Commercial Freshwater Fishing

Saltwater Demarcation Line

The line established in this state as the separation point between salt and fresh water for fishing licenses, commercial fishing, and sport fishing is as follows:

(a) The point at which U.S. Highway 17 crosses the following bodies of water and their tributaries shall be the line of demarcation: St. Marys River, Satilla River, South Altamaha River, Champney River, Butler River, Darien River, Little Ogeechee River System (except Salt Creek), North Newport River, Medway River, Big Ogeechee River and Savannah River. All water seaward of these points is considered salt water;

(b) The following streams and their tributaries are designated as salt water for their entire length: Crooked River, Little Satilla River, South Brunswick River, Turtle River, Sapelo River, South Newport River, Salt Creek (Little Ogeechee System), and all other rivers, streams and tributaries in the six coastal counties which are not covered in (a).

Freshwater ponds on the seaward side of the demarcation line are not considered salt waters. Commercial fishermen fishing in salt waters seaward of the saltwater demarcation line must have a commercial boat license as well as a commercial fishing license.

Protected Species

Nothing in these regulations allows the taking or disturbing of State and Federally protected fish, turtles, mussels, or other wildlife. There are currently 55 fish species, 7 salamander species, 14 mussel species, and 13 turtle species on the state protected list. Additionally, all nonvenomous snakes are protected. Many of these species may be encountered while fishing. It is unlawful to capture, kill, or sell any of these protected species.

For a complete list of protected species, see Chapter 391-4-10 of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, or contact the Nongame/Natural Heritage Section, 2065 U.S. Hwy 278 SE, Social Circle, GA 30025, phone (770) 918-6411.

Closed Areas

It is illegal to commercial fish in the public fishing areas operated by the Department of Natural Resources; within one-half mile below any lock or dam; in the Coosa River from the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers to the Georgia-Alabama boundary line and all streams flowing into the Coosa River between those two points; in the Oostanaula River from State Highway 156 Bridge to the confluence of the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers and all streams flowing into the Oostanaula River between those two points; in the Etowah River from U.S. Highway 411 Bridge downstream to the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers and all streams flowing into the Etowah River between those two points; or in that portion of Lake Weiss located in Georgia.

The waters listed above are closed to all commercial freshwater fishing. Other areas may be closed to certain types of gear or fishing. Be sure to check for additional restrictions under the type of fishing you plan to do.

Game Fish

Throughout this section you will see references to game fish. Game fish are: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, redeye (Coosa) bass, shoal bass (Flint River smallmouth), Suwannee bass, white bass, striped bass, striped-white bass hybrid, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, white crappie, black crappie, American shad, hickory shad, flier, spotted sunfish (stumpknockers), rock bass (goggleye), redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, bluegill (bream), warmouth, walleye, sauger, muskellunge, chain pickerel, grass pickerel, redfin pickerel, channel catfish and flathead catfish.

Limits

There are no bag or possession limits on fish taken legally during freshwater commercial fishing.

Fishing Gear

It is illegal to use any fishing gear in Georgia that is not specifically mentioned as being legal. Descriptions of legal gear and the use of that gear may be found under different headings in this guide.

It is illegal to use any firearm; battery, generator or other similar device; dynamite or other explosive; or any destructive substances, including poisons, walnut hulls and lime, for the purpose of catching, killing, taking or harming fish. The possession of any of the foregoing devices or substances, except firearms or batteries used to operate motors or lights, will be deemed primafacie evidence of guilt.

Any commercial fishing gear being used illegally will be seized and held until the illegal gear is claimed. If after a reasonable time the illegal gear is not claimed, it will become the property of the Department and disposed of as directed by the Commissioner.

Trotlines

A commercial trotline is one line which has more than 50 hooks in any combination or a combination of lines with more than 50 hooks in use by one person. Commercial trotlines must be tagged with the name, address and commercial freshwater fishing license number of the person using the gear; submerged at least three (3) feet below the surface of the water; marked with visible buoys; attended regularly; and removed after the completed fishing trip. It is illegal to keep game fish taken with trotlines except American shad and hickory shad taken during shad season, channel catfish and flathead catfish.

Turtle Traps

Turtle traps must be constructed of netting and shaped as hoop nets. They must also have one open muzzle or throat at least 32 inches wide and a ring 10 inches in diameter made into the rear of the trap to permit fish to escape. Turtle traps must have a tag attached to them with the name, address and commercial freshwater fishing license number of the person using the trap. It is illegal to retain game fish taken in turtle traps or to fish turtle traps in the Chattahoochee River and its impoundments lying between Georgia and Alabama.

