Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Economic Impact of Wildlife-Associated Recreation

This is important information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...specifically, they quantify the financial impact of fishing and other wildlife-associated activities in the Southeast, and on a state-by-state basis.  It's good information that our politicians should be aware of when they propose such short-sighted measures as closing down Federal fish hatcheries.  Failing to consider the full impact of the activities supported by these facilities does us all an injustice:

Economic Impact of Wildlife-Associated Recreation in Georgia: 2011

Wildlife-related recreation generates billions of dollars for our nation's economy every year.

In an effort to highlight the contributions of southeastern hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers, we are featuring findings from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report.This report is the result of interviews conducted by the Census Bureau with U.S. residents about their fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching. It focuses on 2011 participation and expenditures of persons 16 years of age and older.
Wildlife-related recreation is fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching activities. These categories are not mutually exclusive because many individuals participated in more than one activity. Wildlife-related recreation is reported in two major categories: (1) fishing and hunting, and (2) wildlife watching, which includes observing, photographing, and feeding fish or wildlife.
According to the report, in 2011 3.1 million people participated in wildlife-related recreation in the state of Georgia, generating $4.6 billion for our economy.
Graphs and charts on this page are from the original report. The full report is available hereGeoriga Census


Money Icon2011 Georgia Quick Financials

  • $4.6 billion total spent on wildlife-related recreation in Georgia
  • $873 million spent in Georgia from fishing-related activities
  • $965 million spent in Georgia on hunting-related activities
  • $1.8 billion spent in Georgia on wildlife-watching activities

Pie chart showing 46% spent on trip-related cost, 5% on other, 49% on equipment expenses.

Fishing IconFishing in Georgia: $873 Million

Who fishes in Georgia, and how much do they spend?

  • 829,000 people 16 years and older spent a combined total of 8.7 million days fishing in the state of Georgia in 2011
    • 92% of anglers were state residents (764,000 people)
    • 8% of anglers were from out-of-state (65,000 people)
  • In total, residents and nonresidents combined spent an estimated total of $873 millionon fishing in the state in 2011
    • Trip-related expenditures (food, lodging, transportation): $402 million
    • Equipment: $430 million
    • Other items (magazines, membership dues, licenses, etc.): $41 million - 5% of all fishing expenditures
  • People spend almost three times as much per day on saltwater fishing as freshwater fishing ($114/day saltwater vs. $39/day freshwater)
  • 45% of the freshwater fish caught were black bass

Pie chart showing 50% spent on trip-related cost, 15% on other, 34% on equipment expenses.

Hunting IconHunting in Georgia: $965 Million

Who hunts in Georgia, and how much do they spend?

  • 309,000 people 16 years and older spent a combined total of 8.0 million days hunting in the state of Georgia in 2011
    • 75% of hunters were state residents (293,000 people)
    • 25% of hunters were out-of-state (98,000 people)
  • In total, residents and nonresidents combined spent an estimated total of $965 millionon hunting in the state in 2011
    • Trip-related expenditures (food, lodging, transportation): $487 million
    • Equipment: $329 million
    • Other items (magazines, membership dues, licenses, etc.): $149 million - 15% of all hunting expenditures
  • Hunters on average spent almost the same per day hunting big game as small game($44 big game vs. $40 small game), but the sample size of hunters hunting migratory birds and other animals was too small to report reliably
  • However, each individual hunter spent more than 1 1/2 times overall on their big game trips ($1,046 per trip) than on their small game trips ($674 per trip)
Bar chart depicting difference in spending between types of hunting

Pie chart showing 47% spent on trip-related cost, 4% on other, 49% on equipment expenses.

Watching IconWildlife-Watching in Georgia: $1.8 Billion

Who watches wildlife in Georgia, and how much do they spend?

