Even though Gov. Brian Kemp has encouraged Georgians to stay at home as much as possible for the past six weeks, Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a lot of folks have beat cabin fever by taking to creeks and streams across Northwest Georgia.
“We’re definitely seeing a lot more people out and about taking advantage of the outdoors and fishing,” said Jim Hakala, a fisheries biologist in the Armuchee office. “Fish are getting stocked and people seem to be out there enjoying them.”
“More of the sites that we’ve never seen people, (while stocking) we’re seeing people,” said Josh Tannehill, manager of the Summerville Fish Hatchery.
Most of popular streams in northwest Georgia get stocked at least twice a month from April through the summer.
Trout streams like Johns Creek in the northern neck of Floyd County have pretty much always been “put and take” streams.
When people who live near the stream, or those who are fishing the day the stream gets stocked, see the truck coming the word gets spread rapidly and the new fish don’t last long in the creek.
“As soon as the truck shows up, it’s not long before cars start streaming in,” Tannehill said. “There is very little catch and release going on. They’re putting them in the pan.”
The staff at the Summerville hatchery will stock more than 60,000 trout in streams across the region. They receive more than 900,000 eggs every year but most of those are raised to just past fingerling size then transferred to state hatcheries at Lake Burton or Buford to grow out for release across the mountain region.
The hatchery also supplies closer to 80,000 walleye to the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area and Carters Lake.
The one program that has suffered from the COVID-19 crisis is the lake sturgeon restocking program.
Summerville is responsible for growing out lake sturgeon fry that come from hatcheries primarily in Wisconsin. The fish have been restocked in both the Etowah and Oostanaula systems since 2002.
“They didn’t want to get all the people together in a room because it’s so labor intensive to get the eggs and fertilize them,” Tannehill said.
It’s the first time since 2002 that the state has missed a year in the lake sturgeon restocking program. The species was fished out of the local rivers half a century ago and Georgia hopes to regenerate a naturally sustainable population soon.
Lake sturgeon don’t become sexually mature until the reach their mid 20s, so the first surviving stockers, from back in 2002, are getting close to the age where they could begin reproducing.
Anyone who catches a lake sturgeon in encouraged to snap a picture and then release the fish. They are also asked to call the Armuchee fisheries office 706-295-6501, to report the location and approximate size of the fish to biologists.