Outdoors column

Jimmy Jacobs is the editor of Georgia Sportsman magazine. He can be contacted at jimmy.jacobs@imoutdoors.com.


BY THE NUMBERS

8.19 Weight in pounds of the Georgia state-record shoal bass.

10 Daily Georgia harvest limit for shoal bass.

12 Minimum size in inches for harvest of shoal bass on the Flint River and its tributaries.

The shoal bass has long been a favorite target of anglers in Georgia rivers. These relatives of largemouth and smallmouth bass are named for their favored habitat in tumbling cataracts.

The fish are native only to the Chattahoochee and Flint River system in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Shoalies need free-flowing water and cannot survive in man-made reservoirs.

The Flint River from the fall line south to Lake Seminole offers the best habitat for these bass.

A recent study by fisheries biologists from Auburn University has led Alabama to ban the harvest of shoal bass in creeks feeding into the Chattahoochee from that state. Surveys of prime habitat on the streams indicated as few as 100 adult shoal bass surviving in all of those waters.

The causes of the decline are thought to be threefold. One problem has been low water levels from droughts affecting the habitat. Shoal bass naturally migrate to deeper parts of streams during droughts, which leads to the second problem.

Dams on the Chattahoochee River have placed impoundments in the way of those migrations. Shoalies are cut off from moving to better habitat.

The third problem is competition from non-native and illegally introduced spotted bass. The spots compete for habitat and food and can tolerate a wider range of conditions than shoalies.

Spotted bass can live in reservoirs during droughts and move back to the streams when rains return.

Georgia’s Flint River has only two dams on its entire length. This long, free-flowing course negates much of the threat of droughts. But, spotted bass have begun showing up in the Flint in recent years.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources strongly urges anglers not to transplant any fish from one body of water to another. Such action may have dimmed the long-term outlook for the state’s iconic shoal bass.