Melton Hill Lake Fishing

category : Fishing
Melton Hill Lake Fishing Melton Hill is a cool water reservoir with relatively low productivity. The cold water released through Norris Dam negatively impacts warm water fish species like largemouth bass and bluegill causing slow growth and limited reproduction. The cool flowing water, however, guarantees that dissolved oxygen levels remain good throughout the summer for smallmouth bass, striped bass, northern pike, and musky.

A great thing about Melton Hill is the wide variety of angling opportunities. Musky, northern pike, striped bass, and skipjack herring are among the exciting fish to be found. Three current state records were taken from the lake: (1996 - yellow perch - 1lb 15oz)(1998 - saugeye - 10lb 12oz)(1988 - brown trout - 28lb 12oz).

During the winter, the warm water out-flow from the Bull Run Steam Plant concentrates fish like the Tennessee tarpon (skipjack herring) which in turn attract large striped bass and musky. In the spring, largemouth bass and crappie move into large coves such as Bull Run Creek and "Reactor Bend" to spawn. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation advises against the consumption of catfish from Melton Hill due to PCB contamination.

Anglers should contact The Map Store in Knoxville (888-929-6277, 865-688-3608) for reservoir maps.


Water level fluctuations are minimal and shoreline vegetation is well developed. Therefore, traditional enhancement work using brush to concentrate fish for anglers is not needed reservoir wide. During the past several years, enhancement projects have included smallmouth spawning benches, artificial reefs made of PVC pipe, re-brushing of attractors, and brushing of the new fishing pier near Solway Bridge.


Largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass are all present in the reservoir. Largemouth are by far the most abundant of the three, but few quality-size fish are present and TWRA is considering a largemouth regulation change in the near future. Presently, there is a 5-fish limit on largemouth and smallmouth in any combination. The minimum length limit for largemouth is 14-inches and beginning March 1, 2008 an 18-inch minimum length limit will be imposed on smallmouth.

Spotted (Kentucky) bass make up a good percentage of the black bass population in Melton Hill. Unlike largemouth and smallmouth bass, 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.


Melton Hill is known for producing large stripers and has produced several state record fish. A former state record striper that weighed over 63 pounds was caught at the Bull Run Steam Plant in February, 1998. A 60.5-pound striper caught in Melton Hill held the world record for landlocked striped bass until just a few years ago.

Striped bass are not intentionally stocked into the reservoir. They arrive from upstream via Norris Dam or from downstream through the Melton Hill Lock from Watts Bar.

Anglers are allowed 2-fish outside a 32 to 42-inch protected length range (PLR), but only one may be longer than 42-inches. (either two under 32-inches, or one under 32-inches and one over 42-inches).


* Stocking: 2007 - 3,162; 2006 - 6,169; 2005 - 2,537; 2003 - 1,145; 2002 - 1,621; 2001 - 7,200; 1999 - 7,010; 1998 - 1,873

Musky have been stocked in earnest by the TWRA since 1998. Anglers are having increased success catching this voracious predator and the TWRA routinely collects them while electrofishing throughout the reservoir. Since the population is limited and no natural reproduction has been documented, anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release when possible. Substantial harvest of this species would negatively impact the quality of the fishery as it develops.

Musky that are native to Tennessee differ from the northern strains of the species. These native fish can still be found in small numbers in the Big South Fork, Obed, and Emory Rivers, but our populations of musky are virtually extinct.

The state record musky (42 lbs, 8 oz) was caught in Norris Reservoir in 1983. Some large musky that are now present in Norris and Melton Hill have probably come downstream from Virginia.

Anglers are allowed only one musky per day and it must be 44-inches or longer. See this web page for more information about this exciting species.


White crappie have become quite abundant during the past several years. Many are available to anglers when they congregate in the shallow coves during the spring to spawn.

There is a 10-inch, 15-fish daily creel limit for crappie.


Approximately 140,000 northern pike have been stocked into Melton Hill since 1971. The latest stocking of 9,000 occurred in 1985. The stocking intent was to develop a self-sustaining population; however, they have not successfully reproduced in Melton Hill. There are very few pike left from the stocking effort.

The state record was caught in South Holston Reservoir in 1995 and weighed over 24-pounds.

There is no creel limit or minimum length limit for northern pike in Melton Hill.


Striped bass - During the winter and spring fish in the discharge stream of the Bull Run Steam Plant, catch skipjack herring on Rooster Tail spinners and plastic grubs and then use the large herring as bait for huge stripers.

Largemouth bass - Generally, if the discharge from Norris is great, fish the coves. If the discharge is slight, largemouth can be found on the channel bends and flats. Crankbaits and pig 'n jigs are favorite lures for Melton Hill when fishing the channels and flats. Use plastic worms, lizards, Sluggos, and spinners in the coves. Spinners, buzzbaits, Sluggos, and floating worms are good for working the tops of milfoil. Use crankbaits along the channel edges of milfoil stands.

Smallmouth bass - Best caught after dark on the lower end. Small doll flies fished beneath a float are deadly in the late winter and early spring. Pig 'n jigs and crankbaits are other good options.

Crappie - The area around the Bull Run discharge, Bull Run Creek, and Clark Center Park are well known crappie hot spots. Use minnows, tube jigs, or doll flies.

Trout - Trout fishing in the Norris tailwater is among the best in the state. Soon after the state record brown was caught in the Norris tailwater, one exceeding 27 lbs. was taken from the upper lake proper. Good fishing for browns and rainbows extends from Norris Dam to Hines Creek. Corn and nightcrawlers account for the bulk of the trout taken.

Musky - The area around the Bull Run Steam Plant discharge cove in the winter and in all coves with large "blow-downs" throughout the year are well known musky hot spots. Use live bait or a variety of large crankbaits and spinners. Use a wire leader.

Address: W I-40 from Knoxville, TN to Exit 364, 1.5 mi N on Hwy 95
Phone: 800-332-0900

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