Saltwater Fishing in Georgia
From the deep waters of the Gulf Stream across a wide expanse of open Atlantic Ocean through winding tidal rivers to remote marshes, coastal Georgia offers a diversity of inviting places for the saltwater angler. Whether you fish from the surf, a fishing pier, or a boat, there is always something ready to tug on your line.
One reason that terrestrial wildlife management efforts have been so successful is the use of habitat restoration and enhancement in combination with harvest regulations to create sustainable populations of mammal and birds. This same opportunity exists in saltwater fishery management, especially in the South Atlantic region. Currently, many species of saltwater fish targeted by recreational anglers are in a stressed or overfished condition. Regulations are being used to control harvest so fish populations can rebuild, but the restoration and enhancement of fish habitat is equally important.
From the barrier island beaches out a distance of 40 miles, the seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean offshore Georgia is largely sand and sand/mud mixture. When manmade or natural material such as concrete structures or surplus vessels are placed on this seafloor they attract a wide array of marine life creating greater biodiversity and recreational fishing and diving opportunities. The list of marine species that benefit from manmade habitat numbers in the hundreds including many popular with anglers such as black sea bass, sheepshead, red snapper, gag grouper, and king mackerel. Protected species such as loggerhead sea turtles also utilize manmade habitats in the open Atlantic Ocean for foraging and resting. Many species of seabirds also feed on baitfish attracted to these areas.
Oysters were once far more abundant in Georgia estuaries than today. This decline was caused by overharvest, disease, and pollution during the 20th century. Also, man failed to return oyster shells to the estuary creating a shortage of habitat for larval oysters. The end result was a loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of living oyster reefs that provided habitat for a wide array of fish species popular with anglers. By placing materials along the shorelines of tidal rivers and creeks, man can create new living oyster reefs to serve as habitat for spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, and flounder. Many species of wading and shore birds depend on living oyster reefs as feeding areas. Mammals such as the raccoon, mink, and otter can be found foraging on and around oyster reefs during low tide.
For decades, anglers have done their part to help restore and enhance fish habitat through the purchase of fishing licenses and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program. This year, anglers have a new opportunity to help enhance coastal fish and wildlife populations through the purchase of a new specialty license plate for their vehicle and boat trailer. The majority of the sales proceeds for the marine habitat plate featuring a red rum will go into a dedicated fund to restore and enhance fish habitat in Georgia’s estuaries and the Atlantic Ocean. For more information on the marine habitat license plate go to www.coastalgadnr.org/LicensePlate.