bass in the Garden Pond on minnows. Lawrence Kelly and Ronnie Wilkes caught 36 crappies and two bass on minnows and jigs in the Shack Pond. Roy Story and Tom Cox caught 37 crappies, six bass and eight catfish in the Ditch on minnows and worms. Harry Hooper and Ed Rogers caught 18 catfish and two bass in the Ditch with minnows and liver. Lock and Dam report: John Skelly and Lynn Walker caught two bass and 26 crappies on minnows. Pete Fray and Don Doolittle caught eight bass, 14 yellow perch and six crappies on minnows and jigs. Larry Taylor and Sammy Tucker caught eight catfish and 14 bream on liver and worms.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – The inshore bite is getting back to normal, with redfish being caught at low tide in a foot of water while pitching Zoom Super Flukes. Best color is “Golden Bream.” I fished last Sunday and Monday over the artificial reefs and my clients caught limits of black sea bass every time they dropped their hooks into 55 feet of water. Sheepshead continue to bite around the Savannah River jetties, near shore/inshore wrecks, rocks, docks supported by lots of pilings, bridges and inshore artificial reefs.