Best Winter Fishing in a Decade

Etowah/Coosa River
Water Temperature 48 Degrees

Hands down the best winter time fishing we have seen in a decade! The drought of 2016 was eventually relieved with some much needed rain. The rivers and area lakes got some relief, but not an over abundance of runoff that has caused poor fishing in winters passed. The fish have migrated towards their spawning grounds and have found the right water quality to stay put for a while. The Crappies, White Bass and Striper bite has been amazing since Thanks Giving 2016! Great for size and numbers. Many techniques will catch these fish, making it fun for everyone.

My go to technique has been casting 1/16 ounce jigs to shoreline structure. some days when the fish orient a bit shallower, a float positioned 2 to 4 feet above the jig is the ticket. The key is to not be too aggressive with the retrieve. As far as casting a jig without a float, allow the jig to fall with the current and most times the bite will come with no movement of the rod. When fishing the jig and float method, only a “twitch- pause- twitch” is needed to put a slab in the boat. Live minnows are always a favorite among anglers and for good reason, they catch fish. The way my clients have caught fish with live bait is by fishing a typical down-line rig. The Down-line rig consists of a 3\4 ounce sinker above a swivel, followed with a section of leader line 18 inches long with a #4 light wire hook. Try to fish on the ledges or straight down in cover. A typical half day trip has averaged 75 fish including several species.

Spring is around the corner but no need to wait, the fish are biting now!

Stop Wishing and Start Fishing
Chris Hughes
Orion Fishing Charters

Lake Allatoona Fishing Report

Just typing the number 2015 is still just weird, but it is here and time is still ticking. The good thing is the fish are doing exactly as they should for this time of year! January had some brutally cold days but February promises to mix it up with some milder temperatures and longer days.

The fish are feeding heavily to fatten up for the upcoming spawn this Spring. The key is to fish the days before an approaching front or weather event. Any stretch of mild weather for more than two or three days will get the bite going also. This winter has produced some impressive catches for my clients with many fish over 10 pounds and even a few pushing the 20 pound mark.

Stripers and Hybrids are in search of warm water, and as luck would have it this is just what the bait fish are doing as well. I am finding the fish in shallow water in big coves and pockets around creek mouths and areas exposed to the evening sun. With a majority of the lake stained, search for clear water and you will be in the right areas.

Some days the best bite has been on down-lined shad at 16 to 40 feet deep, and the next day they will only eat free-lines or bait fished on planer boards. Be versital on the water always keeping an eye out for nature to give clues to what is happening. No matter what season it is every day can be different! The Great Blue Herron is always a sure sign that fish are near. Some of my best catches recently have came from areas where a single Sea Gull was lurking or a Herron stalking the shore-line. Good luck out there and please release the big ones for a future catch!!

Stop Wishing and Start Fishing

The Orion Report – Early December 2012

Coosa River

Team Orion has been “Playing The Blues.” Blue Catfish that is. Water temperatures have fallen to the mid 50s on the river channel and the Blue Cats have been eating big baits fished on big gear. We have been targeting these upper class fish by fishing the biggest baits we can manage. To catch numbers you have to fish smaller morsels of cut bait or smaller live ones, however, if a Trophy is what you are after, you will need to put in some time soaking baits that would normally resemble a tactic for an ocean Striper or a Tarpon. Target deep holes during the morning and gradually move towards the shallower water, such as inside river bends, as the sun warms the surface water. Our bait of choice has been Gizzard Shad over 12 inches long or a piece of cut Drum of half a pound or better. The FlatHead Catfish will eat as well but are not as active as the Blues. Have a pole ready for any schooling fish chasing bait and the day could offer a “Coosa Slam.” The big fish we are boating are released unharmed after getting a mug shot, as they are the breeders and the future of trophy catfishing. The river is loaded with smaller fish that can be participants in a fish fry. For those of you looking for an adventure during the colder days of winter, hooking into a monster catfish is a great way to spend time taking in the scenery of the Coosa River Basin while waiting for that familiar sound of a screaming drag and a tussle with the fish of a lifetime. Weekends are equally as good as the week days during this time of year and Orion Fishing Charters has some openings between now and Christmas. As always kids are welcome on our boats at no charge with a paying adult.

