Surface temperature on Lake Oconee last weekend hit lows of 35 to 39 degrees, which is why a bass tournament was called off.
When water temperatures drop below 40 degrees, cold-blooded fish become extremely close-mouthed, and often will ignore or even turn away from a lure presented in the right way.
So Bo Davis of Dixie Bass postponed his Jan. 20 tournament until June 16 when, hopefully, fishermen will not have to contend with icy conditions.
Conversely, the water temperature on Thurmond Lake is ranging from the mid-to-high 40s and some fish will bite. Bass tournaments have been tough affairs, but some winners have managed to catch lunker fish (a lunker is generally defined as a bass 8 pounds or better).
Having said that, weather prognosticators are predicting a warming trend for this weekend, with a high in the 60s by Monday. Those kinds of conditions ought to heat up the water and the fishing.
If you're still not thrilled about trying your luck on the lake, you can always attend the 2001 Fisharama Feb. 2-4 at the Atlanta Expo Center.
The event is sponsored by the Georgia Wildlife Federation which benefits from the show's profits. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and children 6 to 12 years of age. Kinds under 6 are free.
In addition to the many dealers and manufacturers hawking their tackle and equipment, country music fans will be able to meet Tracy Byrd at the Your Atlanta Area Ford Store Seminar Hall at noon on Sunday, Feb. 4, or at the SOF-Spoon booth No. 10.
Doors open on Feb. 2 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Feb. 3 from 10 a.m., to 9 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Feb. 4. The Expo Center is located at Exit 55 off I-285.
Boat registrations in Georgia and South Carolina were up in 1999 over 1998 figures, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
There were 316,770 boats registered in Georgia (303,129 in '99) and 414,527 in South Carolina (394,842 in '99).
Outboard boat and motor sales also jumped during 2000, while sales of canoes, personal watercraft and jetboats were down, according to the group's latest statistics.
Personal watercraft sales reached 130,000 in 1998, 106,000 in 1999, but slumped to 92,000 last year. Canoe sales reached a high of 121,000 in 1999, but fell to 111,800 last year.
Numbers of people participating in recreational boating fell off slightly in 2000 to 72,269,000 from 73,208,000 the previous year.
Boat owners and buyers spent $25,629,734,000 on retail expenditures last year. There are an estimated 16,965,000 recreational boats in the U.S.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373): I went Tuesday morning and caught three bass and two hybrids. I launched at Trade Winds and went down to the riprap on the Georgia side of the dam. I hooked a monster bass that would have weighed more than 8 pounds, but it spit out the Little Earl (GGG finish). I fished the crank-and-stop technique because the fish were cold. I'll appear at Rader Mercedes on Washington Road today with my boat and truck from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m. At 2:15, I'll move over to Pilot Station on Riverwatch Parkway where I'll appear until 5 p.m. I'll be glad to talk to everybody about what the fish are biting.
SAVANNAH RIVERNew Savannah BluffLock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - Yellow perch continue to be caught off the fishing platform of the dam and some jacks (chain pickerel) also have been caught.
The best news is that Buddy James caught three buck shad off the dam on Tuesday. If the warming trend continues, the shad ought to really turn on. March and April are peak months for the shad run.
Fishermen are reminded striped bass and hybrid bass cannot be lawfully caught and kept from the river's mouth at Savannah to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The moratorium is in effect until at least the year 2002.
MERRY BROTHERSBRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 - Crappies are continuing to bite. Loye Johnson caught a nice mess over three or four different days last week, fishing live shiners. Mark Jenkins and I caught a bunch and David Scott also caught a mess. The fish bite best close to 5 p.m., and in shallow sloughs warmed by the sun.
Check out our Web site: www.merrybrothers.com.
(706) 722-8263 - James Green caught 14 crappies on minnows, Mickey Burley caught 21 crappies on minnows and 14 catfish on liver. Albert Prescott caught 10 crappies on minnows and eight catfish on liver. Billy Matlow caught 16 crappies on minnows. Jammie Matlow caught 14 crappies on minnows. John Adams caught 26 crappies on minnows.
ATLANTIC OCEANSAVANNAH AREA
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921 or www.missjudycharters.com. - Inshore fishing is a sort of work in progress - to get a bite, you've got to work for it. As soon as a warming trend starts, the fish will be cognizant of it and start opening their mouths again.
Offshore, it's "Go East, Young Man," to the Savannah Snapper Banks where the fish are waiting to jump onto your hooks. Almost. We have been catching large vermilion, grouper, triggerfish, snapper and green-heads (black sea bass). The artificial reefs closer to shore remain great places to fish, too.
Green heads are black sea bass, but differ from the norm by being a lot bigger. These are male fish and easily distinguished from the drab females by having beautiful blue, green and yellow lines on their heads. Female black sea bass are colorless.
The male fish also sport large humps on their backs. This hump comes from the stress of having to fertilize all of the eggs made available by the abundance of females.
Something you may not know: All black sea bass are born as females and reach sexual maturity within two or three years. It's then some undergo a sexual change.