Thanksgiving is a great time for doing things with the family. But are you looking for something a little different to do this year? Then mark Tuesday, Nov. 21 on your calendar. That’s the day that the folks over at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will be giving you an opportunity to help stock trout in the Chattahoochee River!
This volunteer-assisted trout stocking will take place on the Delayed Harvest portion of the Chattahoochee at the Whitewater access point (1425 Indian Trail NW, Sandy Springs) off U.S. 41 near Cumberland Mall.
Delayed Harvest, as you’ll recall, is a special program under which certain streams in Georgia are managed for catch-and-release trout fishing during the colder months from Nov. 1 through May 14. Only artificial lures can be used, and all trout caught must be immediately released.
Why the call for volunteers? Georgia DNR does a great job of stocking our streams, but sometimes even they need a little help. At the Whitewater location, the challenge is that the stocking truck can’t get to the river. That’s where you and I come in as part of the “bucket brigade,” which totes the fish from the stocking truck to the water. It’s a lot of fun!
Here’s how it works. Volunteers arrive at the Whitewater parking area that morning with waders and five-gallon buckets. Parking space can be tight, and if you park along the road, be careful not to block the way in. Once parked, put on your waders and visit for a while with the many other like-minded volunteers who will also be there to help.
Then comes what one young stocking volunteer once called “the splashy fun part.”
About 10 a.m., plus or minus, the truck from the Buford Trout Hatchery will arrive. It’ll park at the far corner of the parking lot, close to the river. Then everybody gathers at the truck, five-gallon buckets in hand. The DNR folks quickly transfer trout from the truck to those buckets, and the volunteers (that’s you and me) then transport the trout from the truck to the river.
After putting that first bucket of trout into the river, it’s back to the truck for another load, and then another, until all of the fish have been relocated to their new home in the river.
Where should you put the trout once you have carried ‘em to the water? That’s up to you, and that’s part of the fun too. You’ll see folks releasing the fish in many different areas, and it’s great fun to imagine the trout that are then holding unseen in the flow, waiting to make some lucky fisherman’s day.
“Helping stock the Chattahoochee is a good way for the community to become involved in the river,” said Pat Snellings, fisheries biologist in charge of this part of the Chattahoochee.
And it really is a great family activity, he adds.
“We encourage parents to bring their kids to help put the fish in the river and then stay and fish afterwards,” he said.
How many trout will be stocked?
“We have allocated about 1,000 fish for this stocking,” Snellings said, adding that the fish will be a mix of rainbow and brown trout.
The stocking itself is usually finished within a half hour or so. What happens then? Some, of course, have to pack up their waders and go back to work. But others get to stay and do a little catch-and-release trout fishing.
Right after one of these stocking events, in fact, is a great time to introduce new anglers (especially young people) to the fun that trout fishing can bring – and don’t worry if you’re new to trout fishing. There are usually plenty of experienced trout anglers there who will be glad to show you how it’s done.
In fact, that’s the part of volunteer stocking that I like best – just hanging around for a while and helping folks catch what is often their very first trout.
After one of the volunteer stockings last year, for instance, I remember visiting with a dad and his two young daughters and helping the kids catch their first trout. I’d hook the fish on my fly rod and then let one of the kids bring the fish in, always accompanied by much laughter and huge grins. It doesn’t get any better than that. I don’t know who had more fun that day – the little kids (them) or the big kid (me)!
Nov. 21 at Whitewater – mark your calendar. I hope to see you there!
If you’d like to participate in the Nov. 21 stocking event, you’ll need to sign a release form. You should be able to register online at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, and there will be release forms available onsite too. If you plan to fish afterwards, remember that Delayed Harvest regulations (including catch-and-release, artificials-only, and singke-hook-lures only) apply.