Rocky Mountain PFA Managed For Better Bass Fishing

Good habitat and an innovative quality-bass program make this a good northwest Georgia bass-fishing location.

Kevin Dallmier | August 1, 2004

Some of northwest Georgiaʼs best fishing is the direct result of what can only be described as a sweetheart deal for Georgia sportsmen. Rocky Mountain Recreation and Public Fishing Area, located north of Rome in Floyd County, is part of Georgia DNRʼs Public Fishing Area (PFA) program. Because of the intensive management and TLC they receive, all PFAs provide good fishing. What makes Rocky Mountain such a bargain though is that it comes at no cost to Georgia taxpayers.

The PFA is located on Plant Rocky Mountain, a pumped-storage hydropower development owned and operated by Oglethorpe Power Corp. (OPC).

The recreational aspects of the project are operated by DNR under contract with OPC. The company built all the facilities, provided for all the startup costs to open the area, and provides the funding for DNRʼs operation of the area.

Since its opening to the public in 1997, the PFAʼs nearly 5,000 acres have proven to be extremely popular with anglers and hunters along with a healthy crowd taking advantage of the well-maintained camping and picnic facilities, hiking trails, archery range, and swimming beach.

The focal point of the PFA is the two lakes open to the public. The auxiliary pools, which serve as makeup water for the power plant in times of drought, consist of 357-acre Antioch Lake, which is divided into two sub-impoundments (Antioch East and Antioch West), and 202-acre Heath Lake. Access to both lakes is excellent with paved boat ramps and parking, restroom facilities, and shoreline fishing jetties. There are no horsepower limitations on either lake. Instead, an idle speed only restriction on both lakes serves to restrict use to primarily fishing. That fact alone should make it high on your list of summertime fishing holes.

After a summer day on Rocky Mountain, the only bodily harm may be a sunburn and skinned thumb from lipping bass instead of a green complexion and blown temper from fighting the boat wakes all day long.

Bass fishing is one of the most popular pastimes at Rocky Mountain. Anglers have their choice of two different lakes to fish, both somewhat different in the type of fishing they provide and the management scheme for each.

Antioch Lake is open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year. The lake is divided by a road causeway, making it basically two lakes in one. Anglers shouldnʼt have any problem moving from one to the other because of a boat tunnel that connects the two sub-impoundments.

Antioch West is my personal favorite of the areaʼs three fishing lakes. The lakeʼs 203 acres have an average depth of 14 feet with a maximum depth of 29 feet.

Forty-four percent of the lake is 10-feet deep or less. There are a few acres of standing timber scattered around, but for the most part, this lake is a structure fishermanʼs dream. If you like to crank or worm humps, dropoffs, and deep rocks and brush, this lake is for you.

There is plenty of good cover on the banks, too, but the best fishing is offshore. One large fish attractor near the boat ramp is marked with a buoy and always is worth a few casts. The best locations though require a little sleuthing to find. Before impoundment, rock piles were constructed near all of the shoreline fishing jetties. Most of the piles are in 10 to 15 feet of water. The rocks always hold fish. A medium-diving crankbait like a Fat Free Shad in a shad or chartreuse pattern is a good bait for prospecting for the piles. When you feel one, slow down and just bump the crankbait over the rock pile. Hold on tight because this is where the big ones live, and when they strike, they arenʼt kidding around. Strikes come hard and fast and if you snooze, you lose. Hesitate, and the fish will get you down in the rocks in a heartbeat.

Never leave a rock pile before making at least a few casts with a worm or jig, too. The crankbait will pick off the most aggressive fish, but there are usually a few not quite willing to hit a crankbait but unable to turn down a worm inched along right in front of their noses. Leave the standard six-inch worms in the tackle bag, unless conditions are really tough. Everybody fishes those. Tie on a 10-inch worm, and give the fish a different look.

You may lose out on a few strikes from smaller fish, but you are going to improve your chances for quality strikes. Give them a look at something they arenʼt used to seeing and big enough to interest them in having it for supper.

One last trick for making the most of the rock piles is just like in the real-estate business, the key is location, location, location. Fish the pile from all angles. The more time you spend fishing the piles, you will discover that the fish orient to them in different ways. Sitting deep and casting shallow is not always the best route to go.

Besides the rock piles around the fishing jetties, there are several other places to try. The area of the lake near the beach has some good drops. These areas are small though, so it will take some work to find them. Just past the beach off the campground is a large flat. The flat drops off from about five to 15 feet in the middle of the lake. This whole area is good to try. Fish can be up on the flat on isolated pieces of cover, or more likely, holding along the drop. A Little George is a good lure for this area. You can throw it a country mile, work it fast, feel what is on bottom, and cover some territory.

The east side of Antioch Lake is deeper. This part of the lake covers 154 acres and has a maximum depth of 48 feet. The average depth is 16 feet, with 34 percent of the lake 10- feet deep or less. There are a few acres of standing timber in one of the lakes two main coves. The north side of the lake has some very shallow flats, while the south side drops off very quickly in most places. Again, look for the rock piles off the jetties. There arenʼt as many as on Antioch West, but there are a few. The jetty on the right as you head out from the boat ramp has some good rock piles. Directly across from that jetty is a point. WRD has constructed fish attractors consisting of rock, PVC pipe and Christmas trees off the point. A little searching will reveal their location.

