It is hard to imagine a place that can compete with the Peach State for its abundance and variety of fishing opportunities. Georgia holds 12,000 miles of warm water streams, 4,000 miles of trout water, more than 380,000 acres of major reservoirs and 100 miles of coastline. That is a lot of water for angling, and explains why the sport is so popular with the 829,000 Georgians who go fishing annually. Those anglers can choose to target bass, bream, crappie, trout and a host of other fish in freshwater, or a plethora of saltwater species on the coast. But, when it comes time for a family fishing outing, all waters are not created equal. Some are much better suited for taking the kids fishing. Such destinations need to offer a good chance of hooking a fish or two, regardless of size. They also need to provide an atmosphere that is fun for youngsters.
BLACK ROCK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Black Rock Mountain State Park is located between Clayton to the south and Dillard to the north in northeast Georgia. This 1,743-acre facility holds the distinction of being the Peach State's highest altitude park, with the peak of Black Rock Mountain topping out at 3,640 feet. It also is revered for its fantastic 80-mile vista from the visitor center.
On the other hand, the park also has a lesser-known asset in 17-acre Black Rock Lake, which sits at a lower altitude. From March through July each year the lake receives monthly stockings of rainbow trout, offering a rare still-water opportunity for targeting these fish. Since this is a drive-up fishery requiring no wading or backcountry hiking to get to the water, it is a great place for youngsters to catch their first trout. Additionally, the entire lake is ringed by a cleared walking path, making access easy. The lake also harbors largemouth bass and bluegill to provide angling fun in the summer.
The park has 10 cabins, 38 RV and tent sites, 11 walk-in sites and four backcountry campsites. Those latter sites are positioned along the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail that circles through the park, and provides another great panorama from a cliff on Lookoff Mountain. Four additional trails offer walks to mountain views, waterfalls, or treks amid the native wildflowers and foliage.
Other amenities are two picnic shelters, picnic tables at the mountaintop, a playground and gift shop in the visitor center. The park also offers the opportunity for geocaching.
Along The Way: For a very convenient side trip, the 106-acre Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center is located on the approach road to the state park. Foxfire's mission is to preserve and develop appreciation for the history, people and traditions of Southern Appalachia. They strive to achieve that goal through exhibits of artifacts, oral history and programs to interpret, document and celebrate the region. The Foxfire Center is open daily, except Sunday, with an entry fee required.
MOCCASIN CREEK STATE PARK
Positioned on the shores of Lake Burton to the north of the town of Clarkesville, Moccasin Creek State Park offers several fishing options for families. The entire family can utilize the five docks along the shores of the lake, including three that are specifically for angling. Brush piles have been places within casting distance of these structures to improve the chances of catching fish. The lake holds a good population of spotted bass, along with bream, yellow perch and largemouth bass.
The final couple of hundred yards of Moccasin Creek that course through the park before emptying into Lake Burton are stocked weekly with trout from March until Labor Day. This stretch of stream is restricted to angling by senior citizens over 65 years of age and youngsters 12 and under. Two fishing docks overlook the creek providing easy access to the trout.
For those without fishing tackle, Moccasin Creek is part of the state park fishing tackle loaner program. The gear is available from the park office.
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The park has 32 RV and tent campsites, along with a pavilion, playground, picnic area and boat ramp on the 2,800-acre lake. Stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes can be rented as well.
For a more strenuous walk, the park has more than three miles of hiking trails. The Nature Trail is a loop that features a wildlife-viewing tower. The Hemlock Falls Trail leads to its namesake waterfall, as it parallels the creek.
Along the Way: Across the creek from the park, the Lake Burton Trout Hatchery allows self-guided walking tours amid the raceways holding the fish. Signage along the way explains how the trout-rearing process works.
This facility also has several family fishing ponds on its grounds that are teeming with bluegill. Though the kids are unlikely to catch any big fish from these waters, dropping a hook baited with a worm is virtually guaranteed to produce a fish.
CHARLIE ELLIOTT WILDLIFE CENTER
The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield is ideal for the family that wants to "rough it" for a vacation, but have plenty of activities to fill their days. This 6,400-acres tract offers only primitive campsites on a first-come, first-served basis at no charge, but the list of things to do is extensive.
For angling, the Marben Public Fishing Area is contained on the grounds and is composed of 20 ponds. Those bodies of water range from 1 acre to 95 acres in size. All are intensively managed for fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, crappie and redear sunfish (shellcrackers). Many have fish attractors made of PVC pipes locate close to shore to improve the odds for bank fishermen. Many of the ponds also have ramps for launching boats.
Additionally, Dove Pond is heavily stocked with catfish from June to August and open only to anglers under the age of 16. A special five-catfish limit is imposed on that lake.
