Grab your fishing poles and tackle boxes because Northeast Georgia’s streams are beginning to fill with trout.
Each year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resource Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partner for a trout stocking program. For 2021, they aim to add over 700,000 trout to local bodies of water. The fish will primarily come from three hatcheries: Buford Trout Hatchery, Summerville Trout Hatchery and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery.
John Lee Thomson, Wildlife Resource Division trout stocking coordinator, said the two agencies usually bring 1 million trout to the state’s streams. However, the number dropped because Burton Trout Hatchery is undergoing renovations.
Thomson said replenishing local waters with trout is driven by the demand of thousands of anglers in Georgia. Compared to other parts of the country, he explained that Georgia’s trout streams are relatively unproductive because the fish have low fertility rates and little natural food available.
“We have awesome wild trout populations, but they just don’t get very large,” he said. “In order to supplement wild populations with something for people to catch, our program is based on 10-inch trout.”
Thomson noted that his team strives to finish 70% of the trout stocking by July 4. The rest will wrap up around Labor Day. The introduced hatchery trout are typically 18 months to 2 years old and reach 10 inches in length. Thomson said 90-95% of the fish include rainbow trout, and the rest consists of brook and brown trout.
For beginner anglers living in Hall County, Thomson recommends driving to the Helen area and fish for trout at Smith Creek in Unicoi State Park. He added that the headwaters region of the Chattahoochee, just north of Helen, offers a weekly stocked space suited for experienced anglers.
Other popular spots already refilled with trout include Cooper Creek in Union County, Little Amicalola Creek at Amicalola State Park, Holly Creek in Murray County, Johns Creek in Floyd County and the Tallulah River in Rabun County. To view a detailed list and interactive map of trout streams, visit georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout.
Thomson said the amount of trout chosen for each body of water depends on three factors: water quality, public access and fishing pressure, which pertains to the amount of anglers who frequent the space.
“We stock Talula (River) with over 40,000 trout a year,” he said. “There’s no way that resource could sustain all those fish. We’re counting on folks to take home trout.”
Thomson said the best fishing opportunities lie between the end of March and July 4, before the water heats up.
People are limited to catching eight trout per day on general regulation trout waters. Georgia DNR reminds anglers to respect private property and obtain permission before fishing along water that runs through private land.
Several trout streams in North Georgia have special regulations, including the Chattahoochee River, which requires the use of artificial lures only. People can find these specific areas with restrictions by going to Georgia DNR’s website.
Everyone who catches trout in Georgia is required to have both a fishing and trout license. To purchase or view license information, visit gooutdoorsgeorgia.com.