Following the shoreline east will bring you to another cove. There is a roadbed that crosses the mouth of this cove. The roadbed has been sweetened with fish attractors. Too, bulldogging your way back into the standing timber on the right side of this cove is worth the effort. This part of the cove holds good depth, and with all the fallen and broken-off timber it has plenty of cover. The rest of the lake, especially the south bank, is sort of hit-and-miss. There are some good holes, but they are small, hard to find, and may hold fish one day and not the next.

The rip-rap is always good for a few fish, especially very early in the morning with a buzzbait.

The one-two combination of a crankbait and worm is hard to beat on Antioch East just like on Antioch West. Use the crankbait as a search bait, and use the worm to pick off the last few tentative fish from any deep cover you find.

On both sides of Antioch Lake, the summer thermocline is usually around 13-feet deep. Fish below the thermocline, and you are wasting your time. There is no oxygen there, so not surprisingly, there arenʼt any fish either.

A good depthfinder should pick up the thermocline. Get over deep water, turn up the sensitivity until you start to see some steady noise and clutter at a consistent depth, and you have found the thermocline. Look for offshore structure that intersects this depth, and you have found the best places to fish.

The other fishing lake at Rocky Mountain PFA is Heath Lake. This 202-acre lake is a bass fishermanʼs dream with all sorts of cover to fish, from standing timber to weedlines to deep rockpiles. The lake has a maximum depth of 24 feet, average depth of nine feet, 58 acres of flooded timber, and 57 percent of the lake is less than 10-feet deep.

Heath Lake is specially-managed to provide high catch rates of quality-size fish. The goal of the management regime is a bass population with good numbers of quality fish that arenʼt used to seeing a lure pass over their heads from sunup to sundown every day of the week.

The minimum length limit on largemouth bass is 18 inches, and the lake is only open to angling from sunrise to sunset the first seven calendar days of each month. Facilities are limited to a paved boat ramp and parking, a privy, a few picnic tables, and shoreline fishing jetties.

Heath Lake has enough options that you can fish just about any way you would like. For the worm-and- crankbait fan, try the rockpiles found near all of the fishing jetties. Another good choice is the WRD-constructed fish attractor north of the boat ramp. This attractor is a large one and is marked by a buoy. The attractor consists of large piles of Christmas trees situated on the edge of a creek channel. Surrounding the main attractor are numerous PVC structures scattered around in a circular pattern, some several cast lengths away from the main attractor.

Early and late in the day, a buzzbait or Fluke worked through the standing timber is a good choice. Fishing the edge of the weeds with the same lures can also be productive.

A good area to try is to head down the lake to the small island and then bear right. At the very back of this cove is a shallow flat covered in weeds. On the right-hand side of the flat, a small creek enters the lake. A cast up into the mouth of this creek is almost guaranteed to draw a strike.

Follow the creek channel out toward deeper water casting a shallow-running crankbait. There are some isolated stumps along this channel.

Other consistent producers are the several large beaver huts found on the lake. Throw a worm with a pegged sinker around the beaver hut and retrieve it slowly allowing plenty of time to work it down into the openings.

Even though the timber has been submerged for about 12 years now, it is still thick in most places. Fighting your way back into the timber often pays rewards as more casual anglers will just pick around the edges instead of bushwacking their way into it to fish for bass that rarely ever see a lure.

The summer thermocline on Heath Lake can be as shallow as seven or eight feet during the heat of the summer. Many of the attractors top out several feet below that, so the standing timber becomes an attractive option since it offers a whole range of depths to fish.

Rocky Mountain offers something for all anglers. Crappie are abundant, but typical of small lakes, most fish will run average sized. Taking home the makings for a fish fry shouldnʼt be too difficult to do, but there will likely be some culling involved.

Bream fishing is very good for numbers of filleting-size fish. The bull bream spend most of their time in deep water and are often hard to find, but any shoreline cover is going to be full of scrappy bream just right for making a great trip for the kids.

Finally, although hybrids havenʼt been stocked in several years, there are still holdovers caught occasionally, some in the 10-lb. range.

Instead of fighting the crowds this summer, try some small-lake fishing at Rocky Mountain Recreation and Public Fishing Area. The two fishing lakes open to the public have all the conveniences of a major reservoir, but none of the hassles. Just the right combination for a great day of fishing in northwest Georgia.

Besides the two fishing lakes, there are two operating pools present. These are strictly off-limits due to operational reasons and the fact they basically drain and fill daily. At times of high power demand, water flows from the operating pool on top of the mountain, through the turbines, and into the lower operating pool. Water flow at full operation is about 130,000 gallons per second. During times of low power demand, the turbines are reversed and they pump the water back to the top of the mountain. Not exactly somewhere you want to be casting your line when they open the faucet.

Area rules, regulations, and creel limits are posted at the entrances to the area and at the boat ramps as well. A WMA stamp is not required to fish at Rocky Mountain PFA, but all vehicles parked on the area must have a daily parking permit, available at the entrances. For frequent visitors, an annual parking pass is available. For details, click here.


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