The Three Water Spots You Should Fish This Spring in Tennessee

The Three Water Spots You Should Fish This Spring in Tennessee

Bill Dance explains where and how top fishermen coax large fish onto their hooks.

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Looking for a Volunteer Lake to target in March? Well, I got one for you and I have the fish you need to go after as well.

Cumberland River, All photos are by Chuck Sutherland unless otherwise noted.
Cumberland River, All photos are by Chuck Sutherland unless otherwise noted.

This month, we are casting our attention toward the Cumberland River and its famed striped bass fishery. These fish also called stripers and/or rockfish, reach huge body weights and can provide a fight that’s hard to find elsewhere in freshwater.

Fishing on Clinch River system
Fishing on Clinch River system

Together, Tennessee’s Cumberland and Clinch River systems have long been labeled the locales where the next world record striper will be caught. And this is not without reason. Stripers weighing above or near the 60-pound mark are not uncommon. And fish in the 20-pound range are very common.

A thorough stocking program conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is likely the key thread to turning the area into a trophy destination for stripers.

Top anglers on Old Hickory Lake, photo credit: TN Dept. of Tourist Development
Top anglers on Old Hickory Lake, photo credit: TN Dept. of Tourist Development

Cordell Hull and Old Hickory reservoirs are impoundments of the Cumberland and anglers literally come from all over the nation to fish these waters for stripers. In fact, the sport of fishing for them has created noted revenue for the regional businesses surrounding these lakes. There are several striper guides in the area. Among the most noted are Ralph Dallas (615-824-5792) and Jim Duckworth.

Fishing on Old Hickory Lake, photo credit: TN Dept. of Tourist Development
Fishing on Old Hickory Lake, photo credit: TN Dept. of Tourist Development

Specific target areas along the Cumberland vary with seasons and water temperatures, of course. Fishing below the Old Hickory Dam can be good; and the Gallatin Steam Plant area on Old Hickory has long been well-known areas. The striper fishing can be awesome in the tailrace at any time there is generation at the dam. The oxygen-rich waters are a fish magnet.

Live bait (typically skipjack or yellowtails) is the preference, and success could well depend on the availability of these baits. Typical striper live-bait rigs are the norm, fish with bait-casting reels and 7 ½-ft., heavy action rods. If you are fishing for trophies, it is a good idea to use big baits. And in some cases, the guys in the know are fishing live baits that weigh well over a pound each. Note that catching and keeping such bait alive is an art all to itself. This is another reason, if you are novice to fishing for striped bass, the best thing to do the first time out is to go with a guide.

Regardless, to ensure the mortality of the trophy stripers caught, the suggestion is to always use Circle hooks when fishing live bait. The size is typically a 5/0, but this, too, is anglers’ preference. Please note that the use of these well-designed, live-bait Circle hooks allows anglers to catch and release.

Warm-water discharges at the Gallatin Steam Plant draws baitfish. The area becomes a food chain, with predators attracted to the schools of bait. Anglers, well, we take advantage of a very good situation! March, and especially latter March, and on through April and May are considered to be among the best months to target trophies in the region.

Old Hickory Lake is located in Smith, Trousdale, Wilson, Sumner and Davidson counties and is easily accessible from Nashville and I-40.

Cumberland Plateau Trout

There are also some excellent trout fishing opportunities across the Cumberland Plateau region in March. The TWRA stocks trout at 41 sites in March. Among the state park sites stocked are Pickett State Park Lake. This lake is located in Pickett County and is stocked monthly, February through August. Standing Stone State Park Lake, in Overton County, is stocked once in March. Both lakes are also managed for bass, panfish and catfish.

Pickett State Park Lake
Pickett State Park Lake

Also stocked are Flat Fork Creek in Frozen Head State Park, in Morgan County. It’s stocked once in February, two times in March, and once in April. The Piney River at Piney River State Park, in Rhea County, is stocked monthly March through May. The Piney is also a delayed-harvest site, with a catch-and-release season November through February. Trout stockings also occurred in December and January, so good numbers of fish are already available from the start of harvest season.

These waters are managed under the statewide regulations with no length limit and a creel limit of seven. Anglers use everything from live bait to artificials, with in-line spinners being a favorite. Fly-fishing can also be very effective.

We will continue talking striped bass in next month’s blog. Until then, catch one for me… in Tennessee!

Prime Winter Fishing at Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee

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