Top 25 Georgia Game Fish Species
This post will list the top 25 Georgia game fish species. Georgia is most known for excellent freshwater fishing. However, it has a slice of shore line on the Atlantic Ocean and has very good saltwater fishing was well. Anglers can catch a wide variety of species in Georgia!
Top 25 Georgia game fish species are;
Red drum (redfish)
Spotted sea trout
This is Capt Jim’s list of the top 25 Georgia game fish species. Each species will have a picture for identification along with tips and locations to help anglers catch more fish!
1) Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass need no introduction to anglers. They are probably the most popular game fish in North America. Largemouth bass are widely distributed throughout the ponds, rivers, and lakes in Georgia. They are first on the list of top Georgia game fish.
Read more about largemouth bass fishing
There are many different techniques that anglers can use to be successful targeting largemouth bass. Most anglers opt for casting artificial lures around vegetation, docks, and other structure. Live bait, especially shiners, work well. While smaller bass are decent to eat, the vast majority of anglers practice catch and release.
2) Smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass are a very popular freshwater game fish. These cousins to the largemouth are really as much like trout as bass. Many anglers agree that they put up a better fight for their size. Smallmouth bass prefer cool, clear water in lakes and rivers. Most of them are found in the northern part of Georgia. Smallmouth are native to the Tennessee River basin and were introduced in the Chattahoochee and Savannah River basins.
Learn more about smallmouth bass fishing
Like largemouth bass, most anglers chasing smallmouth bass do so using artificial lures. They allow for a lot of water to be covered in a relatively quickly. Best live baits include minnows, crayfish, and nightcrawlers. They are good to eat, but most are released.
3) Red drum – AKA redfish
Red drum, better known to many anglers as redfish, are a very popular inshore saltwater game fish species. Anglers fishing the inshore bays as well as the barrier island beaches catch plenty of these hard fighting and tasty fish. Smaller specimens are known as puppy drum and are the best eating. Red drum primarily feed on crustaceans, though bait fish are certainly part of their diet as well.
Read more about fishing for redfish
Anglers fishing for red drum in the inshore bays do so using both artificial lures such as the jig and grub combination along with live bait. A live shrimp fished under a popping cork is tough to beat. Anglers fishing for red drum in the surf usually do so using cut bait as it stays on the hook better. Some very large redfish are caught by anglers surf fishing.
Flounder are an extremely popular inshore saltwater species found in the inshore areas of Georgia. Many anglers would put them at the top of their list. While they do put up a decent tussle, flounder are prized for their snow white fillets. There may not be a better eating fish anywhere!
Read more about flounder tackle and techniques
Flounder are a member of the flat fish family. Once mature, they swim 90° to what most other fish species do. The eye on the bottom of the fish migrates to the top and the flounder spends the rest of its life swimming on its side looking upward. It is an ideal ambush predator which hides in the sand and devours prey as it gets within range. Most anglers use live or cut bait for flounder, though jigs are ineffective artificial lure.
Bluegill and panfish do not grow very large, however they are every bit the game fish. Pound for pound, they are one of the toughest little battlers an angler will encounter. Obviously, ultralight tackle is the best choice. Live bait probably accounts for the most fish, though lures will produce, especially for the aggressive bluegill.
Nice article on bluegill fishing
One of the reasons for the popularity of bluegill and other panfish is there accessibility. These species inhabit just about every warm freshwater body of water in the United States, and Georgia is no exception. The long growing season results in large fish. Also, due to their prolific nature, anglers can keep a bunch of fish with a clear conscience. Bluegill and panfish are fantastic on the dinner plate.
Crappie are the largest member of the panfish family and our next on the list of the top 25 Georgia game fish species. They are not really notable as far as putting up a terrific fight is concerned, however they more than make up for when rolled and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Crappie fishing has become more popular throughout the country, with the number of tournaments increasing greatly.
Read about the best crappie fishing tackle and lures
Crappie usually are found in fairly large schools and relate to structure. Larger lakes are usually more productive than smaller ponds and rivers. Many anglers target them in the spring when they move in shallow and are easier to catch as they spawn. Determine anglers will catch them year-round over deeper structure. Trolling is an extremely effective technique. Anglers use both live minnows and jigs to catch them.
7) Spotted sea trout – AKA speckled trout
Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, are another extremely popular saltwater species found in the inshore waters and tidal rivers of Georgia. They can be found over shallow weedy flats, around oyster bars, in tidal creeks, in the inlets, and out on the surf. Spotted sea trout are a beautiful fish that puts up a decent fight and is terrific eating.
