Flowing from beneath Blue Ridge Dam in Fannin County lies the cold, clear water of the lower Toccoa River. This 15-mile river stretch has earned a reputation among anglers as one of the best trout rivers in north Georgia. Due to its relatively large size, it is a favored water for fly-fishing enthusiasts. Fish the Toccoa with caution, as water levels can rise quickly during the times water is released from Blue Ridge Dam.
Prospects and Fishing Tips
RAINBOW & BROWN TROUT
The Toccoa River below Blue Ridge Dam remains a favorite destination for trout anglers in 2013. Anglers come from all over the northern part of the state to fish the Toccoa River because of its consistently high catch rates and its ability to produce trophy-sized fish. Rainbow trout tend to be the most abundant species in a typical year, but recent sampling in the fall of 2012 showed a dramatic increase in the proportion of brown trout in the river. Anglers should not be surprised to reel in a few more brown trout during 2013 than in past years. Anglers may also encounter the occasional brook trout while fishing the Toccoa, as the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery (USFWS) plans to stock a good number of these brightly colored “jewels” during the 2013 season.
The past three years have not been easy for the trout in the Toccoa River downstream of Blue Ridge Dam. As a coldwater species, trout rely on the cold releases that come from the depths of Blue Ridge Lake in order to survive hot Georgia summers. Warm water released during necessary dam repairs during 2010 reduced the number of trout dramatically, but thanks to efforts of Georgia DNR, USFWS, and others who have worked hard to restock the fishery, those efforts are paying off. Overall numbers of trout are now nearly as abundant as they were in 2009, before the warm water event occurred. The majority of trout caught in 2013 will be in the 10 - 14 inch range, but don't be surprised to catch a few of the larger rainbow or brown for which the Toccoa is known.
Although the Toccoa River's trout fishery was affected by the drawdown of Lake Blue Ridge, evidence suggests that the food base (aquatic insects) was only temporarily affected. Anglers have the choice of using artificial lures, live bait, or flies throughout the river and any of these can be quite successful. Bait fishing can be productive with nightcrawlers, corn, or powerbait being the most popular choices. Fishing with live minnows is prohibited on any trout stream such as the Toccoa, but artificial imitations like Rapalas, Mepps or Roostertail spinners, or spoons can be deadly. Substantial caddis, mayfly, and midge hatches occur throughout the season, so fly anglers should be prepared to "match the hatch" when fish are rising. Nymphs, wet flies and streamers also have their place, especially in winter. Visit the local fly shops or search popular internet message boards like NGTO for the current fishing reports and tips on "whats hot" at the moment.
Good trout habitat stretches from Blue Ridge Dam downstream to Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville. Trout can be found almost anywhere from one bank to the other, but are most likely to stay close to some type of cover. Target deep holes, fast runs, undercut banks, or woody debris to better your chances for success.
Wade fishermen typically target one of the four public access points in this section, including the TVA access points at Blue Ridge Dam and Curtis Switch, along with Tammen and Horseshoe Bend Parks. From Horseshoe Bend downstream to the TN state line the current slows and the habitat becomes less ideal for trout. Given the popularity of the Toccoa, access points are sometimes a bit crowded on weekends or holidays. Those looking for a more solitary fishing experience may choose to float the river between access points. Use caution when wading or floating, as water can rise rapidly and without warning.
The Toccoa is home to a few smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass, as well as rock bass, yellow perch and bream. Catch rates for these species are generally low and most catches are incidental, although yellow perch have become more common over the last 2 years. Anglers are encouraged to harvest their limit of spotted bass, as they have the potential to threaten the river's remnant smallmouth fishery.
For bass, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics are hard to beat. Crayfish imitations are sure to entice a strike from a hungry smallmouth. Fly anglers may hook a bass or two when targeting trout with large streamers, such as clouser minnows. Try using small in-line spinners, worms or crickets for bream.
Look to the lower river reaches near McCaysville, where the water is a bit warmer and currents are slower. Anglers might also try fishing just below the dam, as DNR personnel have noticed more bass and other warmwater species here at times.
The vast majority of the lower Toccoa River flows through private property. There are only 5 public access points over the entire 15-mile tailwater. Always respect the private property rights of local landowners.
Increased flows at Blue Ridge Dam can rapidly create treacherous water conditions in the Toccoa tailwater. Anglers should check the Tennessee Valley Authority's generation schedule before heading to the water and keep an eye on river flows throughout their fishing trip. If fishing near Blue Ridge Dam, pay attention to the new warning siren that was installed in 2012. To hear the latest generation schedule call 1-800-238-2264 or visit: http://www.tva.gov/river/lakeinfo/index.htm