Fishing Walleye, Sipping RC, and Munching MoonPies in Tennessee
Mmm, mmm, good! This story’s all about great tastes, Southern traditions and one of Middle Tennessee’s best spots for walleye fishing, Normandy Lake.
Walleyes are the crème de le crème of fish flesh in our state – white, delicate and delicious. But they don’t top the list of most Tennessee anglers.
So that got me wondering. Maybe catching them is tough … or is it?
I knew from my Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency contacts that walleyes are native to Tennessee and thrive in many of our reservoirs. TWRA sets length restrictions designed to allow walleye females to spawn at least one time before being harvested.
But walleye still have trouble reproducing in some reservoirs. The trouble may be related to a non-native species of fish called the alewife that possibly competes with walleye fry for the same type of food, consumes walleye fry or somehow inhibits spawning when eaten by walleye as well as loss of habitat because of dams allowing siltation degrading their spawning areas. To maintain a fishery with enough walleyes for anglers to pursue, TWRA must stock this species in many of the state’s waters.
In this kind of situation, TWRA’s Normandy Fish Hatchery can’t put walleyes on our hooks but they can and do stock walleye fingerlings and other species including stripers, crappie and catfish, where we can catch ’em. So when you catch a keeper for supper it may well be from Normandy Hatchery where millions of fish are produced and released annually.
The 200-acre Normandy Fish Hatchery is open to the public and tours are given, but call ahead at (931) 857-3417 if you’d like to see how it all works.
I headed down to Normandy Lake with my fishing buddy, Doug Markham, in search of walleyes. Located on the upper Duck River in south central Tennessee, Normandy Lake draws anglers, campers and boaters from all over.
It is a 3,230-acre area completed in the 1970s by TVA to both aid in economic development and provide flood control. It has 72 miles of shoreline along its 17-mile length. The lower end, from the dam to the bridge, is the deepest and widest part of the lake, reaching a depth of 90 feet in front of the dam.
It’s best to fish shallow at night or in low light conditions and then fish deeper as the sun rises during summer.
When fish are deeper than 15 feet, try vertical-jigging over the rocky or gravelly bottoms where you’ve marked game fish or baitfish with a depth finder. Drop a spoon, jig, worm or minnow to the depth that fish are holding and slowly pump your rod tip up and down. Strikes usually come while you’re dropping your bait so don’t leave much slack in your line – you need to be able to feel the subtle bite to know when to set the hook.
Walleyes love crawfish, so casting imitating lures in orange, green and brown (hair jigs or crankbaits) or trolling long thin crankbaits about 100 feet behind your boat should succeed well during the day. Other successful color combinations are blue, red, shad and chartreuse.
Grab an RC Cola and MoonPie in Nearby Bell Buckle
When you’re ready to stretch your legs and explore a bit, the historic village of Bell Buckle is only about 18 miles away.
If you’re around on June 15 this year, join the throngs gathered to celebrate one of the South’s best-loved traditions; drinking RC Cola and eating MoonPies, an out-of-this-world blend of graham crackers, marshmallow fluff and chocolate created at Chattanooga Bakery in 1917.
Southerners tote MoonPies in lunch sacks, fling them during Mardi Gras parades, have contests to see who can eat the most, and even deep fat fry ‘em. But only during Bell Buckle’s RC MoonPie Festival can you sample the World’s Largest MoonPie. Better get a bite of it while you can!