Vernon Dorsey loves nothing better than to feel the afternoon breeze in his face while enjoying the solitude of a grassy peninsula at his favorite fishing pond.
"Sometimes they bite, sometimes they don't," he said. "But usually, we do pretty good up here."
Mr. Dorsey was dangling Louisiana pinks (novices just call them worms) at one of the ponds at the McDuffie Public Fishing Area in Dearing, Ga. His bucket soon began to fill with bluegill and bass.
The fishing area is among numerous sites within an hour of Augusta where even the most casual angler - or the outright beginner - stands a reasonable chance of loading a stringer.
Bluegill, the staple of Southern angling, can be found almost anywhere there is water. On the days after a full moon, they move into bedding shallows, where anglers can find them ready for battle.
Closer to Augusta, the Merry Brickyard Ponds are an enduring destination of local fishermen - and they have been for many generations.
"A lot of our guys bring a boat, but sometimes you can just stand on the shore and hook into a sure-enough line-buster," said Bill Gibson, who mans the fishing shack at the entrance of former strip mines that have filled with water and weeds over the past century.
For $7, a day pass offers a chance to fish verdant ponds with names such as Warren, the White Elephant, the Garden and Cornell. There's even a place known simply as "the Ditch."
Harrison Sears, who operates the ponds, said bluegill and bass are the summer favorites, with crappie fishing in the winter. Most visitors are bait fishermen, but a weekly Friday night largemouth bass tournament brings out lure-hurlers, too.
Other favorite spots include New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam, where bank fishing generally is good for bluegill and seasonably excellent for American shad. Striped bass can be caught, but - under a two-state moratorium in effect until this fall - must be released alive.
A fishing license is required for most waters and costs $9 per year in Georgia and $10 in South Carolina. A one-day license is available for residents and nonresidents for $3.50 in Georgia, and a 14-day license is $5 in South Carolina. Georgia and South Carolina have a reciprocal agreement that allows anglers in the Savannah River and Thurmond Lake to use those waters with a license from either state.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DROP A LINE1. McDuffie Public Fishing Area, Dearing, Ga.: 12 ponds stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish and other species. Boat ramps, camping, restrooms. Permit required; (706) 595-1684.2. New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam: Off Lock and Dam Road near Augusta Regional Airport. Bank fishing from lock and dam walls, bluegill, catfish, American shad, striped bass (must be released if caught).3. Merry Brickyard Ponds: Off Laney-Walker Boulevard behind Boral Brick, 7 a.m. to dark, $7 per person per day, seven days a week; boats allowed; bream, crappie and bass; 722-8263.4. Thurmond Lake, Below Dam, in south carolina : Fishing platform and numerous bank fishing sites. Yellow perch, bluegill, hybrid and striped bass, flathead catfish. Visit the Thurmond Lake Visitors Center for maps to fish for bank anglers; (800) 533-3478.5. Lake Olmstead/Augusta Canal: Bass and bluegill, small boats only and no gasoline motors allowed on canal; best spots include Headgates Area and bridge pilings. 823-0440.6. Mayor's Fishing Hole: Lock & Dam Road near Augusta Regional Airport; bass, bream and catfish. Seasonal fishing events for kids. Free permit required from mayor's office; 821-1831.7. Savannah River/Deep Step: Floodplain in river above Stevens Creek reservoir. Requires boat launched from U.S. Forest Service ramp in McCormick County or Riverside Park ramp in Evans. Excellent fishing for bluegill, bass, perch. Water conditions vary widely. Watch for stumps.