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CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER (upstream of L. Lanier)

Parts of the Upper Hooch provide great wading opportunities for shoal bass.

   Georgia river fishermen living in or near the Atlanta metro area should consider themselves blessed to have the Chattahoochee River so close at hand. Just about all species of freshwater fish that are found in Georgia can be found in some part of the Chattahoochee River. Most Georgia anglers are familiar with the portion of the Chattahoochee downstream of Lake Lanier, a stretch that provides some of the South's best trout fishing. What many fail to realize is that the portion  of the Hooch above the reservoir offers a unique angling and paddling experience without the hordes of fishermen that invade the lower Hooch from April to September every year.

    The Upper Hooch begins it's transformation from a cold-water fishery (dominated by trout) to a warm-water fishery near the junction of Sautee Creek just south of Helen. Trout are still pretty common in the stretch just south of Sautee Creek, but just a little downstream, shoal and spotted bass become the dominant species, and remain the main predators all the way to the headwaters of Lake Lanier 25 miles downstream

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This stringer full of spotted bass was caught in the slower sections of the Upper Hooch.

    Redbreasts and bluegills (a little further downstream) are most likely to attack small spinners rather than trout as you make your way down the Hooch. A small, but growing striper population have discovered the Upper Hooch and have been caught as far north as Helen. An increasing number of Upper Hooch fishermen have also reported catching walleyes and GRF recommend NOT landing these toothy critters by the lower jaw! Blueback herring, a forage fish illegally introduced to Lake Lanier, have no doubt found their way into the upper Hooch, and biologists are uncertain of the long-term effcts this may have on the lake and the rivers feeding it.

    If you decide to take on the Upper Hooch, you should use a canoe or kayak and be fairly adept in moderate whitewater situations, as there are numerous Class II rapids and a couple Class III's along the way to Georgia's biggest reservoir. Access is excellent all along the Upper Chattahoochee and the normally clear water varies from 30 to 100 feet wide in the numerous shoal areas. These shoal areas are the place to target shoal bass (wading is the best way), although shoalies and spots can be caught just about anywhere.

Though finicky at times, there are some big shoal bass in this river!

    Parts of the Upper Hooch are lined with attractive homes, but other sections are surprisingly undeveloped. During summer weekends, a lot of tubers and whitewater paddlers visit the Upper Hooch, but usually don't have much of an adverse effect on the fishing. If you want to float the Upper Hooch but don't own a canoe, Wildewood Outfitters on Duncan Bridge Road can provide one, along with a shuttle service for very reasonable rates.

    The Upper Hooch also boasts one of the best springtime white bass runs in the state. Around the time the dogwoods bloom, the whites head up the Chattahoochee from the lake on their spawning runs and the action can be unbelievably fast. Stripers make the same run (usually a little later), so don't be surprised if you have to use a paddle to chase one of these bruisers down! The best white bass fishing can be found anywhere from Lula Bridge upstream to the last big set of shoals (about 5 river miles north of Lula Bridge).

The white bass run upstream out of Lake Lanier every spring and can provide fast action and a few big 'uns!

    Just about any type of fish anyone could possibly want to catch can be found in the cool waters of the Upper Chattahoochee.  Only a short drive from the metro area, the Upper Hooch is extremely convenient, yet wild enough to punish inexperienced or careless paddlers. GRF strongly recommends this beautiful stretch of river. Check it out and you'll feel the way Sidney Lanier did when he penned "Song of the Chattahoochee"!

 

 
       

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