Two wildlife-watching activities are reported: (1) away-from-home activities and (2) around-the-home activities. Because some people participated in more than one type of wildlife watching, the sum of participants in each type will be greater than the total number of wildlife watchers. Only those engaged in activities whose primary purposewas wildlife watching are included in the survey. Secondary wildlife watching, such as incidentally observing wildlife while pleasure driving, is not included.
  • 2.4 million people 16 years and older watched wildlife in Georgia in 2011
    • 86% of all wildlife watchers did so close to their home (2.1 million people)
    • 47% of all wildlife watchers traveled at least one mile from home to observe wildlife (1.1 million people)
    • (258,000 people) of away-from-home wildlife watchers were from out-of-state
  • In total, residents and nonresidents combined spent an estimated total of $1.8 billion on wildlife-watching in the state
    • Trip-related expenditures (food, lodging, transportation): $839 million
    • Equipment: $890 million
    • Other items (magazines, membership dues, plantings, etc.): $74 million - 4% of all wildlife-watching expenditures
  • The most popular around-the-home wildlife-watching activity is feeding wildlife (1.7 million people)
  • Georgians spent nearly 34.3 million days engaged in away-from-home wildlife-watching activities in their state
  • More people photographed wildlife while near their homes than while away from their homes (697,000 people at home, 657,000 away-from-home)
  • 753,000 people reported visiting parks and natural areas to observe wildlife

Wild Turkeys in Georgia.
Wild Turkeys in Georgia. Photo: Ernie Seckinger

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Update on Plan to Close Federal Hatcheries

We want to thank "The Outdoor Wire" for this newest update today (9/12/13)

Can Political Pressure Derail Feds' Effort To Cull Hatcheries?
There have been several new developments since we reported on Tuesday, September 3 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plans -- being kept well away from public and media scrutiny for fear of political backlash -- to shutter most if not all of the agency's mitigation hatcheries.

For more than a dozen years and under multiple administrations, agency hierarchy has pointed to budget constraints as the reason to shed the Congressionally mandated responsibility for mitigating the loss of native fisheries caused by the federal dams built in the past century.

Although FWS officials would not confirm these plans, insiders apparently contacted some media outlets in South Dakota as they began reporting that the historic D.C. Booth Hatchery, built in 1896 and home to the largest collection of freshwater aquatic research in the U.S., had received orders to close by Oct. 1.

The response to questions from The Outdoor Wire directed to several agency officials, like Laury Parramore, FWS Office of Communications, included statements like: "Leadership within the Service conducted an extensive review of propagation hatcheries within the NFHS to ensure we are best positioned to address the agency's highest priority aquatic resource needs now and into the future. Outcomes from the review are now guiding a decision-making process toward more strategic, priority-driven investments and operating our hatcheries within available funds."


Questions began surfacing about the agency's reasons for planning to close these facilities, considering the FWS's "FY 2014 Budget Request and Justification," included in President Obama's FY 2014 budget submitted to Congress on February 12, 2013. In this document the agency requested funding these facilities at the same level as in recent years, and no cuts were mentioned.

"The 2014 budget request for the National Fish Hatchery System Operations is $46,528,000 and 355 FTE, a net program change of -$172,000 and -3FTE from the 2012 Enacted," said Rick Nehrling, a 38-year veteran of the FWS, with 19 years overseeing southeastern U.S. hatcheries, "This statement informs us that all hatcheries - including the mitigation hatcheries - are fully funded."

Seems someone in FWS has some explaining to do, and if some members of Congress have anything to say about it, it won't be long.


The current climate in Washington D.C. is heated, as both sides of the aisle clash over cutting spending to try to stem the runaway deficits. Both sides agree wasteful spending must be curtailed, but neither will agree throwing out the baby with the bathwater is a prudent idea.

The 70 federal hatcheries support at least 3,500 jobs and have an annual economic impact of more than $325 million. These facilities lead to major economic advantages for the communities that house them, and are a beacon of sound government management. Besides the economic advantages, these provide the means to fulfill President Barak H. Obama's "2012 Great Outdoors Initiative," designed to increase and enhance outdoor recreation.

