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Understanding Regulations and Requirements

Fishing Methods

Hook and Line (rod and reel)
  • There is no restriction on the number of poles and lines you can use to fish for game fish except:

Trout - one pole

Fishing on Public Fishing Areas - two poles

Sport Shad fishing - two poles

  • Game fish may be used as live bait (where live bait is legal and allowed) if they are taken legally and you do not exceed the daily creel and possession limits.  You can possess more than the daily creel and possession limit for a species if you purchase the fish from a bona fide fish dealer and keep a bill of sale in your possession.
  • Landing nets may be used to land fish legally caught.
  • Anglers using more than two poles and lines to fish for shad must follow commercial shad fishing regulations. Bow nets are considered sport shad fishing gear and must have a minimum size of 3½ inches stretched mesh to be legal.
  • Seines, nets, and chemicals may be used in a private pond if all owners agree and a two hour notice is given to the local DNR Conservation Ranger.  You cannot use seines, nets, and chemicals in an oxbow lake (a lake formed in an abandoned river channel which has become separated from the main stream by a natural change in the river).

It is illegal to:

  • Use live blueback herring for bait or possess live blueback herring in all freshwaters except  Lakes Barlett's Ferry, Blue Ridge, Chatuge, Goat Rock,Juliette, Lanier, Nottely, Oliver, and West Point; and the Altamaha River watershed downstream of the following dams: Juliette dam on the Ocmulgee River; Lake Juliette dam on Rum Creek; Lake Tobesofkee dam on Tobesofkee Creek, Lake Sinclair dam on the Oconee River; and watersheds of all other streams that flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean
    (Check the color blueback herring   map showing where live blueback herring are legal and illegal. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 or later.).  Click here to download the map.
  • Fish for game fish, except American shad, Hickory shad, Channel catfish, or Flathead catfish, by any means other than pole and line.
  • Take any fish from freshwater by any method other than pole and line and set hooks, jugs, sport trotlines, spear fishing, minnow seines, dip nets, and bow fishing as outlined below in Alternate Fishing Methods.
  • To fish in the waters of any State park, Historic site or Receation area with any method other than hook and line (rod & reel).
  • Use electronic devices, explosives, poisons, or firearms to take fish.
  • Snag any fish.
Alternate Fishing Methods

Sport Trotlines:

  • A sport trotline is one line or a combination of lines using less than 51 hooks.  Sport trotlines must be:

1) marked with the owner's name and address and with visible buoys.

2) submerged at least three (3) feet below the surface of the water.

3) attended regularly and removed after the completed fishing trip.

  • Unmarked or unattended trotlines will be confiscated by DNR.  It is unlawful to use any sport trotline with one-half mile below any lock or dam on any of the freshwaters of Georgia.
  • Only channel and flathead catfish and nongame fish (those not listed under freshwater daily limits) and American shad and Hickory shad may be taken with sport trotlines. 

Spear Fishing:

  • "Spearing" is the use of a handheld spear or similar device and the use of a weapon, other than a firearm, which propels a projectile to which a wire, rope, line, or other means of recovering the projectile is attached and secured to the weapon or the person using the weapon.
  • Only nongame fish may be speared in freshwater and are not to be sold or used for commercial purposes.
  • It is illegal to spear game fish and all species of catfish. 
  • A sport fishing license is required to spear fish in freshwater.
  • The person spearing fish must be completely submerged when in the act of spearing fish.
  • Spear fishing for any species is prohibited in the marked areas around five fish refuges in Lake Seminole and three fish refuges in Lake Blackshear from May 1 - October 31.


Seines & Cast Nets:

  • Only nongame fish, except American eels and protected species, less than five (5) inches in length may be taken using a minnow seine.  These fish cannot be sold or otherwise used for commercial purposes.
  • All game fish and American eels taken in minnow seines must be released immediately and unharmed.
  • A minnow seine must be less than 20 feet long and have a square mesh of 3/8 inch or less (square or in diameter).
  • Minnow seines may not be used in designated trout waters.
  • Dip nets and cast nets may be used to take threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and blueback herring for bait, except in state park lakes.

Bow Fishing: 

  • Only nongame fish may be taken by bow and arrow from freshwaters, except the Savannah River listed below, under the following conditions:
  • You must have a valid sport fishing license in your possession when bow fishing.
  • Arrows must be equipped with barbs or similar devices for recovering fish and must be attached to the person or bow by a line sufficient for recovering the arrow and fish.
  • Poisonous or exploding arrowheads are illegal.
  • Arrows cannot be discharged into the water closer than 150 feet to any person.
  • Legal hours for fishing with bow and arrow are from sunrise to sunset, except nongame fish may be taken at night while using a light in the impounded waters of lakes over 500 acres in size.
  • Any game fish, except channel and flathead catfish taken under the provisions listed below for the Savannah River, with an open wound possessed by a person bow fishing will be considered evidence of taking fish illegally.
  • It is legal to take channel catfish and flathead catfish with bow and arrow anywhere in the Savannah River, including its tributaries and impoundments within the Savannah River basin, by bow and arrow any time of the day and at night by the use of a light as long as you have a current sport fishing license and meet the other criteria listed above.

Set hooks and Jugs:

  • Only channel catfish, flathead catfish, American shad, hickory shad , and nongame fish (those not listed under freshwater game fish daily limits) may be taken with set hooks and jugs.
  • You must possess a valid sport fishing license when fishing set hooks and jugs.
  • It is illegal to use jugs on Lake Tobesofkee and state park lakes.
  • There are no other restrictions on the use of set hooks and jugs (number of, season, dimensions, materials, etc.).  However, DNR encourages anglers using these methods to check them regularly, remove them at the end of the fishing day, and avoid areas popular with recreational boaters.

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