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Fishing Tennessee

2012 Tennessee Fishing Calendar

by Jeff Samsel   |  February 22nd, 2012 0

You can’t be in more than one place at any given time. Applied to Tennessee fishing, that’s a tough truth because at any given moment, several good bites are apt to be happening.

Add the reality that most folks have real life concerns limiting the number of days they can actually spend fishing, and prioritizing becomes important. With that in mind, we’ve picked three of the best bites in Tennessee for every month of the year. Here’s a look at our 2012 Tennessee Fishing Calendar.

Please click to enlarge the calendar

Dale Hollow Lake
January typically brings Tennessee’s coldest temperature, and to smallmouth fanatics, that means float-and-fly time at Dale Hollow. The smallies suspend, eating winter-slowed shad, and cannot resist a tiny hair jig dangled beneath a bobber and worked with jiggles and pauses.

Points at the mouths of coves and transition areas between bluff banks and broken rock banks in the lower ends of major creeks tend to be good. The float needs to suspend the fly 7 or 8 feet deep, so a long, light rod is very helpful for casting. Veteran float-and-fly fishermen use 4-pound-test line and play fish carefully!

Dale Hollow’s smallmouth slot limit protects all fish between 16 and 21 inches. A two-fish daily limit may include one under and one over the slot size.

Other Options:
Near Nashville, Marrowbone Lake provides easy access to rainbow trout, which are stocked every winter. Managed for fishing, this little lake offers good shoreline access and inexpensive rental boats.

January is also a prime time for catching sauger from Tennessee River tailwaters.

Clinch River
Tennessee’s biggest brown trout on record came from the cold waters of the Clinch River below Norris Dam. Although that was nearly four decades ago, the Clinch remains one of Tennessee’s premier destinations for jumbo-sized trout, and late winter is prime time for catching big fish.

The best opportunities for a trophy trout occur when the Tennessee Valley Authority runs one generator. The big fish become more aggressive, and they ambush jerkbaits or big streamers cast tight to shoreline cover and worked with aggressive jerks or strips and long pauses.

A protected 14- to 20-inch slot limit applies to all trout in the Norris Tailwater, and only one fish in a seven-fish limit may be more than 20 inches long.

For lodging and guided fishing, visit

Other Options:
Late winter is prime time for walleye action at Center Hill Lake as the fish move toward spawning areas in the lake’s headwaters to congregate in holes along bends in the river. A seasonal single-hook restriction applies.

If you prefer catching bass, try Old Hickory Lake, focusing on wood and rock structure with a flipping jig.

Photo by Polly Dean

March warm spells push crappie shallow, making it easier to find and catch them. Even during cold snaps, the fish are normally nearby — just a little deeper. Chickamauga offers excellent crappie fishing every spring, and March is prime time to work the edges of the lake’s creeks and coves.

One great thing about spring crappie fishing is that much of the best action can be accessed from the bank, and dozens of Tennessee Valley Authority recreation areas, parks and road rights-of-way provide places to bank-fish. Riprap, bridge pilings, downed trees and manmade fish attractors hold crappie during March. A minnow or jig fished under a float is tough to top.

Chickamauga’s crappie limit is 15 fish, with a 10-inch minimum size. For guided fishing, visit

Other Options:
The headwaters of the Caney Fork River, upstream of Great Falls Dam, support one of Tennessee’s best muskellunge populations. Early in the year, while the water remains cool, is prime time for catching a muskie.

For spring rainbow trout, visit Wilbur Reservoir, a tiny cold-water impoundment of the Watauga River just below Watauga Lake.

Gibson County Lake
April begs the serious pursuit of lunker largemouths, and Gibson County Lake is arguably Tennessee’s hottest lake for trophy bass. In fact, biologists say they wouldn’t be surprised to see the next state record largemouth come this 540-acre West Tennessee lake.

The lake was stocked with a mix of Florida-strain and northern largemouths when it was built. A combination of low stocking rates and great forage resulted in fast fish growth.

When Gibson County was built, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency created several “dozer piles” of downed timber in the lake’s open water Those piles rank among the best places to throw a plastic worm.

Gibson County Lake is managed with an 18- to 24-inch largemouth slot. Only one fish in a daily limit may be larger than 24 inches. For more information, visit

Other Options:
Moving east, fertile Boone Lake is a perennial hotspot for both stripers and hybrids. During the spring the fish hit well on live bait and artificial lures alike.

If you’re looking for a nice mess of crappie, make plans to fish Percy Priest Lake this month.

Visit page two for May, June, July, August

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