Where to Fish in Georgia: Lakes, Rivers, Coastlines & More

The State of Georgia is located in the southeast of the US. Famous for hosting the Masters’ Golf Tournament, Georgia’s varied terrain includes coastal beaches, mountains, and vast expanses of farmland.

Georgia’s officially designated State fish is the largemouth bass. However, you’ll find a dizzying array of game fish here, including rainbow trout in crystal clear mountain streams, feisty hand-size bluegill, and even giant grouper off the coast.

If saltwater fishing is your thing, you’ll love the three dozen artificial reefs that are managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Here you’ll see red snapper, grouper, bluefish, cobia, black sea bass, and amberjack.

Spotted sea trout and red drum abound in the many creeks and rivers that flow into the ocean. If you don’t want to hire a boat and head offshore, you’ll still find flounder, black drum, and sheepshead off docks and piers.


Fishing Licenses 

To fish legally in Georgia, if you’re over 16 years of age, you’ll need a valid fishing license.

Fishing licenses can be obtained from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, from a local agent (call 800-366-2661), or from the Wildlife Resources Division website.

Also, you’ll need a free Saltwater Information Permit if you intend to fish in saltwater.

A separate trout license is required if you want to take a trip to the mountains in search of trout. However, you can opt for a day license instead if you want to. Note that trout season opens on the last Saturday in March and runs till October 31.

Our 10 Favorite Locations

There are so many fabulous fishing spots to choose from; it’s hard to know where to start!

And when you’re tired of fishing, you might want to take a trip to check out the marshlands of Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, or McIntosh counties.

All of these locations are designated as official shellfish harvest areas where you can pick yourself some fresh clams and oysters to go with the day’s catch.

So, in no particular order, here are our top 10 best fishing locations in Georgia.

1. The Chattahoochee River

Chattahoochee River

If you’re an enthusiast trout fisherman, you have to take a trip to the Chattahoochee River (located here), south of Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta.

Fish species you’ll find in these pristine waters include:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Striped bass
  • Catfish

The river here stays cool all year, never rising above 500F, making it perfect trout and bass territory.

The River within the park is open to fishermen from half an hour before sunrise till half an hour after sunset, so bring your sunglasses. Night fishing is not permitted within the park. Note that fishing or seining the river with live bait fish is not allowed.

The best spot for trout is the area below the dam, where the water temperature is coolest. Try fishing here with small worms, blue-winged olives, small jig lures, or nymphs for best results.

During the summer months, huge striped bass can be found migrating from the connected lakes to the cooler river waters. Look for these monsters in deep holes and creek mouths.

Although many anglers prefer to fish from a boat, the access to the river is pretty good for those who want to try their luck casting, and there’s plenty of fish for everyone!

2. Clarks Hill Lake

Clarks Hill Lake

Clarks Hill Lake (located here) is located on the Savannah River and enjoys over 1,200 miles of shoreline. With over 250 islands scattered over 71,000 acres, there are limitless fishing opportunities here, and the spot is understandably extremely popular with anglers.

The lake is a man-made reservoir that’s stocked with plenty of hybrid, largemouth, and striped bass. Fishing is good here all year round. Try drifting live bait such a blueback herring downriver for decent size hybrids and stripers. Local knowledge recommends jigging spoons for a decent strike rate.

As well as bass, there are crappie here, lurking under structures around the lake and its islands. Small minnows are very effective live bait, and small jigs work well too.

So vast is the lake and its environs, that hiring a fishing guide is probably the best way to maximize your chances.

There are camping areas around the lake and a few lakeside cabins too. Facilities are excellent here, with toilets, a boat ramp, a dock, picnic shelters, and fish cleaning stations.

3. Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee Georgia

Lake Oconee (found at this location) is vast! This enormous body of water in central Georgia covers almost 20,000 acres and has a shoreline of almost 400 miles. Lake Oconee is a reservoir located on the Oconee River near Greensboro and Eatonton.

When it comes to fishing in Georgia, fishing in Lake Oconee is an experience not to be missed! Fish species you can expect to find in numbers here include:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Sunfish
  • Crappie
  • White bass
  • Hybrid striped bass
  • Channel catfish
  • White catfish
  • Blue catfish
  • Flathead catfish

If you’re looking for bass, focus on deeper rocky banks and boat docks during the winter. In spring, use spinnerbaits and jerkbaits in the shallower water around fallen trees, stumps, and boat docks. Summer calls for deep-diving crankbaits along the main lake points, deep ridges, and river channels. In fall, fish shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits, keying-in on the backs of creek arms.

For catfish, bluegill, live shad, worms, and cut bait are best for flatheads, especially on hot and humid summer nights and early in the mornings.

