Located between Calhoun and Ellijay on the Coosawattee River, Carters Lake is about a two-hour drive from Atlanta. This 3,220-acre reservoir is Georgia's deepest, with steep bluff banks and an undeveloped shoreline.
The Carters Lake Fish Attractor Program was initiated in 1999 as a joint project between the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Carters Lake Project, local businesses and anglers.
Locate Carters Lake fish attractors here by viewing available maps and heeding biologists helpful tips.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: ph. 706-334-2248
Prospects and Fishing Tips
|Best Bets |
|SPOTTED BASS & WALLEYE |
|Largemouth bass |
|Prospect ||Largemouth bass comprise about 10 percent of the black bass population in Carters. Despite their low numbers, the largemouth present tend to be of quality size. Most will be just over a pound, but 7-8+ pound fish are certainly not out of the question. || |
|Technique ||Spring largemouth can be enticed with naturally colored jig head finesse worms and later in the year by larger u-tail or ribbon tail plastic worms. The classic pig-n-jig is also a successful largemouth technique in this impoundment. Live crayfish and minnows can also be effective. |
|Target ||The lake's steep, rocky banks generally provide limited habitat for largemouth. Anglers should focus their efforts in the backs of coves, which typically provide the only shallow largemouth habitat in the lake. Fishing coves containing submerged timber or fallen trees will increase your odds of catching a Carters' "bucketmouth." |
|Spotted bass |
|Prospect ||Spotted bass are the dominant black bass species in Carters. Genetic analysis of the population confirmed these are the native Alabama "spotted" bass, which tend to grow to larger adult size than the Kentucky spotted bass. This certainly supports the lake's "magnum spot" reputation among anglers. |
DNR sample data shows that overall spot abundance remains good, but there may be fewer trophy spots in the population this year due to a decline in gizzard shad abundance. Regardless, anglers can expect plenty of thick-sided, 3-4 pound spots to stretch lines in 2014.
|Technique ||In spring, spots move shallow to spawn. Throw green-pumpkin or other naturally colored jig head finesse worms to catch these actively feeding fish. With the heat of summer, shallow running baits like Pop-R's, Sammy 100's and Scrounger jigs, fished on main lake points are all good early morning techniques. During the daytime heat, slower presentations on deeper (20-40 feet) points and humps are preferred. Try Texas or Carolina rigged plastic worms, or football jigs. Summer nighttime action can be had using diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs fished parallel to steep banks and points. In fall, cooling water temperatures have spots relating to deep woody debris and schooling shad. Probe these areas with drop-shot rigs tipped with 3-4 inch plastic flukes or 1/2-3/4 ounce jigging spoons. Winter anglers should target schooling spots on steep bluff banks using jigs or float and fly presentations. Find deep (50-60 feet) water holding shad, and spots will be close by. Use your electronics to find shad schools and present jigs, spoons or drop-shot baits to these waiting spots. For the live bait angler, suspending large minnows or small trout above deep structure is a proven "spot-busting" technique in cold weather. |
|Target ||In early spring, fish the deeper, rocky, main lake points. As spring progresses, spots move off the main lake points back into cove areas to spawn. At this time, target gradual sloping banks and coves with pea-gravel substrate. In summer, look for spots holding on deeper (20-40 feet) structure, like brush piles or the 45+ fish attractors created by the Corps of Engineers and DNR. Spots will again feed aggressively on main lake points and around woody cover with cooling fall temperatures. Winter-time anglers should again target deeper (50-60 ft.) structure and areas with steep rocky banks. Finding schools of bait fish is key to locating hungry winter time spotted bass. |
|Hybrid Bass |
|Prospect ||Hybrid numbers remain modest, but a relatively strong year class of 1 year-old fish in the 1 pound range have bolstered population numbers. Consequently, anglers may see an increase in their catch of these smaller individuals this year. However, what the hybrid population lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in fish size quality. Undoubtedly, 10+ pound trophy class hybrids will stretch lines again this year. In fact, several 14+ pound hybrids have been pulled from Carters' waters in recent years. || |
|Technique ||Trolling artificial baits like u-rigs or crankbaits can be effective, but live trout or shad are typically more consistent producers. Wintertime hybrids may also hit cut fish or chicken livers fished on the bottom at near-shore locations. Nighttime fishing during the summer can also be productive. Surface or shallow diving stick baits like Rapalas or Redfins are good nighttime lure choices. |
|Target ||Find the bait! Hybrids are most often found close to schools of shad or alewife, which travel throughout the lake. Use your boat's electronics to locate concentrations of baitfish because hybrids will likely be nearby. In the spring time, hybrids will concentrate near Carters' Dam to gorge on spawning shad. In summer, slow trolling down-lines in 20-30 feet of water should produce hybrids. There are also several mid-lake humps located in the lake where hybrids are known to frequent year-round. |
|Striped Bass |
|Prospect ||Carters striped bass abundance remains modest in this deep reservoir. However, those caught will tend to be larger, trophy-sized linesides. DNR sample data show a striper population increasingly dominated by older individuals. Young fish abundance remains low despite increased fingerling stocking rates in three of the last five years. Despite a modest population size angler striper catch may remain satisfactory if the region again experiences mild summer conditions as was the case in 2013. In addition, an observed decline in gizzard shad abundance may mean stripers will be more willing to strike angler offerings. || |
|Technique ||Live trout, bluegill, gizzard and threadfin shad are all common baits used in the pursuit of stripers at Carters. When water temperatures are below 65 F, balloon rigging or free-lining these live offerings are good techniques to employ. When water temperatures rise above 65 F, live offerings fished on downlines in 20-25 feet of water are recommended. |
