Georgia offers plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.
My grandfather passed away last fall, and as the family came together to share stories, the memories that stood out to me were of the times — the many times — that we went fishing.
Watching a slip bobber dart beneath the surface when the bluegill were spawning on the neighborhood lake, the lessons on everything from how to bait a hook to how to drive the boat, and coming home at dusk, exhausted but happy, to fry up the day's catch with my grandmother are great memories.
It was an easy thing for him — my grandfather loved to fish and had the time to spend with his grandchildren — but even if it takes a bit of effort, fishing with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, even the children of neighbors and friends, is worth it.
Luckily for Georgia residents, the Peach State is packed with easy, fun places to drop a line and catch a fish or two.
MORGAN FALLS DAM
Quite a few of the public parks around Atlanta have ponds where folks can dangle a worm from a bobber and spend a morning catching pint-size bream, which for most kids isn't a bad day of fishing. But those who want to try something a little more advanced should check out Morgan Falls Dam on the Chattahoochee River in Sandy Springs. Located at the very end of Morgan Falls Road, the dam has a small, metal fishing pier installed on the downstream bank, and anglers can also fish from the bank downstream from the pier.
This section of river has a smorgasbord of species for anglers to target, such as bream, largemouth bass and catfish. Yellow perch, trout, carp, crappie, bullhead and chain pickerel can also be found in these waters. Stripers even congregate in the cool waters of the dam's tailwater, especially during the warmer months. Stripers can be found in a range of sizes and may reach over 30 pounds. One thing to note; this section of the Chattahoochee is designated as trout waters, and anglers may not fish with live bait regardless of whether targeting trout or other species.
Along the Way
If the fish just aren't biting, turn around and head back up Morgan Falls Road to Morgan Falls Overlook Park. The park includes a sprawling playground with everything from slides and swings to a rock-climbing wall and a large spider web. There's also a short hiking trail, four charcoal grills, horseshoe pits and restrooms. And, fishing is allowed at the park.
Steel Canyon Golf Cub is now offering foot golf, played with a soccer ball on a golf course — just get the ball in the soccer ball-size hole with the fewest kicks possible. Adult rounds are $18, while kids under 15 cost the same number of dollars as they have years. Foot golf is available Monday through Friday all day and after 2 p.m. on weekends.
PARADISE FISHING AREA
Open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset, Paradise Public Fishing Area, located about 10 miles east of Tifton, is just about what the name describes. The 1,351-acre property has 525 acres of water, more than half of which is intensively managed for fishing.
Bank anglers can fish from three piers located in the picnic area or from along the shoreline of the 60 different lakes in the park. Folks can catch bream, bass, crappie and catfish in most of the lakes, but some have a reputation as better or worse for certain species. For bream, try Patrick, Paradise, Horseshoe 2, Beaver and Windy lakes, while for crappie Patrick, Russell and Horseshoe 2 are best. They even have a lake called Tacklebuster, named for its propensity to produce big bass.
Access to the lakes is free but keep in mind that anglers 16 and older will need a fishing license and a WMA license, or a GORP permit. Licenses, nor bait, are sold on-site, so be sure to get squared away before arriving.
Along The Way
Located in Tifton, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village consists of 35 carefully preserved or restored buildings that provide a taste of what life was like in Georgia in the 1800s.
Staff members perform daily activities in farmhouses, fields, a sawmill, turpentine still, schoolhouse, blacksmith's shop and a grist mill. Folks can also stop in at the GMA Country Store for locally grown preserves, peanuts and pecans, American-made toys and locally crafted merchandise. Weekday rates are $7 for adults and $4 for kids under 17, which jump to $10 and $5 on Saturdays.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND PIER
The St. Simons Island Pier, located in the middle of Pier Village, is an excellent destination for family fishing. The pier juts out into the Atlantic, one of only three ocean fishing piers on the Georgia coast, so anglers can catch a variety of species, including speckled seatrout, redfish and flounder. Sharks and manta rays are not uncommon and occasionally something more exotic, such as a toadfish is hauled up from the deep.
The pier is partially covered, and there are tray tables and water hoses along the railings for cleaning fish. For those needing bait or advice, St. Simons Bait and Tackle sits just 20 yards or so across the parking lot from the end of the pier. They also rent gear, but don't sell licenses, so be sure to get one beforehand.
Seabirds and storks are common visitors to the pier and huge cargo ships pass by almost daily, so even if the fishing is slow, there's plenty to look at and learn about.
Along The Way
What makes the St. Simons Pier such an attractive family fishing destination is that it's right at the end of the St. Simons Pier Village, which contains several blocks crammed full of restaurants and shops, including Yobe Frozen Yogurt and the St. Simons Sweet shop.
The kids may be particularly interested in adjacent Neptune Park, home to the Neptune Park Fun Zone, which includes an ocean side pool ($8 per person for a day pass and kids under 3 are free), a mini-golf course, and a free state-of-the-art playground.
Those who want to get out of the heat can visit St. Simons Island Lighthout to climb the 129 circular steps to the top or explore the museum housed in the original 1872 lightkeeper's house at the base.
At under 10 acres, Dockery Lake in Lumpkin County might be one north Georgia's best kept secrets. About 30 minutes north of Dhalonega, off Georgia Highway 60, this clear mountain lake is fed from chilly Waters Creek, running down Jacobs Knob along the Appalachian Trail.
The water is cold enough to support a trout population, and the lake is stocked with rainbows on a regular basis. Motors aren't allowed on the water, but anglers can fish from a canoe or other non-motorized craft, or anglers can cast from one of several platforms at the water's edge.
There is a short, .6-mile trail that goes around the lake, with a small waterfall down a side trail for some extra scenery. To make a weekend visit, consider reserving a spot at the campground, which boasts nearly a dozen sites with a flushing restroom facility.
Along The Way
If the fish aren't biting, consider taking the kids to Black Mountain Ponds, just up the highway in nearby Suches. This pay-to-play pond operation has three ponds, charging around $4 to $5 per pound for fish caught. They provide bait, rods and buckets for free, and will clean catches for no additional charge.
If tired of fishing, head down to Dahlonega for the afternoon to celebrate the city's history by panning for gold or wandering around the shops along the square, such as the Fudge Factory, Giggle Monkey Toys and the Dahlonega General Store.
Situated in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains sits a resort that provides a variety of family friendly activities, including both fishing for stream trout and lake bass. Guided trips can be reserved for one or two anglers for trout, or visitors can pursue big bass and bream in one of the numerous well-stocked ponds on the property, including the lake near the barn. The resort even provides complimentary equipment to guests, but the lakes are catch-and-release only.
Those who are new to the sport, or simply want to learn the art of fly-casting, can also obtain lessons for an additional fee before heading to the water. When not fishing, visitors can hike or bike the trails, eat in one of two restaurants, get a drink in the Beer Garden, walk around the Downing-inspired village, visit the museum or even the spa. The resort also has a sporting preserve — SpringBank Plantation — that provides quail and pheasant hunts, and lodges for spending the night, where folks can take advantage of the guest services, which provides turn-downs, a romantic fire in the fireplace and outdoor fire pits for roasting complimentary S'mores.
Along The Way
Along with Barnsley Resort and SpringBank Plantation, visitors in the area can also visit the city of Adairsville, which features a Norman Rockwell type town, along with featured events, such as the Great Locomotive Chase Festival and the Old Dixie Highway Yard Sale. A little south on I-75, sits a variety of museums that are great for youngsters, such as the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw and the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville. Kennesaw also holds the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, where folks can visit the museum or hike the countless trails, ranging from straight-and-easy to fairly difficult.