TYPES OF FISH IN THE AREA
According to TWRA Region 3 Reservoir Fisheries Biologist Mike Jolley there are several types of fishing opportunities available in Rhea County in Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs as well as some of their tributaries. In regards to these reservoirs there are many species that may be targets for anglers, such as:
Black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted): Excellent opportunities for “bass” fishing exist on Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs. Springtime fishing is when most anglers pursue these species due to the high activity this time of year by bass in pre spawn to post spawn conditions (April – June). Summertime fishing is also prevalent, especially at night. Fishing for bass in these reservoirs is pursued year around in some fashion with good success. Targeting bass in their preferred habitat (brush, rip rap banks, points, humps, etc.), as one would suspect, is advantageous. A variety of artificial baits such as plastics, crankbaits, topwater lures, jigs, spinnerbaits and also some live bait are the tackle of choice.
Crappie (black, white): Many anglers pursue crappie for their excellent table fare. Most pursuits are conducted during the months of March and April which correlate with spawning activities. Several anglers have learned to catch crappie year around with good success. Various types of small jig-type lures and artificial flies are used as well as live minnows. Preferred habitat for crappie consist of brush piles, tree tops, stumps, etc. “Blacknose” black crappie may be caught in these reservoirs as well. These fish have been stocked in Watts Bar on a limited basis. “Blacknose” crappie are simply a black crappie with a black genetic stripe down the top of their head.
Sunfish (bluegill, redear): Large numbers of both bluegill and redear(shellcracker) exist in both reservoirs. These fish can be caught in a variety of habitat using many different kinds of bait. Because of this, they are a good target for introducing kids to fishing. Most fishing for these species is conducted in late spring throughout the summer months. Like crappie, these species also offer great table fare. The baits of choice are usually very small artificial lures, worms (earth, wax and meal worms), crickets, and flies.
Sauger: These fish are stocked into Chickamauga Reservoirs on a regular basis and have been stocked into Watts Bar in the past. Sauger are mostly pursed in the cooler months (pre-Spring). They are usually caught while drift fishing in the river current. Some very effective areas for catching sauger are tailwaters, shoals, and mouths of certain creeks.
Walleye: A new walleye stocking program was initiated in Watts Bar Reservoir in 2011. This will replace the sauger stocking program there. The plans are to stock these fish annually in hopes of establishing a walleye fishery. Walleye are closely related to sauger and many of the same tactics can be used to catch them. However, typically walleye live longer and over year around fishing opportunities.
Striped bass (rock fish): These fish are known for their fierce fight and large size. They are stocked into Watts Bar Reservoir annually by TWRA. However, populations exist in Chickamauga Reservoir as well through dam passage. Many anglers travel from out of state to encounter these fish. The tailwaters are the most popular areas for fishing for striped bass. Larger fishing gear and equipment are necessary when pursuing these fish. Live gizzard shad or skipjack are the baits of choice. But many large artificial baits can be quiet effective as well.
Catfish: The most common types of catfish caught in this area are blue, channel, and flatheads. Drift fishing various types of cut fish bait and “stink” baits (commercial pellets, chicken livers, worms, hot dogs, etc.)are usually the most effective. These fish are usually caught drift fishing while good current exists. However, many people catch these fish by using trotlines and jug fishing.
Trout: Rainbow trout are stocked annually, during the spring time in Piney Creek located in the Spring City Area. Stockings usually occur in the “park area” up Shut-In Gap Road from Highway 68. Stocking schedules are listed in the Tennessee Fishing Guide. Lures and baits of choice are corn, worms, small spinners, flies, etc.
The Region 3 TWRA Reservoir Fisheries Crew conducts annual surveys to evaluate the status of the fisheries in these reservoirs and makes recommendations accordingly. These surveys would include electro-fishing, seining, trapnetting, gill netting, and a roving creel survey to obtain data used in managing the reservoir resources.
Additionally, TWRA, Town of Spring City, and the Watts Bar Lake Association, along with several supporters and volunteers, host the annual Kid’s Fishing Rodeo on free fishing day in early June at Spring City Veteran’s Park. This is one of the largest of this type of event in the state.
It is recommended that all anglers consult the most recent version of the Tennessee Fishing Guide, which is distributed by TWRA and available at various stores. This guide will educate the angler with the knowledge about current regulations and other facts regarding these species and information on all reservoirs in the state.