There are several campgrounds and RV parks around the lake, all of which have excellent facilities.

4. Simons Island

Simons Island Georgia

For anglers who want the best of both worlds, St. Simons Island is a coastal fishing paradise. The Island lies within the Golden Islands off the Georgia coast and is well-known for its sandy beaches and salt marshes.

From St. Simons Pier, you can take in the ocean air, cast a line, and enjoy the panoramic views of Jekyll Island while you’re waiting for a bite. If you’re lucky, you might even see pods of migrating whales cruising through the deeper water.

Offshore fishing

Off the coast of the Golden Isles, you’ll encounter two game fish that draw anglers from across the US: red snapper and tarpon.

Tarpon have a fearsome reputation for being determined fighters, sometimes taking experienced anglers up to half an hour to land a 75-pound specimen. Deeper waters will see you battling red snapper that can be just as feisty, but their delicious flesh is well-worth the effort when cooked over open coals at the end of a successful fishing charter.

Tarpon frequent these waters throughout the summer. Red snapper are more commonly seen in July and August.

Surf fishing

Surf casting from the beautiful beaches of St. Simons Island is a favorite pastime with anglers chasing redfish (also known as red drum). Redfish in these waters commonly reach 40-inches long and over 30-pounds in weight, presenting you with an exciting and exhilarating challenge! The best time for redfish is late summer and fall, especially in October.

Fly fishing

Fly fisherman will enjoy casting from a kayak or flats boat in the tidal rivers and estuaries that surround St. Simons and Little St. Simons Island. These are somewhat forgotten fisheries that escape the crowds found at other East Coast locations, making them well worth a visit.

Here you’ll find plentiful stocks and varied species, including:

  • Redfish
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Trout
  • Cobia
  • Tripletail
  • Jack Crevalle
  • Tarpon

Fishing the estuaries is good all year round, but can be especially profitable during late summer and fall.

St. Simons Island has plenty of good hotels for those anglers wishing to extend their stay in this idyllic fisherman’s heaven when fishing in Georgia.

5. Lake Allatoona

Lake Allatoona Georgia

Lake Allatoona is located here, 30 miles to the north of Atlanta, extending from southeastern Bartow County and southwestern Cherokee County. This US Army Corps of Engineers 11,860-acre reservoir sits on the Etowah River, surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Fish species that abound in the Lake include:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Catfish
  • Spotted bass
  • Hybrid bass
  • Striped bass
  • Crappie
  • The Common Carp
  • Gar
  • Bream
  • Bluegill
  • Redbreast sunfish
  • Redear sunfish

You may also come across a lake sturgeon. These ancient fish were reintroduced here in 2008 in an effort to reestablish this native species in this part of the Etowah River system. In the unlikely event that you catch one of these prehistoric relics, you must release it immediately.

If you’re hunting bass, use small-size jig-and-pig or a jighead worm, casting towards the lake banks. If you prefer live bait, use minnows. For the biggest largemouths, try fishing the shallow coves, and look out for logs or fallen trees in the water where lunkers often lurk.

Spotted bass prefer deeper water. Vertical jigging spoons and plastic worms are the bait of choice here. For hybrids, try 5-inch shad for live bait, or shad-patterned spinnerbait.

Lake Allatoona has good access, free boat ramps, and free parking. There are also plenty of camping opportunities and nearby lodgings for those who want to extend their stay in this idyllic and productive fishing spot.

6. Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole Georgia

Lake Seminole (found at this link) is a 37,500-acre US Army Corps reservoir that lies in southwest Georgia along the border with Florida.

The Lake is home to some monster largemouth bass and draws anglers from across the State. The lush aquatic vegetation and vast stands of timber provide the ideal habitat for big bass. In addition to the official State fish, you’ll also find:

  • Bluegill
  • Redear sunfish
  • Black crappie
  • Sunshine bass
  • Striped bass
  • Panfish

Note that the Lake springs are closed to fishing from May 1 through November 1. However, cool water creeks are open, and this is where you’ll find stripers and sunshine bass escaping the summer heat.

Near the dam where there’s some water flow, you’ll find small stripers and hybrids. Look flocks of birds working schools of shad, and try casting spoons or diving plugs to catch gamefish feeding beneath. Alternatively, try working poppers and surface plugs near to the bait.

The flats are an awesome spot for largemouth bass if you fish late or early, especially the Cornfield and the Man-Made-Island. Fish vertically along the channels to catch bass moving into deeper water during the hot weather.

Throughout the summer, shellcracker and bream continue to bed, especially around the full moon. Look out too for panfish as they head for deeper water in late summer. Fly-fish after dark along the banks for bream, using glow bugs. For the most action, choose dark nights or fish around the time of the new moon.

