Severe flooding the last week of May in White County created enough damage at Smithgall Woods State Park-Dukes Creek Conservation Area to force a temporary change to trout fishing access on the area’s 4 1/2 mile stretch. Because of flood damage, only Section 1 of Dukes Creek and a small part of Section 2 will be open when trout fishing resumes in October, and only five anglers per day will be allowed instead of 15.
Fishing at Dukes Creek is limited to reservation-only access on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. From October through February, there will be fishing sessions from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From March until it gets too hot, there are typically two sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Trout fishing closes in the summer months when water temperatures get too warm and trout are stressed.
Dukes Creek is strictly a catch-and release trout stream, and anglers must use artificial lures with barbless hooks. Anglers may not have any barbed hooks or non-artificial bait in their possession while on the stream. Possession of these items will result in a hefty fine, and bending down the barbs is not the recommended action. Get true barbless hooks, and don’t have any barbed hooks in your fly box.
In late May, an estimated 7 inches of rain fell during a two-hour period in White County. Roads were flooded, and one women had to be rescued when her SUV was swept away in Dukes Creek. It took firefighters and sheriff’s deputies about 15 minutes to reach the woman, who had gotten out of her SUV and was holding on to a holly tree in about 5 feet of water, according to officials. White County recorded rainfall of 15.05 inches over a seven-day period.
The rain washed out a culvert that ran under Tsalaki Trail, the main trail through Smithgall Woods that provides access to the back end of the area and a section of Dukes Creek.
“When the culvert washed out, it took a section of the trail above it,” said Art Pease, who works in the Smithgall Woods visitors center. “There’s a huge hole in the main trail. That’s the access to trail heads to four other trails. It’s a construction zone right now. When we can allow safe access to the entire creek, we will allow reservations for 15 anglers again.“
There was no damage to the area’s cottages. Scheduled hunts for this fall are still a go, although access could be impacted for hunters. Until repairs are completed, hunters won’t be able to use Sowakee Trail for access. Hunters may be allowed to scout and access hunt areas off another road that is typically closed. Hunters are required to check-in at the visitors center, where they can get details on flood impacts. A sign-in archery hunt for deer and bear is slated for Sept. 14-16. There is a sign-in adult-child/honorary licenses holder deer and bear hunt Oct. 19-20, and a sign-in primitive-weapons deer and bear hunt takes place Nov. 7-10.
A Bluegrass & BBQ Festival on Sept. 1 is not affected by the flood damage.
For more information on Smithgall Woods, visit https://gastateparks.org/SmithgallWoods. To make fishing reservations for Dukes Creek, call (706) 878-3087.