John's Journal...

The South's Best Shellcracker Holes

Georgia – Lake Seminole and World-Record Shellcrackers CaughtClick to enlarge

Editor’s Note: I like to catch plenty of fish that fight hard, test my tackle and my angling skills and taste delicious when I eat them. These characteristics describe the shellcracker (redear sunfish) with its nicknames of stumpknocker and yellow bream. The South homes some of the biggest shellcrackers, so named due to the grinding teeth in their throats that crush snails, shells and mollusks, in the nation.

Without question, one of the best southern shellcracker lakes is Lake Seminole near Bainbridge, Georgia. Anglers there catch shellcrackers, bluegills, crappie and big bass. According to Matt Thomas of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “Click to enlargeHistorically, anglers have flocked to this fairly-shallow and relatively-clear 32,500-acre lake on the Florida and Georgia line to catch shellcrackers because the water levels don’t fluctuate all that much, and it has a long growing season.”

John Kilpatrick, a fisheries biologist who samples from Lake Seminole each year, explains that, “There are so many shellcrackers in the lake because this shallow-fertile implantment has high vegetation and provides ideal habitat for shellcrackers. Due to all the aquatic vegetation, there are a lot of snails, which the redear sunfish (shellcrackers) really like to eat.”

New research at Lake Seminole indicates that the redear sunfish lives longer than originally believed. “From our sampling, we found a Click to enlargeredear sunfish that lived to be 8- or 9-years old, which is much older than we ever thought they survived,” Kilpatrick says. Originally, scientists believed that redears lived to be only 5- or 6-years old. According to Kilpatrick, good numbers of 3 and 4 pounders live in Lake Seminole. Even though Kilpatrick hasn’t seen any this size yet, anglers have reported catching them.

“Generally, southern fish grow faster and die younger than northern fish,” Kilpatrick explains. “But we are surprised to learn that the shellcrackers in Lake Seminole have thrown us a curve because they grow faster and live longer than we assumed.” Although Lake Seminole is primarily a cricket lake, anglers have also been highly-successful using small worms.

For more information on Lake Seminole, go to

Also, call Jack WingatClick to enlargee’s Lodge in Bainbridge at (229) 246-0658, and visit the lodge website

World Record Shellcrackers Caught:
South Carolina – 5 pounds, 7 ounces, Diversion Canal, 1998, Angler: Amos Gay
Florida – 4.86 pounds, Merritts Mill Pond, 03-13-86, Angler: Joseph Floyd
Georgia – 4 pounds, 2 ounces, Richmond County pond, 06-06-95, Angler: Pat Lawrence
Alabama – 4 pounds, 4 ounces, Chattahoochee State Park, 05-05-62, Angler: Jeff Lashley
Louisiana – 2.87 pounds, Caney Lake, August 1998, Angler: Jerry Smelley
Mississippi – 3.33 pounds, Tippah County Lake, 11-05-91, Angler: James Martin
Mississippi – Tippah County Lake


Check back each day this week for more about "The South's Best Shellcracker Holes"

Day 1: Shellcrackers at Santee Cooper
Day 2: Lake Tarpon and Lake Guntersville Shellcrackers
Day 3: Mississippi – Tippah County Lake
Day 4: Louisiana – Caney Lake
Day 5: Georgia – Lake Seminole and World-Record Shellcrackers Caught



Entry 401, Day 5