Anglers in the local area have two programs where they can gain recognition for their catches. One program, run by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD), is called the Georgia Bass Slam and recognizes black bass catches.
The Georgia Bass Slam has grown more since its inception to now include 10 species of black bass that are found in Georgia. Many are within a short driving distance from the local area. All an angler has to do to qualify for the Georgia Bass Slam is catch five of the 10 black bass species in the state of Georgia.
Last year, 37 anglers qualified for the Georgia Bass Slam by catching at least five of the 10 black back species in Georgia. All the anglers who qualified received a personalized certificate from GWRD, two passes to the GO FISH Education Center and a bunch of stickers to advertise their catch.
One of the 37 qualifiers last year was drawn out and received the grand prize package. Last year’s grand prize winner was Eric Runge of Winder, Ga. For more information on the Georgia Bass Slam including photos and information on the species that comprise the 10 black bass species in Georgia, go to http://BassSlam.com.
The second program or challenge is catching a new lake record fish in either Lake Oconee or Lake Sinclair. Records for lakes and rivers across Georgia are maintained by the Georgia Outdoor News (GON).
Most of the recent lake record fish caught in Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair have been in the catfish species and primarily the blue catfish. Lake Oconee’s record blue catfish was caught in 2016 and weighed 69 pounds, 7 ounces. Lake Sinclair’s record blue catfish was caught in 2018 and weighed 51 pounds, 14 ounces.
Blue catfish are now the dominant catfish species in both lakes and were likely illegally put in the lakes since they are not native to either lake. The same can be said for the flathead cathead, which is also not native to either lake.
Lake Sinclair most likely received its small growing population of flathead catfish through the Wallace Dam from Lake Oconee. The first reported flathead catfish submitted to GON for consideration for a lake record was caught in Lake Sinclair in 2011 and weighed 36 pounds, 11.2 ounces. Where that giant flathead came from is anyone’s guess but apparently it was lurking for some time in the lake.
Lake Oconee’s record flathead catfish was caught in 2016 and weighed 49 pounds, 1.28 ounces. Both flathead and blue catfish grow much larger than the native channel catfish that were once the dominant species in both lakes.
The record channel catfish caught in Lake Oconee occurred way back in 1998 and weighed 34 pounds, 8 ounces. The Lake Sinclair record channel catfish was caught in 2007 and weighed 21 pounds, 5 ounces. With the expansion of both blue catfish and flathead catfish the lake record for channel catfish may be hard to break.
More recently records have been set for the longnose gar in both lakes. A longnose gar weighing 20 pounds, 13 ounces was caught this past year in Lake Oconee. Lake Sinclair’s longnose gar record was caught in 2009 and weighed 15 pounds, 3 ounces.
Interestingly no submissions have been made to GON for any member of the bream family. Both lakes have several members of the bream species in both lakes and I know Lake Sinclair has some very large shellcrackers. Also, no submission has been made for spotted bass that now populate both lakes in small numbers.
All fish entered into either of these programs must be caught using sporting tackle and must be hooked and landed by the entrant. Fish caught on brush hooks, trot lines, baskets, jugs, nets etc. will not be considered.
GDNR Fisheries Biologist must identify any fish entered into either programs and the fish must be weighed on certified scales. Fisheries Office locations near this area include Fort Valley and Social Circle.
Information can be submitted to the GON at 4331 Seven Islands Road, Madison, Ga., 30650 or call 706-343-0001 if you think your fish will qualify as a Lake Oconee or Lake Sinclair record fish. For additional information including rules and entry forms on the Georgia Bass Slam go to http://www.BassSlam.com.
Good fishing and see you next week.
Lake Oconee Fishing Forecast
Lake Conditions – The lake is full and the main lake is muddy to heavily stained. The rain contains much debris above and below the water. Boaters should be careful when running on the lake especially above I-20. More rain this week will not significantly improve water conditions or fishing.
Water Temperature – Low to mid 50s
Largemouth Bass – FAIR/TOUGH – It continues to be hard to develop any consistent pattern with the passing cold fronts, rain and the up and down temperatures. Casting jigs to docks and shoreline structures might catch you a good fish. Try any rip-rap and fish slowly. Spinnerbaits and small crankbaits have been good. Chartreuse color is best in the muddy/stained water. Look for the fish to begin moving into the coves as they begin their initial spawning in early March.
Crappie – FAIR/GOOD – Crappie fishing continues to be good and line longing jigs is the best technique now. The fish are constantly moving so anglers need to move around to find the fish.
Striped Bass/White Bass/Hybrid Bass – FAIR/GOOD – I guess the fish have gotten use to the muddy water because according to anglers and guides the fishing has improved over the last week using live bait in down lake areas near the dam.
Catfish – NO REPORT