Every dedicated river rat has a river or stream
they call "home". Although I no longer live minutes away from the Ocmulgee,
I consider it my "home water". The upper Ocmulgee (the 45 mile stretch
between Lake Jackson and Macon) is one of the more diverse rivers in the state.
Outside of South Georgia, the Ocmulgee may be the best river on which to catch a
nice mess of bream in the state. The Ocmulgee has both slow and quick sections,
and upstream of Juliette, there is little development.
A bad duck hunt turned into a good
fishing trip this warm January afternoon on the Ocmulgee!
The bream fishing on the Ocmulgee is
fantastic! Redbreasts rule the shoal areas while bluegill, shellcrackers, and
even some crappie provide great fishing in the slower parts of the river. While
redbreast and bluegills will eagerly chase small spinners, shellcrackers prefer
red wigglers fished near the bottom. Two-pound shellcrackers are relatively
common. The illegal introduction of flathead catfish in the river may soon have
a negative impact on panfish populations, but GRF has not heard much
complaining from Ocmulgee fishermen.
The Ocmulgee boasts surprisingly crappie
fishing. Oops, I meant surprisingly good fishing for crappie.
Speaking of illegal introductions, I'd like
to shake the hand of the criminal that illegally introduced shoal bass to the
Ocmulgee in 1975. The shoal bass have adjusted well to the Ocmulgee's numerous
shoals (largemouths don't really hang out in the swift stuff anyway). While
shoal bass are nowhere near as populous as on the Flint, the average Ocmulgee
River shoal bass is a good bit larger. The shoals on the Ocmulgee are shorter
and less grassy than the Flint, but provide darn good fishing if you find the
right spots. Redeye bass occur naturally in the Ocmulgee also and live amongst
the shoal bass. Most anglers can't tell them apart, but redeyes tend to run
There are good numbers of largemouth bass in
the Ocmulgee, too. They will be found in slower water and can get pretty big
(remember: the world record came out of an Ocmulgee oxbow further south!).
Topwaters, spinnerbaits, and plastic worms work well for all the bass species. A
lot of anglers prefer to downsize their tackle for shoal bass, but in the
Ocmulgee the bass generally run about equal size.
Channel catfish are the most popular of the
catfish species, but flatheads are appearing with more frequency below the
Juliette dam. Flatheads prefer live bream or shad, and can reach monstrous
proportions. GRF has not heard any reports of flatheads being caught
above the Juliette dam, so please don't release any up there. These monsters
have wreaked havoc on bream populations in some south Georgia rivers where they
have been illegally stocked.
Linesides can be caught on the Ocmulgee, too.
White bass, hybrids, and some stripers will migrate as far as the Juliette dam
in the spring. Hybrids are stocked upstream of the Juliette dam and these tend
to move up behind Lloyd Shoals dam (L. Jackson) in the spring. Due to the
shoals, some hybrids find their way blocked, making the area below major shoals
a likely spot for them. Some hybrids migrate downstream and are caught every
year just upstream of the Juliette dam. Hybrids will eat anything that resembles
The "old muddy" is a relatively
large river with pretty good access throughout. During the summer, the water can
be crystal clear, but it tends to muddy up quickly after a hard rain. Canoes are
generally the best craft in the section between Lake Jackson and GA 83 due to
the numerous shoals (these are usually Class II or less and the river is big
enough to offer alternate routes for the faint of heart). There are a couple of
tricky runs between Juliette and Macon, but jonboats work fine for most people.
Motorized boats are impractical on much of the Ocmulgee, but the 4-5 miles upstream
of the dam at Juliette are deep and almost still at times, and small outboards
The dam at Juliette offers the only major
obstacle for paddlers. This dam drops 10 or 12 feet straight down and has
claimed some lives. The best thing to do is end your trip above the dam and to
put in below. If you must portage, hug the right bank (facing downstream) and
paddle into the little slough, take out and go around. This is more work than
most of us are willing to do and is unnecessary with some planning.
The only other thing to keep an eye out for
is the water. The Ocmulgee is a tailwater for Lake Jackson, and it rises 3 to 5
feet when they generate electricity. This can make some of the rapids a little
hairy, but doesn't seem to effect the fishing much. Georgia Power tends to
generate weekdays during business hours, but canoe campers need to make camp at
least five feet above the water just to be safe. I learned this the hard way!
Located smack in the middle of the state, the
Ocmulgee is fairly accessible to most Georgians. While not the best bass fishing
river in the state, the Ocmulgee possesses very good fishing for a few species.
The bream fishing is pretty tough to beat, making the Ocmulgee a great river for
beginners. I should know, because the Ocmulgee is where I began river fishing!