Fishing the Valley

Looking for fish-filled waters? We’ve got ‘em. And we have the stats that let us know what’s swimming where so you can point your boat directly toward your desired catch.

For many years, TVA conducted a Spring Sport Fish Survey that let it assess the number and health of fish in each reservoir (the practice was discontinuted in 2015). Each survey consisted of 12 passes of 30 minute electrofishing to temporarily stun the fish, and measured three species of black bass: largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as black and white crappie. Read on for our last, best data—from our 2014 executive summary:

  • 10 reservoirs were sampled in 2014: 9 Main-stem Tennessee River reservoirs and 1 tributary reservoir.
  • A total of 9,911 black bass and 1,931 crappie were collected.
  • An overall catch rate of 61.1 fish per hour was achieved.
  • Numbers of black bass collected 3 pounds (1,139), 4 pounds (489), 5 pounds and over (174).
  • Pickwick Reservoir recorded the highest number of smallmouth bass (169).
  • Nickajack Reservoir recorded the highest percentage of harvestable largemouth bass (92.3%).
  • The average weight of all black bass collected 10 inches and longer was 1.8 pounds system wide. However, 4 reservoirs had mean weights of 2.0 lbs or better (Guntersville, Nickajack, Wheeler and Wilson).
  • The largest black bass was a largemouth that was collected at Sale Creek on Chickamauga reservoir (10 lbs).

Top reservoirs in each category (per total number of fish):

  • Pickwick Reservoir had the most smallmouth bass (169) and black bass (1,321).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most spotted bass (32).
  • Douglas Reservoir had the most largemouth bass (1,229).
  • Fort Loudoun Reservoir had the most crappie (417).
  • Fort Loudoun Reservoir had the most white crappie (269).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most black crappie (234).

Too Much Data?

Check out our cheat sheet, compiled by TVA and state agencies: Where the Fish Are.

TVA Is Passionate About Fishing, Too

TVA is engaged in many activities that benefit the fish and the anglers who pursue them. It would be hard to list them all, but they include monitoring the number and health of the fish; protecting water quality by stabilizing shorelines; helping farmers adopt best management practices; working with marinas to minimize boating-related pollution; improving oxygen flows in the water below TVA dams; managing reservoir levels to support the spring spawn; and more.

Are the Fish You Catch Safe to Eat?

That depends on the type and size of the fish, and the Ecological Health Rating of the reservoir it was swimming in. Access ecological reservoir ratings here.