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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 meals!

    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 uncertain.

    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!



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