The complete guide to the Chattahoochee River

Why the Chattahoochee River is a trout fisher’s dream

Chattahoochee fishing
The ‘Hooch is a fisher’s dream

illustration by Aaron Johnson & Joel Anderson

The Chattahoochee River was here long before the city, but sometimes people forget about it. The waterway is one of three trout rivers in the world that runs through a metro area of a million or more people. And then there are the fish. This is considered a blue-ribbon trout stream; Trout Unlimited, a national advocacy and conservation group, named it one of the top 100 streams in America. The largest trout caught in Georgia—31.5 inches, 20 pounds—was hooked on the Chattahoochee. The fishing here is remarkable.

There are roughly 38 river miles of designated trout water, and it’s ideal for the two types of trout found in the Chattahoochee: brown and rainbow trout. The cool waters that come from Buford Dam are great for them. We’re lucky to have the trout hatchery near Buford, managed by the Department of Natural Resources. They stock a third of all the trout in Georgia, and a percentage of that goes into the Chattahoochee. Fishing near the hatchery is always a good bet. You just need to be aware of the rising and falling water levels from the dam releases.

The banks of the Chattahoochee are Atlanta’s melting pot. We see the country boy from Forsyth County, the guy straight out of the Orvis catalog from Buckhead, Latino people, Russian people; it’s a reflection of Atlanta’s diversity. We’re a destination for anglers as well, particularly for people coming from places with harsh winters. But this is available for everybody. You just need a Georgia fishing license, a trout stamp, and a parking pass. And you’re set.

I’m concerned about how fast Atlanta is growing and how that affects our river. Not too far in the future the population is going to be an issue. We’re the largest city with the smallest watershed in the country, so there have to be limits on how we use our water and how we develop if we want to keep the river protected. But there’s a lot of innovation, and we can be proactive. The Atlanta Regional Commission, nonprofits, and nature groups have helped protect the river, and that’s preserving the trout fishing.

And we should watch the trout. They’re a great indicator species, like a canary in a coal mine. —As told to Christine Van Dusen

About your guide
Christopher Scalley grew up in Sandy Springs and leads fishing trips on the Chattahoochee with River Through Atlanta.