Trout anglers look to Helen, Pigeon Forge
Last year during the 17thannual Greater Helen Ga. Chamber of Commerce trout tournament, the snow was falling steadily along the Chattahoochee River. Yet people were still fishing.
The Bavarian-styled town seems always to bubble with enthusiasm for this event. It's set for March 31 this year, 6 a.m. till noon. Nearly 200 fishermen again are expected to seek cash prizes for catching tagged fish.
Pigeon Forge is hosting a similar event, the fifth annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament, the following weekend: April 7-8. It begins at sunrise (or 30 minutes before daylight) each day and runs to 4 p.m.that Saturday and to 2 p.m. Sunday. The Helen tournament is adding this year a memorial tribute to one of its longtime regulars, according to chamber director Kay Mathena. The official "big fish," good for $500, will be named for the late Milton Davis, who annually brought a group of 30-50 friends to the tournament.
Three $100 fish, four worth $50 each and eight worth $25 apiece will also be in the river.
Humans may not catch them all. Promoters say a red tail hawk made off with the big fish in 2004.
Anglers can register at the Helen chamber of commerce office (1074 Edelweiss Strasse) 3-5 p.m. Friday and during the event hours Saturday.The cost is $10 per person, or $5 for children under 12.
All participants must have Georgia state fishing licenses and trout stamps. Other Department of Natural Resources regulations concerning bait and other items likewise apply.
The chamber will release 250-300 trophy-sized trout in the section of river designated for the tournament. The state DNR will add fish as well.
For more information, call (706) 878-1619, check www.helenchamber.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For dining, lodging and shopping information, call (800)858-8027.
Mild weather has triggered good fishing in the Helen area for the Toccoa and other rivers, according to John Cross, area manager of Unicoi Outfitters in Helen. So there likely will be plenty of activity for anglers there even before the tournament.
For the Pigeon Forge event, Greg Ward and his Rocky Top Outfitters crew have taken steps to make sure out-of-town folks have as good a chance at winning prizes as the local folks. Ward is no stranger to those who have attended Pigeon Forge's annual January Wilderness Wildlife Week, where he has presented numerous fly-casting demonstrations.
There will be tourist and local divisions, each with adult and youth classifications.
The Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament, which also has a fall version scheduled for Sept. 29-30 this year, takes place in 20 miles of stream running through Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. A total of 1,000 fish weighing 3-8 pounds will be placed in the water, and more than $10,000 in cash and other prizes will be awarded.
Top prizes include $500 for the largest fish and $500 for the smallest. Entry fee is $20 per day or $30 for both days. You can get more information at www.rockytopoutfitter.com. You can register online with a credit card.
E-mail Dan Cook atChattaDan@aol.com