If you enjoy trout fishing, November means just one thing: Delayed Harvest trout fishing season!

Delayed Harvest (DH) is an approach to fisheries management that manages streams differently at different times of year. Say you have a section of a creek or river where water temperatures are too high for trout during the summertime. You might manage that stream for warmwater fish such as bass during spring and summer. But come fall, water temperatures will drop and that same stream can be stocked with trout. The result can be some incredible fall and winter trout fishing. 

Georgia has five designated delayed harvest waters, including portions of the Chattahoochee in Atlanta, Amicalola Creek near Dawsonville, Smith Creek below the lake in Unicoi State Park, a stretch of the Toccoa River, and a section of the Chattooga River. During the “DH” season, those waters are managed under special regulations that call for catch-and-release fishing with single-hook artificial flies or lures from Nov. 1 through May 14. 

Several times during the DH season, Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources gives regular folks like you and me an opportunity to help stock some of Georgia’s DH waters.  This “volunteer assisted trout stocking,” as it’s known, helps to stock some portions of DH streams that cannot be accessed directly by the hatchery truck.

On stocking days, a bucket brigade made up of enthusiastic volunteers transports trout from the hatchery truck to the water. Georgia DNR brings the fish; you just bring yourself, your boots or waders, and a 5-gallon plastic bucket.

Who participates in these volunteer-assisted stockings? Among the folks you may see might be members of area fishing organizations such as Trout Unlimited or North Georgia Trout Online. You’ll see scout groups and school classes. You’ll see plenty of families, too, with moms and dads and kids enjoying the adventure together. 

According to DNR’s John Lee Thomson, this season’s first volunteer-assisted stockings was on Nov. 1 on three of Georgia’s DH streams. On that day, volunteers gathered at Smith Creek in Unicoi State Park, at Amicalola Creek near the Highway 53 bridge, and at the Toccoa River at the Sandy Bottom canoe launch area to carry the trout to their new wintertime homes.

“Stocking typically happens in the morning around 10 a.m.,” he says, adding that volunteers tote 5-gallon buckets to stock about 2,000 trout in each of those streams on that day.

“We will also have volunteer stocking days on the Chattahoochee in Atlanta, too,” he continues, adding that the Chattahoochee events are “typically scheduled around school holidays so kids and families can participate.” The first of those stockings usually occurs (conditions permitting) during the week of Thanksgiving.

What can you expect if you make it to one of these Bucket Brigade Days? Typically, the stocking truck arrives shortly after 10:00 a.m., so you’ll want to arrive before 10. That gives plenty of time to sign the waiver form, put on your boots or waders, and put some water in your 5-gallon bucket so it’s ready to go. Sometimes there’s hot coffee and donuts too

Once the truck arrives, folks line up to have their buckets filled with trout. Then the volunteers carry ‘em to the river and release the trout. It really is a brigade of buckets, and when all is said and done, several thousand trout will have new homes.

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. Giving back is important, especially these days.

For another, it’s just plain fun — especially if you have a kid or two in tow. Believe it: Kids totally enjoy 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?

“It’s something we look forward to every year,” one mom told me. 

“And when we’re done, we’re gonna go fishing too!” squealed the youngest of her daughters, barely able to contain her excitement.Yes, after the stocking work is done, it’s fine to stay and fish. 

It doesn’t get much better than that!

For more info on how you and your family can be a part of a volunteer trout stocking event this fall or winter, email John Lee at John.thomson@dnr.ga.gov or contact the Wildlife Resources Division’s Gainesville region office at (770) 535-5700.


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