Trout

A Brook Trout swims in a clear water creek in Shenandoah National Park.

Ahh, weather. We’ve sure had all kinds lately, haven’t we? One day it’s balmy and in the 70s, while the day before (or maybe the day after) it’s down below freezing. A couple of days ago I was wearing short sleeves, but today is a sweater-and-jacket day. And now they’re talking about more rain with snow and ice up in the mountains. 

Meterological uncertainty has made it a bit of a challenge to plan outdoor activities, and (to the disappointment of many) one event that was impacted by the weather was the volunteer-assisted Thanksgiving week “Bucket Brigade” trout stocking event on the Chattahoochee River at the Whitewater Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

The plan had been for volunteers (that’s you and me) to help stock the river in an area that the stocking truck cannot reach directly. These stocking events are a huge amount of fun, and lots of folks (including Yours Truly) were looking forward to it.

However, as you’ll recall, the weather gods had other ideas. Those torrential rains that drenched us so thoroughly right before Thanksgiving meant that water had to be released from Buford Dam pretty much 24/7 for several days on end. As a result, the river downstream (including the area where the stocking was to take place) was running high and fast — much too much so for safe trout stocking — and Georgia DNR wisely cancelled the Thanksgiving Bucket Brigade. 

It was the right call to make. Safety always is.

Alas, that meant that I had to stay home and keep cleaning up the house. I made some progress, but (truth be told) stocking trout into the Hooch would have been a lot more fun. Still, I did find those binoculars…and that box of trout flies I’d lost years ago…and that hiking stick…and –

But wait – here’s some late-breaking news! Volunteer trout stocking is on again for right after Christmas!

Yes, trout fans, Georgia Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Hunter Roop has put the word out that there will be another Bucket Brigade volunteer-assisted stocking of the Chattahoochee River on Thursday, Dec. 27. The location? CRNRA’s Whitewater Unit, located just inside the perimeter off US 41 via Mount Paran Road, Harris Trail and Whitewater Creek Road. 

“We need all the assistance of our Christmas volunteers to help stock Delayed Harvest trout in the Chattahoochee River just in time for the new year,” Hunter says.

Bravo! The Bucket Brigade is back on the books, with plenty of time to plan ahead!

What happens on Bucket Brigade Day?

 “The stocking truck should be arriving between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.,” Hunter says, and when it does it’s greeted by a cadre of volunteers wearing waders and toting 5-gallon buckets. Everybody lines up, the buckets are loaded with trout, and the volunteers then carry ‘em to the river and (with great pomp and circumstance) release the trout into the river. It really is a brigade of buckets, and when all is said and done, several thousand trout will have a new home in the Hooch.

There are lots of reasons for being part of a Bucket Brigade. For one thing, it’s a great way to “give back” to the resource.

For another, it’s just plain fun — especially if you have a kid or two in tow. Believe it: Kids absolutely love this kind of thing. Cold water and splashy trout are a sure recipe for fun that’s not soon forgotten. What’s not to love?

“These events are great for kids to have a chance to help get trout in the water and even catch a few once all the fish are stocked,” Hunter adds. 

Yes, after the stocking is completed, it’s fine to stay and fish. Delayed Harvest regulations (artificials only, single hook lures only, and strict catch-and-release) apply, and you can be sure that there will be plenty of eager fish waiting for you.

As Hunter puts it, “What better way to try out that new fishing pole that Santa brought you, right?” 

Want to participate? All you have to do is show up, or you can sign up at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com (though the site gets a little confusing to navigate). In either case, you’ll need to bring that 5-gallon bucket and some waders and sign a waiver. Waiver forms should be available at the site.

Also available will be hot coffee and donuts. I understand that the folks from Alpharetta Outfitters will have those on hand, and that hot coffee will be welcome in case the thermostat gets set low!

The only real complication is parking space, which is limited at the Whitewater Unit. Once the lot at the end of the road fills up, folks park along the side of the road. It can get crowded — very crowded — as lots of cars try to squeeze into limited space while still leaving room for the hatchery truck to navigate the road and get close to the river. The best idea is to plan on arriving early. That’s what I’m going to do.

“We look forward to seeing you all on Dec. 27, and we welcome all to attend, especially any volunteers that were planning to attend our cancelled Thanksgiving event,” Hunter says.  

I’m planning to be there, possibly with the grandkids in tow, and I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Now — start thinking good weather thoughts…!

For further info about the Dec. 27 Bucket Brigade, contact the Wildlife Resources Division’s Gainesville region office at (770) 535-5498.

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