|Target ||Striper fishing at Carters is best from October through June. Stripers can be found just about anywhere in the lake, but the areas immediately adjacent to the Doll Mountain boat ramp, the main Woodring Branch Recreation Area cove, and the the "Big Island" in the Coosawatte River arm of the lake are perennial hot spots. During the summer months, stripers may be found holding around main lake humps in the main body of the reservoir. In general, anglers who consistently key-in on areas holding bait fish will likely find "linesides" nearby. |
|Prospect ||Channel catfish far outnumber flathead catfish at Carters. Recent DNR sample data shows average numbers of "dinner-sized" channel cats will be present in the lake this year. Channel cats are typically around 3/4 of a pound, while the average flathead is usually 5-8 pounds. Bigger flatheads, while not common, can push over the 20 pound mark. || |
|Technique ||Live or cut shad fished on weighted bottom rigs will produce better sized catfish. Of course, chicken livers, worms or catalpa worms are classic options for tapping into Carters' "whiskered" resources. |
|Target ||Target the cracks and pockets along rocky banks and points found throughout the lake. Often, catfish will hold in deeper (20-30ft.) water just off the sides of main lake points during the summer months. Tangles of logs and fallen trees in the backs of coves are also likely hideouts for Carters' catfish. |
|Prospect ||Though never overly abundant at Carters, those present typically run 1/2 to 3/4 pounds in size. Larger individuals may top the 1 1/2 pound mark. Bottom line is Carters steep rocky depths hold few crappie, but those present tend to be better than average. || |
|Technique ||Small minnows (1-2 inches) fished several feet below a bobber or small plastic jigs reeled in slowly past submerged trees are two recommended techniques for the spring angler. Live minnows or jigs are also used to target crappie on deeper structure during the rest of the year. |
|Target ||Focus spring fishing efforts around standing timber, visible in a number of areas around the lake, as well as the cover offered under the few boat docks found in the lake. The timbered-cove behind Ridgeway boat ramp can be a productive spring crappie locale. Fish deeper brush piles or other deep lake structure for crappie throughout the remainder of the year. |
|Prospect ||Some limited natural reproduction of walleye occurs at Carters. However, this fishery is primarily supported by the DNR's annual spring stocking of walleye fingerlings. Walleye numbers are down from their recent highs, but remain slightly above the long-term average for Carters. The recent decline in total "glass-eye" abundance is primarily attributed to a reduction in young fish numbers. As a result, the population is dominated by older, larger fish. As such, anglers can expect the average walleye to be an impressive 20 inches long and weighing nearly three pounds! Given the good forage base in Carters, walleye in the 10+ pound range are likely present in this reservoir. || |
|Technique ||Jigging spoons, deep diving crankbaits and live bait such as minnows or night crawlers fished on 3/8 ounce lead jigs, are popular walleye techniques year-round. During the spring spawning run, walleye move shallow and can be caught with shallow running shad or minnow-colored crankbaits. Walleye move deeper (30-50 ft.) in summer. Try slow trolling Lindy rigs baited with night crawlers or minnows, keeping in close contact with the lake bottom. Summer walleye may also be enticed by live offerings of shad fished close to the bottom under a submersible light at night. In late summer, walleye will suspend in standing timber and can be targeted with spoon or blade baits. With cooling fall water temperatures, walleye become more active, making crankbaits, jerkbaits or jigs good fall walleye options. In winter, the cold water requires slower more persistent techniques. Vertically jigging spoons or live minnows fished close to the bottom may tempt sluggish walleye to strike. |
|Target ||During the walleye spawning run (Feb-Mar), target rocky shorelines and points in the upper Coosawattee River arm of the lake above Ridgeway boat ramp. After spawning, fish areas with standing main lake timber or long, rocky main lake points. As temperatures warm, concentrate on deeper structure, to include deep standing timber where baitfish congregate during summer and fall. Summer walleye may also suspend over deep water in close proximity to bait fish. In late fall through winter, focus efforts again on rocky points from mid-lake upstream into the Coosawattee arm of the lake. Regardless of season, night fishing can be a productive approach to catching walleye. |
|Other Species |
|Prospect ||Yellow bass are present, but abundance of this introduced species is down from their recent all-time highs. The species tends to weigh less than half a pound, but at Carters 1/2 to 1 pound yellows are not uncommon. Anglers are encouraged to harvest yellow bass because this illegal introduction competes with larger, more desirable game fish species. |
|Technique ||Yellow bass can be caught with a host of small lure selections. Jigs and spinners are especially effective in April and May. Jigging 1/4-1/2 ounce spoons in and around structure is also an effective approach for catching yellow bass outside the spring months. |
|Target ||Outside of spring, fish for yellow bass near deepwater structure anywhere in the lake. In April and May, spawn-run yellow bass will concentrate in the uppermost reaches of the Coosawattee River Arm of the lake where the river enters. This is a great time to get into some fast and furious yellow bass action on light tackle. |
|Additional Information |
|DNR, the Corps of Engineers, and their volunteers work to improve fish habitat at Carters Lake each year. Anglers can find information about the program, as well as current maps with coordinates for the lake's 45-plus fish attractor sites, on the WRD Website. |
Carters Lake is a COE impoundment on the Coosawattee River in northwest Georgia. Lake level, boating, and camping information may be obtained from the COE website at: http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/CartersLake.aspx or by calling the Carters Lake project office (ph. 706-334-2248).
The only marina on the lake is Carters Lake Marina & Resort. Information about this privately owned facility may be obtained at: http://www.carterslake.com/ or by calling 706-276-4891.
|Best Fishing Times Key |
|Excellent: Good: Fair: |