In answer to your questions about trout fishing
Where are the best places to go trout fishing in TVA tailwaters?
Trout need cold water to thrive, so the optimal conditions are found below TVA dams on tributary reservoirs where low water intakes pull cold water from the bottom of the reservoir. The tailwaters below Norris, South Holston, Wilbur, and Blue Ridge Dams all offer excellent opportunities for trout fishing. Other locations with good trout fisheries include Tims Ford, Chatuge, Fort Patrick Henry, Normandy, Nottely, and Cherokee.
What do I need to do in preparation for my fishing trip?
First of all, you’ll need a fishing license and a trout stamp from the wildlife resource agency of the state in which you plan to fish. It’s also a good idea to check the fishing regulations as special wild trout regulations, with reduced creel and size limits, are in place for many tailwaters. Water released through the tributary dams can be very cold even during the summer, so you’ll need a good pair of warm waders or a wetsuit if you plan to wade-fish. In some locations, access to the river can be difficult. Use designated public access areas or obtain landowner permission in advance.
How can I find out when TVA will be releasing water, in order to plan the timing of my trip?
Water release schedules for TVA dams are available from TVA’s Reservoir Information web page. In the green box on the right-hand side of the page, use the first drop-down menu to choose the dam you plan to fish below; then select “Releases and Elevations” from the second drop-down menu.
It’s important to note that water release schedules may change without notice. TVA makes every effort to provide timely and reliable release schedules — often making revisions during the course of the day. But unanticipated weather conditions and power system requirements may result in last-minute changes in the generating schedule.
What kinds of hazards should I be aware of?
A large amount of water can be discharged through a dam without warning at any time. For example, when the demand for electricity is high, the turbines that generate electricity at a dam may start automatically, resulting in a significant increase in the flow of water within only a matter of seconds — especially below tributary dams, which are usually located in steep terrain.
Cold water temperatures can result in shock and hypothermia, and slippery rocks and hidden holes can cause an unexpected fall.
Your safety depends upon obeying all posted safety regulations and warnings. Never go into the water alone, and always wear a personal flotation device. Stay out of restricted areas. Move to a safer area immediately if a siren sounds or strobe lights flash at dams equipped with these warning devices.
How does the number of generators in operation affect the speed of the river?
It depends upon the rate of generation and the size and shape of the river channel. But it’s safe to say that when a generator is activated, there is no time to waste. When you hear a rushing sound or see the water begin to rise, grab your gear and head for the riverbank immediately.
If you are caught in the water and swept off your feet, drop any items that can weigh you down. Stay calm, lie on your back, and keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid rocks and foot entrapment. Swim on your back with the current and then diagonally across the stream until you reach the shore. Do not attempt to stand up until you are in shallow, slow-moving water. If you get trapped on an island, stay there and signal for help.
What role does TVA play in managing the tailwaters for trout fishing?
TVA does not regulate or manage trout fisheries. With the exception of trout streams located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which are managed by the National Park Service), that responsibility belongs to the various state wildlife resource agencies. Information concerning trout management plans and trout fishing regulations may be obtained directly from these agencies.
Upon request, TVA assists the state agencies in various management activities, such as efforts to collect trout for population assessments, obtaining aquatic insect data to evaluate the trout food base in support of stocking, etc.
TVA implemented a reservoir releases improvement program in the 1990s to improve aquatic habitat by increasing dissolved oxygen levels and maintaining minimum flows to prevent riverbed dry-out. These changes have improved both the survival and growth of tailwater trout. Aquatic biologists have been encouraged by the trend toward natural reproduction in some tailwaters, as evidenced by the presence of recently hatched trout.
Where can I get information about trout stocking?
Because of the popularity of trout fishing, most states stock selected streams with rainbow and brown trout to maintain acceptable catch rates. Stocking schedules are generally available from state web sites (e.g., Tennessee.gov) or by calling your state wildlife resource agency.