Chattahoochee River Brown Trout Stocking To Cease Permanently

Nick Carter | April 4, 2011

It’s official. Following six years of study, biologists with DNR have concluded that brown trout are reproducing in numbers significant enough to warrant a permanent cessation of brown trout stocking in the Chattahoochee River tailrace below Buford Dam.

DNR Fisheries Biologist Patrick O’Rouke said they’ve finished crunching all the numbers from a study that began in 2005, and the results clearly show the fishery would not benefit from a resumed stocking of brown trout.

The brown trout in the section of river between Buford and Morgan Falls dams will now be managed as a wild population. DNR will continue stockings of about 160,000 rainbow trout per year in this section.

“From what we’ve seen, we don’t see any reason to be stocking (browns),” said Patrick. “So that’s our plan.”

DNR began stocking trout in the tailrace in 1962, and for years afterward brown trout reproduction had been rumored. In 1998, the presence of wild, young-of-the-year browns was verified. Then in 2005, DNR temporarily stopped stocking brown trout in order to gauge the extent to which the fish were reproducing. The findings of the study leave no room for doubt.

In comparing results of electrofishing surveys for several years before and after the moratorium, catch rates remained stable or increased, brown trout continued to make up about 3/4 of the total trout population, and there was no shift in size structure of the brown trout population. Wild, reproducing browns are sustaining a fishery that’s the same, if not better, than when they were being stocked in the river.

Since that is established, Patrick is moving on to a tagging study, starting April 1, so managers will better understand the growth, age, diet and movement of brown trout as well as competition with stocked rainbows. Information from the study should help guide management of the fishery, including future regulations and stocking rates.

“Right now, we’re not married to any management plan,” said Patrick. “We’re going to let the science tell us how to go forward.”

A public meeting to present the findings of WRD’s Chattahoochee brown trout study will be held Thursday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area Headquarters in Roswell. For information, call Patrick O’Rouke at (770) 918-6418.

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