Baskets

Baskets must be constructed of one inch (1") mesh wire and must not be more than 72 inches in length or more than 60 inches in circumference. One throat must be located at the extreme front of the basket and the second throat must be 17 inches behind the first. The second throat must have a trap door seven and one-half inches (7 1/2") square. Baskets fished in the Georgia portion of Clarks Hill Reservoir, Hartwell Reservoir, Richard B. Russell Reservoir, Lake Yonah, Lake Tugaloo (Toogaloo), Stevens Creek Reservoir or the impounded waters of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam may have a second throat (in place of the one with the trap door) made of one inch (1") square mesh webbing attached so that when the mesh is drawn taut by cords attached to each side, a horizontal opening is created which is not more than one inch (1") in height. Baskets must also have tags attached to them which bear the name, address and commercial freshwater fishing license number of the person using the gear. It is illegal to fish baskets in freshwater flowing streams. You must notify the conservation ranger in the area of the time and place you plan to use a basket. It is unlawful to take any game fish except channel catfish and flathead catfish with baskets. No person may fish more than five (5) baskets in Sinclair and Oconee lakes. Also, no person can fish the baskets of another person unless that person is with them.

It is illegal to possess any basket capable of use in taking fish unless you have a commercial fishing license and the basket is marked with your name, address and commercial fishing license number. You may, however, possess baskets constructed as described above without having a commercial license if you are holding them for sale and at a regularly established place for such sale. You may also possess and use a basket or trap for taking fish from your private pond without having a commercial fishing license ("private pond" means a body of water being wholly on or within the lands of one title where fish cannot go upstream or downstream or to the lands of another).

 

Sturgeon

All Atlantic coastal states, including Georgia, have enacted a closure or moratorium on the harvest of Atlantic sturgeon in addition to the moratorium on harvest of shortnose sturgeon. It is unlawful to harvest or possess Atlantic or shortnose sturgeon in Georgia.

Gill Nets on Lake Seminole

From November 1 through January 31, gill nets may be fished on Lake Seminole in the Flint River Arm from Faceville Landing upstream to, but not including, the mouth of Big Slough; in the Spring Creek arm from State Route 253 upstream to U.S. Route 84; and in Fish Pond Drain from State Route 253 upstream to County Road 1659 at the north end of Ray's Lake. Nets may be set only in water eight (8) feet deep and shallower. Nets may not be set in stream channels. Fishermen are limited to a total of 300 linear feet of netting. Gill net mesh must be two inches (2") on the square. All nets must be marked by visible buoys and, in addition, the nets must be clearly labeled with the name and commercial fishing license number of the fisherman. All game fish and catfish taken in gill nets must be released.

Eel Traps and Eel Fishing

Persons fishing commercially for eels must have a valid commercial fishing license. It is legal to fish commercially for eels in the Savannah River from the saltwater demarcation line to a point one-half mile below Stevens Creek Reservoir Dam; in the Ogeechee River from the saltwater demarcation line to the U.S. Highway 25 Bridge at Millen; in the Altamaha River from the saltwater demarcation line to the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers; in the Oconee River from the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers to a point one-half mile below Lake Sinclair Dam; in the Ocmulgee River from the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers to a point one-half mile below Juliette Dam; in the Satilla River from the saltwater demarcation line to U.S. Highway 84 (formerly Highway 82) Bridge at Waycross; and in the St. Marys River from the saltwater demarcation line to Georgia Highway 94 Bridge near St. George. It is illegal to commercial fish for eels within one-half mile below any lock or dam in these areas. Legal traps are rectangular pots no larger than 24 inches x 24 inches x 15 inches and cylindrical traps no larger than 15 inches nor smaller than nine inches (9") in diameter and no greater than 36 inches in length. Both types of traps must be constructed of material with a mesh size no smaller than one inch x one-half inch (1" x 1/2"), except the throat (or muzzle) and the end opposite the throat (or muzzle) of cylindrical traps. There is no restriction on the construction material for the throats and ends of the cylindrical traps. The size of the hole in the throat of both types of trap must be limited by a two inch (2") steel ring attached to the throat. Each individual trap must have a tag attached to it bearing the name, address and commercial fishing license number of the person using the trap. All fish other than eels and eels less than six inches (6") long must be immediately released where they are caught. Possession of any fish other than eels at least six inches (6") long is primafacie evidence of fishing illegally.

Freshwater Mussels

The following waters are open from sunrise to sunset on Monday through Friday of each week from April 1 to August 31 each year, except Memorial Day and Independence Day, to the lawful harvest of mussels:

  • Fresh waters of all streams are open to the lawful harvest of mussels that will not pass through a round ring with an inside diameter of four inches; and
  • Reservoirs over 500 acres in size which are not owned or operated by the Department are open to the lawful harvest of washboard mussels (Megalonaias sp.) that will not pass through a round ring with an inside diameter of four inches and to the harvest of all other mussels whose longest dimension will not pass through said ring.

It shall be unlawful to harvest mussels in fresh water by any form of dredging, brailing, pumping, any form of mechanical scooping or by dragging any material over the mussels. Any person violating this provision is subject to the civil penalty provisions of O.C.G.A.  27-1-36.






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