Tennessee is an amazing state for fishermen to visit, or at the very least dream of! Imagine fishing away a relaxing afternoon; going after walleye, buffalo, herring, several species of bass, crap, trout, and catfish. It doesn’t just have national prestige either – Tennessee holds several fishing world records.
One of its most impressive is the world record walleye, which weighed in at an eye popping twenty-five pounds! It was caught from the Old Hickory Reservoir decades ago, but the reservoir is still a major walleye waterway to this day, along with a multitude of other species. Another record holding Tennessee reservoir is the Guntersville Reservoir, which teams with whopping sized carp. The bighead carp world record holder, a ninety pounder, came out of Guntersville, along with the state record grass carp.
Catfish are one of Tennessee’s best known fish. Not only are they great all year round, but they grow massive in Tennessee! The channel, blue, and flathead, all live within Tennessean pools. The Old Hickory Reservoir is excellent for blue catfish. Cherokee Reservoir has some colossal catfish. For all three subspecies of catfish the Mississippi River cannot be beat. The Mississippi makes for great white and striped bass fishing too.
Tennessee is in fact bass country worthy of recognition. The more common species can be found at the end of most hooks, but Tennessee is a hub of aquatic diversity. Lesser seen bass species include the coosa, yellow, white, and Cherokee. The Ocoee River is a good spot for healthy spotted bass. The largest bass in state record is a sixty-five pound striped bass, caught at Cordell Hull Reservoir.
Though less extensively found than other fish, trout are still plentiful and varied, thriving both in the wild and from stocking efforts. Tennessee has well over eight hundred miles of wild trout stream set against peaceful mountainous backdrops. A majority of the publicly accessible wild trout fishing is found in the streams within the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Rainbow, brook, and brown trout stocking is popular in Tennessee. The Duck River has many points where stocked rainbow and brown trout are released in the winter months. The Duck River also holds the state record in yellow bass. Watauga Reservoir is a great spot for a variety of big ones, holding two state trout records (for lake and ohrid trout).
Tennessee has eighteen lakes designated as family fishing lakes. These are perfect options for family fishing vacations. They are also stocked lakes, which means that each family member can usually be guaranteed a bite, at least. Rules on these lakes are a little more stringent to ensure a family fun environment.
If you would rather experience a little solo activity Tennessee has great archery fishing, particularly for buffalo. They can be quite sizable, bypassing fifty pounds. Buffalo are large and plentiful in some waterways, such as the J Percy Priest Reservoir.
Fishing licenses are required for all recreational fishing by persons thirteen or older unless you or someone related to you owns the land you are fishing on. Anyone age sixteen to sixty-four needs a license as well as a daily lake permit. However seniors do not need lake permits. Some lakes have additional permit requirements. If you are on military leave you do not need any Tennessean licensure.
Residents can opt for one day, annual, and lifetime licenses, while non-residents can vacation in Tennessee and take advantage of one, three, ten day, and annual recreational fishing licenses. Resident licenses can be applied for if you have a Tennessee state driver’s license, or if you have lived in the state for ninety days, if living at a university, or if stationed within the state during active duty. Tennessee also has free fishing days and a free fishing week.
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.