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Spring Sport Fish Survey

TVA conducts its annual spring sport fish survey to help determine the number, age, and general health of black bass and crappie populations in TVA reservoirs. The results of the survey are used by state agencies to protect and improve sport fisheries.

2013 Survey

The 2013 spring sport fish survey was conducted on 10 Tennessee River reservoirs from March through May. The survey included twelve 30-minute electrofishing runs covering the various habitat types present. An electric current was used to temporarily stun the fish so that they floated to the surface, where they were collected by TVA crews. The fish were then weighed, measured, and released.

This approach to determining fish abundance is used by state game and fish agencies and academia. In addition to accommodating state databases, the surveying method aligns with TVA Land and Shoreline Management objectives, since the sample sites are selected using the shoreline habitat characteristics employed by the Land and Shoreline Management group.

The survey predominantly targets three species of black bass: largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass and black and white crappie.

Summary of 2013 results

  • 10 reservoirs were sampled in 2013: 9 Main-stem Tennessee River reservoirs and 1 tributary reservoir.
  • A total of 9,937 black bass and 2,866 crappie were collected.
  • An overall catch rate of 61.3 fish per hour was achieved.
  • Numbers of black bass collected 3 pounds (1,245), 4 pounds (565), 5 pounds and over (227). (Highest overall numbers to date in all categories)
  • Wheeler Reservoir recorded the highest numbers of fish in the 3, 4, and 5 pound or larger range. (3 pounds 263 fish - 4 pounds 119 fish -5 pounds and over 54).
  • Pickwick Reservoir recorded the highest number of smallmouth bass (188).
  • Wilson Reservoir recorded the highest percentage of harvestable largemouth bass at 81.7%.
  • Guntersville Reservoir had its highest number of 4 and 5 pound fish to date (110 and 45).
  • Bear Embayment on Pickwick Reservoir had the highest catch rate (100.2 fish per hour) for an individual station (12 samples).
  • The highest overall catch rates observed were on Pickwick Reservoir (81.8 fish per hour) and Nickajack Reservoir (78.2 fish per hour).
  • The average weight of all black bass collected 10 inches and longer was 1.9 pounds system wide.  However, 5 reservoirs had mean weights of 2.0 lbs or better. (Chickamauga, Guntersville, Nickajack, Wheeler and Wilson)
  • Guntersville Reservoir had the highest average weight (2.3 pounds) ever recorded, system wide, for all black bass over 10 inches.
  • Eight of ten reservoirs exhibited significant increases in the abundance of three and four pound black bass.
  • 832 crappie on Watts bar was the most ever collected during a sport fish survey.
  • 2013 Weather conditions - several cold fronts and periods of rain characterized the latter part of March and early April before settling into a more seasonal spring pattern.
  • 211 observers participated in the 2013 survey.

Top reservoirs in each category (numbers of fish)

  • Pickwick Reservoir had the most smallmouth bass (188).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most spotted bass (42).
  • Pickwick Reservoir had the most largemouth bass (1,254).
  • Watts Bar Reservoir had the most crappie (832).
  • Watts Bar Reservoir had the most white crappie (755).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most black crappie (295).
  • Pickwick Reservoir had the most black bass sampled (1,474).

View tables of sport fish survey results for individual lakes.

2014 Sport Fish Survey Schedule

Survey results

View detailed sport fish survey results for individual reservoirs for 2013 and previous years.

Tracking water temperatures on the Elk River

TVA monitors water temperatures in the Elk River closely so that it can adjust the operation of Tims Ford Dam to protect the variety of life in the river, including a cold-water trout fishery, and endangered species and sport fish that require warm water. Read more.

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