Check out the gear that Capt Jim uses on his saltwater fishing charters
Many anglers catch spotted sea trout casting artificial lures, particularly a jig with a soft plastic body. Live shrimp are extremely effective as well. Smaller trout tend to school and once anglers locate them, the action can be fast. Larger trout are loners quite often. It is best when keeping a few fish for dinner to keep the medium-size fish and let the larger breeder females go back into the water.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
Bluefish are well known to anglers all along the entire East Coast of the United States. They range in size from small snapper blues to the larger slammers that grow over 30 pounds. Bluefish are extremely aggressive and a very hard fighting species. They are generally encountered in large schools which adds to the competitive and aggressive nature of the fish.
Read this article on fishing for bluefish
Many anglers associate bluefish with surf fishing, and for good reason. Bluefish are right behind striped bass when it comes to the popularity among surf casters. Bluefish are also found in the inshore bays and inlets, though they do require a high level of salinity. They can be caught on cut or live bait, though there are aggressive nature really matches up with using artificial lures. They are considered sub-par eating by many anglers, though the smaller ones are pretty good when ice immediately and eaten that day.
9) Brook trout
Brook trout are the first of the three major trout species found in Georgia. However, most brook trout are found in the mountains, where they are native to the small, cold mountain streams. Brook trout are found in the Tennessee, Coosa, Chattahoochee, and Savannah River basins. Natural brook trout populations only exist where rainbow and brown trout do not exist.While diminutive in size, brook trout put up a scrappy little battle on light spinning or fly tackle. They can be a challenging species, but the environment makes up for the effort. They are also terrific when fried up in a skillet.
10) Brown trout
Brown trout are the largest and most widely distributed of the three Georgia trout species. Though not native, they have been successfully stocked in many streams, rivers, and lakes in north Georgia. Brown trout tolerate warm water a little better than the other two trout, thus the reason for their range in numbers.
Brown trout can be caught using a variety of techniques. Obviously, fly fishing is productive and popular. Anglers casting artificial lures do well using spinners and spoons. Nightcrawlers and other prepared baits work well for anglers using bait. Trolling is an excellent way to locate brown trout in larger lakes. They are very good to eat, especially wild trout.
11) Rainbow trout
Rainbow trout are the most popular and recognizable of the three trout species found in Georgia. Once again, they are primarily found in the northern mountain portions of the state. They require cold, clean water. These fish were introduced to Georgia as well.
Like brown trout, rainbow trout can be caught using a wide variety of techniques. Anglers fishing the many streams and rivers do so fly fishing as well as casting spinners and spoons with spinning tackle. Live and commercially prepared baits are effective as well. Trolling the larger lakes produces some of the biggest rainbow trout. They are very good to eat.
12) Striped bass and hybrid bass
Striped bass are the list of the top 25 Georgia game fish species. They grow large, hit lures and live baits, put up a great fight, and taste great! Striped bass are also unique in that they thrive in both fresh and salt water. What more could an angler ask for? They are bred with white bass to create striped bass.
Click to read more about striped bass
The primary technique used to catch striped bass is trolling. This is done extensively in Lake Lanier and other large reservoirs. A few are caught in the saltwater part of the state, though that is the extreme southern edge of their range.
13) White bass
White bass are small, but scrappy. They are used with striped bass to create hybrid bass. They share the habit of schooling and feeding in large numbers. When this occurs, they are easy to catch! White bass are native to the Tennessee River basin; introduced to rivers and lakes throughout the state.
14) Spanish mackerel
Spanish mackerel are a beautiful and hard fighting inshore saltwater species found along the entire East Coast of the United States. They certainly belong on the list of top 25 Georgia game fish species! Mackerel are found off of the beaches and in the inlets as well as in the inshore bays and sounds. They are usually encountered in fairly large schools and are quite aggressive. When iced down immediately and eaten fresh, Spanish mackerel are terrific.
Spanish mackerel are among the fastest fish that swim. There are also quite aggressive. Therefore, fast-moving flashy lures are often the best way to catch them. Spoons and other metal baits cast a long way and put out a lot of flash, which make them productive Spanish mackerel fishing lures. They will also take other lures as well as live and cut baits. Both anglers and boats and those fishing from the surf do well.
