October 13, 2018
The Best Fishing Spots In & Around Helen
By: Ginevra Boyes
With 500,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs and 12,000 miles of rivers and streams, Georgia is the unofficial fishing capital of the nation. Helen just so happens to boast some of the best trout fishing in the entire state. Though the rivers are open year round, some of the best fishing occurs from late autumn to early winter, making fall the best time to cast a line. There are three free fishing days every year, but beyond that, you’ll need to buy a fishing license. You can buy one online or at one of over 400 locations across the state, including Unicoi Outfitters in Helen. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be free to explore the incredible fishing opportunities throughout North Georgia. Here are some of our favorites:
“Fishing the Hooch” is a must-do for any fisherman who visits Georgia. The river begins high up in North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and flows down through Helen and the beautiful surrounding Appalachian country. You’ll have the chance to catch twelve to fourteen inch brown and rainbow trout, both natural and stocked. The Chattahoochee Wildlife Management Area boasts some of the best fishing in Helen, where you’ll find both hatchery and wild trout. The Upper Chattahoochee and its headwater tributaries around Henson Creek contain small brook trout.
Dukes Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, is described by Southern Living as the “holiest of holies” for trout fishing. Located in the beautiful Smithgall Woods State Park just 3 miles from Helen, this stream flows through a lush gorge, making it difficult to access but well worth the trouble. Once you’re there, you’ll find wild rainbow and brown trout fishing. It is also a great spot for fly fishing. Many consider the Smithgall Woods to have some of the best trout streams in Northern Georgia, but if you aren’t interested in fishing, there are also great hiking, biking, archery, and bird watching options in the park as well.
Smith Lake is the glittering centerpiece of Unicoi State Park, one of the most popular parks in all of Georgia. This 44-acre lake is well stocked with catfish, bluegill, crappie, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and largemouth bass of up to fifteen pounds. Remember that fish can be taken between May 15 and October 31. After that, it's only catch and release. In addition, the lush forest landscape that surrounds the lake is also perfect for hiking and biking.
Where To Get Your Gear
There are many great places in town where you can stock up on fishing gear for your trip. Unicoi Outfitters is a full service fly shop carrying some of the best fly-fishing brands available anywhere. They also offers classes and 2-day intensive special for novice and intermediate anglers. This is also where you can pick up your Georgia fishing license. JC Outdoors is every local’s go-to-stop for all their hunting, camping, and fishing needs.
Planning a fishing adventure in North Georgia? Book your stay at the Sylvan Valley Lodge & Cellars, a charming bed & breakfast winery in Helen.