NO BOAT? NO PROBLEM!
Areas below dams attract fish at all times of the year, but
especially during the spring. This bank angler loaded up on bream, crappie,
catfish, and white bass.
A river fisherman without a boat is kind of
like a 17-year old without a car. Sometimes you just feel like everyone else is
having all the fun. Having dealt with both experiences, I have found that it's
possible to enjoy success on the river without constantly asking to borrow Dad's
boat. While a boat is certainly a nice thing to have, many anglers are forced to
do without as a result of finances or living arrangements. If you are in this
situation, fret not, because with a bit of scouting and ingenuity anyone can
find success on a river. I do a lot of fishing from a canoe, but I can't begin
to count the times that I've paddled by a bank or wade fisherman with far more
fish on their stringer than I encountered that day.
If you are reading this article with the
expectation of being given exact locations and directions to a specific fishing
spot, you are going to be disappointed. Most of the satisfaction I derive from
river fishing comes from exploring and finding my honeyholes through trial
and error. Besides, GRF has a lot of readers, and it would be
rather disappointing if you got to Catch'em Creek at Wing-n-a-Prayer Road and
found half the state there! Get a good map of the area you are interested in and
spend some time exploring. This way the places you find will stay less crowded
and provide a better fishing experience.
Boatless anglers basically have three
options: bank fishing, wade fishing, and renting a fishing craft of some sort.
Let's look at all three methods in a bit more detail and figure out some ways to
fish smarter than the other guys and gals out there.
This is not exactly what I wanted to see after futilely
beating the river to a froth all day from my canoe. This guy spent a few hours
on a bucket at a creek mouth and took a limit of spotted and shoal bass.
There's something just a tad romantic about
relaxing on a river bank with a cane pole and a can of worms. Sometimes you half
expect to see Tom and Huck walk up and ask how they're bitin'. Bank fishing can
be as high or low-tech as you want, and it's a great way to introduce spouses
and kids to the sport of fishing. The key, however, is in finding a good spot to
fish. This starts at home with a good map. Find some places where roads cross a
river or creek or places where a road appears to run parallel and close to the
waterway. You also might want to check out maps of Wildlife Management Area's,
state parks, or National Forests to see if any roads or trails lead down to the
water's edge. Next, take a morning and go visit some of these spots. You may
want to make a few casts, but primarily, your goal should be to find
fishy-looking water. For most species of bass, bream, and catfish, this means
finding water with some depth and some cover.
The fishing underneath bridge overpasses can
be excellent, as they provide overhead cover (for you and the fish), and bridge
pilings block current and provide the fish protection from the current. Many
times there will be paths that lead to promising fishing holes up or downstream
from the overpasses. If you can find a big bend in the river, I can almost
guarantee that you can catch fish on the outside (deeper part) of the bend, as
long as there is some cover present. Don't forget creek mouths either. Dams also
tend to be fish magnets, both on the upstream and downstream sides. There are a
numerous dams mentioned in the "River Quicktakes" section of GRF,
and many are accessible by industrious fishermen. There are also public fishing
piers on the Ocmulgee (below Lake Jackson), the Coosawattee (below Carter's
Lake), and the Coosa (Mayo's Lock and Dam) that usually hold lots of fish and
fishermen. You can also use the litterbugs of this world to your advantage by
looking for old bait containers. Chances are good that the area with the most
trash is probably a pretty good fishing spot. I like to clean up the trash so
the spot won't be obvious to others.
Once you've found a likely spot, it's time to
go fishing. While I generally prefer to fish with artificial lures, I have had
far better success with live bait when fishing from the bank. When confined to a
small area, I feel that natural baits will out-produce artificials, especially
if the fish are inactive, which they are most of the time. Once you've found a
likely spot, there are a couple things you can do to turn the odds in your
favor. Some anglers put some dried dog food or old bread in a potato sack with
some rocks and sink it in or just upstream of the fishing hole (attached to a
length of rope, of course, so you can reuse it). This attracts baitfish from
downstream and usually some larger fish within an hour or two. Other anglers
punch holes in cans of dog or cat food and suspend them over their favorite
fishing holes. This attracts flies, and within a few hot days, maggots begin
falling into the water in droves, baiting your fishing hole.
