CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER (downstream
of L. Lanier)
Unfortunately, the economic realities of life often
force people who would prefer to live in the middle of nowhere to live in large
cities. As a result, many who love the outdoors often lose the interest or
inclination to get out into the woods or on the water. This is why I love the
stretch of the Chattahoochee that runs from Lake Lanier through the city of
Atlanta. When city life gets Atlantans down, most people in the north metro area
can be fishing in 30 minutes or less.
There is lots of striper food in the
Chattahoochee below Morgan Falls dam. This striper certainly hasn't missed many
Below Buford Dam, the Chattahoochee is
primarily a cold-water fishery (the water temperature stays in the mid-50 degree
range). Though GRF is not really a trout site, the fishing is usually very good
between Buford and Morgan Falls dams (the folks at North Georgia Trout Online
are the experts on this- go to "Links and Resources" to get hooked
up!). While the cold water makes for great trout fishing, it prevents warm-water
species from thriving here, though GRF gets reports now and then from people
catching walleyes here.
Morgan Falls Dam, located just south of
Roswell, backs up the Hooch to form Bull Sluice Lake. At Bull Sluice, the water
has warmed up enough to provide pretty good fishing for largemouth and spotted
bass, bream, crappie, catfish, and yellow perch. Anglers really need a boat (any
type will do) to explore the numerous sloughs and backwaters here, although
bank-bound anglers score well on bream, catfish, and even trout.
Below Morgan Falls Dam, the Hooch starts to
get really interesting for warm-water anglers, and the best part of it is that
almost nobody realizes it. Trout can still be caught below Morgan Falls, but
largemouth bass, spotted bass and stripers are slowly becoming the dominant
species as the water gets warmer on it's way to the Gulf. While largemouth and
shoal bass are native to the watershed, the spotted bass apparently came from
either Lanier or West Point and have done pretty well.
The surprisingly good largemouth and
spotted bass fishing may be the Chattahoochee's best-kept secret. Sshhh!
The stripers came from downstream.
In 1990 and 1992, about 25,000 stripers were stocked in West Point Lake as an
experiment. During the heat of the summer these stripers migrate from the lake
to the cooler waters of the Chattahoochee and routinely make it all the way up
to Morgan Falls. While the original stockers have died by now, significant reproduction
has taken place (much to the dismay of trout purists), and the cool waters and
healthy numbers of both shad and small trout cause the stripers to grow pretty
fast. Creek mouths, deep holes, shoals, and sewage outfalls are excellent places
to try for these monsters, and when you hook one you'll know it! Most anglers
are not prepared for the powerful runs of these bruisers, and landing one out of
three is a pretty good average.
The bass fishing is a really well-kept
secret, too. Creek mouths are great spots for largemouths or spots, and shoal
bass, which seem to be a little less populous, can be found in shoal areas. When
all else fails, try using corn or shrimp for carp. Don't laugh- these guys get
big and fight better than most gamefish! Since the water is normally
relatively clear, GRF recommends light lines and smaller lures, although
stripers may wreak havoc on light tackle. Don't be surprised to tangle with a
big brown trout while bass fishing either, especially upstream of Peachtree
Creek. There are plenty left in the Chattahoochee.
This bruiser catfish came from the
Chattahoochee downstream from Peachtree Creek.
The Chattahoochee south of Atlanta to the
headwaters of West Point varies from grossly polluted to downright pretty, and
the fish here are fairly numerous despite all the pollution they must contend
with. Every spring, the whites and hybrids congregate in West Point and run up
the Hooch and many gather below the shoals near the town of Franklin. This run
is considered by many to be the best linesides run in the state, and stripers
are a possibility here also. One new variable has appeared on the horizon for
the Chattahoochee- blueback herring. Bluebacks are primarily a forage fish that
were illegally introduced in Lake Lanier and have proliferated, and a few have
been reported in the Chattahoochee. Bluebacks seem to have boosted the striper
fishery in Lanier, but the long-term effects of their introduction are
Access to the Hooch is pretty good,
particularly upstream of Peachtree Creek. Rapids are fairly minimal, so most any
boat will suffice. One thing anglers need to be aware of, however, is the
generation schedule at Buford Dam (770-945-1466) and Morgan Falls
(404-329-1455). Being on the Hooch below Buford Dam can be dangerous when
Georgia Power generates so remember that the water travels around 4 miles per
hour and plan your trip so you don't meet the rising water. The water level
below Morgan Falls rises with less intensity, but things get a little trickier
when they generate here also. A little common sense can keep anglers out of a
lot of trouble.
We are constantly reminded in the press about
the sorry state of the Chattahoochee, and the river shows lots of wear and tear,
particularly south of Atlanta. While we need to remain vigilant to protect the
Hooch, there is no reason not to utilize it responsibly. Every time I catch a
fish from this wonderful river, I feel like I am getting away with something by
having such a great time so close to home! If you are a city-bound angler, the
Chattahoochee is a great place to scratch that itch and maintain your sanity!