Georgia hatcheries, in Summerville and beyond

Georgia hatcheries, in Summerville and beyond By Paul Diprima

Mankind relies heavily on fish for sustenance in many parts of the world and it is a major part of the world’s diet.

Before Europeans arrived in North America, the fish populations were pretty much in balance and fish were harvested as food by all the native populations. Baskets, nets, weirs and spears, as well as hook and line, were used to give the tribes food for the table. After the Europeans came, the fish in certain areas became depleted and some fish became extinct.

According to “Extinctions of North American Fishes During the Past Century,” by Robert R. Miller, James D. Williams, and Jack E. Williams, there have been at least 38 fish species to go extinct in North America in the past 100 years. There are at least five fish species and several mussels that are extinct in Georgia. Most of these extinctions occurred due to man’s activities in, on or near the water.

The Summerville Hatchery, one of three Georgia coldwater hatcheries, has been doing their part for the past 20 years to re-establish the once plentiful lake sturgeon in the Coosa drainage. These fish were extirpated from the upper Coosa drainage sometime in the 1960s. The hatchery is raising sturgeon, growing trout that are stocked across North Georgia and raising fingerling walleye that are stocked at Carters Lake and Rocky Mountain PFA.

There are seven state operated warm water fish hatcheries that supply Georgia with fish from striped bass to catfish and bream. These fish are stocked into state waters so that anglers can enjoy the catch. Until recently, state hatcheries supplied fish for private ponds and lakes, but now commercial hatcheries stock private waters.

There is also a federal hatchery, the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery, in Georgia that supplies trout for Georgia and the southeast.

The native trout of Georgia, the brook trout, was almost totally wiped out by overfishing and logging operations. These native trout were in such low numbers that authorities felt that introducing rainbow trout and, later, brown trout would offset the loss of the native species. Not only did these non-native fish survive, but they flourished — and the rainbows and browns pushed the native brook trout farther up into the highlands of Georgia. Through the joint effort of the USFS, the DNR and TU the brook trout are making a comeback and are found in more streams. The rainbow trout continues to be the most caught trout in the USA.

Many trout anglers in Georgia target heavily stocked streams supplied by three state and one federal trout hatcheries in Georgia.

If we did not have hatcheries I often wonder if there would be any fish to catch. The number of trout anglers would be very low to almost nonexistent. There would only be a very few brook trout streams to fish in, and if anglers harvested the brookies like they take rainbow trout from streams now, the brook trout might easily become extinct.

Summerville hatchery flooded

I have been in touch with John Lee Thomson, DNR trout stocking coordinator and Josh Tannenhill, Summerville hatchery manager, and there is some good news and a little bad.

The bad news is that all the raceways went under water and some trout escaped into the creek leaving the hatchery. Some trout were scattered in low areas near the hatchery. Good news is that there still a lot of fish in the raceways.

The hatch house was unaffected and the sturgeon remained in good shape in there. The trout have been “graded” or separated by size into separate raceways. A fish count has been done and it showed that 77% of the trout survived the adverse conditions. Prior to the flood, fingerling trout had already been sent to the Burton and Buford hatcheries to be grown to catchable size to stock in 2023.

A year ago, Whirling Disease was found in Summerville and other trout hatcheries in the state. The trout were euthanized and the hatcheries were decontaminated and all gear sterilized. New trout were brought in and the trout stocking took place as normal this season, and in 2023 the stocking trucks will again supply us with plenty of fish. These hatchery and fisheries folks do great work and should be applauded.

Johns Creek work day

Workers will meet at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 17 at the northernmost group of campsites. Look for the TU signs. This is a major stream enhancement project in the US Forest Service area of Johns Creek. Lunch will be provided, with soft drinks and water. Dress for getting wet. This TU workday covers a large part of the creek. The Cohutta Chapter is working with us but we need all the volunteers we can get.

TU meeting
The next meeting of the Coosa Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rome-Floyd ECO Center at Ridge Ferry Park. Dinner is available for $5. The public is invited.

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