Big catch: The best places in Georgia for Atlanta fishermen

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Big catch: The best places in Georgia for Atlanta fishermen

Some of the best fishing environments in the country are right here in Georgia's lakes and rivers. 

For the casual fisherman (or fisherwoman) and their families, Lake Patrick has already won the title as Georgia's best place for family-friendly fishing.Plus, serious fisherman get to work far south of Atlanta on commercial fishing operations harvesting everything from catfish to the incredible Georgia oyster

For the casual anglers, some of the best bass and trout sport fishing in the world occurs in lakes and rivers not more than two hours from Atlanta. Little known fact: Many of the state's record-breaking fish were caught near Atlanta. 

Now, that you've got the background, time to grab your tackle box and head out to Georgia's best places to fish. 

South Georgia

Flint River remains popular among avid bass fishers for its shoal bass, a cross-breeding between small-and-large mouth bass. And where the Flint River meets the Chattahoochee, the state of Georgia gives way at Lake Seminole to Florida. The large mouth bass at Seminole are enormous, thanks to the habitat, food and shelter provided by Seminole's commitment to maintaining aquatic plant life and other marine sanctuary wildlife.

To the east of the Flint and the Seminole along Georgia's Golden Isles are coastlines at St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea Island, where an entirely different fishing experience occurs. There the veteran or amateur angler can cast their net for saltwater fishing of redfish, snapper and tarpon, while Tybee Island outside Savannah is a great place to start a deep sea fishing tour or even a commercial fishing business. 

There is little that can be said about the fishing in the Altamaha River that would be an overstatement. For those hoping to catch a giant catfish, Altamaha is your spot. The river has produced both of the state's biggest ever fish of any breed, in two record-sharing 83-pound channel catfish, according to Georgia's Department of Natural Resources.

West Georgia

An 80-pound catfish. via Georgia Widlife records/for the AJC

Nowhere else can claim the title of "Bass Capital of the World" quite like Walter F. George Lake. The title itself may be having an impact on the lake though, as some report that it's harder to score big bass on the lake than it used to be. And, for all it's bass fishing claims to fame, the one record the lake holds is the state's record Blue Catfish -- a whopping 80 pound, 4-ounce fish −that Earnest Timpson caught in February 2010. 

North Georgia lakes and rivers

The incomprable beauty of Lake Burton. via Wikimedia/for the AJC

Much of the best fishing near Atlanta is happening due north. Lakes Burton, Rabun and Seed are already the best place for a lakehouse in the state, even if the New York Times disagrees. And they hold many record-breaking fish in their waters, including the largest spotted bass on record was caught at Lake Burton, and the largest walleye, weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces, on record was caught last year at Lake Rabun. 

Another man caught a record 17.5-pound rainbow trout on the nearby Soque River in Habersham County in 2004 and Waters Creek is a solid trout fishing hole near Cleveland. 

Even further north and west, where North Carolina and Georgia meet, Lake Chatuge serves as an ideal bass fishing spot. The quiet lake produced the largest bass ever caught in Georgia, when David Hobby pulled a 25 pound, 8-ounce hybrid bass out of the waters in 1995. Fishing guide Eric Welch reports that summer 2017 on Chatuge wasn't quite like the past though. "The lake is at full pool, and the fishing has been fair. This time last year we had a killer top-water bite first thing in the morning, but this year it just has not happened," he said.

Spider fishing on the Toccoa River. Thom Underwood

On the nearby Toccoa River, fly fishing for trout remains good business (and sport). Check out "the biggest brown trout you'll ever see," caught by Daniel Bowman earlier this month.

The old Altanta faithful

And don't sleep on the 'Hooch! Sure, we float down the Chattahoochee River and drink beers in inner tubes, and the fishing in metro Atlanta is suspect at best on account of all the people. But the 'hooch is also one of the best trout fishing rivers in the South along the 48-mile span between the Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek. The largest brown trout ever caught in Georgia −nearly 21 pounds −came from the upper Chattahoochee river in 2014.

Falcons Vic Beasley Jr. works his fishing rods during the 9th annual Fishing with the Falcons tournament at Lake Lanier on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, in Buford. Wounded military soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are paired with Falcons players, alumni, coaches and cheerleaders on individual fishing boats for an afternoon of fishing. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com ccompton@ajc.com

Lake Lanier, meanwhile, is already the most popular lake in the state for it's size and convenient location. You might think Lanier's supply is picked over, especially with all of the bass tournaments and endless recreational fishing. However, the fact remains that there are still giant bass (at 20 pounds or more) in the water to be had. And, if you like catching striper or walleye, it's a great place to do it. (Just don't look at the state record 30 pound, 13-ounce longnose gar that Gerald Kennedy pulled from Lake Lanier in 2013, or you will never swim, gain.)

And, for a slightly more secluded feel (arguably just as close to Atlanta as Lanier), try Lake Allatoona. It's the lake where they shoot the Netflix show Ozark, the spotted bass grow to nearly 8 pounds, and tactics for catching them (dropshot, jerkbait, topwater walker) are unique compared to the pitching and flipping of most lakes.

East of Atlanta

Lake Hartwell is a bass fishing destination. It's where the 2015 Bassmaster Classic was held, and that year's winner pulled 50 pounds of bass out of the lake Georgia and South Carolina share in just three days.The water is deep and clean, and the conditions are ideal for fishing an array of spotted and largemouth bass.

Meanwhile, Lake Oconee, halfway to Augusta on Interstate 20 east of Atlanta in Greensboro is the perfect destination if you don't want to fish like a full-on pro, and would prefer to stay at a Ritz-Carlton when you are done for the day. Don't count it out though, Oconee is a place where trophy largemouth (and striped) bass lurk. 

Reel it in

So, there's a lot of fishing to be done, and much of it is within just a couple hours of the city. For those ready to reel it in, here's a comprehensive map with all of the places to fish in Georgia's state parks. And if you've never fished at all, know that Georgia law requires everyone age 16 and up have a fishing license in their possession while fishing our waters. You can pick up a license at local Walmart locations, online here or call 1-800-366-2661. 

Lastly, you can keep Georgia beautiful while preserving our natural treasures for future generations by participating in one of the Georgia Conservancy's many weekend excursions to kayak down some of the most pristine natural settings in the state. 

Wherever you go, happy fishing!

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