Happy catching!

Fishingpredominantly in freshwateris the most popular wildlife-related recreational activity in the U.S. More than 30 million Americans enjoy fishing, and it's not difficult to see why: There’s nothing like spending time by the water, be it a wetland alive with the sound of singing frogs or a meandering stream that draws deer out of the woods for an early morning drink. Fishing is great activity whether you’re in a solitary mood or looking for a way to spend some quality time with family or friends.

For forest owners, trees and freshwater go hand in hand. In fact, 80 percent of the nation’s freshwater originates on forested land, supplying nearly two-thirds of our drinking water. Careful stewardship of your water resources not only helps conserve the water supply but also the habitat of North America’s aquatic species, while providing recreational fishing opportunities literally in your backyard. 

Earl and Wanda Barrs, owners of Gully Branch Tree Farm in Bleckley County, Georgia, and 2009 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, know the value of cultivated forests and fish. Their 1500-acre woodland boasts two streams, a 40-acre man-made lake, two three-acre fish ponds and a duck pond. 

The Barrs view their “waters” as essential to the sustainability of a tree farm, sheltering dozens of plant and animal species, reducing runoff, cleaning the water supply, enhancing the beauty and recreational potential of the land and adding value to it on a balance sheet. Most importantly, though, the waters benefit the surrounding forest in immeasurable ways. 

Streams, ponds and lakes don’t come without their own set of challenges: a beaver damn that flooded acres of hardwoods, a bevy of catfish-hungry otters that depleted the fish stock, and waterborne invasive plants that encroached on native ones are just a few of the obstacles they’ve faced over the years. 

The MyLandPlan Tool can help you enrich your woodlands to create healthier habitats for fish like this trout catch seen here.

Still, the pleasure of fishing the land has outweighed these problems. Fishing rodeos are a regular event at Gully Branch, a cornerstone of the couple’s effort to share the farm with their friends, family and community. “It’s a privilege to see such rich wildlife enjoyed by so many,” says Wanda. 

In this section, you’ll learn how to combine recreation and woodland stewardship, just as the Barrs do, for the benefit of forests, water and people.

What you’ll find in this section:

Permitting and Licensing: Ensure you’re following the laws and regulations that govern hunting in your state.

Habitat for Fish and Other Aquatic Species: How to enrich your property by creating healthy habitats for fish.

How to Care for Streams, Rivers, Ponds and Lakes: An overview of the best strategies for protecting these waterbodies and the species inhabiting them.

Forestry Best Management Practices: Guidelines on how to protect fresh water supplies in your woodland.

Fishing with Kids: How to get your little ones to fall for fishinghook, line and sinker. 


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