John Dalton uses YouTube to showcase the wonders of Northwest Georgia’s waterways

The sound of water mingled with the sound of traffic on Interstate 75 as John Dalton carefully walked through a shallow stretch of water on the banks of South Chickamauga Creek in Ringgold, Georgia.

“I like to keep moving,” said Dalton, equipped with a fishing pole and small gear bag.

With a practiced move, he sank a colorful fishing lure in a shady spot on the creek bank. Although he didn’t film, that day’s session was similar to what he does for a living: fishing and creating videos of his adventures for YouTube.

Dalton said he’s fished almost every waterway in the area and spends more time studying online maps looking for new fishing spots than actually fishing. Along the way, he said he found all sorts of beautiful places in Northwest Georgia and beyond that the public rarely sees.

Dalton’s fishing adventures underscore the resilience of fish and freshwater ecosystems – and the investments in restoration that have been made to allow wildlife to thrive.

“Fish Anywhere, Fish Anywhere” is the slogan of his channel, Creek Fishing Adventures, and Dalton said he often stops at bridges to scout new fishing spots. Some spots require hiking or wading, while others are best accessed by kayak.

“That’s the point of exploring, you come across all sorts of things,” Dalton said. “You see things that no one else will see—especially when you’re kayaking down a river. I’ll come across caves and all sorts of things that most people will never see. And you fish for fish that don’t exist.” Don’t let yourself be fished.

Although he lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, he said he wants to continue learning about all of the waterways in the area. Dalton said he likes green trails in the city, like the Chief Richard Taylor Nature Trail next to South Chickamauga Creek, because they’re easy to access and contain more fish than people think.

“This creek is really cool because it has a great variety of fish,” Dalton said, including giant bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass, coosa bass, and various sunfish species.

You can buy a basic fishing rod and bait for about $50, he said, and then all that’s required is the ability to spot where the fish are.

A fishing license is also required and can be purchased by Georgia residents for $15 per year. Non-residents pay $50 per year for a license. A Tennessee fishing license for residents is $34 annually and $50 for non-residents.

While fishing from the bank of Chickamauga Creek, Dalton said earlier that day a 6-inch bass slung its bait from its hiding place under the bank. He said he prefers rocky-bottomed streams to muddy-bottomed streams because more insects breed and live there.

Dalton said he wants to fish all of the area’s waterways but cannot access Lookout Creek due to private property restrictions. People still kayak on the creek, but he said he’d rather not enter it.

In 2022, Dade County bought a property near State Route 136 and Lookout Creek for $500,000, according to Ted Rumley, county executive and chair of the Dade County Board of Commissioners. If necessary, a reservoir is planned for the property.

“Anyone can enjoy it,” Rumley said of the property.

The owners of the property, which borders the county’s land, kept people off their part of the river for years, he said.

Georgia had one of the stricter laws regarding river rights of way, Dalton said, because landowners used to own half of the river adjacent to their land. He said he was yelled at while kayaking in Georgia by landowners who didn’t want him fishing their half of the river.

However, earlier this year a law was passed and signed allowing fishing and travel in most of Georgia’s navigable rivers.

(READ MORE: Dade County hopes for future growth with Lookout Creek Reservoir)

According to Stephen Bontekoe, executive director of the Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, fish are a good sign of water quality, and water health is a priority for state funding in northern Georgia.

The Tennessee and Coosa-Tallapoosa river basins in northwest Georgia are home to several top-priority watersheds for the state, he said, and much of his organization’s work involves projects to restore and protect those water systems.

“Better water quality is often synonymous with better habitat for species,” Bontako said in a phone call.

It’s great to see fish in unusual places, he said, but other groups would like to see how fish and species like crabs and mussels are recovering due to improved habitats.

Bontekoe said his organization is conducting work on shoreline and habitat restoration and green infrastructure across northern Georgia. For example, he said the group just completed a permeable paved parking lot and rain garden at Trenton’s Jenkins Park to allow rainwater to seep into the tarmac rather than simply run off.

Bontako said Limestone has completed projects on South Chickamauga Creek, upstream from where Dalton fished, that reduced runoff by improving nearby septic tanks and farming practices. Another project on the same section of the South Chickamauga Creek project helped reduce runoff from impervious surfaces, he said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Creek redevelopment includes septic tank repair grants for some homeowners in Northwest Georgia.)

Dalton said he doesn’t think he’s fished long enough – only three years in Georgia – to see the rivers recover due to restoration work.

He said he started making videos about seven years ago and has been a full-time YouTuber for about three and a half years. He said he makes money when people watch the ads placed by YouTube in his videos and through sponsorships from fishing lure companies.

Occasionally he eats the fish he catches, but most of the time he is too lazy to clean and cook what he catches. Dalton said he’s not concerned about the pollution of the fish, except in larger rivers where signs are posted.

He said he often sees tires, mattresses and other debris in remote locations where he fishes. In his opinion, it is not worth removing much of the litter, as it is often used as a habitat by fish.

“I know people don’t want to hear that,” but Dalton said fish are more resilient and survive in more places than most people think.

A recent popular video showed Dalton fishing in a ditch behind his mechanic in Cleveland, he said. Finding unusual fishing spots is part of the adventure, he said, and Dalton has gained 139,000 subscribers who follow his channel and his adventures.

People ride bridges over streams and ditches all the time and have no idea what lives in the waters below them, but Dalton said he enjoys showing them.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659.