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                 FLINT RIVER SHOAL BASS  -  CHATTAHOOCHEE STRIPERS          

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 Chattahoochee Stripers


Tragically, the once-great Chattahoochee has been polluted with hydro-electric dams and reservoirs throughout its run from the north Georgia mountains to Apalachicola Bay. Luckily there are still more than 60 miles of river between Atlanta and Lake Eufaula that have changed little since the time before we began creating waterfront property under the guise of power generation.

Even better, the striped bass that once ran the length of the Hooch from the Gulf still inhabit the river. The stripers no longer run to and from the ocean, but are stocked as fingerlings into the various lakes by Georgia and Alabama. They flourish in the system, and after 40 years of stocking can reach 50 pounds or more.

While freshwater striped bass fishing has become quite popular on many large lakes, river fishing for stripers is generally ignored except in the early spring when they move upstream to spawn in lake headwaters.

But take one look at the fish and you know it is built for current - the long torpedo-shaped body, the heavy musculature and the broad tail. Itís not just during the spring spawning runs that these are fish in the rivers. Because of their preference for cold waters and currents, the stripers often will move into the rivers during other times of the year. Many will live in the river system all year because they like the current and the heavily-oxygenated waters.

 

The Rivers

We are blessed with river systems that offer terrific striped bass fishing. We primarily fish the Chattahoochee from above Newnan to below Columbus with occasional forays to the Tallapoosa in Alabama (and feeder streams of both these systems).

This is the area of the continental fall line where the Piedmont drops away to the Coastal Plain, and the rivers here have considerable elevation change and some serious, rocky shoals. This offers two major plusses for fishing.

The strong currents offer the habitat that stripers prefer. The water is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter

Perhaps more importantly for an excellent fishery, in many places the rocky shoals prevent access by the majority of anglers. There are few floating opportunities due to the lack of "take-outs." Wading access is also minimal.

These are wild and scenic rivers, too. Once you leave the cities and large lakes, most of the surrounding property is in large, uninhabited tracts. Wildlife abounds - eagles, hawks, otter, beaver, deer and turkey are common.

 

 

The Boat

Our specially designed and adapted river craft is a heavy-gauge, all-welded, 18' tunnel-hull  jonboat powered by a 90hp Mercury jet outboard. This boat allows access to waters that would normally be considered suitable only for whitewater kayaks and experienced paddlers.

The boat is fully rigged for fly fishing with large, 7' wide front and rear decks, center console, and 80-lb remote-controlled trolling motor. Two anglers can easily fish at the same time, with plenty of room for the guide and equipment.

 

 


Tactics and Equipment

 Unlike the largemouth bass and other fresh-water game fish, stripers are generally not ambush attackers, but rather roving predators on the move in search of prey. They can travel miles and miles in a single day. Rivers do tend to concentrate them somewhat, due to the constant current and bait concentrations.

In low water conditions, the fish will often hold in deeper holes above and below shoals. When water levels rise, they will move right into the shoals.

Seemingly at odds with their wolf-pack habits, they can often be found near downed trees on undercut banks. This is not because they are using the timber as cover, but because the wood fosters algae growth which attracts shad, the stripers main prey.

Our flies for stripers are almost exclusively shad imitations, and the fish are usually not especially picky as to the specific pattern. Much more important is the size - if the majority of shad are 3", that is the size fly we use. If the shad are 6", a 3-incher won't work. My most-used flies are whistlers and deceivers - both with flashtails.

Another major factor is presentation. Though this fishing is quite removed from the typically associated peace and serenity of trout fishing on streams, the fly must still act and move like bait - and it must be in the right place. To accomplish this, we use a combination of floating, intermediate, sink-tip and full sinking lines. Rods sizes generally range from 6 to 9 weights depending on fly size and conditions. We furnish all flies and equipment, or you can bring your own.

 

The Season

 On this section of the Hooch, prime time would have to be considered as winter through early spring. When it's cold, the shad often move to the upper ends of the lake and into the river seeking warmer water. Where the shad go, the stripers will follow. When the upstream dams begin power generation and the water rises, the shad get pushed downstream and the stripers often attack in the churning water of shallow shoals.

Summertime and high water temperatures will also bring the stripers into the shoals at times. They like cool water and  especially the high oxygenation of the water in the shallow shoals. There are a couple of photos here of wading anglers, but be advised extreme caution is needed if you wade - water levels rise quickly and bring big trouble without the right boat.

The spring spawning run also brings good striper fishing. The spawn varies depending on the section of the river, but usually ranges from mid-March through April and maybe into May.

On the lower sections of the river, the stripe run also coincides with another unusual fishery - the spawning run of the skipjack herring. Not a glamorous name perhaps, but remember the mighty tarpon is also a herring as is the Atlantic and hickory shad. The skipjack  usually ranges in size from 14" to 24" and does indeed look like a miniature tarpon. Best of all, they usually are present in large numbers, hit hard, jump high and run fast. We like to get on the water near daylight, fish stripers for 3 hours or so, then pull out the lightweight rods and catch a few dozen skipjack to cap the day

 

Guided Trips for Stripers

Want to catch a river striper on the fly? Give me a call and let's talk about the timing. I have all the equipment if you do not. We can also talk about your experience level and get an idea if you're ready for big rods, big flies and big fish. This is not trout fishing ;).

Check the Guided Trips area for more info and rates...

 

C o n t a c t    K e n t     at     kent@flyfishga.com     or    7 0 6 - 8 8 3 - 7 7 0 0.