How you choose to bank fish is entirely up to
you. Some anglers like to fish their baits beneath a cork, which works well when
eddy water is present. This allows your bait to stay in the same area and not
constantly get pushed downstream. I usually find myself using some sort of
bottom rig with crickets, worms, minnows, small bream, or chicken livers
(depending on what I'm after). Use enough weight to hold your bait in place or
maybe allow the current to drag it slowly downstream. You might also consider
using fairly heavy line, because snags will undoubtedly occur. Gold hooks are
also useful because they will straighten out, allowing you to simply bend them
back into place rather than constantly re-tying. If you happen to be fishing
with kids (or my wife) you may want to consider flattening the hook barbs with
pliers. Finally, if you find a good fishing spot, make sure to clean up the area
thoroughly so as not to tip off others of the bonanza to be had in your spot!
This chunky spotted bass was caught by wading a creek in
North Georgia that feeds a major river. I would imagine that this is the first
lure this fish ever saw.
One thing I've noticed through years of
exploring Georgia's moving waterways is that most people in most places refuse
to get out of the boat or off the bank to fish. Wading is perhaps my favorite
method of fishing, and I tend to keep my favorite places under lock and key. I
can, however, reveal how I go about finding good wading rivers and creeks and
point you in the right direction. There is already an article on GRF
devoted to the how-to's of wading (see "Art of Wading" at the upper
left column of this page), so this section will deal mainly with finding
good places to walk the water.
The best place to begin searching for good
wading spots is with a fairly detailed map that shows rivers and streams, roads,
and public land. As a general rule, larger rivers do not provide as good wading
opportunities as smaller rivers and creeks, especially for anglers without
access to a boat. There are some exceptions, however, as many bigger rivers
contain large, shallow shoal areas near bridges or on public land. Once you've
marked a few likely areas to check out, it's time to go jump in the water! I
prefer to scout for wading holes during the heat of the summer when the water is
likely to be low, warm, and clear. Low, clear water allows you to see where you
are about to step, and when you do fall into the abyss and float your hat (it will
happen!), I prefer frostbite not to be a factor!
One advantage of wading Georgia's smaller
rivers and streams is that many have long stretches of water that rarely get
above armpit level. Many stretches of river may have deep water, but have wadeable
strips along one bank or the other. Once you have found a potential wading
location, take one or two lures and go exploring. When wading an area for the
first time, I like to use small lures or baits in order to get a feel for what's
in there. If the bream fishing is good, chances are good that there are some
bass and catfish in there as well. Also remember that while you are primarily
searching for wadeable water, decent sized fish require some deep water nearby.
Good wading holes will allow the angler to move up or downstream for a half mile
or so and contain pockets of deeper water. You will strike out a lot searching
for places to wade, but when you find a good spot, chances are that this spot
will be yours and yours alone!
Bridge crossings are a great place to begin
your search, and most of my good wading holes were found by simply pulling over
and hopping in. If your favorite river or creek runs through or borders public
land (WMA's, National Forest, state or city parks) you can often find superb
fishing by strapping on the hiking boots and taking a walk. Many of these areas
have old roads and hiking or biking trails that will get you close to the water,
and few people are willing to walk out of sight from their car to go fishing.
Most seasoned trout fishermen are aware of this, but it holds true in warm
water as well as cold. Use other folks laziness to your advantage!
So where do you start looking? Bream
fishermen and those looking to catch shoal or redeye bass ought to have no
problems finding a good place to wade. These species don't require a whole lot
of water over their heads and generally live in wadeable areas. South Georgia
wade fishermen have it pretty good, too. Just about every time I've been on a
smaller river or creek in South Georgia, I have encountered someone wading for
redbreast, bluegill, or catfish. While I haven't seen too many serious bass
fishermen wading down south, the bass are there for the taking. Creeks that feed
larger rivers are also good places to try wading, as they receive far less
attention, are easier to wade, and carry the same species as the rivers they
feed. Areas below dams can also be gold mines, and most have shoal areas
immediately below the dams (be mindful of water releases though!).
Keep in mind that even large rivers are small
and intimate at some point upstream. I have had great success wading in some
trickles in middle Georgia that eventually run into the Altamaha. Retrace the
flow of the Coosa or Chattahoochee rivers back to the mountains of northern
Georgia, and you can find enough places to wade and catch fish to last a
RENTING A BOAT
Renting a canoe, kayak, or even an inner tube
is another option for the boatless angler. There are numerous canoe outfitters
in the state that rent canoes and provide shuttle services. Prices usually start
in the $20 range but can be a little less or a lot more depending on the type
craft you rent, the length of your trip, and the outfitter you deal with. These
services make life pretty easy, and all you normally need to bring along are a
cooler for snacks and drinks and your fishing stuff. The only iron-clad rule in
dealing with canoe outfitters is to call ahead to find out their hours and the
condition of the river. Most outfitters can provide good advice on the better
stretches to fish and what they're biting. If possible, try and find out the
condition of the river before you go from another source, because great
conditions for canoeing and great conditions for fishing are often a lot
different. I like to see the water with my own eyes or at minimum check the
river level on the USGS web site before I go (see "Links and
Resources" for USGS site).