Yesterday (Sept. 11), Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Boozman (R-AR) - along with House members Rick Crawford, Doug Collins, Tom Cotton, Tim Griffin, Phil Roe and Steve Womack - sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell requesting for a 60-day delay in the implementation of any recommendations for closure of any national fish hatcheries or other plans, so the public could review them. (Editor's Note: You can read the letter here)

"It is our understanding that this study is soon to be released, along with decisions about hatchery closures," Alexander and his colleagues stated in the letter. "We are gravely concerned that Congress has not been consulted on the matter."

In another development, Sen. Tim Johnson, (D-SD), on Sept. 4 in a letter to Secretary Jewell requesting that the FWS "maintain funding for the D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery," and that he be apprised of the any decisions made about the status of the facility. Johnson, like Sen. Alexander, is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

It appears the FWS's plans to quietly eliminate these hatcheries from its overall responsibilities have surfaced - catching the attention of some mighty big fish in Congress, those with the ability to get to the bottom of what's really on the line.

As always, we'll keep you posted.

- Etta Pettijohn

Monday, September 9, 2013

Landon on the Nantahala

I fished the upper Nantahala (DH section) Saturday afternoon. Fishing was pretty good as they had stocked fish in the river for the holiday weekend but also caught plenty of holdovers and small wild rainbows and browns.  I fished the DH section on my Greys 11 ft. 3 wt. rod and boy was it fun!  Little fish bend that rod really well so long as they have a little room to run from the initial hookset.  It really made high-sticking the boulder fields just that much easier and more fun.  I fished a size 14 Hares ear soft hackle tied on a jig hook and a 16 "Frenchie" nymph with an orange hotspot.  The water came up, even on the DH section, as they were apparently releasing for a whitewater canoe championship down by the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).  

Sunday morning we fished the lower Nantahala down by the NOC and, man, was I surprised by the number and the size of the fish down there.  There were pods of fish everywhere that you could see and they are spooky as heck.  Those who do well with sight fishing would love this area.  It was a hands and knees or hiding behind the boulder affair for much of the time.  I could usually get 1-2 fish out of a pod before they shut down, excluding some of the deeper pockets.  I caught a handful of chunky 12-14- inch long rainbows as well as quite a few smaller wild fish.  Once the water comes up from the recreation release, you get out!  You can keep fishing but often it's from the bank or just a few steps to fish the many pockets near the bank that fish will hold in.  Also the side channels of the islands are very likely places to find fish.  

The same flies were working for me from the day before.  However, fish on the lower Nantahala act completely different than one would expect. When the flow increases from the recreation release, the majority of the fish suspend in the water column and are looking for food.  Dredging in the traditional sense is not nearly as effective as high-sticking with a fairly short leader with a light 6x tippet.  Many times it seems you almost have to drag the flies slightly faster than the current to keep them in the right zone and not under the holding depth of the trout.  Hits are usually very noticeable but also very quick.  Even with a quick reaction time, it still seems like you miss quite a few. It's a fun place to fish, except for a raft going by you every 2 minutes with some flatlander saying something along the lines of, "Catching anything?"

Your flatlander who wants to be a hillbilly


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Federal Fish Hatcheries On The Cutting Block Again

Well, here we go again.  The following email was received over the weekend.  Rick Nehrling is a retired USFWS Hatchery Coordinator for the Southeast Region (I'm sure I've bungled his actual title).  This will take a few minutes to scan through but well worth your time if you're an angler.

Hey Folks,

For awhile now I have heard rumblings about the Fish and Wildlife Service's Director Dan Ashe disobeying Congress again - and silently moving forward to close hatcheries with as little notice as possible to hatchery employees, State partners, Congress etc.  During this same time I have not heard anything from anybody in the Service about any proposed closures. 

