Fish like their creature comforts too

As far as I know, fish are not capable of feelings, but they have built-in mechanisms to instinctively react to changes in water temperatures. The colder the water gets, the slower the fish bite, especially after it reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

The winter season officially begins today. But it doesn’t feel like a Georgia winter. It’s more like a central Florida winter.

The Thurmond Lake water temperature was in the low 60s a week or so ago and game fish like largemouth bass, striped bass and hybrid bass (that cross between white and striped bass) were active feeders.

Then we had that shot of frigid air from Canada move into our section of the country, with lows in the upper 20s. It didn’t last long and, since the lake is so huge, there was little lasting effects.

Future weather forecasts through Christmas week calls for warm and wet conditions. We could use the rain because the forests around us are pretty dry so hunters are being asked to be especially careful with campfires. The game fish ought to be active and hungry, but you must pay attention to the weather before heading to the lake or Atlantic coasts where salt water species like spotted sea trout and redfish ought to be catchable. Check out Capt. Judy’s Savannah report below.

Charter Capt. David Willard, of Clarks Hill, S.C., has been contributing to The Chronicle’s Friday fishing reports for nearly as long as the reader-popular page has been in existence – nearly 35 years.

Did you know David was a former Chronicle copy boy like me except he became a firefighter and not a future Chronicle staffer (like me)? Several years ago, he decided to become a professional fishing guide full time, passed the required stringent U.S. Coast Guard license test and the rest is fishing history.

His passengers have included the rich, the famous (like Lil’ Rascal Spanky McFarland) and the not-so-famous, all of whom loved fishing – the common denominator.

 

THURMOND LAKE

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 high 50s, clear on the upper end and stained on the upper end. Fishing is great. All my parties are catching limits before 11 a.m., and the lake has a lot of wild fowl (eagles, ospreys, ducks, gulls and loons) which my parties enjoy watching. Milton Pope, Columbia, wanted to take his son, Jake Pope, on leave from the U.S. Navy and stationed in Japan. They had a great time catching stripers and hybrids in the 3- to 6-pound category and nice spotted bass and largemouths up to 5 pounds. My other parties also caught limits and all enjoyed the warm periods between the cold fronts.

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). (William) (706) 589-5468, (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – Bradd Sasser: Water temperatures have dropped into the low 50s and will drop a few more degrees as winter sets in. The lake is clear and the level is fluctuating between 320 to 322 feet (330 normal pool level). First thing in the morning, you can find hybrids stacked up off points and shoals in 15 to 30 feet of water, feeding on herring and threadfin shad. As the morning breaks, the fish are holding in similar depths, but scattered and are moving. This is when free lines and planer boards take over from down lines. The fish have started their winter migrations, moving farther back into the creeks and up to mid lake and the northern end, or out Little River, Georgia into the Raysville area. There are some larger stripers being caught in the shallows in the backs of creeks by trolling gizzard shad behind the planer boards. We are seeing a few gulls and loons working pods of bait around the lake. Crappies are holding tight to tree tops and feeding aggressively. Anchoring and fishing small shiners straight down in the trees, or trolling small jigs through the treetops are producing crappies in the “slab” size. This is shaping up into being a wonderful winter of fishing.

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MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS

Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, John Byars, (706 722-8263 – There are multiple ponds offering good fishing for largemouth bass, bream and shellcracker, crappies and catfish. A huge bass pro mailbox is being raffled. Tickets are $5. There must be a minimum of 20 entries for Saturday’s drawing.

SAVANNAH, GA.

Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – Surface water temperatures have ranged from 51 to 64 degrees, depending upon water depth, and once the sun has risen, air temperatures have been pleasant (for fishermen).

The bite at artificial reefs in 50 feet of water has been interesting, especially if you use fiddler crabs as bait. We caught black drum, flounder, sheepshead and assorted sizes of redfish. Some of the black drum and sheepshead were quite large (over the 10-pound range).

The Savannah Snapper Banks did not let the fishermen down, either, with cut squid attracting monster black sea bass, football-sized vermilion, giant trigger fish and other species. With warm weather in the forecast for the next several days, now is the time to try your luck.

 

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