Invasive Fish in Georgia: An Intro for Anglers

Studying Time: 7 minutes

Georgia is a state with virtually infinite angling potential. Wild Trout in mountain streams, lunker Bass in lakes, Redfish, Tarpon, and a lot extra within the sea – you’re by no means removed from fish. Nonetheless, not each catch is supposed to be right here. There are lots of invasive fish in Georgia. These uninvited company are destroying ecosystems and threatening the state’s signature catches.

What are Georgia’s most invasive species? The place did they arrive from? And what’s being carried out to cease them? At the moment, you’ll be able to study all about these undesirable invaders, from what they’re and the place they arrive from to the place they now dwell and, most significantly, how one can assist eliminate them.

What’s an invasive species?

Earlier than we bounce into issues, it’s price shortly clarifying what makes fish invasive. In any case, non-native doesn’t essentially imply invasive. For instance, Brown Trout got here all the best way from Europe, however they’re now a staple of Georgia’s fly fishing scene. That’s as a result of their numbers are managed and thoroughly managed to ensure they slot in with the native ecosystem.

Different species aren’t so thoughtful. They roll into their new residence and begin consuming up all of the accessible meals, operating the locals out of city within the course of. In Georgia, the most important offenders are categorised as “Aquatic Nuisance Species.” These are the state’s Most Needed, and it’s best to hold an eye fixed out for them everytime you’re on the water.

Unique Invaders: International Fish Species in Georgia

Fish have discovered their method to Georgia from everywhere in the world. Some got here right here as pets, others as meals. Nonetheless they arrived, they’re decided to remain. The rule of thumb right here is to retain, {photograph}, and report something that you just don’t acknowledge to the DNR.


A large mixture of small, unique fish have been illegally launched into Georgia’s waters, and across the US on the whole. These are aquarium pets that have been most likely launched by their homeowners, or by chance escaped in some way. Both approach, they’ve been breeding quickly and inflicting hassle ever since.

Essentially the most problematic fish are Cichlid species like Oscar, Tilapia, and Haplo. Pacu is one other frequent pest. It’s additionally a relative of the Piranha, so be careful for its tooth! They don’t need to be unique to trigger issues, although. Even a plain previous Goldfish can change into invasive if given the possibility.


Lionfish are, fairly merely, essentially the most invasive fish within the nation. Native to the Indo-Pacific, they arrived within the Caribbean within the Eighties and have been spreading steadily up the Atlantic Coast ever since. They will and do decimate populations of reef fish wherever they arrive.

Lionfish produce tasty meat and there’s no bag restrict on them, so you’ll be able to fill the freezer whereas additionally serving to the setting. Take care when dealing with them, although. These spines pack a nasty punch within the type of potent venom! Try this information if you happen to plan on filleting the fish your self.


If Lionfish are the terrors of the ocean, Snakehead are the nightmare of each freshwater angler in America. They arrived from Asia within the early 2000s, and have since been present in over a dozen states. The primary Snakehead in Georgia was found in late 2019, and the DNR has been on excessive alert ever since.

What makes Snakehead so harmful? Put merely, they’re an apex predator and a born survivor. They will dwell out of water for hours, and even journey throughout land when needed. In addition they appear to be the native Bowfin, which leads some anglers to launch them. Should you catch one, kill it or retailer it safely – merely throwing it onto the financial institution isn’t sufficient.

Swamp Eel

One other born survivor from Asia, this scaleless slitherer can survive in any kind of recent water. Rivers, lakes, swamps, streams – you identify it, they’ll adapt to it. They’re even in a position to change their gender if there are too many specimens of 1 intercourse, so populations can explode from only a few of them.

A possible drawback with Asian Swamp Eels is that they’ll simply be mistaken for a daily American Eel. The primary distinction between the 2 is that Swamp Eels don’t have scales, whereas American Eels do. Swamp Eels even have a a lot blunter nostril than their native counterparts.

Tiger Shrimp

This final one isn’t a fish, but it surely causes greater than sufficient issues to make it onto the listing. Tiger Shrimp come from the Indo-Pacific, however a couple of escaped a fish farm within the ‘80s and now you can discover them from Texas to North Carolina. For a very long time, they weren’t an enormous drawback. Nonetheless, these super-sized Shrimp have been displaying up in greater and larger numbers in recent times.

The excellent news is that Tiger Shrimp are nice consuming! They will develop to twice the scale of native species, and style simply nearly as good. Earlier than you get on the market and begin hauling in a feast, although, be sure you learn to determine Tiger Shrimp. You must also report any you come throughout.

