Cherokee is a fertile Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reservoir containing 30,300 surface acres and 393 miles of shoreline. Fish densities are greater than in many other Tennessee reservoirs due to the high fertility level. There is a prolific forage base of threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and alewife. The primary game fish species are the three black bass species, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, crappie, walleye, sauger, sunfish, white bass, and catfish.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass are not stocked in Cherokee because they are very abundant and the fishery is easily sustained through natural reproduction. The daily creel limit for largemouth and smallmouth is five in any combination. The minimum length limit for largemouth is 15-inches and the minimum length limit for smallmouth will increase to 18-inches on March 1, 2008.
The length limit for largemouth was increased in 2001 to create a more quality fishery. They have responded even better than expected and the size limit has helped move a surprising number of fish into the more desirable size-classes.
Spotted (Kentucky) bass make up a fair percentage of the black bass population. Unlike largemouth and smallmouth, this species rarely reaches quality-size in any east Tennessee reservoir. They also utilize the same habitat and compete with the more quality-size smallmouth bass. As a result, anglers are encouraged to keep these fish for the table. There is no size restriction and the limit is 15 spotted bass per day.
STRIPED and CHEROKEE (HYBRID) BASS:
* Striped bass stocking: 2007 - 151,818; 2006 - 168,434; 2005 - 133,646; 2004 - 81,285; 2003 - 103,423; 2002 - 97,854
* Hybrid stocking: 2007 - 55,006; 2006 - 56,882; 2005 - 31,950; 2004 - 117,952; 2003 - 51,708; 2002 - 58,934
Stripers appear to be less numerous than they have been in the past. Our angler survey estimated that only 5,875 were caught in 2006. Although some large striped bass are caught, they do not normally grow big in Cherokee due to poor dissolved oxygen levels in the summer months. The average weight of stripers in the 2006 survey was 12.5 lb.
Hybrids, the cross between striped and white bass, are more tolerant of warm water and low oxygen levels. Many have been stocked since 2000 in the hope that they will offer a more diverse opportunity for anglers. They survive and grow exceptionally well in Cherokee.
The current daily creel limit for both hybrid and striped bass is two, 15-inch fish in any combination. Stripers congregate in the summer within an oxygen refuge area near the dam and are very susceptible to over exploitation. A closed fishing zone has been established near the dam from July 15 - September 15 to protect the fishery.
* Blacknose crappie stocking: 2007 - 72,775; 2003 - 38,740; 1999 - 26,383; 1998 - 408,502; 1997 - 185,998; 1996 - 371,309
* Black crappie: 2006 - 56,071
Our 2006 angler survey estimated that 75,453 crappie were caught and 19% of the total angling effort was for crappie. They are obviously very important to anglers and we have taken steps to improve the fishery.
Blacknose and black crappie have been stocked during the past several years. Blacknose are genetically similar to the black crappie which is the dominant crappie in the reservoir. The black stripe on their nose allows biologists to monitor the success of the stocking program.
The 10-inch size limit, 15-fish daily creel limit, and our stocking efforts should help improve crappie fishing in the future.
WALLEYE and SAUGER:
* Walleye stocking: 2007 - 146,959; 2006 - 75,629; 2005 - 60,089; 2004 - 156,792; 2003 - 149,810; 1999 - 93,323
* Sauger stocking: 2002 - 93,996; 2001 - 59,502; 2000 - 100,900
Sauger are well adapted to the warm, turbid waters of Cherokee and many have been recently stocked. Although good survival has been documented through our gill net sampling, only a limited number have been caught by anglers.
We plan to stock walleye exclusively in the future to maintain a quality pike-perch fishery. There well be a change in the sauger and walleye regulations beginning on March 1, 2008. Sauger will go to a 10-fish per day, 15-inch minimum length limit. Walleye will go to a five-fish per day, 18-inch minimum length limit.
Striped bass- During the late fall and early spring many striped bass move upstream to the John Sevier Steam Plant. Year round, but especially in the summer when dissolved oxygen levels are low, the lower section of the reservoir from Macedonia Hollow to the dam is hard to beat. Live shad or large shiners with single hook, sinker, and greater than 15 lb. test monofilament is a well-used method. One-ounce white doll flies with 6-inch plastic trailers, Red Fins or Little Mac plugs, Sassy Shads on 1-oz lead head, Zara Spooks, white Slug-gos, and jigging spoons are also used.
Largemouth bass- The highest catch occurs in March and April when the water warms and bass move to shallow water to spawn. Some popular tackle are Silver Buddies, Carolina-rigged plastic lizards, 4-inch plastic worms, crankbaits, Shad Raps, Rapalas, Rat-L-Traps, spinner baits, buzz baits, and many more.
Smallmouth bass- They move to clay and gravel points in the spring. Fish live bait on the bottom, Carolina-rigged lizards, or cast firetiger or shad colored Shad Raps, Rapalas, and Rebels.
Crappie- Fish in coves near fish attractors, brush piles, or downed trees in the early spring or late fall. Small minnows, plastic grubs, flies tipped with minnows, and small crankbaits work best.
Walleye- The best season is from January through May when they concentrate upstream near the steam plant. Best caught with small flies tipped with minnows, Rooster Tail or June Bug spinners, plastic grubs, and hair doll flies.
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