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Setting 'fish traps' and early fishing regulations in Bulloch
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.

In the Laws of Georgia (1810), Act #505 was intended “To keep open Savannah and Tugalo rivers, and to prevent obstructions in the same, calculated to impede the free passage of boats and fish.”

The Act of Dec. 8, 1810, described this might be done “by dams, fish traps, or other obstructions.” In addition, “one-half of said streams...shall at all times be kept open for the free passage of boats and fish.”

George White, in his book Statistics of the State of Georgia (1849) wrote “In many places are...the remains of Indian fish-traps, formed by piling stones in a circle, the upper part being left lower (to admit) the fish.”

William Wright announced on April 14, 1860, that he would set up a “fish trap” on the Great Ogeechee River near the junction of Great Lott’s Creek. An ingenious fellow, Wright soon opened a ‘self-serve’ fishery.

Wright arranged with Alexander J. Habersham and John B. Watts of Effingham County to use their land to build his “fish trap,” which very resembled a “Weir” or a dam.

Milledgeville’s Southern Federal Union newspaper of Dec. 17, 1861 revealed that “A bill to provide against the obstruction of watercourses with fish traps, etc.” was passed by the Georgia legislature.

The purpose? “To protect the rights of fishermen.” Most fishing was done during the seasonal fish runs, or migrations, when there were great numbers of these fish to catch. Temporary weirs were often set up.

A weir resembled a partially underwater fence across a stream with only an exit. Weirs directed these fish into traps or nets waiting at the other end. The only problem was when the water ran too quickly.

If it was, the speed might rip the traps apart. There were V-shaped traps, curved traps, and L-shaped traps, to name a few. The regulations were listed in Act #390 (1889): Part Three: Local Laws, Title Four: Game, Etc.

It stated, “It shall not be catch or entrap fish with hooks and lines, seins, gill-nets, cast-nets, or in any other way in any streams or ponds on any lands...of Bulloch without the written consent of the owner.”

Deacon Howard Kirkland of the Mount Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church acquired two acres between Bedford Everett’s land and the mouth of the Great Lott’s Creek for $4 on June 23, 1890.

Old Mount Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church became known informally, as the Fish Trap Church; and the Old Mount Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church as the Fish Trap Cemetery.

The bridge became known as the “Fish Trap Bridge;” the nearby school became known as the “Fish Trap School;” and the road became known as the “Fish Trap Road.”

The Bulloch County-Statesboro News-Statesboro Eagle issue of May 15, 1924 revealed “An active campaign has been inaugurated by local fish and game officials against fish traps in the waters of Bulloch county.”

With “instructions from the state wardens. a drive has been made to clean out, traps of every size and nature (and) mill pond traps have been visited (and sometimes) confiscated and the owners notified to appear in court.”

The Bulloch Times Statesboro News-Statesboro Eagle issue of July 29, 1937 declared “Brown Makes record in Finding Fish Traps. W.A. Brown of Clito, former deputy for the county, reports a high capture of fish traps.”

And, “during the week on a voluntary raid near Dover his total captures amounted to 21 traps and 104 fish in a single day. The law directs that fish found in traps shall be released unless they would die if so released.”

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at

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