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.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Your Shot at the Georgia Bass Regulations

GAWRD has proposed significant changes to the agency’s black bass regulations in an effort to conserve our native species.  
We anglers have an opportunity to comment on this proposal before a May 27th deadline. All of us can also tune into a virtual public meeting on May 21st at 7PM to learn more about the proposal.  Details here:


Please take advantage of your opportunity to participate in the regulations process.

Recently a bass angler asked UO staffer Dredger what he thought about the proposal. We’re sharing their conversation with y’all.  Hopefully you will find it helpful as you form your own opinions regarding this WRD initiative and then share them with your state wildlife agency.

UO friend Shae:

“Dredger, as a retired fish biologist, how do you feel about the proposed changes? Do you think they can help protect endemic black bass species in GA?”

Dredger’s reply:

“Thanks for asking. Here are my two cents now as a “consumer” with a bit of knowledge of fishery management.

My initial thoughts are that these proposed regs will benefit those targeted bass pops and also enhance the sport fishery for folks who don’t mind releasing fish. I’m one of them.

But I won’t “vote” to WRD till I see the details. I wanna see the fish data summaries to support the regs (the biological factor) and hopefully hear about their implementation plans (the social factor: angler acceptance and compliance)

Hopefully both will come via the May 21 online meeting. I encourage all of you to attend that!

The biological data for the 15 inch minimum and the slot will be interesting. You gotta have that basic biology for a special reg to have a chance at working. Too many “feel good” fishing regs fail because the basic fish biology (growth and mortality rates) prevents their success.

After that, you gotta have angler compliance. Most must be voluntary buy-in and some is enforced. And you get compliance by education first and some warden tickets afterward.

Education can highlight the species differences so us angler-folks understand. And it looks like all these other species have smaller jaws than a largemouth (“small jaws equal throwbacks”). That’s been a basic bass reg for years. If anglers can’t learn to close a jaw and line it up to the eye and decide, they should not fish for bass. They can read speed limit signs and stop at red lights, right?

The only challenge might be telling spots/bamas from the other “redeye” flavors. Hopefully WRD will have a good plan there to help both anglers and wardens. Spots might get underharvested a bit, but that’s a small price to pay for the benefit to the “redeye” species.

By the way, creel limits typically don’t have huge effects on a fishery. Most anglers simply don’t catch their limits. In contrast, size limits affect each fish fondled and have more effects on fish populations.

In terms of LE, DNR typically has a break-in period for a new regulation, where non-compliers are warned and informed (educated). After that educational grace period, then hard tickets are given to the lawless.

That’s what I’m hoping for.

One last and very important thing to consider: DNR is trying to make things better. Let’s not miss sight of that fact and get too deep in the weeds on minor stuff that we think isn’t perfect.

Ask yourselves: Overall, does this proposal make progress, both from a species conservation standpoint and sport fishery standpoint? I’m thinking that it will, and hope that the May 21 meeting will confirm my view.

And then I will respond to WRD that I support it, and say “THANKS, WRD, for trying. I’ll do my part to help it succeed.” And have my stealth bomber ready for some chunkier Hooch shoalies!!!

Hope this helps the conversation. Other views welcomed and respected.”

What’s your own view? Get informed and then share your thoughts with GAWRD before May 27. Let’s all work with WRD to make fishing and aquatic resource conservation better in our home state. Tight lines as we approach the start of our summer river bass season.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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