By Alvin Richardson
One fishing trip you might want to consider this season is the white bass spawning run on the Oconee and Apalachee Rivers. It’s currently going on and the action is hot. Actually whites and hybrids can be caught in significant numbers with the right approach and the scenery in both places is pretty rewarding as well. There are some things you need to know if you have never gone after these two game fish during this time of year but once you have had some success you will always look forward to the next spring-time run. Here’s a guide on where to go and how to put these fighters in your boat.
What’s Going On
The white bass makes an annual spawning trip into these two rivers each spring and hybrids make the same trip although their adventure is in vain. The hybrids are actually on a false run because they are sterile. Nonetheless the hybrids can be caught using the same techniques, equipment and lures. The female white bass (with eggs) will typically run one and a half to two pounds and seldom exceeds three pounds while the hybrids can get much larger. The average fisherman probably won’t be able to distinguish between the two. It doesn’t make much difference since the creel limit is fifteen for any combination of white bass, hybrids, and striped bass (only two of which can be 22 inches or longer). You may catch any of these species on this trip.
These fish can be taken on a variety of lures and some people even use minnows under a cork with good success. The old standards for catching these fish however are number six Panther Martin in-line spinners (gold or silver blade), one eighth ounce jigs with white heads and green, yellow or red skirts, rooster tails, and Hal flies with red or white heads. Even though these are tried and true lures for this type of fishing, other combinations can and often do work. These fish are willing biters during the spawning run.
As for rod and reel requirement a wide assortment of rigs will get the job done but light spinning tackle is a good choice filled with eight pound test line. If you wind up with a big hybrid on the end of your line you might get to hear the drag sing but the fish can be landed if he doesn’t get into heavy cover. It’s also good to have an adequate anchor on board in case you find an area where there seem to be a concentration of fish. It’s tough to fish a good spot thoroughly if you have to constantly maneuver the boat.
Nearly anything will suffice here. You will see vessels of all kinds on your trip up and down the river. At a minimum you need a small gasoline motor to negotiate the current and a trolling motor to make things easier at certain times. Here are a couple of notes of warning. You are fishing in a river and motors are at higher risk to hit stumps and other underwater objects. If you are unfamiliar with the area, don’t go too fast with the gas motor. Also, if you choose to fish in the Apalachee River understand that it is much smaller and you will not be able to use a large boat to fish it. Getting into the Apalachee River is tricky because of shallow areas where it is silted in around the mouth. Once you get into the river there is more risk of shallow water and underwater objects to deal with. Don’t even try to go up the Apalachee in a big craft.
Where to Fish
Sand bars are a favorite hangout of these fish. These bars will usually show up on the inside bends of the river. You can actually beach your boat on a sand bar and fish off the bank to work the bar. Another good place to fish is just off the current line where moving water meets water that seems to be slack. Areas where pockets are formed and current is running just outside the pocket is another good area to work. The truth of the matter is that these are good places but you will sometimes catch a fish right in the middle of the river and will sometimes see fish scooting along the surface at the edges of the river. You can target these places as well. If you are inexperienced in this type of fishing it is always a good idea to watch other fishermen to see what kind of places they are targeting to get a first-hand picture of these spots. There is nothing wrong with watching and learning from others who have experience.
How to Get to the Boat Ramps
The best place to gain entrance to the Oconee River is at Dyar’s Pasture Waterfowl Area in Greene County. Directions from Madison: Take 278 East toward Greensboro. After you cross the Apalachee River continue 1.5 miles and turn left onto Farmington Road. After you turn the Greshamville Mall will be on your left where you can pick up last minute items. Continue .6 of a mile and turn right on C.M. Copelan Road. Go 2.2 miles and turn right into the Dyar Pasture Waterfowl Area. There is a $3 daily use fee. The boat ramp is in good condition.
If you choose to go to the Apalachee River (remember about the smaller boat requirements) you will go east from Madison on Highway 278 toward Greensboro. Just before you get to the river you will see a store on the right. In order to gain access to the ramp you will need to go to the Apalachee Bait Shop located behind the store that is right on the road. There is a $3 launch fee and the ramp is in good condition. Once you put your boat in go back under the bridge and keep to the right all the way to avoid shallow water. If this is your first trip be careful and keep a check on the water depth. It is easy to run aground.
Many people choose to put in at the ramp on Highway 15 between Watkinsville and Greensboro. The ramp is located just south of the Oconee River about halfway between the two towns. You can go up the river as far as Barnett Shoals from there.
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