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.
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.
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.
The 6,000-acre Edgar Evins State Park will host its fifth annual Western Wallflower Week with free guided boat tours daily during May 20-26. 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.
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 Mark.Taylor@tn.gov.
Have you visited Center Hill Lake? Let us know about your experience in the comments!