There's always a fall-back fish at Thurmond Lake

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My friend, Capt. David Willard, 62, who has been a professional fishing guide on Thurmond Lake for 28 years, was musing that local striper fishermen are lucky to have a fall-back fish to catch when all else fails.

Ralph Barbee Jr., of Evans, shows off the 35-pound striped bass caught in Thurmond Lake. The fish struck a Yellow Fellow stick bait.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Ralph Barbee Jr., of Evans, shows off the 35-pound striped bass caught in Thurmond Lake. The fish struck a Yellow Fellow stick bait.

“The Santee Cooper fishermen are lucky because they can catch blue catfish if the striper bite slows down,” said Capt. Dave, a former copy clerk at The Augusta Chronicle. “That’s why I am glad that my clients can catch white perch. Clients are always happy to be able to catch fish, but not so pleased when the bite stops.”

That’s why he carries fishing outfits rigged with three-quarter-ounce Berry’s Flex-It Spoons. It’s a simple matter for even unskilled fishermen to allow the spoons to free-fall to the bottom. Reels are engaged and rod tips are sharply raised, then lowered to give the spoons a chance to flutter downward, making like injured minnows. If white perch are around, they’ll sock the lures and the fun is on.

While equating white perch with the larger blue catfish might seem like a stretch, the point is white perch in Thurmond Lake give anglers another chance to catch fish. The perch can be cleaned and left whole, or filleted, and then fried in butter. A few squirts of lemon juice help make a platter of the fish a delectable tasting experience.

Unseasonably warm weather put the brakes on the white perch bite in the lake and the yellow perch bite in the Savannah River. Winter temperatures are due to return early next week and with it a better bite, not only for perch, but striped and hybrid bass.

• The 2013 Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations Guide is now online and in print. You can find a copy at www.gofishgeorgia.com/fishing/regulations. Or pick up a copy at Wildlife Resources Division fisheries management or law enforcement offices, or from your favorite bait and tackle store. New this year: A one-day salt water shore-based fishing license costs $5 for residents or nonresidents. A free salt water information program (SIP) license is required when fishing in salt water.

Fish reports

THURMOND LAKE

Raysville Marina (Leon Buffington and Doug Pentecost), (706) 595-5582 – Jack Owens and Billy Inglett, Grovetown, caught 25 crappies. Cliff Crowe, Raysville, caught an 8-pound catfish on chicken liver.

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 has risen into the high 50s and low 60s. A few scattered showers north of us has kept our lake level holding steady, but we need a lot more rain this winter to bring it up. We’re catching stripers and hybrids on live herring fished beneath planer boards in the Parksville area and around Dordon Creek. The warm weather has slowed the fishing down some as the fish have come out of the creeks heading toward the Savannah River channel. The white perch also have scattered out this week and when we did find them, they wouldn’t hold for us, despite me giving them a chunk of their favorite bait – herring. White perch are fun to catch and my clients enjoy jigging spoons for them. The fish also are delicious.

William Sasser’s Guide Service, (Capt. William Sasser, Capt. Mark Crawford, 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), (706) 373-8347 (Mark), (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – Last weekend, the warmer weather was nice, but made for some tough fishing with hybrids and stripers not knowing how to handle 70-degree January days. Some hybrids were caught downlining live herring in the mouths of creeks and some were caught pulling planer boards in the backs of creeks. The striper bite ought to be back to normal following Thursday’s rain and cooler temperatures. The crappie bite also slowed down from the drastic temperature change, but have already started feeding again with cooler temperatures brought on by the rain. The Cole family of Macon enjoyed catching some nice stripers with us this week. Atlantans Clark Sharpe and Jim Bassett fished with us on Lake Russell. We caught stripers weighing 18 and 14 pounds on live rainbow trout pulled behind planer boards. Will Lott, of Edgefield, S.C., and Joe Berg, of Plum Branch, S.C., caught Russell stripers weighing 8, 15 (2) and 19 pounds.

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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/flyfishingnorthgeorgia) – Best way to catch trout in north Georgia rivers and creeks right now is to be very willing to adapt to constantly changing conditions. As we’ve seen this week, the weather can go from unseasonably warm and dry to much colder with heavy rain and everything in between. For example, the Soque River has been running very clear and low, but the fishing has been great when using small nymphs with lighter tippet and taking care not to spook the fish. The recent heavy rainfall, however, means that catching fish out of the same holes means being willing to strip a big streamer or add a lot of weight to get bigger nymphs, San Juan worms, or flashier small nymphs down to the bottom.

MERRY LAND

BRICKYARD PONDS

Check-in station, 1408 Doug Barnard Parkway, Gene Kirkland, (706) 722-8263 – The brickyard bass tournament will be cranking up in the near future. A meeting discussing the rules will be held at the tackle shop on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Memberships also will be available. See Gene Kirkland for details.

Brickyard report: Robert Hughes caught eight bass in the Expressway Pond on minnows and plastic worms. Brandon Prickett caught five bass in the Membership Pond. Biggest weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and all were caught on crank baits and plastic worms. Anthony Bailey and Broderick Barnes caught three bass in the Farm and Warren ponds. Sue Bennett and Sarah Johnson caught 14 crappies and two bass on minnows in the Ditch. Jimmy Fails caught 36 crappies and three catfish on minnows and worms in the Ditch. George Green caught 76 crappies, one bass and three catfish in the Connell Pond on minnows and worms. Sammy Jones caught 46 crappies, six bream, eight shellcrackers and two catfish in the Expressway Pond on minnows and worms. Bubba Johnson caught 24 crappies on minnows in the Ditch.

Lock and dam: James Slaughter caught six channel catfish, a speckled catfish and two stripers on big shiners. Jerry Skinner caught 18 shellcrackers, nine crappies and 12 yellow perch on minnows and worms. Tyrone Davis caught eight channel catfish and one yellow perch on cut bait and minnows. John Finch caught six bream, two crappies and four catfish on minnows and worms.

BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY

Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 – Fishing for spotted sea trout, a.k.a. “specks,” has slowed a bit. The redfish bite also isn’t as strong as it has been. Nonetheless, anglers who seek those fish are catching them consistently. The cold front expected by late weekend may temporarily shut down everything until the weather jells again.


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