That dream — to promote Georgia as an angler’s pardise — belonged to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who pledged the state to borrow $14 million needed to float his Go Fish Georgia initiative. When he announced around Christmas 2007 that the center would be built down the road from his home, officials predicted annual attendance of 200,000.
Paid attendance, while slowly growing, is barely a tenth of that, with ticket sales of less than $70,000 this fiscal year, through the end of May. The debt, $20 million with interest, won’t be paid off until Dec. 1, 2027. Including bond payments, salaries and overhead, the state is paying out more than $1.5 million a year to keep the center going. It is open to the public three days a week, but school groups reserve it for field trips other days.
Joe McCutchen, an Ellijay retiree who criticized Go Fish from the start, said it “makes me sick to my stomach to think about the waste of taxpayer money. It’s turned out to be a real boondoggle.”
That’s not the way locals who use the facility see it.
“It is a pretty neat place,” said Bob Melnick of Warner Robins, who visited the center one recent Friday with his grandson. “For an area outside of the Atlanta market, it’s not bad. It gives kids around here something to do.”