The Oostanaula River is formed at the
confluence of the Conasauga and Coosawattee Rivers near the city of Calhoun in
northwest Georgia. This area was once called New Echota, and served as the
capital of the Cherokee nation before the Indian Removal Act of 1830 effectively
removed the Cherokees from Georgia. The Oostanaula flows roughly fifty miles in
a southwesterly direction before meeting up with the Etowah River in downtown
Rome, forming the Coosa River. The Oostanaula has great access, with five
improved boat ramps located from the lower end of the Coosawattee to the upper
end of the Coosa River in Rome.
The Oostanaula has suffered in the past from
environmental difficulties, but has begun turning the corner in terms of habitat
and water quality. There are no rapids of any note on the Oostanaula, and it's
course is marked by long straight sections and gentle shoals, with sweeping
bends every mile or two. At a width of 60 to 80 feet through most of it's
course, the Oostanaula is a pretty large river, and though the water is almost
uniformly flat, it flows with a surprisingly quick velocity in the upper half,
especially during spring and early summer. The section below Georgia 140 tends
to flow a bit slower. The Oostanaula muddies up pretty quickly after moderate
rains, and fishing is best when the Oostanaula is flowing pretty and green.
I have fished the Oostanaula River three
times, and, frankly, have not had much success. Much of this is undoubtedly due
to muddy water conditions and high water. Folks who regularly fish the Oostanaula
claim that the bass fishing is pretty good. According to the DNR, the black bass
population is only fair, and is dominated by spotted bass, with largemouth bass
becoming more prevalent in the slower section below Highway 140. Redeye bass are
present also, but appear more in the upper section. The best bass fishing can be
found in deep bends, creek mouths (the Oostanaula is blessed with lots of nice
feeder streams), and around woody cover.
The Oostanaula is better known for it's
catfishing, and it boasts channel, blue, and flathead catfish, with blue and
channel cats being more common. Deep holes are best for catfish, and those
located near shoal areas tend to be more productive than isolated deep holes.
While most cats will average about a pound, big specimens of both species are
common on the Oostanaula, and are best taken using chicken livers and cut shad
fished on bottom. Panfishing on the Oostanaula is rather poor, and bluegills are
more common than any other species.
Located upstream from Lake Weiss, the
Oostanaula gets a great springtime run of white bass some years, though many
whites stay in the Coosa River or hang a right up the Etowah. During a March
trip a few years ago, I was exploring one of the many feeder creeks on the
Oostanaula and made a few casts out toward the creek mouth. What followed was
about fifteen minutes of fast white bass action which ended as quickly as it
began. Striped bass have been documented to spawn successfully in the
Oostanaula, though very few large stripers appear to spend the the summer there
like they do in the cooler Etowah, Coosa, and Coosawattee Rivers. If you want to
catch whites and stripers, the months of March, April, and may are the best time
to go about it.
The Oostanaula is absolutely loaded with huge
carp and drum. I've never targeted either of these species, but during clear
water periods, one can see these fish all over the place. I have no idea how to
go about fishing for these species, but both are known as great fighters, and
anglers who simply want a good fight might consider targeting these species.
There is a new species of fish now swimming
the waters of the Oostanaula and other rivers in the Coosa basin: lake sturgeon.
These prehistoric (but harmless) monsters are native to the Coosa basin, and
began disappearing in the 1960's due to habitat degradation and overfishing. The
DNR began an annual stocking program of lake sturgeon in 2002, and since these
fish take 12-15 years to mature, any lake sturgeon caught in the Oostanaula must
be returned to the river unharmed. If one happens to swallow the hook, simply
cut the line and release the fish. If you happen to encounter a lake sturgeon,
be sure to contact your local DNR office with information on the section of the
river in which it was caught. This information will help DNR better assess the
success of the program.