Trout anglers showed up in force Nov. 10 to voice varying opinions when the Toccoa River Watershed Coalition (TRWC) held a public meeting on its proposal for special regulations on the Toccoa River tailrace. The proposed regulations would restrict anglers to single-hook, artificial lures, a slot limit and reduced creel limit on a large section of the river.
Of more than 105 people who showed up, opinions were pretty evenly split as to whether or not they were in favor of the proposed special regs. Paper ballots cast during the meeting show approximately 53 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed.
The proposed regs were developed in part to help the trout fishery recover after the trout fishery was decimated by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) recent project to refurbish the dam feeding the tailrace, said TRWC Co-chairwoman Becky Hulsey.
“The only way that we’re going to get [the fishery]back after this debacle with the dam construction is to have special regulations,” said river resident Ralph Artigliere.
River resident Randy Cloud said in opposition to the proposal, “Our best fishing was two years ago before the TVA killed all the fish. The regulations were the same then, and we had the best fishing there was. I think we need a committee to hold the TVA responsible for what they’ve done, and we could have avoided this whole thing.”
Both the Blue Ridge and Blairsville Chapters of Trout Unlimited offered support for the special regs.
Tensions ran high at moments during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Is there anybody here who has a credible argument against these types of special regulations?” asked river property owner Jay Campbell.
A quick eruption of people in the audience that followed the question made it clear many in attendance believed they had one. The restriction of what type of bait, hook or lure allowed and the large size of the section of river proposed for special regulations were offered by many people as a reason for their opposition.
“This is just another way to keep the local people off the river,” said Chance Nelson, of Ellijay.
Several spoke in favor of special regulations of some sort, but not as restrictive as the TRWC is asking for.
“I think these regulations are a little bit too strong,” said Dr. Kyle Raque, of Blue Ridge. “I think the most important thing is that we all work together.”
TRWC Co-chairman Ned Rand said the results of the meeting would be reported to local and state politicians, DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.
WRD Chief of Fisheries Management John Biagi was present at the meeting and indicated to even be considered the proposal would have to go through the standard process for regulations changes.
“Certainly, we’re looking for ways to meet everybody’s needs,” Biagi said.
For more on the TRWC and the proposed special regs, visit <www.toccoariverwatershedcoalition.org>.