The best places in Georgia for Atlanta fishermen

Some of the best fishing environments in the country are right here in Georgia’s lakes and rivers.

For family-friendly fun, check out the Cobb Parks annual fishing rodeo. Plus, serious fishermen get to work far south of Atlanta on commercial fishing operations, harvesting everything from catfish to the incredible Georgia oyster.

READ MORE: 8 places to have outdoor adventures around Atlanta

For the casual anglers, some of the best bass and trout sport fishing in the world occurs in lakes and rivers no more than two hours from Atlanta. Little known fact: many of the state’s record-breaking fish was caught near Atlanta.

Now, that you’ve got the background, time to grab your tackle box and head out to Georgia’s best places to fish.

South Georgia

Flint River remains popular among avid bass fishers for its shoal bass, a crossbreeding between small-and-largemouth bass. And where the Flint River meets the Chattahoochee, Georgia gives way at Lake Seminole to Florida. The largemouth bass at Seminole are enormous, thanks to the habitat, food and shelter provided by Seminole’s commitment to maintaining aquatic plant life and other marine sanctuary habitat.

To the east of the Flint and the Seminole along Georgia’s Golden Isles are coastlines at St. Andrews. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea Island, where an entirely different fishing experience occurs. The veteran or amateur angler can cast their net for saltwater fishing of redfish, snapper and tarpon, while Tybee Island outside Savannah is a great place to start a deep-sea fishing tour or even a commercial fishing business.

There is little that can be said about the fishing in the Altamaha River that would be an overstatement. For those hoping to catch a giant catfish, Altamaha is your spot. The river has produced both of the state’s two record-sharing 83-pound flathead catfish, according to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

West Georgia

Lake Walter F. George sits on the border between Alabama and Georgia.

Bob AndresAccess Atlanta

Nowhere else can claim the title of “bass fishing capital of the world” quite like Walter F. George Lake. The title may be having an impact on the lake, as some report that it’s harder to score big bass on the lake than it used to be. And, for all its bass fishing claims to fame, the one record the lake is the state’s record blue catfish – a whopping 110-pound fish – that Tim Trone caught in October 2020.

North Georgia lakes and rivers

Much of the best fishing near Atlanta is happening due north. Lakes Burton, Rabun and Seed hold much record-breaking fish in their waters, including the largest spotted bass on record was caught at Lake Burton, and the largest walleye, weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces, on record was caught last year at Lake Rabun .

Another man caught a record 17.5-pound rainbow trout on the nearby Soque River in Habersham County in 2004 and Waters Creek is a solid trout fishing hole near Cleveland.

Even further north and west, where North Carolina and Georgia meet, Lake Chatuge serves as an ideal bass fishing spot. The quiet lake produced the largest bass ever caught in Georgia when David Hobby pulled a 25-pound, 8-ounce hybrid bass out of the waters in 1995. Fishing guide Eric Welch reports that summer 2017 on Chatuge wasn’t quite like the past though .

“The lake is at full pool, and the fishing has been fair,” he said. “This time last year we had a top-water killer bite first thing in the morning, but this year it just has not happened.”

On the nearby Toccoa River, fly fishing for trout remains a good business and sport. Check out “the biggest brown trout you’ll ever see,” according to and caught by Daniel Bowman earlier this month.

The Atlanta old faithful

And don’t sleep on the ‘Hooch! Sure, we float down the Chattahoochee River and drink beers in inner tubes and the fishing in metro Atlanta is suspect at best on account of all the people. But the ‘ Hooch is also one of the best trout fishing rivers in the South along the 48-mile span between the Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek. It produced the largest shoal bass ever caught in Georgia when Matt McWhorter pulled an 8-pound, 5-ounce shoal bass on Dec. 23, 2021.

READ MORE: 7 must see spots on the Chattahoochee River

Getting ahead of the coming rains, Seth Nelson (left) from Washington DC in town visiting his brother, Eric Nelson (right) from Alpharetta went fishing at Morgan Falls Overlook Park in Sandy Springs on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (John Spink / [email protected])

John Spink / [email protected]AJC Freelancer

Lake Lanier, meanwhile, is already the most popular lake in the state for its size and convenient location. You might think Lanier’s supply is picked over, especially with all of the bass tournaments and endless recreational fishing. However, there is still giant bass at 20 pounds or more in the water to be had. And, if you like catching striper or walleye, it’s a great place to do it. Just don’t look at the state record 31-pound, 2- longnose gar that Rachel Harrison pulled from Lake Lanier, or you will never swim again.

And, for a slightly more secluded feel, arguably just as close to Atlanta as Lanier, try Lake Allatoona. It’s the lake where they shoot the Netflix show “Ozark.” The spotted bass grow to nearly 8 pounds, and tactics for catching them, such as dropshot, jerk bait and topwater walker, are unique compared to the pitching and flipping of most lakes.

East of Atlanta

Lake Hartwell is a bass fishing destination. It’s where the 2015 Bassmaster Classic was held, and that year’s winner pulled 50 pounds of bass out of the lake Georgia and South Carolina share in just three days. The water is deep and clean, and the conditions are ideal for fishing an array of spotted and largemouth bass.

Have some lake adventures on the boat. Courtesy of Visit Lake Oconee

Courtesy of Visit Lake OconeeAccess Atlanta

Meanwhile, Lake Oconee, halfway to Augusta on Interstate 20 east of Atlanta in Greensboro, is the perfect destination if you don’t want to fish like a full-on pro and would prefer to stay at a Ritz-Carlton when you are done for the day. Don’t count it out though, Oconee is a place where trophy largemouth and striped bass lurk.

Reel it in

So, there’s a lot of fishing to be done, and much of it is within just a couple of hours of the city. For those ready to reel it in, here’s a comprehensive map with all of the places to fish in Georgia’s state parks. And if you’ve never fished at all, know that Georgia law requires everyone age 16 and up to have a fishing license in their possession while fishing our waters. You can pick up a license at local Walmart locations, online or call 1-800-366-2661.

Lastly, you can keep Georgia beautiful while preserving our natural treasures for future generations by participating in one of the Georgia Conservancy’s many weekend excursions to kayak down some of the most pristine natural settings in the state.

Wherever you go, happy fishing!

This story was originally published in 2018 by Adam Kincaid and has since been updated.

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