Lake Allatoona

Water temperature – low to mid 50s on the north end, mid to high 50s mid lake to the south end

Fishing Lake Allatoona this month has been up and down. We had some dangerous fog some mornings that stalled our boats for most of the morning. Evenings have been producing good catches of Hybrids and Stripers just before dusk most days and mornings can be hit or miss with a completely different pattern than the evening bite. Take each day as a new day with an open mind until you figure out the mood of the fish. Don’t get discouraged if the day does not produce, stay focused and the next outing could be a personal best fish. Team Orion is enjoying fishing Lake Allatoona at this time of year because the jet skiers are few and far between and the fish we catch are fat, healthy and well earned! The bait is stacking up in all the major creek mouths in the 40 foot range and on the river channel. Successful techniques vary this time of year but live bait is an essential for most days. Enjoy the low boat traffic and set your sights on concurring the elusive white fish. When searching for a likely area, troll crank baits and u-rigs and pay attention to pockets off the main lake for schooling fish. Team Orion will be spending days guiding our clients for trophy Stripers during the winter months while enjoying catches of Hybrid Bass, White Bass, and Spotted Bass. During the next few months, weather trends will affect the bite more than other times. After a warming trend or before a changing weather event get on the water and witness a magical transformation of the “Dead Sea.” This time of year becomes dangerous with low water temps and icy boat decks. Always wear a personal flotation device!

The Orion Report – Coosa River

The summer water temps and lethargic fish activity have finally changed. This week the fish have started chasing shad very aggressively. Our catches have been great all week. We have been getting Stripers, Crappie, White Bass, and some “magnum” Spotted Bass! The schools of shad are an amazing sight to witness. I do not know of another waterway that compares to the Coosa River with regard to Gizzard Shad and ease of catching them. After netting your bait, simply hook a shad to a spinning reel and cast to the shoreline. Keep an eye on your line for the hit and hang-on. We are using mostly 8 pound test monofilament with a BB split shot 18 inches or so above the hook. This style of fishing is ideal for kids, they can learn to cast without having to be precise, as well as learning to “feel” the bite. These fish are in large schools so the action has been lasting for most of the outing. The cool thing about the Coosa River is the many fishing styles, techniques, and species to explore. We have caught Flat Head Catfish and Blue Catfish this week fishing cut bait in the river bends.

Team Orion Participates in Coosa River cleanup effort

Today was the annual Etowah River cleanup effort that targeted 298 miles of shoreline and river basin of the Etowah through Bartow and Floyd counties. Orion Fishing Charters is proud to be involved in such a great cause. We suspended our charters for the day to roll our sleeves up and get involved for this event to help restore and preserve the beauty of the river we call home. I would like to thank all of the volunteers who gave their time to serve this cause. A special thanks to Sheri Henshaw, coordinator with Keep Bartow Beautiful, for her service to our natural resources that are so very important to the residents of Northwest Georgia and especially Orion Fishing Charters. Additionally I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Matt Shinall for their hands-on efforts as well as Matt’s editorials in the Daily Tribune. Together we made an enormous impact on the 411/Macedonia site that has been negatively affected by illegal dumping for quite some time. Much work will be needed to educate river users of the importance of our waterways and the need to keep them beautiful. We are excited to be a part of this annual event and hope to include ourselves in other efforts as well. Team Orion considers this a worthy cause, and would like to see these events grow so that access to and quality of our resources is preserved.

The Orion Report ~ End of September

After a great week of weather and fishing on Allatoona, I was able to get a two day break from charters. The timing could not have been better when my son asked me to join him for a few days to fish the Oostanaula River. We loaded the canoes and camping gear and slid off from the hustle and bustle to fish a 15 mile section of seemingly untouched water. The river was on the fall from a recent rain event and was teeming with flipping bait fish and top water action. With Lake Allatoona getting a dose of the “weekend warriors” I was sure we had made a good decision to be on the Oostanaula.

