Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Michigan vs. Georgia- The Numbers

This post was getting kind of long, so I'm breaking it up into a series. I'm examining the profound differences- and similarities- between two very different places.

So let the comparison's begin. I'm new to Georgia. I'll try to avoid the usual stereotypes of North vs. South here. Some are real, some imagined, and some people on both sides of that equation work very hard to keep them alive.

No, this is about the fishing, an inevitable comparison between what is familiar (to me) and what is new- a new landscape, new water, and a new culture as it pertains to fishing.

Michigan brown trout
gorgeous Georgia brown

It's easy to write off the South as the land of catfish and stinkbait, bass boats and B.A.S.S. Masters. Trout hardly exist in Southern Michigan once you get into the farm country, and so the idea of good trout fishing as far south as Georgia seems far fetched, if not hysterical. Surely they only have stocked rainbows, pellet eating fish with rubbed off fins, eking out a miserable living in marginal turbid waters. Then you come down and actually see the waters, and the scales fall from your eyes.

There are two sources of trout water here in the South- tailwaters and the mountain streams. Both are novel concepts to the Michigan native, where the scant tailwaters fish like the rest of the streams, and the "mountains" are just rocky hills. North Georgia has bona fide mountains well over 4,000 feet, with gorgeous tributaries cascading down every ravine. In Michigan streams flow from glacial out-wash, gravel and sand, or in the case of a few in the UP, flowing over Canadian Shield bedrock. Other than cold water it's hard to imagine two more different places.

I'll start this series with statistics on the two states so we have a reference point to start with.

The Numbers


Image source: wildtroutstreams.com

Area: 96,716 sq. miles

Population: 9.91 million people

% Water: 41.5

Highest Point: Mt. Arvon 1979 ft.

Miles of trout stream: 16,000 to 20,000 depending on which published stat you believe from the DNR. Also about 60,000 natural lakes and 3288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.

Stocking: Michigan planted about 6.2 million trout and 7.2 million salmon and lake trout in 2014.


Image source: wildtroutstreams.com
Area: 59,425 sq. miles

Population: 10.1 million people

% Water: 2.5

Highest Point: Brasstown Bald, 4784 ft.

Miles of trout stream: 4,500 to 6,000 depending on which GDNR stat you believe. Georgia has few natural lakes, a few major reservoirs, and thousand of smaller impoundments. It also has a couple hundred miles of saltwater coastline.

Stocking: Georgia stocks about 1.3 million trout per year.

The Takeaway

Michigan and Georgia have similar populations and densities; Georgia trout fishing is much closer to multiple US population centers along the east coast. That said, its trout water is adjacent to the trout waters of North Carolina and Tennessee. Michigan has significantly more trout stream, but that can be said compared to any other state except maybe Alaska. In future posts I'll compare the nature of the streams, angling techniques, hatches and flies, regulations, local culture and anything else that comes to mind.

Bear with me. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know the state of Georgia with me.

Maple River, northern Michigan 
Chattooga River, northeast Georgia


  1. So you think you can just move away and then hotspot the Maple?? C'mon man! No I am kidding. Fun post. Looking forward to the next..

    1. I wonder how Georgians feel about the Chattooga? We'll find out I guess.

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