Angler’s Paradise

By Brenda Shafer
Photography by Chris Loizeaux of Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Co.

Among Chattanooga’s many amenities flow our region’s diverse waterways – from lakes, tailwaters, and rivers to both cold and warm water streams. In addition to the numerous types of fish habitats, anglers also have an array of fish species to pursue. In fact, Tennessee has more native freshwater species of fish than any other state, and the Chattanooga area is one of the top regions to find a variety of freshwater catches. One of the best aspects though, is that wherever you go, striking scenery awaits.

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.

‑John Buchan

Fly Free / Lee Gates casts a line into Chickamauga Lake.


Chickamauga Lake

A reservoir on the Tennessee River, Chickamauga Lake stretches 59 miles from Watts Bar Dam to Chickamauga Dam. Named for the tribe of Native Americans that broke away from the Cherokee nation in the 1700s, the reservoir was formed when TVA completed Chickamauga Dam in 1940. With 36,240 acres of water surface and 784 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of room for anglers to spread out and a number of structures for them to fish. Most importantly, there’s a variety of species available, including bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, striped, hybrid striped, yellow, Alabama, white, and rock), bluegill, catfish, crappie, freshwater drum, paddlefish, sauger, sunfish, Tennessee tarpon, and walleye.

Be in the know
Make sure to check TVA’s website for lake levels and other safety precautions, and familiarize yourself with the regulations – Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) publishes a yearly guide, including the creel and slot limits for each area.

Into the Wild / Alex Baxley wades into the Hiwassee River.

Hiwassee River

Just over an hour from Chattanooga, the Hiwassee River awaits the fly fisher who’s ready to chase trout. From its beginning in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina, the rocky trout stream flows northwest toward the Tennessee River and Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, where it broadens and flattens. Here, it becomes a seasonal refuge for bass, sauger, and yellow perch. Catfish, central stoneroller, and mooneye have also been caught, in record size, on the Hiwassee. Multiple access points along the river allow for wading and serve as  launches for kayaks or canoes. The area is ideal for hiking, camping, and paddling as well.

Be in the know / The state heavily stocks the river with rainbow, brown, and brook trout, so you’ll be sure to find trout.  Check TVA’s water release schedule and creel and slot limits before venturing out.

Tennessee River

Between Chickamauga Dam and Nickajack Dam, the Tennessee River is also known as the Blueway or Nickajack Reservoir. For 46 miles and 10,370 acres of water surface between the dams, the river is home to small and largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and more. It’s also home to the stunning scenery of the Tennessee River Gorge, as the water twists its way through 179 miles of shoreline.

Be in the know / Reference the TWRA’s creel and slot limit before heading out.

River Run / Carson Craig and Easton White of Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Co. appreciate the calm of North Chickamauga Creek.

North Chickamauga Creek

Barely 15 minutes from downtown, North Chickamauga Creek offers a peaceful, rural setting.Beginning in Walden Ridge, in an area known as The Horseshoe, the creek starts in Sequatchie County but quickly enters Hamilton County. It winds its way farther north into Hamilton County, then through Soddy Daisy into Hixson, and then makes its way down to the Tennessee River, entering at Chickamauga Dam. Even with its small size, its fish population is diverse. Find trout, bluegill, beam, bass, and redeye there.

Be in the know / The creek is stocked with trout in the spring – early March, early to mid-April, and early May.

Reel Love / Brian Pendergrass enjoys the beauty of Tellico River.


Tellico River

Considered one of the prettiest places to fish, the Tellico River is recognized as a premier trout river in Tennessee. While it begins in the mountains of North Carolina, it mainly flows through Monroe County, Tennessee, before opening up to Tellico Lake, or Tellico Reservoir. The main artery is heavily stocked with populations of rainbow, brown, and brook trout and yields trophy-sized fish. You can also find bass, bluegill, crappie, paddlefish, redear sunfish, sauger, walleye, and more.

Be in the know / Because the main artery of Tellico River is heavily stocked with trout, it requires a special permit to fish during stocking season (March to September). If you want to avoid that, try Tellico’s tributaries (such as Bald River and North River), which contain native brook, rainbow, and brown trout.

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