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Ocmulgee River (L. Jackson-Macon)

   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 smaller.

    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 a shad.

    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 work fine.

    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!

 
       

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