Dad catches dinner while Mom enjoys
the fall colors with a good book. All on the South River within the
greater Atlanta metro area!
The South is a city river, beginning close to
the Atlanta airport and winding through DeKalb and Rockdale Counties before
forming the border between Newton and Henry Counties and entering Lake Jackson.
Running through metro Atlanta's population center, the South has been ravaged
over the years by sewage runoff, heavy siltation due to development, and all of
the substances and chemicals that come from roads, parking lots, and people's
yards. In many places, you can find the recent high-water mark of the South by
looking at the line of trash and debris on the bank. The smell of chlorine from
upstream water treatment facilities is not overpowering, but it never quite goes
Despite the South's problems,
conditions on the river have improved drastically since the early 1990's. After
60 miles of the South were declared "extremely polluted" by the EPD in
1991, the city of Atlanta began diverting 26 million gallons of treated
wastewater to the Chattahoochee basin (where it originated) from the South. The
condition of the river has improved markedly in the past 10 years.
So how's the fishing? Better than you might expect. Largemouth bass are at the
top of the food chain, and they appear quite healthy. Redeye bass are native to
the South, and used to be caught in the numerous shoal areas that dot the river.
Some say that the pollution problems of the 60's, 70's, and 80's wiped them out.
GRF would be really interested to find out if redeyes still exist here. A
relative newcomer to the lower reaches of the South is the spotted bass. Spots
were illegally introduced in Lake Jackson during the 1990's and have started
showing up in the South in the stretch of river downstream from the dam
below GA Highway 81.
healthy South River largemouth hit a spinner fished just downstream of the log
in the background.
streams in Georgia, the South contains redbreast, bluegills, and crappie. The
early spring crappie bite can be exceptional in the section between the 81 dam
and Lake Jackson, and the white bass and hybrids show up shortly thereafter,
though the hybrids tend to run a little smaller here for some reason. The bream
fishing is fair, but the numbers are low compared to other similar rivers.
Channel catfish are plentiful in the deeper holes, and some big ones are caught
in the last 10 miles or so before reaching Lake Jackson.
While the lower portion of the South teems with fish during spring, the
river generally seems to have fewer fish of all species throughout the rest of
the year (in comparison with other rivers). This is due to heavy siltation.
Sections of the South now simply have a sandy, flat, and featureless river bed,
allowing baitfish and aquatic life few places to hold. The areas around shoals
tend to provide much better habitat (they seem to be far less silty), and
angler's will find these more productive for all species. In the flat, silty
sections, search for deeper water with downed trees. The current will often dig
out deeper holes just behind the fallen trees, and concentrate all species of
redbreast found in the South River are just as beautiful as they are everywhere
Despite it's problems, the
South is still an amazing river, and proof of just how resilient mother nature
can be. According to the DNR's fish consumption guidelines, fish from the South
are healthier to eat than fish from many Georgia reservoirs, with almost no
restrictions listed. The water tends to keep a nice, clear green color through
much of the year (though it muddies up dramatically after a good shower) and
wildlife is abundant. There are numerous small rapids and a few doozies to keep
things interesting. A large set of rapids exists downstream of Klondike Road (on
the Dekalb-Rockdale line) that should be scouted, although portaging here is
easy. The dam at GA 81 is only 4 feet high or so, but should still be portaged
on the right bank (facing downstream). Below this dam is Snapping Shoals, which
are fun to canoe at the right level. Snapping Shoals run continuously for a
quarter mile or so and are the last substantial shoals before reaching Lake
Jackson. Snapping Shoals can reach Class II in intensity, but the river is wide
here, and alternate routes are available except in the highest water.
The South River is not a premier fishing destination, but it is a nice river to
spend some time on, especially if you are one of the millions who live nearby.
If it were located anywhere but a major metropolitan area, it would probably be
a tourist attraction. The river is rarely used, and when you find fish, they are
easy to catch. The South is a great place to take the kids on a canoe trip
because it's convenient to many and also fun without being really dangerous. The
South also can provide a testament as to what can happen when we neglect our
rivers. The South is on it's way back, it simply needs some people that care.