Native Bullies: Native Fish, New Waters

It’s not simply unique imports that trigger issues in Georgia’s waters. Loads of American species are as much as no good, too. Most of those are literally native to components of Georgia, however have unfold out of their pure habitat and brought over new waters. Listed below are a couple of fish to look out for, and the place they trigger essentially the most issues.


Noticed Bass used to solely dwell in streams feeding the Tennessee River approach up within the northwest of Georgia. These days, they’ve unfold throughout virtually half the state. They’re particularly dangerous to Smallmouth, and have completely changed them in some waters, such because the once-great Lake Chatuge.

Alabama Bass are the same story. These greater and faster-growing cousins of the Noticed Bass make a behavior of interbreeding with different Black Bass species. They’re native to the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, however now dwell in Chestatee, Chattahoochee, and Ocmulgee Rivers, in addition to Lakes Lanier, Burton, and Chatuge.

Lastly, Yellow Bass. These little terrors have escaped the Tennessee River drainage and now dwell within the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, in addition to Carter’s Lake and the Rocky Mountain PFA. The State encourages anglers to catch and eat as many of those fast-breeding Panfish as they’ll. That’s the sort of conservation we will all get on board with!


Flathead Catfish love consuming Sunfish, They actually, actually adore it. That was fantastic when the Cats have been of their pure waters within the Coosa River. However after they unfold into the Altamaha and Satilla Rivers, it grew to become an issue. The Satilla River is especially well-known for its Redbreast Sunfish, so the DNR has launched a large-scale mission to take away these unwelcome intruders.

Blue Catfish are additionally native to the Coosa River, however have been noticed in dozens of spots across the state. Blue Cats develop even greater than Flatheads and have simply as a lot of an urge for food, in order that they’re not nice for fish shares, to say the least. All in all, there’s by no means been a greater time to start out catfishing.


Supply: NOAA, CC BY-SA 2.0

Final however not least is the common-or-garden Herring. Two species of Herring are invasive in Georgia: Blueback Herring and Alewife. They’ve at all times been round on the coast, however have now made their approach inland, too. The Center Savannah, Higher Coosa, Hiwassee, Ocoee, and Etowah Rivers all maintain them nowadays, as do a number of mountain lakes and reservoirs.

In contrast to most different species on this listing, Herring aren’t what you’d name apex hunters. Nonetheless, they do have an virtually bottomless urge for food for fish eggs and fry, which may devastate the whole meals chain. Fortunately, such a wealthy weight loss plan makes them extraordinarily tasty, so be happy to replenish on them subsequent time you’re out!

How you can Battle Invasive Fish

It’s all effectively and good understanding what species are invasive, however really doing one thing about them is a little bit more durable. The final authorities recommendation comes right down to the “4 Rs.” No, we’re not speaking about lowering and recycling. We imply Chorus, Take away, Report, and Keep in mind.

  • Chorus from relocating or introducing fish into new areas. Whether or not it’s your pet Goldfish or your favourite breed of Bass, bringing new fish into an space isn’t a good suggestion. Go away it to the professionals to introduce and handle new species.
  • Take away any non-native fish you come throughout. Kill it, or higher nonetheless, hold it in a sealed container in order that scientists can examine it if they should. That is particularly vital for fish you’ll be able to’t determine – it could be a brand new invader, or perhaps a super-rare native species!
  • Report any non-native fish you discover – particularly recognized invaders. Attempt to give as a lot data as attainable, corresponding to the scale and variety of fish you caught, in addition to the placement and time of day. Report your catch on-line or contact your native DNR workplace.
  • Keep in mind to maintain up good angler hygiene. Clear, drain, and fry your gear after each fishing journey, and take additional precautions earlier than heading to new waters. You don’t wish to be the rationale a brand new invasion begins!

A Fixed Battle

Sustaining our fisheries isn’t any simple job. It’s a relentless battle to maintain undesirable species out of our waters. All it takes is one well-meaning aquarium proprietor. One poorly-thought-out stocking effort, and whole ecosystems can change into overrun with invasive fish.

It’s right down to all of us to do our bit, reporting new catches and conserving our gear clear and freed from hitchhikers. On the identical time, all of us want to assist native species alongside by releasing them safely every time we will. It’s not all exhausting work, although. You possibly can have a blast battling Snakehead or make a Tiger Shrimp feast whereas additionally serving to the setting. That’s what we name a win-win!

Have you ever caught any of the fish on our listing? What are essentially the most invasive fish the place you’re from? Drop us your tales or ask us a query within the feedback beneath – we’d love to listen to from you!

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