Striped Bass Sets Coosawattee River Record
Most every striped bass caught in Georgia waters is spawned in a hatchery and stocked by WRD Fisheries personnel, but in the rolling stretch of the Coosa River from Rome to Lake Weiss there’s some natural reproduction of stripers. It’s a rare occurrence for landlocked populations of this anadromous species—fish that naturally migrate from the ocean to spawn in freshwater rivers.
Jackson Lance, of Calhoun, has had the pleasure of fishing the Coosawattee River for years. His parents have a riverside cabin on the river downstream of the Highway 411 bridge, and the property has a private ramp. A recent morning on the river was one the Lance family will never forget, producing numerous personal-best fish, including a new river record striper.
Big, hard-fighting striped bass do well in the many rivers of northwest Georgia, including in the upper reaches of these systems. The lower Coosawattee River is an approximately 25-mile run below the Carters Lake reregulation pool, which is a small 1,000-acre impoundment directly below Carters Lake used to store water that is pumped back into Carters Lake. From the regulation tailrace, the Coosawattee flows typically shallow and very clear down to where it meets the Conasauga River and they form the Oostanaula River, a tributary of the Coosa. Public access is limited in this stretch of the Coosawattee. There’s a ramp suitable for small boats at the tailrace of the reregulation pool, or a ramp down at the mouth of the river at the Highway 225 bridge near Calhoun.
This past Saturday, Jackson arranged for a fishing trip with guide Nathan Cooper. Also in the boat were Jackson’s 10-year-old son Jack Lance and friends Jesse Tennant and Braden Ashworth.
“We put in on the Coosawattee River at 7 a.m. from our family’s river cabin private boat ramp. Going upriver at 7 a.m. on the Coosawattee is worth the trip in itself, with the cool air over the water misting our faces and clothes on the way up, and seeing herons, wood ducks and a bald eagle,” said Jackson. “Once we reached the cold and turbulent water from the tailwaters of the dam, we started a slow drift back, hitting creek mouths and pockets.”
They were fishing with live gizzard shad under floats and on freelines.
“We all threw in and drifted our baits between the gnarly blowdowns and logs. At 8:05 a.m., WHAM! My friend Jesse hooks into and boats a 24-lb. striper to get the day started. Shortly after, my son boats a 20-lb. striper, his personal record, and then a 4-lb. spotted bass—a new personal record, too. I caught a 13-lb. striper, and on the way back to refuel at the ramp, Jesse lands another 5-lb. spot.”
“We get back to the ramp and decide to refuel and head upriver again to see if we can get one more big one to bite,” Jackson said. “At 11:40 a.m., I find myself fishing my favorite drift off the back of a big blowdown. It’s my favorite line, I’ve fished the same line for years. Everything felt right, and then I hook into the monster. The fish wrapped around a log or two, and it would take back every bit of slack as soon as it got on my reel. It was much more like a saltwater fight—reel down twice, drag singing, and a massive effort to pull the rod back up. Finally, at 11:52 a.m. we boat the behemoth with sighs of exhaustion and satisfaction as we knew we had established the new record.”
The fish hit in a stretch of the Coosawattee between the Carters Dam tailrace and the Highway 411 bridge.
Jackson weighed the striper on certified scales at a meat market, where it registered 30.80 pounds, which converts to 30-lbs., 12.8-ozs.
“To have my son Jack with me really made something special,” he said. “We will talk about that fish for the next 50 years, growing bigger each year, I’m sure! I have been chasing that fish for 10+ years now. To have caught that with my son and from my parents’ river cabin where we have played and enjoyed the river for the last 20 years was just so special. Jack is an upcoming 5th Grader at Christ the King Catholic School. He is my life and I am so glad that I get to share my love of the outdoors with him! This was his first time striper fishing with the guys.”
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