By Gina Rogers, Director of Operations, Georgia Water Coalition
Have you ever caught a Shoalie? They are some kind of fun to catch – they strike hard, jump high, and put up a great fight. Shoal bass are native to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system and are also found in the Ocmulgee River. These feisty fish move dozens, and at times hundreds, of miles to complete their spawning and other life stages and are therefore dependent upon long, unobstructed segments of Georgia’s rivers and high-quality shoal habitats. In other words, they live and thrive in some of the most pristine and scenic sections of Georgia’s central and western rivers. Georgia Wildlife Federation, alongside Flint Riverkeeper, has supported efforts over the last five years to pass legislation that would designate these unique fish as Georgia’s official State Native Riverine Sport Fish.
Rep. Debbie Buckner, of Talbotton near the Flint River, first introduced the legislation back in 2016. With the help of Rep. David Knight over the years and Rep. Trey Rhodes, and Senator Tyler Harper, HB 998, finally passed on June 25, 2020. The official shoal bass designation was part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources annual “housekeeping” bill that includes various modifications to Georgia’s hunting, fishing, and boating laws. The bill now awaits Governor Kemp’s signature.
Designating the Shoal Bass as the official State Native Riverine Sport Fish will bring further awareness to Georgia’s unique angling opportunities, help protect clean flowing water in the ACF river basin and Ocmulgee River, and help support local communities by promoting thriving fishing and tourism economies. There are quite a few public access points on the Flint, Chattahoochee, and Ocmulgee Rivers where you can go to catch shoal bass. Anglers often float the river in a kayak or canoe and pull out in the shoal areas and wade and fish. There are also excellent local fishing guides for hire just waiting to take you to some of the primo spots for catching trophy Shoalies. If you love to bass fish and you haven’t caught a Shoalie, this is the year to get out on a remote section of river and make some memories!
Photo Credit: Quint Rogers, Peach State Fly Fishing