Here’s a civics question for you: What is Presidents’ Day?
Presidents’ Day is a day when we think about our country’s presidents. It got its start back in the 1880s, when folks began to celebrate a federal holiday on Feb. 22, the birthday of George Washington, first president of the United States.
Some years later, in 1968 to be precise, Congress passed what it called the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, a bill which moved several federal holidays to Mondays so workers could have more long weekends.
Among other things, the bill designated “Presidents’ Day” as the third Monday in February. Officially, it’s still called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government, but we’ve come to mark it as day to celebrate U.S. presidents far and wide (so yes, the apostrophe does go after the “s”).
It wasn’t long until retailers across the land began to celebrate Presidents’ Day as yet another excuse for a three-day-weekend-based sale. As special days go, Presidents’ Day has probably accounted for the sale of more mattresses and living room sets than any other holiday in history.
But there’s another reason to celebrate Presidents’ Day, which this year happens to fall on Feb. 19. It’s your next chance to help stock trout in the Delayed Harvest (“DH”) portion of the Chattahoochee River.
Delayed Harvest is a special stream management program under which certain sections of certain streams are managed for catch-and-release, artificials-only, single-hook lure only trout fishing from Nov. 1 through May 14.
Streams chosen for management under Georgia’s DH regs are too warm for trout during the summer. But from late fall through early spring, lower temperatures turn those waters into good trout habitat that provides a great recreational opportunity for the state’s trout anglers.
One of those DH stream sections is the Chattahoochee from the mouth of Sope Creek downstream to the U.S. 41 bridge, and this coming Monday you’ll have a chance to personally help stock trout in its water. Specifically, we’re talking about stocking trout at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s Whitewater Unit (1425 Indian Trail NW in Sandy Springs, not far from US 41 a short distance south of Cumberland Mall).
Here’s the really good news: since Presidents’ Day happens to be a holiday for many schools and businesses, it’s a perfect day for you and your kids to enjoy a truly unique experience in the out-of-doors. Not many folks get to help stock a trout stream, but here’s your chance.
Buckets filled with splashing trout, an excuse to go wading in the river in February - what’s not to love? You’ll all have a blast!
Volunteer-assisted trout stocking is an important element of Georgia’s Delayed Harvest trout management program. The reason: there are places on some of the state’s “DH” streams where the truck from the hatchery cannot get close enough to the water to place fish. One of those spots is Whitewater. To get the job done, Georgia DNR invites folks like you and me to help transport the trout from the truck to the river. It’s a blast, and if you’ve never been a part of it I recommend the experience highly.
Here’s how it works. The stocking truck shows up about 10 a.m, plus or minus traffic, and you’ll want to be there early to be sure you can find a place to park. During the last stocking event, parking was something of an issue, with cars parked everywhere along the access road. That made it difficult for the stocking truck to get in and out, so be sure to avoid parking in areas where signs say “NO PARKING.”
Also, remember that you’ll need to pay the day-use parking fee or display an annual parking pass.
What should you bring? Two essentials are a clean 5-gallon bucket (you’ll use it for transporting the fish from the truck to the river) and some waders or boots that you don’t mind getting wet (you’ll need ‘em for walking out into the water to dump your bucketsful of fish into the river). It’s a rain-or-shine event, so you might need a rain jacket too. You’ll also need to sign a waiver.
Some folks arrive as early as 9 or 9:30 (they get the good parking places), put on their waders, and visit with other like-minded trout enthusiasts till the truck arrives. At the last volunteer-assisted stocking, local fly shop Alpharetta Outfitters was there early too with hot coffee and donuts.
And then, about 10, somebody will holler “Here comes the truck!” The truckful of trout will maneuver into position, the volunteers will congregate around it, and the work (no, not work…fun!) of transporting trout from truck to river will begin.
Where should you put the trout once you have carried ‘em to the water? That’s up to you, and that’s part of the fun. You’ll see folks releasing the fish in many different areas, and it’s great fun to imagine the trout that are then holding unseen in the flow, waiting to make some lucky fisherman’s day.
The stocking itself usually wraps up within a half hour or so. What happens then? Some of the volunteers, of course, have to pack up their waders and go back to work. But others get to stay and do a little catch-and-release trout fishing.
Right after one of these stocking events, in fact, is a great time to introduce new anglers (especially young people) to the fun that trout fishing can bring – and don’t worry if you’re new to it. There are usually plenty of experienced trout anglers there who will cheerfully show you how it’s done.
Helping stock the Chattahoochee is a good way for the community to become involved in the river, and it’s a great family activity too.
Remember the date – this coming Monday, Feb. 19, at Whitewater on the Chattahoochee. I hope to see you there!