The Dream of Catching a Triple-Digit Fish in the Tennessee River Valley

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Whether a weekend angler who enjoys getting on the water to relax or an avid tournament fisherman, the Tennessee River that flows through the Tennessee River Valley is a mecca for those who love to catfish.

Photo credit: Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association

The Tennessee River Valley is often referred to as the catfish factory by anglers and with TVA’s commitment to keeping its reservoirs healthy, the region is attracting anglers from all across the country and some of the nation’s top catfish tournaments.

Whether it is fishing for sport or just for fun, fishing enthusiasts can find world-class lake fishing within the Tennessee River Valley. The area offers more than 11,000 miles of shoreline and more than 700,000 acres of water, and is quickly earning the reputation as one of the best fishing destinations for catfish in the United States, thanks in part to the mammoth-sized creatures that everyday anglers are reeling in.

The Tennessee River flows for more than 650 miles and anglers travel long distances to sample the great catfishing of the Tennessee River Valley. As a general rule, the Tennessee River and its impoundments are excellent for targeting catfish, especially blue and channel catfish and the region provides year-round opportunity. Along with chasing a trophy fish, the region offers endless possibilities for the outdoor enthusiasts, world class attractions and exciting festivals to experience.

The Tennessee River reigns supreme among state waters in terms of consistently producing trophy catfish. In July 1993, an 85 pound 15 ounce flathead was reeled in from the Hiwassee River. A Tennessee woman caught her personal best in January 2019 when she snagged a Blue catfish weighing at least 88 pounds from the Tennessee River. In July 2019, a Colorado man caught a 75-pound catfish on the Tennessee River. It measured 53 inches long and 33.5 inches around.

Wheeler Lake in North Alabama at one time held the world record for the largest blue catfish. The mammoth-sized fish weighed in at 111 pounds.

During a tournament on Wheeler Lake in March 2019, a blue catfish weighing in at 115 pounds was brought to the scales. It was the largest catfish ever caught in a Cabela's King Kat tournament anywhere in the United States. Despite the weight, the team still ended up in second place.

Catfishing is also very family-friendly and something children of all ages can experience. In fact, anglers do not need a boat or extravagant equipment to be successful. Some of the region’s best catfishing is accessible from the bank. For suggestions on starting a family fishing tradition in the Tennessee River Valley, visit https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/TVA-Fun/Creating-Family-Fishing-Traditions-on-TVA-Lakes.

“It is every catfish angler’s dream to catch a triple-digit fish,” said July Graham, spokesperson for the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council. “The Tennessee River Valley is often referred to as the catfish factory by anglers and with TVA’s commitment to keeping its reservoirs healthy, the region is attracting anglers from all across the country and some of the nation’s top catfish tournaments.”

The dream to catch a triple-digit fish has caught the attention of the largest catfish tournament organization in the United States. The Cabela's King Kat Tournament Trail was created to give the growing number of catfish anglers, clubs and organizations an opportunity to shine in the spotlight with the first-ever "Classic" of competitive catfish angling. This format has revolutionized the catfish angling market, allowing local anglers in each region the opportunity to compete in the Super Bowl of Cat Fishing, The Cabela’s King Kat Classic held in September or October each year. Four Tennessee River Valley lakes- Wheeler, Pickwick/Wilson, Watts Bar Lake and Kentucky Lake -are on the tour this year.

Tips for recreational anglers to check out to help them land a triple digit fish:

  • To assist anglers fishing in the Tennessee River Valley, the TVA Lake Info app is an essential for tool for every tackle box. The app gives users the ability to monitor real-time generation and water levels on all TVA reservoirs. The app is available for iPhone and Android users—6.0 and newer. For anglers that are less tech savvy, the same information can be found online by visiting https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Lake-Levels.
  • For the ultimate fisherman cheat sheet, visit https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/Where-the-Sport-Fish-Are for an inside guide for successful warm-water fishing in the Tennessee River Valley.
  • Anglers looking for a good spot to put in or a place to rest at night, visit https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/TVA-Recreation-Map for an interactive recreation map that shows every boat launch and recreation area on the TVA public lands surrounding the Tennessee River watershed.

The lakes of the Tennessee River Valley are managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). TVA goes to great lengths to ensure a healthy fish habitat for today’s anglers and for future generations to enjoy. Tournament organizers and industry leaders have taken note of TVA’s commitment to its reservoirs, from keeping grass under control to managing water levels.

For more information on TVA, fishing on its lakes or other outdoor recreation, check them out at https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/Fishing-the-Valley, https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/Where-the-Sport-Fish-Are, https://www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation, https://www.facebook.com/TVA, https://twitter.com/tvanews, https://www.instagram.com/tva/ and https://www.youtube.com/user/TVANewsVideo.

Learn about fishing hot spots in the region as told through the stories of people and places by visiting the Tennessee River Valley Mapguide. All listings have been nominated by local people who know the region best and offer visitors the most unique, fun and interesting experiences. For more information, visit http://www.exploreTRV.com.

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Julie Graham
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