Blue Ridge WMA Trout “Thieves” At Large
Kids Outdoor Outpost July 2018
The soft churning of a mountain stream. The search to find the perfect “hole” to run a spinner or toss some PowerBait through. The sharp bend of the rod as a flash appears from seemingly nowhere to run with your line. The feeling of accomplishment as you bring this twisting and flipping creature to the bank. The satisfaction of a well-framed photo to share with friends or the incredible light taste of the meat that has been slathered in butter with a shake of salt and pepper.
Georgia trout anglers flock to our mountain streams to experience all of this and more for themselves throughout the year. What a fantastic and satisfying journey. There are four trout hatcheries in our state that raise trout, most of them rainbows from fingerlings to “stocker” size that are fed in to these mountain streams.
Early last month, someone got into the Chattahoochee Fish Hatchery in Blue Ridge WMA and turned off the large valve that allowed fresh, cold water to run through their environment. It’s the trouts’ lifeblood. Without this water, they would not survive, and 51,000 of those trout did not. Valued at more than $62,000, these trout were effectively stolen from our fishermen.
Built in 1937, the hatchery raises more than 1 million fish each year that are used to stock our streams.
Only a month earlier, I had the pleasure of fishing near this hatchery and some of the surrounding streams. My friends and I hooked several of these trout, which ended up as part of our “surf and turf” meal that evening. I can tell you that marinated venison backstrap accompanied by some fresh Georgia mountain trout done over a fire is an experience that you should enjoy at least once in your life.
You may remember that I covered this trip in last month’s column. I never suspected that in just a few short weeks an incident killing more than 50,000 fish would soon be unfolding. Whether this was an act done on a dare, mischief or planned intent, this crime is a felony. Fortunately, our mild winter and plentiful spring rains allowed for ample breeding of trout in the other three hatcheries that will provide plenty of continued fishing opportunities in our mountain tributaries.
As of this writing, the perpetrator(s) had not yet been located by local authorities. Administrators at the hatcheries indicate that access to the valve has now been locked and is off limits. Hopefully, an incident like this will never happen again.