Etowah River (upstream of L.
The Etowah River rises in the mountains of
Lumpkin County and, 135 miles later, joins the Oostanaula River near Rome to
form the Coosa. From a fisherman's perspective, however, the Etowah is really
two different rivers. Below Allatoona, Striped bass sit atop the food chain and
fishing must be scheduled around power generation periods. Above the reservoir,
the Etowah is smaller, clearer, prettier, and less developed.
While stripers, hybrids, and whites all
participate in the springtime spawning runs from Allatoona up the Etowah, very
few live in the river year-round, preferring to return to the lake once business
is done. Trying to time the springtime runs can be hit-or-miss, but there is
usually a lot less competition on the Etowah than either the Oconee (L. Oconee)
or Chattahoochee (L. Lanier).
This massive spot hit a small
spinnerbait on the Upper Etowah despite muddy water conditions.
What is the dominant species on the upper
Etowah? Well, that really depends on where you are. In the headwaters section (Lumpkin
County), rainbow trout are the primary quarry. As the water warms and the river
grows on it's way downstream, redeye bass replace trout as the main predator,
and spotted bass become most populous beginning in Dawson County. When in bass
water, Georgia River Fishing recommends throwing smallish baits and lures,
because redeyes and spots will hang out in the same areas and eat the same
Small plastic worms are absolutely
deadly on the spots and redeyes of the Upper Etowah during the heat of
One great thing about the upper Etowah is
that it is really hard to get skunked. The reason: rock bass! Built like a
crappie on steroids, these little scrappers are hard to keep off the end of your
line, particularly during the summer months. If the bass fishing is slow, try
bumping a small weedless grub slowly along the bottom and hang on! Rock bass are
a great quarry in their own right and wonderful eating as well.
Bluegill, redbreast, crappie, and channel catfish also thrive in the upper
Etowah, making it a great destination for all types of river rat. The current
runs moderate to swift and the water clarity is generally excellent, though it
tends to become more stained closer to the lake. GRF recommends anglers use
canoes in the upper sections, but jon boats will suffice from Dawson county down
While there is some development
on the upper Etowah, the river is quite scenic in most stretches. There are a
couple Class II rapids in Lumpkin County, but the rest of the river is
relatively tame. Downstream of the GA 9/19 Bridge (west of Dahlonega) lies
Etowah Falls, a ten-foot drop that EVERYONE should portage. Thrill-seekers might
also want to try canoeing the old mine tunnel near Blackburn Park, but only at
moderate water levels and only if you can see light at the end of the tunnel.
The tunnel is great fun, but be careful!
bassin' the upper Etowah, GRF recommends light to medium-light spinning
gear. Don't expect huge fish (although there are some monster spots
here), but you can normally count on lots of aggressive keepers.