Limestone bluffs and densely forested slopes line many of Center Hill Lake’s 415 miles of beautiful shoreline. (Photo: TN State Parks Naturalist Randy Hedgepath)

Summer Fishing and Flowers at Center Hill Lake

Last month I attended Jim Duckworth’s 13th Annual Writers Camp at Edgar Evins State Park on Center Hill Lake. Each year a group of writers meet to fish and try out new fishing gear… and see who can eat the most fish. Well, it’s not a contest but we eat a lot because it is so good. Jim uses a Cajun Fryer that cooks fish to perfection.

My smallmouth guide, Chris Duraj from Lebanon, quickly put me on fish. I landed a 17-incher with my second cast. The legal length limit is 18 inches so that smallie was returned to the clear waters of the lake. Chris hooked a 23-inch smallie a short time later and released it too. I lost count of the number of fish we caught, however, it was a very memorable outing because of the continuous action.

Center Hill Lake Fishing

Chris Duraj landed and released this hefty smallmouth bass during an April outing on Center Hill Lake

Scenic Center Hill Lake is 64 miles long with 18,220 acres of surface area at summer pool. The upper area of the lake has a depth of 37 feet and depths reach more than 150 feet near the dam. It is a popular with folks who love being on the water from weekend house boaters to anglers.

The “Hill” is probably best known for its smallmouth bass but largemouth bass and spotted bass have very strong populations too. Walleye numbers have increased enough to entice some bass anglers to add it to their piscatorial pursuits. The lake is also a favored spot for crappie and bream anglers.

The upper end of this highland hill lake is river-like from Great Falls Dam down to Davies Island, about two-thirds the length of the lake. Its feeder creeks do not have large areas of backwater but have deep channels. In the early spring the upper end contains the spawning grounds for walleye and stripe (white bass). Smallies, largemouth and spotted bass are caught with regularity along the Caney Fork River channel and in the feeder creeks.

Limestone bluffs and densely forested slopes line many of Center Hill Lake’s 415 miles of beautiful shoreline. (Photo: TN State Parks Naturalist Randy Hedgepath)

Limestone bluffs and densely forested slopes line many of Center Hill Lake’s 415 miles of beautiful shoreline. (Photo: TN State Parks Naturalist Randy Hedgepath)

The six miles to Big Hurricane Creek from Davies Island is the short mid-section where the lake noticeably widens. Depending upon the creek size, the backwater may extend from two to five miles. Some anglers consider this area the smallmouth “honey hole.”

From Big Hurricane Creek to the dam is the widest and deepest area with steep bluffs, points, humps, gravel bars and larger areas of backwater in the creeks.

There are many boat launching ramps, marinas, recreational areas and three state parks (Edgar Evins, Burgess Falls and Rock Island) on Center Hill Lake. There are numerous baitshop-markets around the lake from Rock Island Market at the upper end to Big Rock Market near the dam. The lake is only minutes away from Cookeville, Lebanon, Smithville, McMinnville, Sparta and Carthage, and an hour east of Nashville via I-40.

Seen infrequently in Tennessee, the Western Wallflower is common in our country’s western plains where it blooms between March and July in dry stony areas. The limestone bluffs lining Center Hill Lake are at the eastern edge of its range.

Western Wallflower Tour Edgar Evins

Guests are exploring the bluffs during a Wallflower Week boat tour at Center Hill Lake. (Photo: TN State Park Ranger Mark Taylor)

In addition to Western Wallflowers expect to see wildlife and other indigenous plant species. Be prepared for sun or rain exposure and bring your camera and binoculars. Bottled water and a bagged lunch are also recommended.

The guides ask that you please arrive 15 minutes early at the Courtesy Dock since the boat will leave promptly at 10 a.m. for the three-hour tour. It is limited to 12 people per tour. Sorry, no children under three years old. To sign up call 931-858-2114 or 931-982-3918, or email Ranger Mark at

Tennessee Western Wallflowers

The four-petal blooms of Western Wallflower range from orange to yellow. (Photo: TN State Parks Naturalist Randy Hedgepath)

Have you visited Center Hill Lake? Let us know about your experience in the comments! 

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on


  1. Pingback: Flat Water Canoeing in Middle Tennessee | Tennessee Triptales

  2. avatar

    Carl Halfacre, Park Manager, Edgar Evins

    Vernon thanks for the positive plug for Edgar Evins and those other two TN State Parks. Articles like yours are our best advertising. CHH


    bobby baker

    Very nice read. Ty


    Jesse Gonzales

    We have been camping here 4th of July week. .very nice but no fish.


    john mendenhall

    i am looking for a guide for walleye fishing at centerhill

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