There are plenty of campsites around the Lake, together with lodgings. Access is good with boat ramps, a marina, and plenty of free parking.

7. Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier (located here) is a 38,000-acre reservoir that extends into the northern portion of the State. This extensive body of water was created in 1956 by the completion of the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River and is fed by the Chestatee River. Lanier is the largest of Georgia’s lakes, boasting a 700-mile shoreline, which makes it one of the most beloved destinations when fishing in Georgia for experienced and beginner anglers alike.

The tremendous largemouth and spotted bass fishing here sees the Lake playing host to dozens of fishing tournaments and attracts hundreds of recreational anglers every year. Since its creation, the Georgia Game and Fishing Commission has stocked the Lake with many species, including:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Walleye
  • Bluegill
  • Rainbow trout
  • Striped bass
  • Crappie
  • Brown trout
  • Brook trout
  • Spotted bass
  • White bass
  • Several types of Catfish
  • Panfish
  • Gar
  • Carp

If you’re after live bait, the lake is home to thread-fin shad, blueback herring, larger gizzard shad, and spottail minnows.

There are over 45 parks and ten campgrounds around the shores of the Lake. You’ll find RV hook-ups, boat ramps, and picnic areas here too. The surrounding area offers a wide variety of restaurants and entertainment, and Atlanta city is only a 30-minute drive away.

8. Flint River

Flint River Georgia

The Flint River (located here) flows from the south into Lake Seminole. The clear, rippling water flows over purifying limestone shoals through glorious scenery. This popular fishing spot is famous among anglers across the State as the only location where you’ll find the shoal bass, a rare hybrid between the smallmouth  and largemouth bass.

Shoal bass can be found anywhere on the upper Flint River, but the stretch between Thomaston and Gay provides the best habitat for them. March through November is the best time to fish for shoal bass. Use topwater baits to plastic worms and fish the shoals by wading.

The Flint is not all about shoal bass. Other more abundant flat water species here include:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Shellcracker
  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish

Look for 30-pound plus flatheads in the deepest water around the river bends.

Access to the Flint is pretty good. Away from the shoals, beware of rapids between Gay and Thomaston that can become dangerous at high water.

9. Big Lazer Creek

Big Lazer Creek Georgia

Big Lazer Creek is located here, in Talbotton, Talbot County. Facilities here are excellent. There’s a fishing pier, boat ramp, fish cleaning station, and canoe access. Restrooms and picnic areas are on hand for visitors, and there are campsites for those wishing to extend their stay.

This 195-acre body of water is teeming with bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie. The Lake has roughly 15 acres of standing timber, and fish attractors are installed around the fishing pier, increasing your chances of landing a monster!

Fish in the early morning with top-water baits around the shoreline to fool hungry bass. Later in the day, try using swimming lures around the edges of dense timber or pitch weedless baits into thick cover.

From late April and early May, shellcracker and bluegill become the prey of choice for many anglers. Live crickets and worms will pay dividends for these species. Once the water temperatures warm up in May, bream can be found spawning on beds. Bobbers will tempt bream to bite as they aggressively defend their nests.

For the full low-down on how to fill your creel at this location, check out this excellent Big Lazer Creek Fishing Guide before you go for some excellent fishing tips!

10. Flat Creek

Flat Creek Georgia

For anglers seeking to land shellcracker or bluegill, a trip to Flat Creek (located here) is an absolute must! That said, you’ll also find channel catfish, largemouth bass, and black crappie thriving in these waters.

Flat Creek,
south of Perry, Houston County is home to 108-acre Lonice C. Barrett Lake and is managed to offer anglers some genuinely excellent bream fishing.

For bream, you’ll find the best bite is from March through June. Redear typically bite better in the early spring. The largemouth bass population is best hunted during the summer months in areas of cooler, deep water. For the best catfish bite, you need to visit from May through July.

For detailed information on how to maximize your fishing experience at Flat Creek, check out this fabulous fishing guide.

The facilities at Flat Creek are excellent and include:

  • Concrete boat ramp
  • Fish cleaning station
  • Picnic areas
  • Restrooms

Most of these amenities are disability adapted.

Final Thoughts

The laid-back, scenic State of Georgia offers some genuinely memorable fishing experiences all year round.

Choose from man-made, well-stocked lakes teeming with bass, crappie, and bream, or head to the beautiful Golden Islands in search of redfish and tarpon.

End the day with a glass of local wine, a delicious meal, and some fisherman’s tales at one of the State’s many restaurants, while you plan your return trip to this outstanding angler’s heaven.

The Out sider

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