2006-08-17 / Sports

Recent extreme heat hurting trout streams, forces closings

The extreme heat of the last few weeks is hurting several of Georgia's trout streams, and even forcing the closure of one trout stream. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), 90-degree temperatures for days on end, combined with warm nights, are pushing water temperatures in some mountain streams to levels that are lethal to trout.

"Many streams are just too warm and we've had to suspend stocking in those areas," says WRD Trout Stocking Coordinator Perry Thompson.

"The ideal stocking temperature for water is no higher than the mid 60's, but we are getting readings of 80 degrees in some cases. Stream flows are also down considerably, and as the flow drops the water warms even more since it's moving slower and has more time to absorb heat."

Trout survival in the state's hatchery system also is jeopardized by the warm weather. Lake Burton Fish Hatchery, located near Clarkesville, has experienced high trout mortality since its water source, Moccasin Creek, is warming to levels not seen since the drought years of the late nineteen-eighties. Normal feeding and basic disease control measures cannot be done, as they add stress to the trout. Buford Trout Hatchery, located near Cumming, has come to the rescue and will hold as many of next year's trout as possible. Buford Hatchery receives cold water drawn from the lower depths of Lake Lanier. WRD personnel also will accelerate stocking efforts, with most of the trout set aside for this month to be put into suitable waters by the middle of August.

"With these heavy recent stockings, there are still lots of trout that can be caught! For example, the Tallulah River in Rabun and Towns Counties, Cooper Creek in Union County, Rock Creek in Fannin County and the Chattahoochee River upstream of Helen in White County have been heavily stocked in the last two weeks," says Thompson. "Anglers also shouldn't forget that the Chattahoochee River downstream of Lake Lanier remains cool, as does the Toccoa River downstream of Lake Blue Ridge, and they have had additional stockings from state and federal hatcheries."

At this time, the only stream that will be closed to trout fishing is Dukes Creek on the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area (three miles east of Helen). Even though this particular stream is managed with "catch and release" rules, angling stress combined with hot water can kill the trophy trout that anglers value. To conserve this resource, Dukes Creek will be closed to anglers from August 12 through September 17.

The Conservation Area will accept fishing reservations after September 17, contingent on stream conditions improving. Anglers will need to call the Conservation Area (706-878-3087) the day before their trip to verify that the stream has been reopened.

Fortunately, trophy trout anglers can still visit nearby Waters Creek on the Chestatee Wildlife Management Area, as it currently remains cold enough for trout survival. Anglers must possess a WMA stamp to fish Waters Creek. Stream conditions here are also being monitored.

For more information on trout stream conditions and fish stockings call the WRD Lake Burton Fish Hatchery at 706-947-3112 any day between 8 a.m. 4:30 p.m. For more information on fishing in general, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com .

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