Visitors the the north Georgia mountains, and even folks who have lived in Georgia all of their lives, can be surprised to learn that there are nearly 4000 miles of fishable trout streams in the northern third of our state. From kids and beginners, to "corn dunkers", to expert fly fishermen after trophy trout on one of our public or privately managed streams-there is truly something for everyone. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing the public trout water and operate two hatcheries where rainbow, brown and brook trout are raised for stocking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a hatchery on Rock Creek (below) that helps stocking efforts in Georgia and North Carolina.
Trout season opens this year on March 29 and will run until October 31 on seasonal waters. We thought we would, in conjunction with opening day, offer a bit of info and some helpful links for both resident and visiting fishermen (and women!).
I think the most valuable advice I could give to anyone at this moment (5 days before opening day as I type) is DON'T GO TROUT FISHING ON OPENING DAY! I say that partly in jest..some anglers actually seem to relish not being able to find a place to park or fish your favorite stream without 30 of your closest friends casting to the same pool or eddy! All joking aside-there are plenty of fish to be caught and this is the first chance to wet a hook in most of our streams since last October. Savvy trout fishermen will be on the water when the sun comes up or do a little hiking to have some time to themselves, and with 4000 miles of trout water there are certainly good spots that are not as well known if you do your homework. Some of the more popular streams I expect to draw big crowds on opening day include Wildcat Creek, Cooper Creek, the Chattahoochee in and north of Helen, Dukes Creek and the Toccoa and Tallulah Rivers. I plan to go to either Cooper Creek or the upper 'hooch a few days after the season starts and catch whatever is left!.
My favorite method of catching north Georgia trout is ultralight spinning gear and small spinnerbaits. My largest to this point was a 4.5 lb. rainbow caught on a 1/16 oz Panther Martin spinner (black/yellow spots/gold blade) in the upper Etowah River. I am a decent to mediocre fly caster..but I find the smaller streams in to mountains to be frustrating to fly fish for someone of my skill level. These streams are generally shrouded in rhododendron and mountain laurel that doesn't leave a lot of room. I stick to a 5' graphite rod/spinning reel combo in these situations and save the fly rod for the larger creeks and rivers. There are many methods used for catching north Georgia trout..from kids, beginners and beer drinkers who bank fish with canned corn and nightcrawlers on the more popular and heavily fished streams to folks fishing guided private water for huge trophy trout and everything in between (like me!). A great place to start in your exploration of trout fishing north Georgia is NGTO (North Georgia Trout Online-linked below). Up to date, sometimes up to the minute info, photos, advice and locations to fish can all be found on their site. If you want to skip straight to the trophy trout arena I would check out Unicoi Outfitters in Helen or the Brigadoon Lodge on the Soque River near Clarkesville linked below.
North Georgia lakes also hold some trout, especially Lake Burton. My friend Robb, who lives near Lake Burton, sent me this photo of some trout he landed in Lake Burton last season-
I hope to be joining Robb for an outing soon! Whatever your skill level may be, there are plenty of trout fishing opportunities in the north Georgia mountains. Spring is a great time to visit and make fishing a part of your trip...and when you catch a few, send the pics and your story to Mountainfreak.net and we'll share them with our readers.
Some helpful links-
GA Dept. of Natural Resources- license, regulations, etc.
NGTO- the best resource for Georgia trout fishing
Unicoi Outfitters- tackle, equipment and guide service
Brigadoon Lodge- The "Augusta National" of GA trout fishing
Smithgall Woods - Reservation only fishing operated by GA State Parks