STATESBORO — People who hike, picnic or camp — but don’t fish — no longer have free use of the Evans County Public Fishing Area and 31 other facilities around Georgia.
Either an annual fishing license with a wildlife management area stamp or a special short-term fishing license already was required to fish in Georgia’s public fishing areas. But previously, no license or fee had been required for other uses. Effective Jan. 1, the Department of Natural Resources is issuing a new permit called the Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass, or GORP, and is requiring that non-anglers who use fishing areas possess either a GORP or a fishing license.
A temporary banner on the gate at the Evans County PFA alerts visitors of the new requirement, and a permanent sign has been put up nearby. The 372-acre PFA, off U.S. Highway 280 near Daisy, includes three lakes measuring 8, 30 and 84 acres. In addition to fishing piers and boat ramps, the site features picnic tables, restrooms and a nature trail with a boardwalk. It also offers primitive campsites for organized groups.
Besides the seven affected public fishing areas, the Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass now is required to access certain facilities at 25 wildlife management areas, according to a list on the DNR website. Near Statesboro, these include the campground at Tuckahoe WMA in Screven County and the shooting ranges at Big Hammock WMA in Tattnall County and Richmond Hill WMA in Bryan An annual GORP costs $19, which is the same as the fee to add a wildlife management area stamp to an annual fishing or hunting license.
Another option is a three-day GORP for $3.50, and Georgia residents — but not nonresidents — can make this a “GORP Plus” with three-day fishing privileges for no additional charge. Families or other groups of up to eight people can buy a three-day group pass for $10 or an annual small-group pass for $35.
With the DNR adjusting to funding cuts, the permit requirement is the second policy change in six months for the public fishing areas. As of Aug. 1, 2011, the state-operated PFAs are open five days a week and are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Previously, they had been open from sunup to sundown seven days a week.
The GORP can be purchased online at www.georgiawildlife.com, by phone at 1-800-366-2661 or at local retailers that sell hunting and fishing licenses.