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Bear Creek Reservoir Getting Closer to Opening to Anglers

A boat ramp could be coming soon, which would open up public access to a lake stocked way back in 2002 with F1 largemouth by WRD.

GON Staff | June 22, 2007

Long-awaited public access for fishing boats at Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County could soon become a reality.

The Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority (UOBWA) is designing a boat ramp off Hwy 330 to allow public access for boats with electric motors to the 505-acre reservoir near Athens. Construction could be completed as early as the end of the summer, said Keith Lee, recreation director for the project.

“I would love for it to be finished by the end of the summer,” Keith said. “We’re in drought conditions, the lake’s down and it’s the ideal time for installation.”

There are still some hurdles to overcome before construction begins. Keith said there are still multiple permits to apply for, and funding for the ramp has not yet been secured.

The reservoir was constructed to provide water for a five-county area in 2000, and it was stocked by DNR with F1-strain bass and forage species to create a trophy-bass fishery. The projected date for opening the lake to the public was 2002, but the events of September 11 raised security concerns and access was held off.

Currently, public fishing is allowed from the bank for property owners around the lake and for the public at a 2-acre public area off of Hwy 330. There is a protective 16- to 22-inch slot limit for bass with a 10-fish per day maximum.

According to Reggie Weaver, a DNR fisheries biologist, harvest of bass was included in the management plan for the fishery, and the extremely limited harvest because of a lack of fishing pressure has negatively impacted plans for growing trophy bass at the reservoir. However, he said there is a healthy population of bass in the 12- to 17-inch range, and the original objective is not out of reach.

“Our concerns have been, without a significant harvest, we might not be able to reach that objective of trophy-size fish. You want high harvest rates to reduce numbers to improve growth rates of bass,” Reggie said.
“We sampled the lake, and things are fine — plenty of fish, ready to fish. We saw a big population of largemouth, crappie, bream and catfish. There’s a lot of fish moving into that protected-slot-size group of 16 to 22 inches.

“A lot of harvest would help it, harvest of fish below that slot limit.”

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