If you can, try and avoid the big holiday
weekends (Memorial, Independence, and Labor Days) as most outfitters and their
rivers are jam packed. I normally like to arrive as early as possible and leave
as late as possible to get the most out of my investment. An outfitter may call
your float a "three hour trip", but you should double or triple these
times if you are planning on fishing hard.
What follows is a rather incomplete list of
canoe outfitters in Georgia. The list was compiled primarily by scouring the
internet, but also with suggestions from GRF readers (Thanks, Steve!). I
will include internet links where possible as well as phone numbers. One
beautiful thing about the internet is that I can add to or subtract from this
list as needed, but I need folks to e-mail me if an outfitter is no longer in
business or if there are some I've overlooked. So without further ado, here are
all the places I know of to rent a boat!
*Note- some of the 912 area codes have been changed to 478.
Water Learning Center of Georgia-(404) 231-0042- If you want to rent a canoe
or kayak to float a river that is not served by an outfitter, WWLC rents them
out from 1/2 to multiple days. They are located in Atlanta.
Geared To Go- (678)
406-0008- Located in Atlanta, Geared To Go rents out canoes and camping gear and
has a retail store.
Outfitters-(706) 864-7117- located on the Chestatee River, provide services
on the Chestatee and upper Etowah Rivers.
Broad River Outpost-(706)
795-3242- provide service to the Broad River, home of the Piedmont Bass.
Altamaha Wilderness Outpost-(912)
437-6010- provide canoes, kayaks, and shuttles to the Altamaha and it's numerous
creeks, swamps, and sloughs as well as guided trips to some of Georgia's barrier
islands. This link leads to Broad River Outpost, but you can get to Altamaha
Outpost by following the link on their page.
Outfitters- (912) 526-8222- Located in Lyons, GA, Canoe Canoe serves a
multitude of South Georgia waterways including the Ohoopee, Pendleton Creek, the
Altamaha, lower Ocmulgee, lower Oconee, and the Okeefenokee Swamp.
Creek Park- (706) 777-3030 or (706) 232-3239- Located in Cave Spring,
provides service to Big Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Coosa River.
National Recreation Area- (770) 399-8070- I'm not sure if they rent canoe or
kayaks, but you can definitely get a raft. More likely to catch trout than
anything else on this part of the Hooch, but that ain't so bad!
Outdoor Center- (706) 647-2633- Located on the upper Flint near Thomaston,
world-renowned shoal bass fishery!
Falls State Park- (912) 993-3053- They used to rent canoes to float the Towaliga
River but didn't provide shuttles except for large groups. Not sure if they
Outdoor Expeditions- (706) 635-2524- For those seeking some real whitewater
along with your fishing! Located in Ellijay and provides service to the Cartecay
River Right Outfitters-
(706) 273-7055- Located in Ellijay, provides service to the Cartecay River. May
want to strap down your fishing pole!
Outfitters- (706) 878-1700 or (706) 865-4451- Wildwood Outfitters has stores
in Clayton and Helen, but has a canoe and kayak outfitter that serves the
Chattahoochee upstream of Lake Lanier.
Outpost- (904) 845-7224- Canoe Country provides service to the beautiful St.
Mary's River, which forms part of the border between Georgia and Florida in
Ocmulgee River Canoe
Adventures- (229) 467-9251- Located in Abbeville, provides service to the
lower Ocmulgee River.
(912) 748-6716- Located in Ellabelle (near Savannah) , provides service to the
Adventures- (866) THE-SWAMP or (912) 496-7156- Located in Folkston, provide
canoe and motorboat rentals as well as guided trips in the gorgeous Okefenokee
(912) 496-4472- Okefenokee Pastimes provides lodging, camping, and canoe rentals
for the swamp and the St. Mary's. They are usually closed for most of July and
Three Rivers Expeditions-
(912) 379-1371- Located in Hazlehurst, 3RE serves lower portions of the Ocmulgee
and Oconee rivers as well as the Altamaha.
Ogeechee Park Canoe Rental and Campground- (912) 748-5996 or
(912) 663-0442- Camping and canoe rental on the Ogeechee River.
Flint River Outpost- (229)759-9170- Located in Leesburg (near
Albany), FRO serves the Flint River below Lake Blackshear in some great shoal