Many times, sport fishermen make mistakes that bode ill for the waters they love. How do they do that? Twenty-plus years ago, some fishermen put some spotted bass in Lake Chatuge. Now the spots have taken over what was one of Georgia’s best smallmouth bass fisheries. Spots out-competed the smallmouth for forage fish and ravaged the smallmouth beds and, soon, there you are … no more smallmouths, spotted bass instead.
In some of the gently flowing curvy rivers in South Georgia, somehow someone introduced the flathead catfish, a true predator of other sport fish, and caused a rapid decline in the redbreast bream. A controlled netting of most of the flatheads by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has thankfully restored the redbreast population. That was good.
I understand that fishermen have netted blueback herring from the Savannah River and use them as live bait for stripers at Lake Lanier and other Georgia lakes to the extent that retail bait locations actually import and sell the bluebacks for sportfishing, but the result is that Georgia’s mountain lakes have no more left of the sunfish population.
Don’t get me wrong, such mistaken introductions can result in positive change. For instance, the bluebacks in Lanier resulted in making it the best, spotted bass lake in the country. Years ago, in tournament competition, a 10-fish limit of spots weighed in at 12 pounds. Now, a five-spot limit weighs in at 20-plus pounds to win. The spots have some in the deep waters to eat. However, I’d rather have the DNR in charge of stocking the lakes and streams instead of a well-meaning fisherman, wouldn’t you?
The introduction of species by anglers often results in unexpected and irreversible changes to the fish population. This spring and summer, when making your weekly visit, make sure you do not contribute to the problem. Never release live baitfish, aquarium fish, or aquatic plants into our lakes and streams. The results can be devastating.
The lakes and streams will have tough times maintaining a balanced fishery with the pressure gathering from all sides in the form of development and inefficient land usage. Please don’t foolishly add to the problem.