The Fisheries Section of Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) is in the beginning stages of working with the Chattahoochee River National Park (CRNP) to potentially change a fishing regulation that would allow live bait to be used in the Chattahoochee River between Morgan Falls Dam in Roswell and Peachtree Creek.
Currently, the use of live bait in this stretch is not allowed. The regulation states, “It is unlawful to use live fish for bait in trout streams.” The Chattahoochee River from Morgan Falls Dam to Peachtree Creek is designated as a trout stream.
Below Morgan Falls Dam, trout are stocked during the delayed-harvest period, which is from Nov. 1 to May 14. However, after that, trout begin to die off during the summer months due to the increasing water temperature. Meanwhile, during the spring, many of the striped bass from West Point Lake migrate up the Chattahoochee River until they are stopped by Morgan Falls Dam.
In the summer, the water is the Chattahoochee River is much cooler than West Point, which means the stripers stay in the river throughout the summer months. This area of the river has become a popular stretch to fish for stripers during the summer. However, anglers are currently only allowed to fish for these big linesides with artificial lures. As water temperatures begin to drop in the early fall, most of the striped bass move back down the river and into West Point.
DNR is looking into a possible change to the live-bait regulation that would accommodate both trout and striped bass fishermen, but said it takes time.
James Butler is an angler who would like to see the regulation changed to allow live fish to be used as bait during the summer months in that stretch of the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls. James said the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls Dam is great trout fishery in the winter, and it is a great place to fish for striped bass during the summer, and that both fisheries are created and supported by DNR stocking programs.
“I’ve been working with Georgia DNR for four years and the CRNP for one year on this issue,” James said. “I am patient and know positive change takes time.”
“It is on our to-do list,” said WRD Fisheries Biologist Jeff Durniak. “But it takes quite a bit of work to get something like that tackled, and right now our biologist, Pat Snellings, is working on our stocking programs.”
To begin this process, the DNR must determine the cost of conducting a study versus the beneficial outcome. If they were to conduct a scientific study, it then must be presented to the CRNP for the idea to be entertained. During the study, detailed environmental documents must be provided to show the positive and negative effects of changing this regulation.
A possible change would keep the delayed-harvest trout regulations in place from Nov. 1 to May 14, and then allow the use of live fish for bait from the period of May 15 to Oct. 31.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Jeff. “Our district covers 38 counties that we keep up with, so it is definitely not something that is going to happen overnight, but we will get there.”