For well over a decade it has been legal to use live bait on Georgia's Chattahoochee River to fish for striped bass below Morgan Falls Dam all the way to West Point lake - or so it read in the fishing regulations. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has just unofficially taken away the right to use live bait from Chattahoochee River striper fishermen.
For over a decade, hundreds (if not thousands) of striped bass fishermen have fished below Georgia's Morgan Falls Dam using live bait. It was in the regulations that you could do so legally - as the DNR website at http://gofishgeorgia.com/ explained in detail how to catch striped bass from Morgan Falls to Peachtree Creek using live or cut bait.
The change is apparently due to a new interpretation of another rule that states no live bait fish may be used in any designated trout stream and is designed to protect the trout that are stocked each year. In the same paragraph, it reads that no live bait fish may be used in a trout stream, but the word except in bold print stated that live bait fish may be used below Hwy 9 (and it has been that way for years). Morgan Falls Dam is directly below Hwy 9. Click here to view the fishing regulations paragraph. Or scroll to the bottom of this page.
In addition, protecting this stretch of river as a trout stream is ineffective since runoff, and the stagnant water in Bull Sluice heat this section of the river to levels which are difficult for trout to live in during the summer months. So, the chances of actually catching a trout with live bait during the summer are considerably less than catching another species of fish which thrives during the warmer months.
Striped bass, as well as shoal bass, largemouth bass, gar, chain pickerel, crappie, and other species, that are normally targeted using live bait have been in that part of the river for many years. This is nothing new, and that is why there were special considerations in the regulations that allowed fishermen who prefer to use live bait fish to use it. Why now change the regulations to prevent what so many of us enjoy? Why didn't they make the change to clarify these rights to the few that were against it? Please note, we are not against the stocking of trout in this part of the river.
I sent an e-mail into the DNR website:
To whom it may concern,
I was approached by James one of your DNR onsite representatives below Morgan Falls Dam (Fulton County, Sandy Spring) on Saturday afternoon. He stopped us from our fishing and gave us a warning that we could not use more than one fishing pole for striped bass fishing and or cat fishing because it was trout waters. He also informed us that we could not use live bait in this area.
I have heard rumors about the one pole confusion at Morgan Falls so I looked it up a couple of weeks earlier and your website and it clearly communicated to me that these rules were only for trout anglers.
I also noticed live bait is allowed below Roswell Road which Morgan Falls is below Roswell Road/Hwy 9.
We are using huge salt water fishing rods with 25 to 40 pound test, 40 to 50 pound leaders, #7 to #8 circle hooks and really large live or cut bait and there is no way a trout would bite our line nor have we ever caught a trout using these techniques.
We are not the only ones fishing in the river below Morgan Falls Dam for striper and catfish and we are not the only ones who need clarification to these issues.
Please forward this communication to the appropriate individual and please provide a response in writing so we can clear up the confusion.
Taken from your website
Trout Fishing Rules
Trout anglers are restricted to the use of one (1) pole and line which must be hand held. No other type of gear may be used in trout waters.
Live bait-fish may not be used in any trout stream, except live bait-fish may be used on the Chattahoochee River downstream of the Roswell Road bridge (Georgia Highway 9). Seining bait-fish is not allowed in any trout stream.
The 3 major questions we need answers to are the following:
1. Is one allowed to use live bait below Morgan Falls Dam when fishing for Striper and Catfish?
2. Is one allowed to use more than one pole below Morgan Falls Dam when fishing for Striper and Catfish?
3. Is one allowed to use Live or dead trout for bait when fishing for Striper and Catfish below Morgan Falls Dam?
Thank you for your time.
I apologize for not responding earlier, thank you for reminding me about this. I have spoken with both DNR Law Enforcement regions with jurisdiction on the Chattahoochee tailwater as well as other fisheries biologists who work or have worked on the Chattahoochee.
The one-rod rule is in effect below Morgan Falls Dam because those are classified as trout waters. Regardless of what the angler is fishing for, they must adhere to that rule. Live bait is legal below Roswell Road (and, therefore, below Morgan Falls Dam). If you're using trout, make sure you possess less than the legal limit (eight) or you have a receipt showing that you purchased those trout for bait somewhere else. Additionally, if you're planning on catching trout to use later as bait, make sure you don't have a trout rod and a striper rod in the water at the same time, as that would be in violation of the one-rod limit. Please remember that if you are catching trout and using them later, you may only keep eight in a single day regardless of how many you actually possess at any given time.
I hope this helps clarify things. If you have more questions, please feel free to call or email me at any time. Also, we are working on coordinating a meeting between all of the biologists, law enforcement agents, and National Park Service employees who have an interest in Chattahoochee fishing regulations to make sure we are all on the same page and if there are any changes that need to be considered from the current regulations. If you have any suggestions or concerns, I would be happy to carry those to this meeting when we get it set up.
Fisheries Biologist-East Central Region III
Wildlife Resources Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
2123 US Hwy 278, SE
Social Circle, GA 30025