Description: This 19,050-acre Georgia Power impoundment was formed by the construction of Wallace Dam in 1979. Lake Oconee is approximately 60 miles east of Atlanta near the towns of Madison and Greensboro. The lake's primary function is hydropower generation and is operated with Lake Sinclair as a pump-storage facility. This unique operation in combination with the lake's long and narrow shape produces noticeable water flow during power generation. Standing (1,250 acres) and 50 topped timber plots were left along creek and river channels as fish attracting structures. Public access is readily available through eight Georgia Power and USFS facilities and several lake-side marinas which offer lodging, food, bait, tackle, and related services.
Lake Oconee's protected slot (11-14 inches) regulation is used to improve bass growth through the selective harvest of small fish. A wholesale catch and release approach is not the best strategy for producing quality-size bass on this reservoir. Approximately 50% of the bass during 2000 were small (less than 11 inches) legal-size fish, which is an improvement from a couple of years ago when small bass comprised about 70% of the population. Angler return of tags from largemouth tagged during February 2000 indicates that release of all largemouth is still too common of a practice for Lake Oconee. The removal of small bass is essential for slot limits to work, while harvest of larger fish is optional.
Crappie account for the largest portion of fish harvested each year. It appears that good numbers of harvestable fish will be available to anglers again this spring with about one-half exceeding 10 inches in length. Crappies are caught year-round, but the best conditions for good catches occur from February through April. Most of the "slabs" are caught between winter fronts on warm February afternoons. Concentrate your effort at this time of year near or on mudflats in the upper reaches of the reservoir. As water temperatures begin to hover around 60°F fish stick-ups in shallow water for bedding fish.
Spawning white bass in the Oconee and Apalachee rivers during March and April allow anglers to enjoy this fishery and crappie fishing on the same day. Good numbers of white bass are present, but hybrid numbers are down again this year. Appreciable numbers of white bass begin to move upstream as river temperatures break 50°F. Hybrids tend to make this same migration a little later than white bass during years with strong river flows. A major peak in hybrid fishing coincides with the threadfin shad spawn during April. The shoreline spawning habits of the shad attract and concentrate hybrids to accessible areas. Many breaking and submerged hybrid schools will be found in the middle third of the reservoir from late spring through early fall. These fish tend to move back to the lower third of the reservoir by November and remain there through winter.
Lake Oconee supports a "sleeper" fishery for channel catfish. This species comprised a large percentage of fish population again this past year. Channel catfish can pick-up the slack when the more glamorous species falloff during the warmer months. They are a great first-time fishing species to target, especially for youngsters. Two other species of catfish, blue and flathead catfish, have established populations through unauthorized stockings over the last few years.
The upper end of the lake in the Oconee River arm has numerous flats on which the crappie like to bed.