Gone Fishin’

Area anglers have a number of options available to them in and around Newton County, as they build relationships and pass on time-honored traditions to future generations.

by David Roten

Are you fishing for something new to do, casting about for fresh ideas on how to spend your leisure time or find yourself drawn to the lure of the great outdoors? All puns aside, are you thinking that you might like to do a little fishing but do not quite know how to get started? The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is an invaluable resource for experienced and beginner fishermen, providing information and fishing opportunities through a variety of programs.

“Where’s the best place to catch a fish?” That is the most common question posed to Georgia DNR Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver by hopeful anglers. “And my answer is, ‘a hook right here,’” he said with a sly grin as he pointed to his mouth. Weaver, a lifetime fisherman with a master’s degree in fisheries and over 22 years of experience with the DNR, understands that just choosing the right equipment to use can be daunting. “If you’ve ever been to the fishing section at Bass Pro, it can be overwhelming—aisles and aisles and aisles,” he said. His best advice to those who have limited experience: “Keep it simple.” 

“If you’ve ever been to the fishing section at Bass Pro, it can be overwhelming—aisles and aisles and aisles. Keep it simple.”

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Keith Weaver

Rules and catch limits, along with other helpful information, can be found in the DNR’s Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations magazine, published annually and available digitally at www.georgiawildlife.com. The fishing section of the website offers guidance on where and when to fish and what lures are working well with what species. Just one of many helpful features on the site is a fish identification tool that provides a detailed description of the various species with a corresponding picture. Utilizing that aid, anglers with the Go Outdoors GA app can know in real time what type of fish they caught. 

Weaver likes the generational bonds fishing forms.

“The best thing about fishing is telling stories,” he said. Weaver then recalled how his youngest son, Benjamin, caught a four-pound channel catfish when he was only 4 years old. “He’s now 13, and that fish is still growing every day.” Some things never change.

In an effort to promote fishing throughout the state, the DNR offers programs designed for youth knowing that if it can hook kids on fishing, adults will likely string along. 

“The parents get more excited than the kids when they catch a fish,” Weaver said. “It’s just a good way to bond, and it’s a good way to get everybody involved.”

The Marben Public Fishing Area, located at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, is home to two of the most popular and—for Newton county residents—most accessible programs in the state. Children, ages 8-15, can get their feet and their hooks wet during one of two Fish-N-Learn weekends, as they receive instruction from trained guides and put new skills to work in one of Marben’s well-stocked ponds. Fish-N-Learn 1, held in the spring, focuses on basics like knot tying, casting, taking a fish off the hook, cleaning the fish and more. Fish-N-Learn 2, held in the fall, builds on the first weekend as kids move from bank to boat, targeting largemouth bass with a variety of artificial lures. Young anglers also see how knowledge of water depth and temperature, as well as overall habitat, can enhance the fishing experience. According to Weaver, “It’s a pretty intense weekend.”

The $110 fee for each weekend event covers lodging, the guide, education and food. Each child attending must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Anyone over the age of 16 must possess a current fishing license. For information or to register, call 770-784-3059. 

A second option at Marben PFA requires less time and no money: Kids Fishing Events, held one Saturday each month between March and September. Friendly, knowledgeable instructors and well-stocked ponds help to ensure a positive experience for kids and their families. The fisheries staff shares a common goal with those youngsters who come to fish, many for the first time. 

“We want them to catch a fish, we want them to touch a fish, and we want them to take that fish home,” Weaver said. In addition to Marben PFA, the fisheries staff also recommends Lake Varner Reservoir and Hard Labor Creek State Park as great places in and near Newton County to take kids fishing. Weaver also considers the Walton County Reservoir, High Falls State Park and the Alcovy and Yellow rivers as excellent fishing destination choices.

“There are a lot of farm ponds out there,” Weaver said. “Really, all you need is a cane pole and a hook and a cricket and a body of water.” 

SIX TIPS FROM THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES DIVISION FOR FISHING WITH KIDS:

1. Keep it easy. (Choose simple bait, tackle and techniques)

2. Keep it short. (Choose a fishing spot close to home, do not stay out too long)

3. Keep them covered. (Use sunscreen, protective clothing)

4. Keep them happy. (Bring lots of snacks)

5. Keep your cool. (Expect tangled lines often)

6. Keep a few fish for dinner. (Stay within legal limits, take no more than you intend to eat)

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