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Old Hickory Dam

Old Hickory Dam and Cumberland Offer Good Fishing In September

Fishing this early fall? Head to Old Hickory Lake and Cumberland River with Bill Dance.

Are you looking for a great place to fish in Tennessee this early fall?

Well, you need to try the Cumberland River tailrace below Old Hickory Dam, not far from Nashville; in fact the Cumberland continues on to flow through Music City. The area is especially productive during September and early October, according to my friend and fishing guide, Jim Duckworth.

*All photography courtesy of Chuck Sutherland unless otherwise noted. 

"It's the moving water, Bill," Duckworth told me. "At this time of year it seems like everything migrates to it…and that includes largemouth, smallmouth, as well as spotted and striped bass."

Why is it a fish magnet? Well, water temps here are lower than on the main lake and the oxygen content is much higher thanks to the moving water.

(Credit: Sumner County Tourism) 

An added bonus to fishing current is that weather fronts, which you have few of in fall, will not affect fishing as much as it would in a reservoir.

Thanks to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's 18-inch minimum length limits on smallmouth caught in the area, there are a ton of 17-inch smallmouths to be caught there on crankbaits. And let me tell you, a 17-inch smallmouth can put up a fight.

(Credit: TDTD Files)

The length restrictions on smallies are said to be one of the best things to happen to fishing in the area, and a lot of anglers are tipping their fishing caps to the TWRA for this conservation effort.

Get to the tailrace early on September mornings and the topwater bite for striped bass can be incredible with a few hybrids mixed-in. But it is very much "early" action.

Smallmouth, largemouth and spots also nail topwater baits in the morning hours.

Heddon Super Spook, Juniors are favorite topwater baits to throw early, while Bandit Crankbaits 200s and 300s are the best lures as the sun rises.

Be sure you target the wing dams for smallies. Bluffs and riprap areas are also top spots to cast the baits mentioned above.                                                          

Current flow is key with 6,000-8,000 cubic feet per second desired; you want at least one or two generators running at the dam for success.

Duckworth believes the smallies need the extra protection and noted a two-year survey that listed mortality rates on smallmouth as very high when caught and released in the warmer months.

(Credit: TDTD Files)

TWRA stocks of walleye and sauger, a cousin to the walleye, fish are also paying off. TWRA has stocked 50,000 a year for the last 10 years. As a result, some 10-pound walleye have been reported. In addition, the sauger numbers are good in the three to five-pound range.

A strong trolling motor is always welcome when constantly fishing the tailrace waters of the Cumberland.

Duckworth said the Shelby Park and downtown areas can be good, where the river is wider. But he favors the upper end, where the river is more narrow, resulting in more fish-attracting current.

Catfishing is also reported to be great in the tailrace in September because of increased current and oxygen found there in addition to the cooler temperatures. Like most catfishing in tailwaters, anglers begin at the dam and drift downstream, bouncing traditional cat baits along the bottom. Farther downstream, some catfish anglers hold their locales and fish the deeper holes beneath them.

(Credit: TDTD Files) 

It's a time of year when the water is stirring and the fish are, too.

'Til next time, catch one for me in Tennessee.