If you love trout fishing in Georgia, you should be a happy camper by now. Why? Because since November 1, the fishing season for delayed harvest trout in Georgia has started!
Delayed Harvest, or “DH” as it’s often called, is a special program where portions of certain Georgia Streams are managed under special regulations. DH waters are too warm for trout in the summer, but their waters are cool enough in the winter months to provide good habitat for trout. Georgia’s five DH fisheries (Amicalola Creek from Steele Bridge downstream to GA 53, Chattooga River from Reed Creek to GA 28, Chattahoochee in Atlanta from Sope Creek to US 41, Smith Creek downstream from Unicoi Lake in Unicoi State Park, and the Toccoa River from 450 feet above Sandy Bottom Canoe Access downstream to a point 0.4 miles above Shallowford Bridge) will be managed under artificial water-only catch and release regulations from November 1 through May 14. The idea is to provide a great winter of trout fishing and a targeted stocking program ensures good catch rates and therefore a smile on the faces of many anglers.
There is also plenty of stockable trout this year so all five of these waters (including the Chattahoochee area) will be stocked.
“We are excited to be resuming delayed harvest stocks on the Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls Dam this year thanks to the excellent trout production at our state hatcheries and the small, fishable flows we are currently seeing in the river,” says Georgia Trout Stocking Coordinator John Lee Thomson. “With the renovation of the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery complete and trout stocks returning to historic levels, the Chattahoochee DH should provide a great trout fishing opportunity near Metro Atlanta.”
One nice thing about the delayed harvest season is that it gives trout anglers a chance to get involved in Georgia’s trout stocking program in a practical way. For example, members of several Trout Unlimited chapters have already lent a hand by helping Department of Natural Resources personnel feed trout in the state’s various DH waters.
Would you like to try your hand at trout stocking? There will be opportunities for that too. For example, one day during Thanksgiving week, the hatchery truck will pull into the parking lot of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s Whitewater Unit, where it will be met by a cadre of volunteers (maybe even you!) who will help with storage Trout in this part of the Hooch DH. All you need to help out is a 5-gallon plastic bucket and waders (or clothing you don’t mind getting wet).
When will this happen? The exact date is undecided as of this writing, but check sites like North Georgia Trout Online (ngto.org) or various Georgia Trout Unlimited chapter sites for details on the exact date and time. I’ll do my best to update you here as well as soon as I find out.
These volunteer-supported stocking events are tremendous fun, and one I remember in particular. I was there with a bucket in hand and my much-loved but now shabby bucket hat on my increasingly hairless head. It’s old hat and looks really battered these days but I like it and it fits and it helps keep me warm.
The assembled volunteers stocked several thousand trout in no time at all – and when the stocking was ready, the fishing began. Yes, it’s okay to fish on stocking day, even right after the fish are stocked. I even advise it. Fly fishing can feel like a gift from God and sometimes we all need a little bit of that.
Anyway I had my rod set up with the idea of catching a few before heading back to the house. But mostly I was just walking around and enjoying the moment – and that’s when I noticed a father with his two little daughters. The children, who were probably between 6 and 8 years old, had helped with the stock fishing and worked hard.
Hmm, I thought. Here’s an opportunity to have some fun.
I approached the father, introduced myself and asked if he would mind if I hooked a fish to my fly rod and then let one of the kids bring it in.
“Can we, dad?” asked the eldest excitedly – and dad said sure!
We were standing in shallow water just a few yards from where a lot of newly stocked trout were hanging out in the current so it only took a moment to get a fish to take the fly. Once hooked it, I made a grand ceremony by placing the rod in the hands of one of the children. I showed her how to bring in the fish, then netd it and held it around for photos and happy congratulations.
“Can I do that again?” she asked. Her father nodded yes. I turned the fly back into the current and in less than a minute I had another trout on the line. She landed it too. More pics, more high fives.
“Can I do that again?”
This went on for about half a dozen fish. But the younger sister was watching.
She looked at me and said, “Mister, that’s a funny hat.” Ahh, flattery will get you anywhere! But that was only the preamble. Next came the real question:
“Can I catch one too?”
“How about?” I asked the father and he said, “Sure!” – so I hooked another trout and handed the rod to the younger sister this time. She too did a great job, more or less constantly encouraged by the older sister, who was of course a seasoned veteran by now. It was great!
The younger sister landed four or five, and then it was the older sister’s turn again.
And we did that for more than an hour. I would hook a trout and give the rod to one of the kids who would bring in the fish. It was tremendous fun and we worked on it for quite a while until the kids got cold and we finally called it afternoon.
Later another fly fisherman mentioned that he saw me helping the kids catch all those fish.
“Didn’t you mind not landing them yourself?” he asked me. “Didn’t you miss fishing yourself?”
Well, no, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss it at all. Helping them both catch those trout was a blast, way more fun than catching them yourself. Also, I made a great story out of it.
But they got a lot more. These two kids were having more fun than the law allows – outdoors, standing in a river, discovering how much fun trout fishing can be – even if your mentor is the guy in the funny hat!