This 11,860-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment of the Etowah River is 30 miles north of Atlanta. Allatoona features convenient boat ramp access and parking, as well as camping opportunities. The lake receives heavy use from boaters, skiers and anglers given its close proximity to Atlanta.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: ph. 678-721-6700; Red Top Mountain State Park: ph. 770-975-4222
Through a joint project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wildlife Action and local businesses and anglers, Fisheries Section personnel with the Wildlife Resources Division help construct man-made fish habitat (often in the form of fish attractors) for various lakes throughout the state. These constructions help serve the purpose of providing underwater habitat for fish.
Locate Lake Allatoona's fish attractors here by viewing available pdf maps (updated 2013) and heeding biologists helpful tips.
Fish attractor data (updated Oct. 2014) for this reservoir is available for you to upload into your fishfinder or other GPS devices, or view in free online mapping applications. The data is compatible with many brands including Lowrance, Humminbird, Garmin and Magellan to name a few.
SPOTTED BASS, HYBRID STRIPED BASS, WHITE BASS & CRAPPIE
Though far less abundant than spotted bass, largemouth will typically weigh-in at larger sizes. The average fish will be around 1 pound, with a few reaching more than 5 pounds in size. Largemouth abundance may be slightly better than average this year due to favorable high water conditions two years ago and a couple strong year classes of young fish moving into the ranks. As such, anglers may land a few more largemouth in the 12-16 inch size range this year compared to years past.
Artificial baits vary from season to season, but spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs, swimbaits or plastic worms are all good baits to throw for largemouth. Live minnows or small bream are also good "go-to" baits for anglers wishing to use natural offerings.
Anglers searching for largemouth should target the shallow coves and backwaters in the Little River, Etowah and Allatoona Creek areas of the reservoir. This is where some of the better largemouth habitat can be found in the lake. Largemouth may also be found holding in the numerous shoreline habitat improvement sites scattered around the lake. More than 1,000 shoreline trees have been toppled throughout the lake since 2007 as a means of improving bass habitat.
Spotted bass are the dominant black bass species at Allatoona - making up 80 to 90 percent of the black bass population. The spot fishery is typically characterized by high catch rates of relatively modest-sized individuals. However, a better than normal crop of spotted bass >14 inches in length was noted in WRD surveys last year. Therefore, in addition to good numbers, anglers may see an "up-tick" in the size of spotted bass landed in 2015.
Recent genetic analysis of the Allatoona "spotted" bass population confirmed these are Alabama "spotted" bass, which tend to grow to larger adult size than the closely related Kentucky spotted bass. While larger 4-5 pound spotted bass are caught each year, these older "veteran" fish are not commonplace at Allatoona.
Drop-shot rigs with small baits like a 4-inch zoom tiny fluke or robo worm, or vertical jigging spoons (flex-it or hopkins shorty's) are both excellent approaches to targeting spots year-round. Live minnows are also a great means for consistently hooking-up with Allatoona's spotted bass year-round. In the cooler months of spring and fall, when spots can be feeding aggressively, use more reactive baits like shallow to medium diving crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, or even larger swimbaits. In addition to these baits, fall anglers can try senko baits in light, natural colored patterns. Wintertime anglers may provoke spots to hit using subtle float-and-fly rigs that imitate a dying minnow. Traditional shad patterned crankbaits retrieved over rocky shorelines is another good winter spotted bass bait.
Spotted bass tend to remain in deeper habitats than largemouth. Spots will however, move to shallow depths during their April-May spawning period. In summer, try fishing in and around the more than 40 deepwater fish attractor locations placed in the reservoir by DNR, the Corps of Engineers, and their volunteers. These fish attractors are best fished from spring through fall. In fall, the key to success will be locating schooling shad in creek mouths. Find shad and hungry spotted bass will be found nearby. With the onset of winter, spots are again deep. Target steep bluff rock walls and large chunk-rock shorelines for wintertime spotted bass action.
Hybrid striped bass fingerlings are stocked in this lake annually. Recent DNR sampling shows hybrid striped bass abundance remains good, but their numbers have come down from the all-time highs seen over the last decade. The average hybrid will weigh 2-3 pounds. A fair number of 4-5 pound fish in the 18-20 inch range will be available this year. Older, larger hybrids will top out in the 7-8 pound range, but fish of this caliber may be less common in comparison to years past.