We let the river dictate our speed the first day, taking in the sights and sounds only a river valley can provide. Once sundown approached, we settled on camping along a deep water section of river with an abundance of cover. Tyler and I set up camp and could not sit still until we had a set of limb lines baited for a river monster with whiskers.  We had a mess of Blue Gill Bream caught earlier in the day ready to bait up with. Fishing limb lines never gets old because you just never know what might be there on the hook. I guess it brings out the kid in me.  The signs of a hooked fish are never predictable. Sometimes a dancing limb will only be a 5-pounder…but a heavy steady pull can be a 50-pounder. We got seven lines out and before we could get back to our starting point we had “Live Action” on a hook! And seconds later we had a 15-pound Blue Cat in the boat. After rebaiting we let the lines soak for the night. By sunrise I was up surveying the river from camp and it looked as if most of our lines were hooked-up. It wasn’t hard to convince Tyler to get on the water and get fishing. Out of our seven lines we landed 5 fish from 12 to 27 pounds only to have a monster catfish wrap up on a  sunken tree. That fish got away…this time. It was a fantastic trip and a great memory that I am thankful for.

The Orion Report – Week 3 September

Lake Allatoona

The lake is almost 7 feet below full pool with a water surface temperature of mostly 77 degrees.

Allatoona is looking great right now, however, the bite is not as good as her appearance. Fish are scattered from the north to south. The north end will be best for smaller fish such as White Bass and Crappie, while mid-lake is best for a decent spot or the typical Hybrid Bass of 4 pounds. We have elected not to burn a lot of gas by searching for active fish, instead waiting on the fish to come to us.  Orion’s boats have been fishing shallow humps and points late evening with cut shad on the bottom at dark and slow trolling live shad at low light times.  We are having luck with a jigging spoon on points and channel ledges during sun up times. A spoon will catch any species on Allatoona with a little patience. Adjust your presentation and size spoon until the fish let you know what works. There is a good top water bite at sun-up some days but don’t hang your hat on it. Catch them when they are on top with popping cork rigs and spoons skipped on the surface.

Coosa River

The Coosa River is going through a transition just like Allatoona is.  We have put our boats in position for a mixed bag of catfish, crappie, and bass, both Largemouth and Spotted Bass. While drifting cut and live shad, stay close to the bank to cast live shad on spinning gear in ditches and creek mouths. Hang on because you might be surprised at the quality of bass you can hook!

For all you “‘fair wheather” fisherman, once the warm up begins late morning/early afternoon, the big Gar are rolling in areas as big as a football field.  These are truly impressive fish and willing to eat. To catch them, present a shad on the surface or sub-surface with a steel leader and hang on!  Our catches have averaged 12 pounds with a 20 pounder possible. Your bait doesn’t have to be alive. Please be careful handling your catch as these fish can ruin your day in a hurry.

Team Orion

Birthday Charter for Daughter and Daddy

Girl-Catfish-FishingToday I fished with Mark P. and his 9 year old daughter Hanna.  For the second time in 2 weeks I have had the pleasure of fishing with a Father/Daughter team for a birthday gift. Whatever we can do to make a fishing outing for kids a good memory is a must. I knew I would have to work for fish today because they are on the move.  It was a welcome surprise when the first pole out, baited with a small gizzard shad, buried up under the boat before the second pole was out. Hanna wasted no time cranking on the reel(with Dad keeping a hand on the pole) and catching her first Hybrid/Striped bass weighing an impressive 6 pounds.

