Oconee National Forest

Oconee National Forest is a preserve which includes the large man-made Lake Oconee, located between Atlanta and Augusta in Georgia.

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Lake Oconee was formed in 1979 with the completion of Wallace Dam, impounding the waters of the Oconee and Appalachee Rivers. The lake is owned and managed by the Georgia Power company for the purpose of generating hydroelecric power.

The lake used to be rural in nature, a destination for fisherman and nature-lovers, but has become much more important as a rapidly growing community of luxury home neighborhoods. Lake Oconee is home to some of the most prestigious gated neighborhoods in the southeastern United States.

The water level of Lake Oconee stays relatively stable, varying only 18-24 inches each day as water is drawn to generate power during peak demand periods. The lake is not used for flood, drought, or water supply control.

Lake Oconee has very warm summers, with highs between 80 and 95 °F (35 °C), and very mild winters, with temperatures dropping below 40 °F (4 °C) only during December, January, and February, and rarely during daylight hours.

Lake Oconee is a short drive from most of Georgia‘s major urban areas.

From Atlanta:Approximately 90 minutes. Take Interstate Highway 20 (east) to exit 130 (U.S. Highway 44). Follow U.S. Highway 44 (south) for about 9 mi (14 km).

From Athens:Approximately 80 minutes. Take U.S. Highway 441 (south) to Interstate Highway 20 (east). Take exit 130 (U.S. Highway 44). Follow U.S. Highway 44 (south) for about 8 miles.

From Augusta:Approximately 90 minutes. Take Interstate Highway 20 (west) to exit 130 (U.S. Highway 44). Follow U.S. Highway 44 (south) for about 9 miles.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires all individuals age 16 and over to have a current Georgia fishing license in their possession while fishing in fresh or salt water in Georgia, with certain exceptions for landowners and protected groups. Licenses range in cost from $5 to $24, depending on resident status and duration.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources: +1 770-414-3333

Lake Oconee is home to some of the most picturesque residential golf courses in the southeastern United States. All courses are located in gated residential neighborhoods and border at least a small portion of Lake Oconee’s shoreline. Most are members-only, but two courses remain open to the public:

Lake Oconee is one of Georgia‘s most popular fishing destinations. There is a tremendous quantity of fish in the lake. According to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources sample, there is a standing crop estimated at 355 pounds of fish per acre (410 kg/ha). That is 250% more than any other lake in the Southeast. Because the lake is a young impoundment, it is still peaking in number of fish per acre. It is considered by fishermen to be the “hottest” and most fertile lake in the state.

Popular game fish on the lake include large mouth, striped, and hybrid bass, black crappie, bream, and channel catfish. Lake Oconee is the only lake in the state where the Department of Natural Resources protects the brood fish of the largemouth bass, restricting harvesting of the species in the 10” to 14” slot. Large mouth bass are the most often sought-after Lake Oconee species, but crappie and other species of bass have a strong following.

When the lake was formed, Georgia Power left 1,200 acres (490 hectares) of standing or topped timber to provide areas for fish to collect. There are 50 timber areas, averaging 4 acres (1.6 hectares) each. They are topped at 10 ft (3.0 m) and marked by buoys.

Lake Oconee’s pumped storage operation positively affects fishing conditions. When the dam is generating electricity, strong currents are created, and fish collect near the river channels. The stable water level protects hundreds of coves where fish spawn.

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