Townsend, Tennessee
October 30, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  I just walked out on our front porch.  It is too foggy to see the mountains but that should burn off soon.  The temperature is 54 degrees.  The mountains are still looking good.  There are plenty of leaves left on the trees but they are falling fast.  I brought the boat home from the shop last night along with all of our fishing and boating gear.  Paula and I are going to a lake to fish today.  It will be a beautiful day but it is going to be windy, 10 to 15 miles per hour with 25 mph gusts.  The lake will be choppy.  We’ll fish the coves and creeks near the ramp.  I hate white capping lakes. 

This will be a good day to fish in the Park though the wind and leaves in the water will cause some problems.  The temperature is supposed to reach 74 degrees.  This is going to be a wonderful Fall day in the Smokies.  The water flow is fairly high.  The current is strong in some areas.  Pick your places to wade.  Don’t fall in.

Anglers are catching trout on dries and nymphs. I would use nymphs, fished without a strike indicator.  I would choose a Bead Head Pheasant Tail or Prince Nymph, add a #6 split shot or maybe more of them.  I talked to Eddie Ulmer from Mississippi yesterday.  He watched a guy using a bushy cream-colored dry fly just wearing the trout out on the East Prong of Little River.  He said the guy knew what he was doing.

We have rain coming tonight and tomorrow.  So what else is new?  And it is going to be cooler next week dropping into the high 30’s at night starting Tuesday. 

They caught the guy who robbed a store in Pigeon Forge and drove to Townsend in a stolen truck.  He was chased by Townsend Police, wrecked the truck in town then fled to the woods.  He was presumed, to be armed.  Teams of law enforcement officers totaling 60 at one point, searched the woods, including our property trying to find him for three days last weekend.  We were all carrying guns and taking all precautions for a few days.  When I found out he was gone we slept a lot better.  He was found in Alabama where he has been charged there but he will be extradited to Tennessee to face charges here.

During that time I got phone calls from people who wanted to talk to Deputy Fife.  That happened to me once before when I apprehended a shoplifter but he got away from me.  That event also ended with a chase from two Townsend Policemen and the guy went to jail. 

I stopped writing about this early in the week.  I knew about evidence that could hamper the case if it got out to the public.  So, I just kept quiet after being filled in by authorities.  I did answer e-mails about it though.  A short story in the Maryville Daily Times can be read by CLICKING HERE.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission met in Knoxville yesterday.  Of utmost importance to me was the discussion and vote on the new regulations proposed for the Caney Fork River tailwater, which will take affect in March.  The Fisheries Committee was scheduled to meet after the Wildlife Committee.  Everything was to begin at 1:00. 

I got there a couple of minutes late after the meeting started because I got lost.  I almost always get lost in Knoxville.  The room was packed.  One of the officers at the door pointed out a vacant seat to me.  I told him I would stand for a while until the room cleared after the Wildlife Committee meeting.  He told me that almost everyone there was attending the Fisheries Meeting so I better grab that seat.  I took his advice.

The Fisheries Committee is chaired by our Region’s Wildlife Commissioner, Mike Chase.  I know him and have spoken with him several times.  I was glad to see he is now the Chairman.

The proposed changes in the regulations on the Caney Fork included some offered by the Agency and two changes brought to the Commission by trout anglers.  It all boiled down to this:

For rainbow and brook trout there would be a protected slot of 14” to 20”.  Fishermen could harvest any of those species under 14” and keep one rainbow or brookie over 20”.

Brown trout for all sizes up to 24” would be protected from harvest but an angler could keep one fish over 24”.

The creel limit would be reduced from 7 fish per day to 5 fish per day. 

The Agency and Commission seemed fine with everything except the reduction of the overall creel limit to 5 fish.  Some Commissioners were concerned that since there is about a 20% or more natural mortality rate yearly, those fish could not be harvested and theoretically wasted.  That’s a pretty good point, I have to admit.  On the other hand, several states have creel limits lower than Tennessee.  Missouri has a 4 trout limit Statewide.  Arkansas has a 4 or 5 trout limit, I can’t remember which. 

Commissioner Chase asked me one day a few months ago what I thought about a Statewide creel limit of 5 fish.  I told him I didn’t know what to say.  I was thinking about license sales, tourism and overall angler satisfaction, trying to have a much broader perspective and look at all the consequences. I thought about it often since that conversation.  I think Mike was looking at this as a way to cut the stocking costs for the State.  I think they are spending over $1.2 million on the stocking program. He could have been thinking about growth rates too.  If you stock less trout and they have the same amount of food they will grow faster.  Makes sense to me.

So when the Commissioners seemed to be stuck on that one issue I asked to speak.  I reminded Commissioner Chase about our conversation a few months ago.  Then I told the Commission that this might be the opportunity to try the creel reduction, be more like Arkansas and Missouri and see what would happen. 

Other people spoke too.  All of them were from Middle Tennessee except me.  In the end the Committee decided to accept the total proposal including reducing the creel limit to 5 trout. The Commission will vote today to either accept or amend yesterday’s decision.  Overturning a Committee vote is rare but it has happened.  My guess is it will either be accepted in its entirety, or they may leave the creel limit at 7 fish.  Either way, this is a huge step toward making the Caney Fork River a trophy fishery and allowing it to reach the potential we all know it has.

Have a great day and thank you for being here with us.

Byron Begley
October 30, 2009

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