"It is just kind of a fishing paradise if you like river fishing"
Since there is a famous one in Italy and another in New York, the folks in northwest Georgia like to call their city ‘Georgia’s Rome’ to distinguish it from the others. Distinguishable it is.
Rome is a friendly city nestled in among seven prominent hills that create magnificent vistas in every direction. Running between those hills are three rivers that form what is described as North America's most biologically diverse river basin. That Coosa River Basin draws the attention of anglers and water lovers of all sorts.
Rome is located at the head of the Coosa River. The Oostanaula River comes flowing from the north and the Etowah River from the east to form the headwaters of the Coosa River Basin. It continues south through Alabama and, then to Mobile Bay.
One local angler that knows about the fishing in and around Rome holds an IGFA World Record for a fish caught on the Etowah River. Todd West developed a passion and a goal to use a fly rod to catch a record spotted bass on 2-pound tippet. After weeks and months passed without success his goal was finally reached. In April of 2013 Todd paddled his feelfree Kayak on the Etowah River and caught a 3 pound 14 ounce spotted bass that topped the old record by over a pound.
Photo: The Coosa River Basin is filled with all kinds of wildlife and scenic beauty.
Todd describes the Coosa River Basin as one of the top bass fisheries in the Southeast, with many other species to target. “Big largemouths and big spots are all around,” states Todd. “There are also hybrid bass, stripers, monster bluegill and catfish. It is just kind of a fisherman’s paradise if you love river fishing.”
If you are downtown Rome you are in walking distance of the boat ramp. “You can enjoy a morning on the water and meet friends downtown at one of many restaurants to enjoy your favorite food while you tell tales of the morning excursion.”
There are 30 different restaurants in the downtown area. Todd jokingly says, “You always run into someone you know, even when you don’t want to.” Visitors will experience the friendliest people around. They might not run into someone they know, but they will likely leave having made a new friend or two.
Todd describes Rome as a very special town, a very eclectic town. “There is a mix of people. You have the good ol’ boy southern types, you have the hippie types and you have the laid back outdoorsy types. It’s from big money to no money and everybody kinda’ gets along.”
Rome is one of those places where visitors feel relaxed. “Visitors always tell me they feel at home here in Rome. It feels comfortable, they say. People don’t feel out of place here,” says Todd.
Todd’s kayak fishing buddy Cody Black totally agrees with his assessment of Rome. “Rome is a beautiful place,” says Cody. “You can always bet on running into other kayak anglers who are friendly people and enjoy the pursuit just like me and so many others.”
Photo: Cody Black (L) and Todd West (R) heading to the Etowah River with their feel free kayaks.
Cody has been fishing the Rome area more than normal this year, partly because of the Reel Krazy Kayak tournament series. “Rome has access to beautiful river fishing, especially the Etowah. A little further north you have the Rocky Mountain Recreation Area that has two lakes with more than 550 acres of water. It holds some absolute monster largemouth bass along with good crappie and bluegill fishing.”
Brushy Branch, in the western part of the county, is only 30 minutes away and another good local fishing spot, according to Cody. “There’s always a good chance of catching a really good bass on Brushy Branch.”
It doesn’t seem to matter where you go around Rome to fish, you can always expect to see beautiful scenery and meet some friendly people. “You could be floating down the river and see nothing but farmland as far as you can see. Then all of a sudden you see gorgeous mountains and forestland. Rome has it all as far as scenery, and to top off all that beauty you might just land a trophy bass.”
A national catfish tournament trail chose Rome as the site for its August 2014 tournament because of good catfishing in the Coosa River. Ken Freeman, event organizer for Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest described the Rome event as a grassroots series and part of the national tournament trail. “The thing about this tournament,” explained Freeman, “is that we provide a small town atmosphere where local anglers are able to participate in a national event and possibly qualify for a national championship. It also helps to get the towns involved in the bigger picture of promoting catfishing.”
Just to give an idea of what the catfishing can be like, the tournament winning father/son team of George and David Harrison approached the 100-pound mark with their 5 fish bag of 94.73 pounds. Their biggest catfish weighed in at 40.49 pounds. “No secret to the fishing today,” said David. “We had some good fresh bait and got into some good holes.”
Photo: Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest chose Rome as the location for its August tournament
Underlining what others say about Rome, Freeman commented, “There is no better people to work with in the USA. From the largest city we visit to the smallest place we go, Rome is a first class act. It is a great place for anyone to stop in for a visit while travelling, or better yet make it a destination.”
Rome even has local advice available for anglers. Retired game warden, Ben Winkelman is the director of the Rome - Floyd Eco Center. “Anglers in particular enjoy coming here,” said Winkleman. “We have a wide variety of warmwater fish species that are found here in this river system. They can come in and get a closer look at largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue gill, shell crackers and different sunfish that are prevalent to this region.”
Obviously, the more anglers know about the fish they target the more successful they are. “We have staff on duty during the day that can answer angler questions about things that affect fishing,” stated Winkleman. “Things like dissolved oxygen, thermoclines and where fish generally hang out at different times of the year. Most of the folks that work here have a good knowledge of where fish would be and why they hold at different depths in different seasons, based on dissolved oxygen, food source, and how all those things come in to play with fishing.”
Photo: The Eco Center is a must see for anyone visiting Rome, especially anglers.
Anglers will also enjoy a visit to the center just for the history of the fishery. One very interesting aspect of that fishing history is the fate of the sturgeon. The center even has a live one on display in one of its many aquariums. Winkleman can explain to you how the desire for caviar nearly devastated the stock.
Rome is more than just for fishing, so this road trip should be a family affair. First of all the friendliness of the town will be welcomed and enjoyed by the non-anglers. Secondly, there are scores of things to do in and around the area.
In addition to the Eco Center, which should be high on the list, there are numerous things to do in Rome. There is camping, geocaching, swimming, horseback riding, golf, hiking, kayaking and more.
Plenty of lodging facilities, like the Quality Inn where I stayed, provide a clean, comfortable room with attentive staff at the end of the day’s activities.
Georgia’s Rome is a destination to put on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed.