Fishing area to open Friday in south Houston

PERRY — Middle Georgia anglers will soon have a new place to fish.

The long-awaited Flat Rock Public Fishing Area just south of Perry will open at noon Friday, following the 10 a.m. opening ceremonies. Gov. Sonny Perdue and a host of area officials are expected to attend.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it is time to go fishing,” said Ted Wills, the regional fisheries supervisor for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“We could have opened maybe a year ago as far as the fish are concerned, but we didn’t have enough water to make the boat ramps operational until earlier this year when we had all the rain,” Wills said.

Though named for Flat Rock Creek, the lake isn’t actually on the creek, which is about half a mile to the north. Instead, it is on a nameless wet-weather tributary and must rely on rain runoff from the surrounding area to fill.

Much of the heavy rains of the last few weeks dodged the new lake, however.

“We got 6 inches at the office in Fort Valley, but only 1¼ here,” Wills said. “We’ll probably lose some more water in the heat of the summer, but if we keep normal rain through the next year instead of the drought we had the previous two years, we should eventually get to full pool.

“People say if we had put the lake on the creek, we’d have had plenty of water long ago,” Wills added. “That’s true, but we wouldn’t have the fish we have now. All our public fishing area lakes are built to be very fertile.”

A creek flowing through would wash out many of the nutrients the fish feed upon, he said.

“We can maintain 300 to 400 pounds of fish per acre this way, whereas if we were on a creek-fed lake, we could only have about 50 pounds per acre. I think folks will be pretty happy with the fishing opportunities here.”

When full, the lake will cover about 108 acres, Wills said, but for now it is closer to 80 acres.

The lake was stocked two years ago with large mouth bass, bluegill bream and channel catfish. Wills said there are bass now in the 3- to 4-pound range, catfish about the same size and bream 6 to 8 inches long that weigh up to half a pound.

“We manage our public fishing areas for different types of fishing. The Ocmulgee PFA, over in Bleckley County, we manage as a trophy largemouth bass lake. But this lake here, which we expect to have a lot more use, especially by families with children, we want to be more of a general purpose lake with a lot of bluegills and sunfish that the kids can catch.”

Wills said the Flat Rock PFA is within 30 minutes of an estimated 250,000 people, many from Houston and Bibb counties.

“This is our first public fishing area so close to so many people and so accessible,” he said. It’s just two miles from Interstate 75’s exit 134 in south Perry.

“We’re expecting a lot of use,” he said.

Eventually, the area will be part of a state park that will include 858 acres.

“That’ll be a new situation for us in Georgia, having DNR and state parks sharing an area. We’ll work out the details as we go,” Wills said.

But for now, with no money available from the state to develop the state park facilities, the public fishing area will remain a somewhat bare-bones operation.

The area has a manager and fisheries technician assigned to it, but it has no office.

There is a restroom, fish-cleaning station, double boat ramp and paved parking for about 45 vehicles and boat trailers.

“We’ll have a couple of picnic tables and will add facilities (such as docks and fishing piers) as we can, but we wanted to get this open so people can fish, and we’re ready for that,” Wills said.

“I’m interested to see people get out on the lake and start discovering the areas and bottom topography where the fish are holding. It’ll be fun for them and us, through them, to learn the lake.”

To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.