In August of 2015, Brent Hess and Paul Jones, fish biologists with DNR fisheries, discussed the responsibilities for oversight and management of fish health in the Chattahoochee River basin as well as for public safety and access to the river and lakes for fishing and boating.
DNR is responsible for monitoring the health of the fish in the rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. If there is a “fish kill” (20 or so dead fish in a given location), DNR is called to try to determine the cause. Ninety percent of the time the cause will be decreased oxygen in the water due to high temperature and oxygen demanding decomposing organic matter. DNR may make recommendations about the management of ponds and water resources and may make stocking suggestions. While they may comment on water quality and may make recommendations, the Environmental Protection Division in DNR has the power to make decisions regarding water quality standards.
On this day, Brent and Paul used the shock boat launched from the ramp at McIntosh to gather a sample of fish inhabiting this part of the river. As he pulled fish from the live well on the boat, Brent told us various facts about each species—what they eat, what kind of current and temperature each requires, and how they are faring in the increasingly clearer water of the Chattahoochee. They collected and showed specimens of spotted bass, shoal bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, shad, redear sunfish, green sunfish, flathead catfish, and some minnows. A few of the species caught exceeded 20 pounds. Most of the fish looked in good health with fewer lesions than were apparent 20 years ago prior to cleanup of sewage in the river. The biologist pointed out that the shoal bass is a unique sport fish species found only in the middle Chattahoochee River below Atlanta which could be subjected to loss of habitat if the minimum flow in the river were reduced.
DNR is responsible for the safety of the public in using waterways for fishing. They pro vide recommendations about monthly consumption limits for various fish species exposed to toxic compounds which bioaccumulate through the aquatic food chain into fish. In order to do this, DNR regularly samples fish to ascertain the health and numbers of a given species. They do this either by using gillnets in lakes and ponds or by using shock boats in rivers. Fish collected are weighed and measured and examined for abnormalities using standardized protocols and most specimens are returned to the water unharmed.
Please visit the Walk and Talk Albums to view the images of this Walk and Talk, labeled 2015-08 August.