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A Chattahoochee River winter wild brown trout [Salmo trutta] on a big, articulated trout streamer named Chewie, a Bryson original. Alaska, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina fishing guide and casting instructor Chad Bryson with a happy client. Bryson is one of the best fly fishing guides in the Southeast. Image credit Chad Bryson [see contact info below].

Deep in the heart of Dixie, excellent trout fishing is an all seasons affair

By Skip Clement

The new popularity of fly fishing, as well as all activities riverine, can put a damper on angling opportunities for those seeking a little solitude and stretches of free-range trouts. To avoid the hassle of crowded, Angie and I mostly bypass perfect go-fishing days, like recent fall mornings with a slight morning chill, fog off the water, and wet fields showing off for blue skies producing windless temperatures in the high 70s degrees F.

In the Southeast, trout season is a year-round thing

In the Southeast, you can go on cold days, when off-and-on rain threatens, and on windy days if you can think like a sailor.

 Atlanta, Georgia, January [2021]:

Daily high temperatures around 53°F rarely fell below 39°F or exceeded 66°F. The lowest daily average high temperature was 52°F on January 8. Daily low temperatures are around 36°F, rarely falling below 22°F or exceeding 51°F.

The Southeast’s Appalachians provide a perfect, affordable, and highly productive winter trout destination. So be ready to go, watch the weather, and book a guide [see below].

The best waters are lightly fished, and hungry trophy-size trout are not that unusual.

Chattahoochee River at East Palisades, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Atlanta. Forty miles of the ‘Hootch’ are protected trout waters. Photo taken April 29, 2012 by Keizers – Wikimedia commons images.

Looking at Georgia’s opportunities reflects the whole Southeast’s trout fisheries

You can find excellent trout fishing opportunities in Georgia, whether on a delayed harvest stream or otherwise,” said John Lee Thomson, Wildlife Resources Division trout stocking coordinator. “The advantage of the five designated delayed harvest streams, open November 1 through May 14, is that they have special catch-and-release regulations and are stocked monthly by Wildlife Resources Division and our partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This stocking and catch/release combination allows for good trout catch rates and high angler satisfaction.”

NOTE: “Anglers fishing these Delayed Harvest streams should remember that these five streams are restricted to artificial lures with one single hook,” Thomson adds. “When May 15 rolls around, the general regulations to designated trout water apply.”

Illustration by Thom Glace – rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout. Ready when you’re ready on any winter day in Atlanta.

Toccoa River: Located on U.S. Forest Service land upstream of Lake Blue Ridge in Fannin County (from 0.4 miles above Shallowford Bridge to 450 feet above the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access). Book a guide – the best waters are lightly fished, and hungry trophy-size trout are not that unusual.

Amicalola Creek: Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (from Steele Bridge Road downstream to Georgia Hwy. 53).

Smith Creek: Downstream of Unicoi Lake (Unicoi State Park).

Chattahoochee River: In Atlanta (Sope Creek, downstream of Johnson Ferry Road, downstream to the Hwy 41 bridge).

Chattooga River: A portion of the (from Ga. Hwy. 28) upstream to the mouth of Reed Creek) on U.S. Forest Service land bordering South Carolina.

“Anglers fishing these delayed harvest streams should remember that these five streams are restricted to artificial lures with one single hook. When May 15 rolls around, the general regulations to designated trout water apply.”

John Lee Thomson, Wildlife Resources Division

Lefty Kreh with a nice Lake Lanier striper. Lefty said: “I have fished with Henry Cowen on Lake Lanier and never been disappointed with the catch, the boat, or the captain. I highly recommend him and can’t wait to get back again!” Henry Cowen photo.

Meet Chewie was invented by Chad Bryson – photo.

In addition to the excellent winter fishing opportunities that these delayed harvest streams provide, other Georgia streams offer ample trout fishing opportunities as well:

Noontootla Creek Watershed: This watershed offers high-quality fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout, with many of its tributaries providing a chance at a wild brook trout. Both Noontootla and its tributaries are managed under an artificial lure-only regulation and have a 16″ minimum size limit to “recycle” the 8″ -12″ trout that make up most of the population. Nominated as Trout Unlimited’s Top 100 rivers in the US. You can expect 2,500- to 3,00 willing trout per mile.

Dukes Creek: This stream on the Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area offers trout fishing by reservation (706-878-3087). All fish caught here must be released immediately, and anglers can only use artificial lures with barbless hooks. The stream offers a great chance at a trout over 20 inches, so bring your camera for a quick shot before release. The best time to fish is after rain muddies the water.

Chattahoochee River: For good trout fishing near metro Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River downstream of Buford Dam offers family-friendly fishing for stocked rainbow and wild brown trout. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parks offer good bank, wading, and boating opportunities. The river will be stocked through the fall months to keep angler catches high. Year-round harvest is legal from Buford Dam to Sope Creek. Anglers should note that there is an artificial lure-only section between Ga. Hwy 20 and the Medlock Bridge Boat Ramp. Best fishing is at low flow when the river is clear to slightly stained.

Some additional notable trout streams include the Toccoa River downstream of Lake Blue Ridge, the Tallulah River, and the Chattooga River

Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license and a trout license to fish for these beauties. By purchasing a license, fishing equipment, and related items, you and your fellow anglers have helped fund sports fish restoration programs for years, thanks to the Sport Fish Restoration Act. 

For free Georgia trout stream maps . . .

NOTE: Featured image is winter fly fishing in North Carolina Smoky Mountains on the famed Nantahala River. Nominated as Trout Unlimited’s Top 100 rivers in the U.S. You can expect 2,500- to 3,00 willing trout per mile.

Where can you get a Georgia fishing license? Or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

Quantified Guide Referrals:

Chad BrysonFishes out of a jet boat (Chattahoochee River) far from the madding crowd. Completely portable. Best river guide covers GA, NC, Eastern TN.

Henry Cowen: One of the Southeast’s top guides – all species. Fishes out of lake-capable boat.

Photo credit Evelyn Andrews, July 7, 2017

The Fish Hawk: Atlanta’s biggest and best fly shop is owned by Gary Merriman, a famous angler and fly tyer. Merriman has a list of vetted guides and also has access to private waters.

Chris Scalley started River Through Atlanta Guide Service in 1994.

Alpharetta Outfitters: Jeff Wright is an experienced fly fisherman that manages Alpharetta Outfitters and has established a working relationship with younger area guides, and AO has private water connections.

Steve Hudson: Author [over 20 books], professor, rod builder, fly tyer, and more than likely the most traveled and knowledgeable angler concerning Georgia’s flora, fauna, and freshwater fisheries.


Author Skip

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