Yesterday I heard from a retiree that  D.C. Booth Hatchery - Spearfish, South Dakota was one of several national fish hatcheries slated for closure effective Oct. 1, 2013.  The Service has owned and operated the DC Booth hatchery since 1896.  The hatchery provides numerous youth and public outreach programs, receives almost 160,000 visitors per year and 14,000 volunteer hours per year, and houses the only Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries archive comprised of approximately 175,000 objects related to American fish culture & management.

In checking out the internet I found the following August 29, 2013 article from the Fishing Wire: 

Officials of the D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, South Dakota may have spilled the beans on a plan by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to close many, if not all, of the nation's fish hatcheries on October 1, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year. USFWS officials have refused comment, saying they're "in the middle of a review process". April Gregory, Director of the Booth Society, the nonprofit fisheries friends group of the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archive sent The Outdoor Wire an email late yesterday afternoon saying that word from "reliable contacts in Washington, D.C." say the Booth Hatchery is one of "several" national fish hatcheries set for October 1, 2013 closure." According to Gregory, The Booth Society has "committed itself" to saving the hatchery which has been open since 1896. Our reliable sources tell The Outdoor Wire other hatcheries on the chopping block are "primarily located in the south." We will keep you posted. 

The comment that "other hatcheries on the chopping block are primarily located in the south" really piqued my interest and had me looking on the internet to see what other hatcheries are being proposed for closure on October 1, 2013.  I found the following August 28, 2013 press release from "The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council":

"Is USFWS closing National Fish Hatcheries October 1st?

Federal budget cuts are threatening to close the 117-year-old D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, a non-profit group that supports the hatchery said last week.

The hatchery is one of multiple fish hatcheries across the country targeted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is prioritizing other programs over the National Fisheries Program, according to the Booth Society Inc. The USFWS has not confirmed that a decision to close the hatchery has been made.

Even so, some officials say the USFWS plans to close many, if not all, of the nation's fish hatcheries on October 1, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year.

The federal government is planning to eliminate funding to nine Federal fish hatcheries in GA, TN, KY, UT, MO, ND, and AR, which will result in their closure. The closure of these hatcheries will have a lasting impact on local, State, and federal economies. These facilities also provide enormous ecological and social contributions to local and state communities. Nearly 7 million fish are stocked in waters across the country from only six of these hatcheries.

Planned hatchery closings

KENTUCKY- Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery
TENNESSEE- Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish hatcheries
GEORGIA- Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery
ARKANSAS- Norfork and Greers Ferry National Fish Hatcheries
MISSOURI-Neosho National Fish Hatchery
NORTH DAKOTA-Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery
UTAH- Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery

The economic impact is tremendous - over 3,000 jobs created and a total economic output of nearly $300 million dollars is generated by privately owned businesses selling food, lodging and supplies to trout fishermen. For every dollar spent on these fishery programs a return of $67 dollars is generated in the private sector, and for each tax dollar spent producing trout, $2.34 is returned to Washington in federal tax dollars generated from private business.

It is ironic that the USFWS is celebrating the 140th year of their fisheries program; the oldest program in the agency. They are celebrating this historic event by cutting the entire fisheries program by 12.4 million dollars. They are getting a 47.9 million dollar increase in their overall budget, but have chosen to spend that money on other programs and new programs, and scrap a program that brings revenue into the federal budget at a 2.3 to 1 ratio and supports over 3,000 jobs in the private sector!!!"

If these press clippings and press releases are true then folks within the Service need to stand up NOW and fight for your program.  You need to try and stop Dan Ashe from continuing to disobey Congress and the American public - and stop his efforts to dismantle the National Fish Hatchery System.
Folks need to advocate for each hatchery proposed for closure by writing, visiting and calling your US Senators and Representatives ASAP!  Also send a letter to Director Ashe and to The Secretary of the Interior.  Remember you do not have to be a resident of a particular State to write to that State's Senator or Representative.  It is very important for everybody to get involved and fight for the hatcheries - and the National Fish Hatchery System.  It is also very important for folks within the Service to stand up and fight for your program!

Rick Nehrling