When not fishing, the Elliott Center provides plenty of other opportunities for adventure. There are 5.4 miles of hiking trails and a 5.7-mile multi-use hiking, biking and horseback riding trail on the property. The ponds are open to canoeing, kayaking and boating. There also are pistol, rifle and shotgun shooting ranges, as well as a 3-D archery range.
Other options are nighttime visits to the astronomy viewing field for programs by the Charlie Elliott Astronomy Club, birdwatching for the roughly 200 species that frequent the property, or checking out the visitor center and museum.
The museum features displays and interactive exhibits about wildlife and Charlie Elliott, for whom the facility was named. He was Georgia's first state parks director, the first director of what is now the Department of Natural Resources and was the Commissioner of Natural Resources. He also was a field editor for Outdoor Life magazine for five decades.
Along The Way: For an interesting side trip, just outside the wildlife center on State Route 11 stands Preaching Rock, which also is known as Dows Pulpit. This natural rock formation is, in fact, shaped like a pulpit. From its top, the Rev. Lorenzo Dow, known as the "walking evangelist," preached the first sermon in Jasper County in 1805. Today the rock bears a plaque explaining its history.
RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
For families in the Metro Atlanta area, Red Top Mountain State Park near Cartersville offers the opportunity for a fun-filled angling "staycation" close to home. This 1,776-acre facility sits on the shores of 11,860-acre Allatoona Lake, which is noted for its spotted and hybrid bass fishing. Other species folks are likely to catch are channel catfish and crappie. Probably more important to youngsters, the shoreline also teems with hungry bream. A number of places in the park have cleared banks to make fishing easier with youngsters.
Accommodations in the park are plentiful, consisting of 18 rental cabins, 36 RV, trailer or tent sites, one yurt and 52 walk-in campsites. There also are seven picnic shelters and two boat ramps.
When the kids — and adults — need a break from the angling, there's a host of activities to keep everyone busy. The park features a sand beach for swimming, along with three playgrounds. It also contains 16.5 miles of trails for hiking. Among those is the Visitor Center Loop Trail that is paved for strollers or wheelchairs, and the half-mile Lakeside Trail that features the pioneer Vaughn Cabin exhibit. The four-mile Iron Hill Bike Trail is provided for mountain biking.
Additionally, the park has a miniature golf course, archery range, pickle ball and tennis courts, as well as geocaching. Two boat docks are on site to accommodate boating and waterskiing.
Along The Way: Nearby is a new, non-contiguous portion of the park that takes in the historic Allatoona Pass Battlefield. In 1864, a Confederate division under Gen. Samuel French attacked the Union garrison protecting the Western & Atlantic Railroad that ran through the pass. A walking trail with signage now offers a view of the battlefield.
FORT MCALLISTER STATE HISTORIC PARK
For a different kind of family fishing, Fort McAllister State Historic Park in Richmond Hill offers saltwater action for the family. This park covers 1,725 acres situated on the shores of the Ogeechee River.
The park has a dedicated fishing dock that is wheelchair accessible. The structure stretches out into the Ogeechee River, offering chances to battle with redfish, seatrout and a number of other saltwater species. Youngsters can drop a line baited with shrimp down around the dock posts to catch croakers, grunts, pinfish and silver perch (usually referred to as yellowtails on the Georgia coast).
It also is possible to reach the shoreline for some fishing at the boat ramp and boat dock that are on the Ogeechee. Additionally, there is a boat ramp and dock in the campground along Redbird Creek.
Fort McAllister has seven rental cabins, along with 56 RV, trailer and tent sites. Two picnic shelters, a playground and 4.3 miles of hiking trails along Redbird Creek also are available in the park.
For a historical adventure, visit the park's earthen fortifications of Fort McAllister that guarded the Ogeechee River during the Civil War. A museum offers regular presentations of a film describing the fort's history, as it withstood naval bombardments throughout the conflict. Additionally, cannons from the period are on display around the visitor center.
The park is a part of the Colonial Coast Birding Trail, providing opportunities for viewing sea and wading birds. Other activities are biking, geocaching and boating on the river.
Along The Way: The Richmond Hill Wildlife Management Area is in close proximity to Fort McAllister and offers a shooting range, as well as a 3-D archery range. Additionally, it provides another boat ramp and room for bank fishing.
Birders have the chance of making sightings of swallow-tailed kites on the area. These birds are rarely seen in Georgia, but do frequent this tract. Alligators can also be spotted in the brackish backwaters of the WMA.
SUMMING IT UP
Whether you prefer to stay close to home or have the desire to roam farther around the Peach State, the Georgia State Parks System offers many destinations for family fishing vacations, ranging from trout fishing in the North Georgia mountains, through the Piedmont and Coastal Plains for warm water species, or even destinations on the coast for saltwater action.