Ellijay, Georgia Cold Water Stream Evaluation

At AES many of our clients are busy business professionals that are looking to escape the daily grind. Whether it be bringing back their grandfather’s farm pond they grew up fishing or building one from scratch we can service all their needs. However, from time to time we are called to the mountains to aide a different type of client.

Anyone that lives in Metro Atlanta knows that the North Georgia mountains are the place to be. While the mountains may not have many ponds and lakes they are loaded with a network of streams. Some are cold enough to support trout while others get slightly warmer and support species like Redeye bass.

The buyer of this property is interested in possibly stocking trout in this creek. All streams in Gilmer County, Georgia are classified as trout streams even if they are only marginal waters. As a biologist my job was to evaluate this stream for it’s potential to support trout. For a stream to support trout their are a few criteria that must be met. Temperature, habitat, and water quality are the most important aspects to determine if a stream can support trout.

A healthy watershed is critical to a trout streams survival. These ferns are not only pleasing to the eye but also keep soil intact. Riparian erosion releases silt into streams. Silt gets in trout’s gills, reduces reproduction success, and muddies the water. All of those things are not good for trout. 
A variety of habitat is required for trout. They need deep holes to rest in and riffle/runs to feed in.
These are the tools of the trade to check the metrics. Higher elevations are needed to support trout. Higher elevations will stay cooler in the heat of the summer.

To check the water quality there is a system called the Shannon Index. The Shannon Index uses aquatic insects to assess how much pollution is in a stream. All the insects we collected today are pollution intolerant. This indicates good water quality. If we found insects like crane flies and blackfly larva this would suggest that water quality is not the best it could be.

This is a small black stonefly nymph.
The king of the aquatic insects, Golden stonflies!
An adult stonefly. We know it’s an adult because it has wings.
This is a clinger mayfly. Another great source of food for trout.
This is actually a cased caddis not a tiny pile of rocks. Cased caddis build their homes using materials from the creek bottom. These guys are the original tiny house builders!
Whole colony of cased caddis on the bottom of this rock.
Taylor, the fearless realtor/guide for the day. We got some extra walking in because the beavers dammed up a road.
Many people would not consider beaver dams to be pretty but they have their own beauty. They also provide great duck habitat. Unfortunately for trout purposes they slow water down which warms the water up.
This picture is above the beaver dam complex. The stream is back to its original self of running cold and clean.

The end result is the client will start out with a put and take fishery. This means we will stock trout in late October and tell the client to harvest trout starting late May. We also gave the option to let the trout stay and see how they handle the summer heat. We recommended the client halt fishing when water temperatures exceed 74 degrees since those warm temperatures are stressful to trout.

As the mountains become developed we look forward to serving a different demographic of clients. If you have stream on your property and wondering what’s in it give us a call.