I've noticed some skinny fish, Not necessarily snakey, but maybe a little lighter than normal on some fish. I have seen a noticeable difference in fish from the hot access areas as compared to those found throughout the river. Some fish show obvious hand prints from handling. This is often a sign that somethings not right in the river. Healthy fish always appear slick, shiny, and vibrant. The "marked" fish often have discoloration, even a dark tint that looks parasitic and poor scales. This certainly isn't the case for all the fish....but it's apparent on others.
I've seen hand prints many times on the Hiwassee. It happens in when we see hard droughts in the watershed and see the water temps creep near 70. When this happens, Dissolved Oxygen directly correlates to higher water temps.
Tailwaters seem to cycle IMHO.
So many factors go into a healthy tailwater that it can be hard to pinpoint issues when they arise. The Clinch always seems to have a good hold on the most critical issue, that of water temperatures. As long as the water comes off the bottom of Norris Lake....water temps should not be a problem. Obviously, a spilling event over the top of Norris Dam could influence water temperatures depending on time of year etc. So far this year, I've not gotten a temperature higher than 56 degrees anywhere on the river.
Dissolved oxygen could be playing a part in the the fish health. The Clinch does not have a lot of shoals and riffles to help add oxygen to the river as it flows. So basically, the highest DO will be closer to the dam and will slowly fall off as it flows down river. This of course is debatable, perhaps some DO monitors could be placed periodically along the river to monitor this and to know if it's an issue or not.
The food base of the river will rise and fall with any water quality issues. I've noticed some really thick hatches this year, and some that are sporadic to non-existent. I think the declining scud/sow bug numbers over the years is a direct result of didymo and siltation. You can still find them in the green mosses and grasses, but those areas are few and far between anymore. I've noticed a lot less midges on the lower river this season. No clue as to why. Good news is there is a **** of a black caddis hatch happening now.
Anyway, lots of rambling here on my part....with no answers. Some of the fish look great, some don't. Obviously, they don't all look like they did in years past and there is an issue, or two out there that need addressing.