White or shad-patterned spinners, spoons, jigs or crankbaits will produce hybrids, but serious hybrid anglers will slow troll with 4-6 inch live shad, trout (winter time), or shiners on simple surface free-line or down-line rigs. During fall, winter, and spring, live shad remain very effective, but trolling umbrella rigs or vertical jigging with spoons can make for a good "white fish" outing. In the heat of the summer, shad-colored inline spinners are great for targeting hybrid schools actively busting the waters surface in the pursuit of you shad. For the bank angler, winter hybrids can be caught using cut shad fished on the bottom near Allatoona dam.
Hybrids can be found anywhere in the main lake chasing shad, but the mile of water above and below Galt's Ferry boat ramp is a year-round hot spot for hybrids. Hybrid fishing is available year-round, but is best for numbers during the heat of summer. Low summer dissolved oxygen in Allatoona's depths typically concentrates hybrids in the 20-30 foot depth range. While summer is good for numbers, winter hybrid fishing is typically characterized by catches of larger individuals. Spring hybrid action is best in the southern half of the lake (south of Allatoona Pass) and the Etowah flats near Little River in the northern reaches of Allatoona. Anglers traveling into the Etowah River above Allatoona in April and May are often treated to big hybrid catches as the fish make their mock spawning run into the lower reaches of the river.
Striped bass abundance at Allatoona is typically modest. Allatoona's warm summer water temperatures limit the number of stripers the lake can support. As such, the species is stocked at low levels, meant to provide anglers with the added chance to catch a larger lineside species in a lake dominated by hybrid striped bass. Striped bass abundance has been below average in recent years. A combination of poor stocked fingerling survival and the severe drought conditions experienced regionally in 2007 and 2008 contributed to decreased abundance of young and old fish alike. However, the number of large stripers has been slowly increasing with time. 2015 should see more fish over 20 pounds being caught and a few of those may break the 30 pound mark.
Though striper fishing techniques abound, slow trolling live shad, shiners, or trout (winter time) on free-lines or weighted down-line rigs is a favored approach to consistent catches at Allatoona. Striper fishing is best from October-June when water temperatures are relatively cool. Though stripers may feed at anytime, concentrate your efforts during the early to mid-morning hours to maximize your chance of encountering actively feeding fish. Anglers fishing into the late morning and afternoon may consider a switch from live bait to umbrella rigs (U-rigs), slow-trolled from a boat. U-rigs imitate a school of bait fish and allow an angler to cover a lot of water in search of hungry stripers later in the day.
Stripers are best pursued from a boat. In winter, the stripers will primarily be in the main body of the lake between the dam upstream to the Little River area of the lake. They will migrate to the upper reaches of the lake, where the Etowah River enters, during their spring spawning run. As summer heats up, smaller stripers (less than 10 lb) will remain in the main lake, while most larger linesides will migrate up the Etowah River, seeking cool water to beat the summer heat. Then, with the onset of fall and cooling lake waters, these large stripers migrate back into the main lake, again feeding voraciously on shad as they pack on pounds lost during the hot summer months.
Look for catfish numbers to be relatively stable. Channel, blue and flathead catfish are all found in Allatoona. Channel catfish are by far the most abundant, while flatheads and blues are fewer, but typically larger in size. The average channel cat is around 16 inches and 1 1/4 pounds in size. Larger channels will tip scales in the 5 pound range. Flatheads and blues are less numerous, but most caught will be 5 to 10 pounds or larger.
Use chicken livers, worms, prepared dough baits, or small cut bait for channel cats. Switch to live baits, such as bream or shad, for flathead and blue cats.
Pursue catfish on the rocky banks in the Etowah River arm of the lake. The numerous rip-rapped banks found around the lake are also good areas to target catfish. Such habitats are common around bridges and fishing jetties. Catfish may also be found in the recesses of the woody debris jams often found in the very back of Allatoona's coves and tributary mouths. Those specifically looking for blue catfish should head to the upper recesses of the Etowah River or Little River on the north end of the lake.
Bluegill, redbreast and redear (shellcrackers) sunfish are all present in this reservoir. Bluegill are the most abundant of the three species, but average size is only about 5 inches, with few being more than 7 inches in length. Though fewer in number, redear tend to be larger than either bluegill or redbreast sunfish. Larger redear may top 9 inches in length.
Crickets or worms fished under a bobber or on the lake bottom, micro-jigs, small spinners, and flies are all common baits used to catch bream. When on bed, nesting colonies of bream can be wary to an angler's approach and cast. Approach slowly, casting first to the periphery of the nesting group, so as not to disturb them all. Make subsequent casts further into the congregated fish as you go.
