Fish the Clinch River for Striped Bass; Douglas  Lake for Multi-Species

Fish the Clinch River for Striped Bass; Douglas Lake for Multi-Species

Cast a line with Bill Dance along Tennessee's Clinch River and Douglas Lake

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Last month, I told you about the benefits of targeting big, trophy striped bass, and we still have our sights set on them for April. This time, however, I am going to change locales. This month, I am suggesting the Clinch River region.

Clinch River
Clinch River, photo credit: Chuck Sutherland

Of special note are the areas near the Kingston and Bull Run steam plants. The Kingston, Tennessee steam plant is located not far off Interstate 40, via the Kingston Exit. Bull Run Steam Plant is located at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There are several areas to launch upstream from the Bull Run Plant.

As with most trophy striper efforts, live bait seems the best way to go. And anglers often use Sabiki bait-catching rigs or casting nets to acquire the favored shad as bait. Fishermen will often hook the baits on 8/0 Circle hooks and place an orange-sized balloon above them, allowing the bait to swim.

Fishing on Clinch River
Fishing on Clinch River

Big concentrations of a shad, especially from late April on into May, attract the large stripers to the shallow flats. As stripers progress toward spawn, the fish will be looking for currents in the larger creeks or in the main river. In pre-spawn, the fish will often linger on flats; and this where some anglers use planer boards to pull baits over the stripers. Trophy striper anglers use large bait fish, skipjack that measure in lengths of 20- to 24-inches.

Haunting the steam plant areas is a key at select times of year. These regions offer a desired comfort zone not found elsewhere in the river system. When water temperatures rise above 70 degrees throughout the system, stripers often migrate upstream to cooler water near the tailrace. Biologists have long noted that stripers can and will migrate a great distance in a relatively short amount of time.

The tailwaters of the Melton Hill Dam is a great spot to target on the Clinch. The striper action here typically begins in March. Generation at the dam is the key because the currents create an oxygen-rich environment. As with most tailrace fishing, there are many species other than striped bass to be found here. Tactics are typical of most tailrace/boil fishing. Anglers should take advantage of generation schedules at the dam. Drift live bait near the bottom from immediately in the boils and downstream for a couple of miles.

Fishing prize on Clinch River
Clinch River

The Clinch River with its dams and reservoirs are part of the Tennessee Valley Authority system. Remember to always wear a PFD when fishing, and use added caution when fishing the heavy currents in the tailwater below a dam.

Sometimes, as is common in most areas where striped bass are caught, the fish will surface. This kind of activity adds new meaning to the words “feeding frenzy.” Zara Spooks and other topwater baits are always productive should you find yourself in the thick of things. The Clinch River is also an excellent trout fishery. Visitors and residents alike will want to check it out for future fishing trips.

Douglas Reservoir

Another excellent location for April fishing opportunities is Douglas Reservoir, located in East Tennessee’s Hamblen, Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties. 

Douglas Lake
Douglas Lake, photo credit: Jeremy Rasnic 

Covering a massive 29,000 acres, this reservoir is a tributary impoundment to the Tennessee River and can fluctuate greatly with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s annual draw-down schedules. Crappie and largemouth get the most attention, of course.

Douglas Lake
Fishing on Douglas Lake

Anglers fish the traditional baits and lures for both. Minnows are caught with flies under a float. Some fishermen will hand pole for them while others will troll spider rigs. Spinnerbaits and Carolina-rigged lizards are favorites in April, while some use lipless cranks, too, often as locator lures.

The white bass run in the upper reaches of the reservoir. French Broad River is one of the best in the region. Anglers come from many neighboring states to fish for them. A fly under a float is a popular technique along within in-line spinners such as white Rooster Tails.

Douglas Lake
Douglas Lake

As the water warms, white bass can be nabbed on topwater baits in the shallows of the upper reservoir. In April, walleye and sauger fishing are winding down in the upper end of the reservoir, but both can still be caught by vertically-jigging flies tipped with minnows or trolling deep-diving crankbaits or spinner rigs.

And, don’t forget to check regulations as there are some exceptions to the statewide size and creel limits.

Until next time, as always, catch one for me in Tennessee!

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