Lower Etowah (downstream of
Stripers! In Georgia, the striped bass is the premier big
game species. No other game fish in the state can match the striper's
combination of size and fighting ability (with the possible exception of South Georgia
flathead catfish). If you'd like to tangle with one of these bad boys, the
lower Etowah is perhaps the premier destination in the state to try your luck.
The hotter, the better! Striped bass
spend the dog days of summer in the cool waters of the Etowah before
heading back downstream in the early fall.
The lower Etowah is almost a completely different river
from the small and scenic upper river. The lower Etowah is a tailwater fishery,
and the water temperature during the summertime is anywhere from 8 to 15 degrees
cooler than surrounding waters. The lower Etowah is also much wider and normally
a bit murkier than the upper river. There are no significant rapids, making this
portion of the Etowah suitable for jon boats as well as canoes. Many of the
access points are spaced widely apart, making small motorized craft a
Before we get to the fishing, anglers should be aware of a
couple hazards inherent to the lower Etowah. About 3.5 miles downstream of the
Allatoona dam is a low-head dam that drops about 10 or 15 feet. Don't plan a
float trip with the idea of going over or around this obstacle. One option is
impossible and the other illegal (and darn near impossible!) The other thing to
look out for is the power generation schedule. Like the lower Chattahoochee, the
Etowah rises quickly when power is generated, and transforms from a rather lazy
river to a downright dangerous one. Lives are lost on this river every few
years. Generally speaking, power generation occurs only on weekdays, but it
would be prudent to make sure before your trip by calling (404) 382-0549.
Stripers rule the Etowah river. Most experts agree that
the striper population in the Etowah is largely transient. Stripers were stocked
in Lake Weiss about ten years ago and surprised biologists by naturally
reproducing in the Coosa river system. Many migrate from Lake Weiss during the
spring spawning run (along with whites and hybrids), head back downstream after
spawning, and return to the artificially-cooled Etowah to spend the heat of the
summer. The summer months are the best time to consistently catch stripers in
the Etowah. Stripers can be caught on large jerkbaits, bucktails, or leadhead
jigs with soft plastic bodies. Subsurface lures should be fished slowly and
steadily. The most successful striper fishermen catch live shad and fish them
under corks or on the bottom. Liver and cut bait are effective and less
troublesome alternatives. The average Etowah striper will weigh between 4 and 6
pounds, but GRF has witnessed two stripers over 20 pounds. Be prepared!
While generally not the best river to wade or
catch largemouth bass, this angler hopped out of the boat and did both during a
Of the black bass species, spotted bass predominate,
although largemouth and redeye bass are present in the Etowah also. Most
fishermen on the Etowah focus on stripers, and the bass fishing is surprisingly
good, with larger than average bass. Panfish populations have suffered a bit
from the recent striper explosion. GRF has no reports of any decent bream or
crappie fishing on the lower Etowah. Catfish populations are pretty good in the
river, with three species to choose from (channel, blue, and flathead). Bait
fisherman almost always come away with a mixed bag of cats and stripers.
For most anglers, the primary attraction of the lower Etowah
is the striped bass. During the summer, the river is loaded with them. That
said, stripers can be notoriously finicky about when and what they will eat.
Heavy baitcasting gear is recommended with at least 17 pound test line. This
log-strewn river is no place for light tackle. Stripers are difficult enough
with heavy gear.
While the lower Etowah sees it's share of fishermen, it is
far less crowded on the weekend than big impoundments are during the week. It is
extremely common to fish a stretch of the Etowah and only encounter a couple
other anglers. Which is a big reason we like rivers in the first place!
One interesting sight on the Etowah and other
north Georgia rivers are fish weirs. These v-shaped artifacts were used by
Native American cultures as fish traps. Tribespeople would simply herd fish
downstream into a net placed at the point of the weir.