Girl-Striper-FishingThe bite slowed after a while and Hanna requested that she may catch a Bass. So what choice would anyone have but to help her fulfill her birthday wish and try to find a bass!  We pulled up on a  main lake point and lowered our down-lines baited with gizzard shad at different depths.  Hanna wasn’t content with letting the pole sit in the rod holder so she picked one up and began to reel, then drop it to the bottom, then reeled some more.  It wasn’t long before she let it be known she had “fish-on”.  Sure enough she put the smack down on a 14 inch Spotted Bass.

As pictures of her caught bass were being taken another pole buried-up and Hanna was once again in the hot seat. This time something was different in that the pole stayed down.  It was obvious it was not hung on the bottom but the fish stayed down.  After Mark increased the drag, the fight got going and Hanna pulled with all she had. At last the net scooped a respectable Flat-Head Catfish. The look on her face I will never forget as she asked “what is that thing??”. I can tell you this girl is one heck of a fisherman and a sportsman, it was so cool when she asked me to “let the thing go back”.

Lake Allatoona ~ First week of September

Lake Allatoona is about 5 feet low and the suface temp. mostly 82 degrees

Fishing has been up and down for the last month with the fish on the move in search of comfortable conditions and the presence of bait. One day the creeks will be loaded with fish and the next day you will have to explore the creek mouths and river channel.

We have had decent catches of crappie and spotted bass mid-way back in the major creeks and large “bay areas” slow trolling jigs tipped with small threadfin shad. Small minnows will work but the presence of tons of small shad makes it easy to net all you need. We are trolling at .6 to 1.0 miles an hour with an assortment of 1/16 to 1/8 ounce jigs. With the presence of larger Spotted Bass 6 pound test is best but the crappie bite is better using 2 to 4 pound test line.

Keep an eye out for the bait fish on the surface because these are the areas the fish will be holding. What is a good area one day may not be good the next. As far as the main lake goes there are many schools of shad from Clear Creek all the way to the ski jump in Allatoona Creek. We have been catching lots of smaller Hybrids and Spotted Bass on the surface with popping cork rigs and small spoons skipped along the suface. These fish are busting the bait schools up and working the surface in the mornings and evenings most days. On cloudy days the action can last longer. These fish are smaller in size ranging from 1/4 pound to a pound. From mid lake to Little River the bait seems to be a bit larger and the fish do as well.

There have been some large schools of Hybrids in the 4 pound range showing up. They are on a mission to fatten up for the fall season. The best way not to catch these fish is to run-and-gun with the big motor. The fish will not stay in the area if pressured. Hold your position and the fish will surface within a few feet of the boat and then feed them shad or whatever looks like one. My favorite is the half ounce custom bait called the “Scallawag”. I am pleased with some bonus catches the last few weeks of big Flat-Head cats. The Flat-Heads are eating Live Shad fished on main lake points near cover, cover being marinas or lighted docks.

Father/Daughter Fishing Adventure

Father-Daughter-Fishing-TripLake Allatoona

Today I fished with Larry M. and his 10 year old daughter Aubrey.  Today’s’ trip was Aubrey’s request for her birthday.  When Larry called to book the fishing charter he let me know that Aubrey was the angler of the two and they just wanted to catch fish. It was exciting to me that a 10 year old girl wanted to spend time with her Dad fishing for her birthday and for the goal of the day just to catch fish, any fish, was awesome.

We started the day with my 21 foot skiff “Lisa Ann” loaded with live thread-fin shad and 200 crickets.  We started the morning targeting surface schooling Hybrids since  I had been seeing the schools earlier in the week with previous clients.  After only 1 hook-up in the first hour, it was obvious the high week-end boat traffic had the fish spooked. We made the call to escape the crowds and hide out in a creek and target some bream beds.  This was a rare occasion for the week after Labor Day as it was the “Blue Moon”, not to happen again for another year and a half.  We were not disappointed, the big bull Bream were busy  guarding beds. Many crickets later we had the live well full of fish and the promise of a soon to come fish fry.  I couldn’t resist swapping the crickets out for a lively shad flipped in around boat docks and the Spotted Bass were there to help make more birthday memories for a well deserving little girl and her Dad!