The Ocmulgee River begins at Lake Jackson, the junction of the Yellow, South,and Alcovy rivers. From Lloyd Shoals Dam at Lake Jackson, the river flows southeast through Piedmont shoals for 36 miles before crossing the Fall Line just above Macon. Below Macon, the character of the river changes dramatically as the floodplain widens to produce the shifting channel meandering characteristic of the upper Coastal Plain. The Ocmulgee River from Lloyd Shoals Dam to Hawkinsville is split by the Fall Line and provides two distinctly different fishing opportunities. Anglers in central Georgia have the unique opportunity to experience each within a short drive from Macon, Warner Robins or Perry.
The lower Ocmulgee River is large and sluggish with many meandering bends and some oxbow lakes. The river offers a variety of fishing opportunities, and anglers can look to the Ocmulgee's lower portion for bass, bream and catfish.
Largemouth Bass - The predominate black bass species below Macon is largemouth bass, with good numbers presently in the 12 - 15 inch range. Largemouth bass fishing is predicted to be good for the next 2 - 3 years due to an abundance of smaller bass in the 8 - 12 inch category. A quality largemouth fishery is also found above Macon, but these fish average slightly smaller.
Technique- Expect good catches with the right techniques. Fool largemouth with a lightly weighted plastic worm or lizard cast close to the snags. Spinner baits, medium rapala-type crankbaits, plastic jerk baits and topwater plugs also are effective. The key for largemouth is getting the lure deep into the cover.
Target - Target the calmer waters along the banks around snags in the area of the river below Macon. Above Macon try the area between Lloyd Shoals Dam and Hwy 16. Any of the flatwater sections between the numerous shoals can also be productive.
Lower River - Target oxbow lakes and slack-water areas containing overhanging willows and woody structure, especially during spring. In the summer, try fishing eddy pockets, the downstream end of sandbars and heavy cover along the banks.
Shoal Bass Shoal bass were stocked in the upper Ocmulgee River during the 1970s where they are now as abundant as the native Flint River population. Most shoal bass caught in the upper Ocmulgee will be 12 - 16 inches and the occasional 20 - 22 inch lunker is also available. The present abundance of shoal bass in the 11 - 13 inch class predicts good fishing for the next several years. The best fishing is in May - June and again in the fall.
Technique - Small to medium swimming minnow lures, spinner baits, poppers and artificial worms are preferred. For fly-fishing, bring along plenty of woolly buggers and medium poppers. Wade fishing shoals may be the most productive method but drift fishing from canoe or kayak is also effective.
Target - As a first choice, target the area of alternating shoals and flat water reaches between Highway 16 and Wise Creek. This area may provide one of the best angling experiences in the state, but any stretch of river with shoals from Lake Jackson to Macon will contain shoal bass.
Spotted Bass Spotted bass stocked into Lake Jackson by anglers in the 1990s are now found in the upper Ocmulgee from Lake Jackson to the Warner Robins area. Expect the average spot to be slightly smaller than shoal bass, with the largest segment of the population between 6 - 10 inches. Fair numbers in the 12 - 14 inch range are also present, with the occasional spot reaching 20 inches.
Techniques used for shoal bass and largemouth bass are also effective for spotted bass.
Target - Target areas near Lloyd Shoals Dam with moderate current. Also look to the area of alternating shoals and flat water reaches between Highway 16 and Wise Creek, and in the Highway 83 area. Spotted bass are probably more aggressive than other black bass species and are found in a wider range of habitats than largemouth bass or shoal bass.
Striped Bass Stripers were first stocked in Lake Jackson in 2005, adding to the hybrid bass population found in the Lloyd Shoals Dam tailrace fishery. Hybrid stockings were eliminated in 2007 and striped bass should predominate in the future. These stocked stripers should average 21 inches and 4-5 pounds, with some reaching 15 pounds. Stripers that escape from Lake Jackson into the river below Lloyd Shoals Dam could eventually reach the 30 pound class. Additional sources of striped bass are escapees from Lake Juliette where they have been stocked for 10-plus years and from more recent stockings in the lower Altamaha associated with a basin-wide restoration project. These stockings add to the traditional spring striped bass fishery below the Juliette Dam.
Technique - Larger jigs cast into swift current or live shad fished in deeper areas near dams are usually most productive.
Target - The most productive areas are the quarter mile reach below the Juliette Dam and just below the weir in the Lloyd Shoals Dam tailrace. Early spring is always the prime season for striper fishing.
Catfish Channel catfish are abundant throughout the river and flathead catfish introduced into the upper Ocmulgee in the 1970s have spread throughout most of the Altamaha Basin. Recent sampling indicates the presence of flathead catfish above Juliette Dam, and numbers in this area are likely to increase over the next several years. Flatheads are especially abundant in the Coastal Plain section of the river below Macon.
Rod and reel fishing can be effective for channel catfish, but also try trotlines or bushhooks baited with prepared baits, liver, crayfish and a variety of home recipes. The same gear is effective for flatheads, but live baits must be used. The most effective bait is a medium-size redbreast or bluegill.
Target - Fish the river below Macon where catfish are most abundant. A 103 lb. flathead catfish was caught in this area several years ago. The more productive areas are deeper holes with structure in meandering sections.
Bream The upper Ocmulgee River has excellent populations of redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and redear sunfish (shellcracker). Redbreast typically average 5 inches, bluegill 5 - 6 inches and redear sunfish 8 - 9 inches. Sunfish populations are down slightly compared with recent years, probably related to prolonged drought conditions. The exotic longear sunfish has increased in abundance over the last several years and are generally considered a nuisance. These colorful sunfish average just under 4 inches.
Technique - For redbreast: Crickets are the traditional bait, but ultra light tackle with small spinners or fly-fishing with small poppers or spider imitations sometimes can be just as productive. Bluegill can be caught using the same techniques used for redbreast. For redear: Try fishing on the bottom using worms, as they rarely take artificial baits.
Target - For redbreast: Target areas of swift to moderate current except during the spring spawning season when they bed in large numbers in calmer water. The area of alternating shoals and flat water reaches between Highway 16 and Wise Creek are good bets. Also, expect to find good populations of redbreast near any shoal throughout the lightly fished area between the Juliette Dam and Macon. For bluegill and redear: The half mile reach below Lloyd Shoals Dam provides some of the best fishing in the river. Bluegill and redbreast also are typically abundant below Macon and May through June are the most productive months in this reach. Redear are caught in large numbers only during the spring spawning season when they bed near shore, in calm water.
Lower River - When targeting bluegill try pitching bait around cover along the shoreline of oxbow lakes, sloughs, slack-water areas or eddy pockets. Target redbreast in flowing water around structure along creek and river channels. Also try the head and tail ends of sandbars. In late summer, target redear sunfish around woody debris and overhanging vines along the riverbank. In the fall, try fishing around flooded grasses and vegetation near mouths of oxbow lakes and creeks.