By Joel Hall
For the past two years, A.D. Wright, 73, of Brooks, Ga., has come to the banks of the Blalock Reservoir with his brother in law to go fishing. While catching fish is the idea, it's not always the goal, he said.
"I just love the outdoors," Wright said. "These are nice lakes. They keep them up and it's nice sitting out here. I'm not a fisherman. We just come out here and talk and fish a little."
This month, the Clayton County Water Authority opened the Shamrock/Blalock Reservoir Area in Jonesboro and the J.W. Smith Reservoir Area in Hampton for fishing, canoeing, and picnicking. From March 1 to Oct. 31, the Shamrock and Blalock reservoirs will be open to the public from Wednesday through Saturday, and the Smith Reservoir will be open from Saturday through Wednesday.
Jep Palmer, the water authority's recreation area coordinator, said the three reservoirs attract about 7,000 vehicles per season. He said the reservoirs are home to bass, brim, crappie, and several varieties of catfish.
March through May, he said, is the peak time to catch them.
"Usually, your peak fishing time is March, April, and May, right before it gets too hot," Palmer said. "When it gets hotter, the fish move deeper into the water, so it is really hard to catch them."
Palmer said brim are typically the easiest fish to catch. He said larger fish, such as bass, tend to be ambush hunters, preying on smaller fish, and thus, they can often be found hiding near structures, such as logs or large rocks.
"We've had up to a 15-pound catfish caught in the reservoir," said Palmer. "We've had [fish] up to 10 pounds for the bass. The crappie and brim are average pan-fish size."
He said anglers with big catches can take a picture of their catch and put it on the "brag board," which is located inside the booth at the entrance of the reservoirs.
The Shamrock and Blalock reservoirs, which are adjacent to each other, serve as storage ponds for the Hicks Water Production Plant on Freeman Road in Jonesboro and the J.W. Smith Water Production Plant in Hampton, Palmer said. The Smith Reservoir holds water specifically for the Smith plant, he said. All the water in the reservoirs is treated and eventually turned into drinking water for Clayton County residents.
Clayton County Water Authority General Manager Mike Thomas said the authority prevents the use of gas-powered motors on the reservoirs to avoid potential gas spills.
"With those bodies of water, we have a lot of people interested in fishing in it," he said. "They help pay for it, so we want them to be able to use it in a way that makes sense. It is a water supply source, so we have to be careful in how we manage it."
Palmer said recent winter weather has not kept fishermen away. Snow fell on March 1, the first day the reservoirs opened to the public. Despite the weather, a few fishermen could be found around the property, he said.
"A lot of them enjoy getting away from all the problems that may be on their mind," Palmer said. "It's kind of a nature getaway in the city. Our goal is to operate a clean, safe environment for these people to enjoy."
The Shamrock, Blalock, and Smith reservoirs will be open from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., in March, from 7 a.m., to 8 p.m., from April to September, and from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., in October. Access to the reservoirs is $5 per vehicle or $25 for a seasonal pass. The Shamrock/Blalock Reservoir Area is located at 2688 Shamrock Road in Jonesboro and the J.W. Smith Reservoir Area is located at 143 North Bridge Road in Hampton.
On April 18 and 25, May 16 and 23, and June 6 and 13, the Shoal Creek Reservoir, located at 301 Hampton Road in Hampton, will be open to county residents from 7 a.m., to 3 p.m., for boat fishing only. Day passes are on sale for $10 at the Shamrock/Blalock Reservoir Area.
All anglers over the age of 16 are required to have a Georgia fishing permit, which can be purchased online by visiting the Georgia Department of Natural Resources web site at www.gadnr.org.
On the net:
Clayton County Water Authority: www.ccwa1.com