Catching in the cold isn't the problem; staying warm is

Hunter Morris, who is a professional guide, shows off a massive brown trout he recently caught in one of north Georgia's mountain streams.

Old Man Winter makes his first visit to our area Sunday night with air temperatures to fall into the low 30s, according to the weatherman, and while this may have a negative impact on fishing, it shouldn’t last long.

My experiences fishing on Thurmond Lake during cold weather days have been mostly positive from a “catching” standpoint. The main thing is fishermen need to dress warmly in layers of clothing so they can be shed as the day warms.

A pair of waterproof gloves, a snug ski cap and a set of goggles should be part of your dress of the winter day. The goggles will keep your eyes from tearing as your boat races up (or down) the lake. I always prefer one of those wool pull-over-your head caps that fit snugly over your ears.

Since so much rain has fallen onto the lake and winds have helped wash all kinds of debris into the water, it’s not the time to run your boat in wild abandon. According to fishing friends, some massive logs have made their ways into deep water where they remain hazardous to boats and outboards’ lower units. After soaking for a while, they get waterlogged and begin to sink to a point of becoming invisible. So please be careful.

Fishing report


Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide specializing in largemouth bass. (706) 831-8756 – Kathy Wade and I fished last Monday in the vicinity of the pumping station up Georgia’s Little River. We caught seven fish (stripers) on that day, including her 14-pound striper. On Tuesday, we caught four hybrids and she caught a 6-pound largemouth. All came on the Yellow Fellow. We met a couple at the ramp where we were taking out. They trolled blue-backed Lil’ Fishies in their boat’s prop wash and caught 17 hybrids around Red Bank Island. Be careful of all the trash in the water including water-logged logs that are nearly invisible.

Billy Murphy, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed guide specializing in striped bass and hybrid bass. (706) 733-0124 – Larry Freeman and I went scouting on Tuesday. The water temperature was 64 degrees at 7 a.m., and didn’t warm up while we were there. The lake is up and is stained from the rain. Fishing was slow and we didn’t mark any fish until we stopped and down-lined live herring, pounding on the deck as we did so. Then the bite started. We ended up with 15 stripers and hybrids and 25 white perch.

Bill Speer, The Fishing Coach, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass fishing on Lake Russell ( (706) 421-6630 – Lake Russell is in good shape with water temperatures in the 50s. Cold weather and rain have put the bass bite in its winter pattern. The baitfish have moved to the backs of many of the coves and are holding there, especially if the creek is flowing. The bass are striking deep-diving crank baits under the baitfish pods in 15 to 20 feet of water. We have been using Rapala DT-16sz and Sk-6s in the blueback and sexy shad colors. The fish also are hitting small swim baits and Alabama Rigs fished just under the baitfish. I also found success by casting the white Greenfish swim jig fishing through and around the baitfish schools.

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 – Bradd: Water temperatures are in the mid 60s and most of the lake is stained from the rain. The hybrid-striper bite is strong, with the majority of the fish being caught on live herring or gizzard shad pulled behind planer boards in Wells, Shriver and Soap creeks. There also is a very good bite up Georgia’s Little River around Amity Day Use Area and that bite will get only better as winter comes in. South Carolina’s Little River is also stained, but trolling for crappies is really good. Some heavyweight catfish are being caught on cut bait 40 feet deep off points. Catching white perch is as easy as it gets. Just pick any hump and anchor in about 35 feet of water. Then jig a ¾-ounce Berry’s Flex-It Spoon, or drop a medium shiner to the bottom. The Savannah River below the dam is beginning to produce some nice yellow perch on small shiners or hybrid pink worms.

Little River Guide Service, Tony Shepherd, U.S. Coast Guard licensed guide specializing in stripers and hybrids (with Captain O.G. Penner) (706) 210-3474) – Things have stabilized following the turnover of the lake and some pretty good fishing has followed. Vertical jigging with slab spoons continues to be a very efficient way to land multiple species. Largemouth bass, white perch, hybrids and striped bass have all fallen prey to the spoons. Search for concentrations of baitfish on or near the bottom in 25 to 35 feet of water. Work the spoons within a foot of the bottom with erratic, short hops. When you feel a thump, strike.


Carter and Hunter Morris, licensed professional guides specializing in fly fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout. (706) 833-1083 ( ( – Hunter: We’ve had many opportunities to sight fish for big wild trout, like the brown I am showing off on this page. This isn’t always possible because wild trout are much easier to spook than stocked fish. The latter are more conditioned to seeing people. And the big fish have moved into the shallows to feed and all it takes is the fly line’s shadow to spook the fish into deeper water. But the dingy water from all of that rain, coupled with a lot of cloudy days, has made it possible to stalk the big ones.


Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, John Byars, (706 722-8263) – Alonzo Harling caught 71 crappies in the Ditch on minnows. Allen Johnson caught 26 crappies in the same pond and Hudson Grier caught 42 crappies in the Pollard Pond. Matthew Stephens caught 23 catfish in the Ditch.


Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 – The inshore bite is on for redfish, trout, whiting and flounder. Not many boats have gone offshore, but those who go out are catching grouper, trigger fish and kings.


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 ( P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – Fishing live shrimp around oyster bars in the creeks continues to work well. Artificial baits that resemble shrimp also will attract bites from spotted sea trout. Colder temperatures are predicted from Sunday night on and may temporarily put the brakes on good fishing, but once the weather jells the bite will be on again.