From early to mid-summer, bream will speckle the bottom of shallow coves with their circular nests. These nests are commonly visible to anglers, and nesting often occurs in the same general areas year-after-year. Look for bedded bream in the backs of coves and tributary recesses off the beaten path. The best locations are often associated with some type of woody debris that offers a level of nest protection. Bream tend to hold in progressively deeper waters as lake temperatures transition from fall through winter. Target them near brush piles or old channel ledges in deeper water during the colder months.
Both black and white crappie are found in Allatoona, but black crappie are the dominant species. Crappie numbers will be around or slighly better than average this year. The typical crappie will measure around 9 inches and weigh about 1/3 of a pound, but larger 1 to 2 pound slab crappie are pulled from Allatoona's waters each year.
Small jigs or live minnows fished beneath a bobber are both proven methods for catching crappie. Crappie will often congregate at a specific water depth depending upon the time of year. Adjust the depth of the bait hanging below the bobber so the bait is at or slightly above the schooling fish. Trolling or casting jigs without a bobber is a good way to cover a lot of water and locate actively feeding schools of fish.
Target spring spawn crappie from March to April in the shallows of Kellogg, Illinois, Sixes, Sweetwater, and Tanyard Creeks, as well as the Etowah and Little River areas of the lake. During summer, seek deeper brush piles or other fish attractors located on humps and channel ledges, as crappie will concentrate in deeper habitat during this time. Those wishing to beat the summer heat may try night fishing with lights and light tackle near docks and bridges. During fall and winter, target crappie near old stream channel ledges in Allatoona's many coves. Kellogg and Tanyard Creeks are both good winter crappie haunts.
Carp and gar are numerous. Carp are widely distributed and grow to moderately large sizes. Most will be around 5 pounds, with the biggest carp approaching 15 pounds. Gar are strong fighters and abundant around Allatoona. Gar 3 feet in length are typical, but 4-footers can also be found.
White bass are also common in Allatoona's waters. Most will run around a pound, in size, but better fish may top the two pound mark. While they don't reach the large sizes attained by striped or hybrid striped bass, white bass still have the "fight" of their larger brethren. White bass numbers are again expected to be much higher than normal in 2015. This could be a banner year for anglers pursuing these "mini-linesides".
Fish for carp using bottom rigs with offerings of prepared "dough" baits, corn or worms. For gar, live shad or minnows fished just below a bobber, or sight fishing with hookless handmade rope lures, constructed from 6-8 inch pieces of frayed nylon or cotton rope, will work well.
Target white bass with small to medium-sized jigs, spinners, crankbaits, or spoons. Tailor your white bass lure colors to mimic their primary forage - shad.
Target carp on shallow flats and in the backs of coves, especially around submerged woody debris or tributary mouths. Gar are often seen cruising shallow flats and tributary mouths, but can also be found ambushing prey on rocky main lake points.
White bass will make a spring migration into the Etowah and Little River tributaries around mid-March. After the spawning run, these fish descend back into the main lake body where they feed on shad. Locate a school of shad and white bass will likely be nearby. Summertime often brings large schools of white bass to the waters surface in pursuit of shad. As such, anglers should keep a watchful eye for surface activity that may indicate a white bass feeding frenzy below. Morning and evening are prime times to get into some top-water white bass action.
DNR, the Corps of Engineers, local non-profit organizations, and volunteers have aggressively worked to improve fish habitat in Allatoona over the last decade. Anglers can find information and current maps showing the location of fish attractors and shoreline habitat improvements on the WRD Website. For the bank angler, most of the areas around the more than half a dozen public fishing jetties dotting the lake have been "sweetened" with hundreds of Christmas trees located within easy casting distance of the bank. Fresh trees were added to the fishing jetty at Galts Ferry Landing in winter 2015. Older brush piles can be found at the Proctor Landing, Bethany Bridge, and Victoria Marina fishing jetties and adjacent to the Payne Campground Boat Ramp in Kellogg Creek.
In late 2008, DNR began stocking lake sturgeon in Allatoona to re-establish this native fish to the upper Etowah River system. Anglers accidentally catching a lake sturgeon should release the fish immediately so that a population can be re-established. Fish hooked deep will often survive if anglers cut the line near the hook and release the fish with the hook left in it. Those wondering what impact sturgeon will have on their favorite game species in Allatoona can rest easy. Because of its low reproductive potential, sturgeon do not establish themselves as a prominent species, making its impacts to other fish negligible. If you catch or otherwise see a sturgeon, please contact the Calhoun DNR office (706-624-1161) to report the location from which the sturgeon was caught. Such information is extremely valuable to biologists assessing the survival and dispersal of these magnificent native sport fish.