Anglers wishing to launch their boats at the Bear Creek Reservoir will find it’s 33 percent more expensive and available 25 percent less frequently, thanks to action taken last week by the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority.
The four-county group that owns the 505-acre reservoir voted last Wednesday to increase the cost per boater/fisherman by $2 to $8 per day and to close the boat ramp on Fridays. The changes became effective immediately.
Both actions are attempts by the authority to reduce the member counties’ cost for offering boat access to the lake. Ricky Sanders, chairman of the authority’s Recreation Committee, estimated that the moves will trim the annual expense for fishing access to $1,800. The current budget projected an $11,000 annual deficit. Each of the four counties is responsible for 25 percent of that cost.
The reservoir is open year-round to bank fishing at no charge on a short stretch of shoreline on Georgia Hwy. 330. But the boat ramp — the only public access for boats – is open only nine months of the year and, after last Wednesday’s vote, only three days a week instead of four.
Harry Sims, chairman of the authority’s Recreation Committee, presented the committee’s recommendations.
“Dropping Fridays will bring us a closer margin to get the subsidies down,” Sims declared.
He noted that the cost of annual passes will remain at $50, while the cost for children, veterans, the elderly and the disabled will remain at $3 per day.
Sims said the cost of keeping the reservoir open to boats amounts to $160 per day.
Elton Collins of Commerce went along with the vote, but expressed some dismay: “I know we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, but we’re not open very much out there,” he said.
The changes will not affect owners of property adjacent to the reservoir. They can launch their boats from their property 365 days a year.
For the rest of the public, the reservoir is open to fishing from boats from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays April-September; from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in October, November and March; but is closed during December, January and February.
Exceptions may be made for clubs holding tournaments, officials noted, and the boat ramp will be open on the Mondays of Memorial Day and Labor Day and on Thursday, July 4.