SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee is among the best places in the United States for freshwater fishing. Anglers from around the country head to the Volunteer State for its diverse selection of fish, as well as its scenic waterways.
East Tennessee in particular is home to world-class fisheries; the world-record smallmouth bass was actually caught in Dale Hollow Lake.
With so many lakes, rivers and reservoirs in East Tennessee (classified as Region 4 by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) brimming with fish, some areas often escape the notice of anglers.
TWRA Fishery Biologists John Hammonds, Shaun Ramsey and Alan Beach spoke with News Channel 11 about some places that are prime for fishing but may not be all that well known.
“This area is so rich with resources for fishing like that, it’s hard to know where to stop,” Hammonds said.
Lower section of the Nolichucky River
Originating in Western North Carolina, the Nolichucky River is probably best known nowadays for the experiences it offers kayakers and fans of whitewater rafting thanks to its renowned rapids.
However, Hammonds said parts of the Nolichucky River are home to some great spots that fishing kayakers have enjoyed for years.
“There’s a lot of kayak anglers out there now,” Hammonds said. “Very successful fishing. Now you’re gonna catch smaller fish just because of the growth rate.”
“As far as that Nolichucky, that lower section, there’s some good smallmouth,” Beach said.
Beach said the timing is key though to fishing on the Nolichucky as it is beginning to grow in popularity. He also mentioned that the further upriver anglers travel, the smaller the fish they’ll hook.
Pigeon River through Newport
A portion of the Pigeon River that exits the Smoky Mountains and runs through Newport, TN is another place Hammonds described as being excellent for smallmouth bass fishing.
The stretch of the Pigeon River between the mountains and the town runs parallel to Highway 73 and is dotted with several islands.
The river exits the Cherokee National Forest and runs through Newport before joining the French Broad River just north of the town.
Patrick Henry Reservoir
To Ramsey, one of the most forgotten-about but promising spots in Tennessee for largemouth bass is the Patrick Henry Reservoir.
“We do electrofishing surveys out there in the spring,” Ramsey said. “And as far as larger, over five-pound largemouth, we get a lot out there. Probably more than any other reservoirs some years.”
The reservoir is located on the South Fork Holston River and extends miles back upstream to Boone Dam right in the middle of the Tri-Cities region.
The Tennessee River Valley (TRV) stewardship reports that the reservoir also contains rainbow trout, crappie and sunfish.
For anglers hoping for an East Tennessee exclusive prize, several stretches of the Watauga River are an off-the-beaten-path option.
“The Watauga River is usually considered trout water just because it’s physically colder than you’d find,” Hammonds said.
While the lake is popular among boaters, the river is significantly less traveled, especially in places not far from Johnson City. With multiple access points, the river offers bountiful miles of water through farmland.
Both brown and rainbow trout can be caught along the river by anyone casting from the shore or canoe.