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 pdf maps (updated March 2014) and heeding biologists helpful tips.
Fish attractor data (updated Oct. 2014) for this reservoir is available for you to upload into your fishfinder or other GPS devices, or view in free online mapping applications. The data is compatible with many brands including Lowrance, Humminbird, Garmin and Magellan to name a few.
Instructions are here on how to use the data.
Download the zipped data.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: ph. 706-334-2248
Prospects and Fishing Tips
|Best Bets |
|SPOTTED BASS, HYBRID STRIPED BASS & WALLEYE |
|Largemouth bass |
|Prospect ||Largemouth bass typically comprise about 5% of the black bass population at Carters in any given year. DNR survey data show little fluctuation in largemouth numbers from year-to-year in this steep-sided, deep reservoir. 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 for those pursuing big bass. || |
|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 sound largemouth technique in this impoundment. Live crayfish, bream, and minnows are also effective bass baits. |
|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 - far outnumbering largemouth bass. 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 spot abundance remains excellent and 14-16 inch fish will abound. Encouragingly, the 2015 spotted bass spawn appears to have been a good one. These fish will still be under the 12 inch mark in 2017, but anglers should encounter higher catches of these young new-comers. Fewer trophy (5+ lb) spots will be in the population this year due to a recent decline in gizzard shad abundance. Nevertheless, anglers can expect plenty of thick-sided, 3-4 pound or better spots to stretch lines in 2017.
|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 Spot Sticker jigs or float and fly presentations when water temperatures fall below 50F. 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 (April). At this time, target gradual sloping banks and coves with pea-gravel substrate. The post-spawn period often sees spots holding off downed shoreline trees sloping into deep water. 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 ||The DNR stocks hybrid striped bass every year at Carters. Hybrid numbers have been relatively modest in recent years, but their abundance will be on the upswing following strong survival of those stocked in 2015. Anglers can expect these young upstarts to be 16-20 inches in length and weigh 4-5 pounds in 2017. In addition to this anticipated up-tick in hybrid numbers, anglers will undoubtedly encounter a few 10+ pound trophy class hybrids 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 (winter time) 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 close to the dam. Night-time fishing during the summer can be productive. Surface or shallow diving stick baits like Rapalas or Redfins are good nighttime lure choices. |
|Target ||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 and hybrids may be nearby. In the spring time, hybrids will concentrate near Carters' Dam to gorge on spawning shad. They can also be found on main lake points or in the deep standing timber scattered around the lake. In summer, slow trolling weighted down-lines in 20-30 feet of water should produce hybrids. Fall and winter often have hybrids moving to deep water (> 50 ft.) in search of forage. There are also several mid-lake humps where hybrids are known to frequent year-round. |
|Striped Bass |
|Prospect ||Carters' striped bass abundance continues to remain modest, but trophy-sized linesides are still caught in this deep reservoir. Recent DNR sample data indicate better than average survival of the fingerling stripers stocked in spring 2013 and 2014. These young upstarts are a welcome addition to the fishery and anglers can expect them to grow into the 6-10 pound range in 2017. || |
|Technique ||Live trout (winter time), 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 near the surface are good techniques to employ. Switch to a deeper (30+ ft.) live bait presentation using weighted downlines when water temperatures are above 65 F. Large jerkbaits or crankbaits are good choices in the spring when stripers are shallow or when night fishing the April/May shad and alewife spawn. |
|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, Fisher Creek, the main Woodring Branch Recreation Area cove, and the "Big Island" in the Coosawatte River arm of the lake are perennial hot spots. Springtime will have stripers moving to shallow main lake points in the upper half of the reservoir and into the few areas of standing timber scattered around the lake. During the summer and fall months, stripers may be found holding around deeper 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 and blue 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 1 pound, while the average flathead is usually 5-8 pounds. Bigger flatheads, while not common, can push over the 20 pound mark. Blue cats are likely few in number, but several were reported caught by anglers in 2014 and 2015. || |
|Technique ||Live or cut shad fished on weighted bottom rigs will produce better sized catfish. 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 in the Coosawattee arm of the lake or the stone rip-rap of the dam. In late winter and early spring channel cats will congregate near the shoals of the Coosawattee River as it enters the lake. Often catfish will hold in deeper (20-30 ft.) 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, the crappie 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 in size. || |
|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 does occur at Carters. However, this fishery is primarily supported by the DNR's annual spring stocking of walleye fingerlings. |
DNR survey data show that walleye numbers will be slightly better than average this year. Fingerling walleye stocked in 2015 have experienced good survival and may be extremely abundant in 2017. Anglers can expect these fish to grow to approximately 18-20 inches in length by year's end. Larger "glass-eyes" are still present in good numbers. Given the healthy forage base at Carters, walleye in the 8+ 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/shad 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 way 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 can be a great time to get into some fast and furious yellow bass action on light tackle. |
|Additional Information |
|The DNR, COE, and local volunteers work to improve fish habitat at Carters Lake each year. Anglers can find information about the program, as well as lake 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 the 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: |