In 2007 Georgia lawmakers approved millions of dollars for the Go Fish Center in Perry. That was before the economy crashed. Throughout the downturn construction of the center continued and Today Governor Sonny Perdue finally cut the ribbon. It's the state's newest tourist attraction.
Walking through the outdoor exhibits you pass by a man made mountain with trout swimming in tanks behind glass. This represents North Georgia says Ted Will with the Department of Natural Resources that owns the center.
“Georgia is so diverse in the water bodies. From the mountains, to the Piedmont, to the coastal plain, to our estuaries, and to the ocean. Unlike many states we have a lot to offer.”
And we have a lot to offer. From Bass in North Georgia lakes, catfish in Middle Georgia Rivers to the black water swamps of the Okefenokee. DNR Curator Michael Gramley says they collected species from all over.
“We have American Alligators ranging in size from 5 to 7 feet in here. You can see the one right here and there’s a couple back in the landscaping back there. They're kind of hidden but they move out towards the front a lot and people are able to see them and people love to see alligators.”
But besides getting an up close look at aquatic life people can also learn. You can spin a wheel to make it rain, then watch water flow across a giant Georgia map from the mountains to the sea.
“The kids will be able to come in here, spin the wheel…..thunder and lightning. We just need to fine tune the amount of rain we’re getting.”
Ted Will says that rain exhibit illustrates the impact of water flow on watersheds.
But fishing remains the focus. Rods, reels, lures and record-breaking taxidermy fish line the walls.
Governor Perdue’s Go Fish initiative has been controversial. Opponents say it’s the wrong time for the state to spend 19-million dollars on a museum and boat ramps while laying off and furloughing employees. But, Will says the money was set aside before the economic downturn.
“I think when people see the facility opening now they’re thinking that money is being spent as of now so that might be where some of that criticism would come from.”
Local and corporate donors gave 9-million in additional dollars.
There’s also a fishing pond and hatchery. Here seemingly friendly Lake Sturgeon swim to the edge of a large tank poking their faces out of the water.
“I mean they are really unique in how they behave. I mean they will kind of come up and perform for you.”
Will says the sturgeon population is threatened in Georgia and the DNR is working to restore it. The hatchery also includes what’s called a “sharelunker” program.
“People bring in a large 13 pound plus large-mouth bass. We’ll take that fish. Spawn that fish and stock those progeny back out into the water bodies. So, we have that capability here.”
There’s also a fully stocked fishing pond.
Officials say over a million people fish in Georgia every year. The sport they say has an, economic impact of 1.5 billion dollars a year.