15) Jack crevalle
Jack crevalle are the bar room brawlers of saltwater. These are mean, aggressive fish that roam about in large schools and feed voraciously, mostly on bait fish. Once again, due to their aggressive nature, artificial lures are quite productive as well as being great fun to fish. Jacks can be encountered anywhere from the inshore bays to the inlets and surf. While great fun to catch, they are not considered good to eat.
16) Channel catfish
Channel catfish are the most widely distributed and numerous members of the three major catfish found in North America. They are quite abundant and plentiful and most warm water bodies of water in Georgia. They put up an excellent battle for anglers using tackle matched to their size. Obviously, fried catfish is a very popular dish throughout the South.
The vast majority of catfish are caught by anglers using live or cut bait. However, channel catfish are not scavengers and prefer a fresh dead or live bait over a stinking rotting piece of meat on the bottom. Quite a few channel catfish are caught by anglers casting artificial lures for bass and other species as well. Slow moving rivers and lakes are top spots to catch them.
17) False albacore
False albacore are a top saltwater game fish that are found off of the North Carolina beaches. Also known as little tunny and bonita, they are smaller members of the tuna family and exhibit the same qualities. False albacore school up in huge numbers and are often seen feeding ferociously on the surface. They are an extremely fast fish, as all tuna are. While a terrific sport fish caught on fly or spinning tackle, they are not good to eat.
18) Blue catfish
Blue catfish grow much larger than channel catfish, with the record being over 100 pounds. Blue catfish are native to the Coosa River basin; introduced in the Chattahoochee, Flint, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Altamaha, Satilla, and Savannah River basins. There is some controversy over them. This was done so to provide anglers with a very large fish to catch. However, in some waters they have upset the natural balance as they are apex predators that eat a lot. They feed mostly on bait fish, and a fresh chunk of cut herring or shad is the top bait. They are fantastic eating with snow white fillets.
19) Flathead catfish
Flathead catfish, also known as yellow cats, are a bit of a specialty catfish species. Most anglers who catch them do so on purpose. They prefer slow-moving rivers and are more solitary than the other two catfish species. Most of them are caught by anglers using large live bait such as panfish or suckers. They grow quite large, reaching weights of over 100 pounds, and are good to eat.
20) Spotted bass
Spotted bass are becoming more plentiful in Georgia, almost to a fault. They are prolific and are even taking over some lakes, particularly in the northern portions of the states were water is cooler, clear, and deeper. They act more like smallmouth bass than largemouth bass and are usually found in schools in deeper water over structure such as channel edges and submerged points. They are fine eating.
21) Rock bass
Anglers may question seeing rock bass on the list of the top 25 Georgia game fish species. However, pound for pound they are as tough as any of the others. Rock bass are found in many of the same waters as smallmouth bass, particularly streams and smaller rivers. They are quite aggressive and respond well to artificial lures such as spinners, spoons, and small plugs. Like most panfish, they are fantastic eating.
22) King mackerel
King mackerel, also known as king fish, are larger cousins to the Spanish mackerel. They are similar inhabits in that they are usually found in fairly large schools and are quite aggressive. However, they are not very often seen feeding on the surface. The vast majority of king mackerel are caught by anglers trolling with either fast-moving lures or slow trolling with live bait. They are found in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, but often times relate to either bait schools or underwater structure. They are very good to eat, particularly when smoked.
Cobia are another fantastic saltwater game fish found off of the coast of Georgia. Smaller cobia will be caught in the inshore bays and inlets. Cobia have an odd behavior of swimming right on the surface, making them a target of anglers sight fishing. They grow quite large, reaching weights of over 100 pounds, and are one of the finest eating fish that swims. Most cobia are caught by anglers fishing offshore around wrecks, however they are caught off of piers and even by anglers surf fishing at times.
Dolphin, better known to many as mahi-mahi, are a hard fighting and beautiful offshore saltwater species. Seldom are these game fish found close to shore. Anglers generally troll weed lines and over underwater structure to catch them. Dolphin are one of the fastest fish and anglers often troll up to 10 knots to catch them. They are primarily caught in the warmer months.
Several species of tuna are caught off of the coast line when fishing in Georgia. These include bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, and blackfin tuna. They all behave in a similar manner. Tuna are most often encountered in schools and can be seen feeding on the surface. Trolling works very well to locate them. Once a productive area is found, anglers can chunk or drift with live baits to catch them. Occasionally tuna move in close to the beach, but most are caught well offshore. Obviously, tuna are fantastic eating.
In conclusion, this article on the top 25 Georgia game fish species will help anglers identify and more importantly, catch more of these terrific fish!