View Full Version : Effects of heavy stocking on native fish

02-26-2008, 04:57 PM
I can't help but wonder if heavy trout stocking on local tailwaters has a significant negative impact on native fish, like bass, walleye, and panfish. It is widely known and published by several biologists that trout stocking has negative effects on wild trout, so it seems that it would also negatively effect ohter native fish (even nongame species). One river that stands out in my mind is the Holston. This river is LOADED with smallmouth and largemouth bass from its confluence with the French Broad all the way upstream to Nance's Ferry. Bass numbers begin to decline from Nance's Ferry all the way up to Cherokee Dam, which just so happens to be the stretch of water that we all know is heavily stocked by TWRA with rainbow and brown trout. I'm aware that many people have caught bass in this stocked stretch, but I am afraid that it will soon be nearly void of bass, just like its northern neighbor, the Clinch River. Trout have been stocked in the Clinch tailwater (below Norris Dam) for longer than the Holston, and there are very few bass below the Dam until you get to Highway 61. I hope this will not be the case on the Holston, but I fear that it will be because of the similarities in habitat between the two rivers. Even the Little River in my native Blount County has much less aquatic diversity in the stocked section. I have a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries management and I have learned enough to know why TWRA stocks these waters with trout-- MONEY! What I don't understand is why I cannot find a published scientific study on this subject. There are several published studies on the effects of stocking on wild rainbows and browns as well as native brookies, but nothing on any ohter fish species. If anyone runs across such a study, please let me know. Don't get me wrong, I love to fish both of these tailwaters for trout, and do so frequently, but imagine the potential negative effects on the fisheries as a whole. We all know that concern over just one little fish species (i.e. snail darter in the Little Tennessee in 1976) can potentially turn the fishery upside down. Granted, smallmouth are in no danger of going extinct, but that is no reason to replace them in some habitats with non-native fish. I'm sure there are people on this message board with more knowledge on the subject than me, so please share!

02-26-2008, 08:43 PM
I think you have posted a very good question. I'm no biologist but I do fish for Smallies and other warm water species in the rivers as much as possible. I believe it has more to do with the water temps below the Holston, Clinch and several other cold water discharge dams, than the fact that the trout have a negative impact. It goes back to the comfort zone of each species. The sunfishes prefer a warmer temperature range than the trout, so they would naturally move to warmer areas of the rivers. If the water temps constantly stay below this range , they won't spawn and inhabit those upper sections of the river. http://www.tnfish.org/SpawningTemperaturesFish_TWRA/FishSpawningTempsTennessee_TWRA.htm

I have fished for Smallmouth on the Holston quite a bit over the past several years, and I agree that it is much more productive below Nances Ferry. I have caught them above it, but this past year with all the big releases from the dam, there seemed to be few smallies caught in those areas. I can remember water temps around 50-52 deg. at NF in August.
Maybe we should email Jim Negus or Rick Bevins at TWRA for some more info on this.

Tellico Angler
02-27-2008, 12:32 AM
I completely agree with what Troutman said about the water temps vs. the stockers in relation to where smallies are found. The reason they would have a negative impact on the wild trout is of course because they share the same areas of the water. Smallies are such an aggressive and hardy species that I would find it hard to believe that stockers would really impact them that much. Of course there would be some food going to the stockers that the smallies would not get, but overall the temps would be the biggest reason for the lack of smallies in that area of the river. Same goes for the Tellico. I had a client catch a smallmouth at the bottom of Bald River Falls and I could not believe it. That is the farthest point that I have seen a smallmouth in over 25 years of fishing that area. And the reason is simple. The temps are just too low that high up most of the time (except for that little guy I guess!) Anyway, like TM said, I am not a biologist, but I have fished and guided for trout and smallmouth for years, and that is the only reason I can come up with for the lack of smallies in that area of the Holston.

02-27-2008, 11:25 AM
I caugth a 14" smallmouth in that same spot last year and thought the same thing. Warmer water higher up = smallmouth higher up

02-27-2008, 10:16 PM
Thanks for the replies. I wonder if there is a dam somewhere in the surrouding area that has cold hypolimnetic discharges like the Clinch and Holston that we could use for comparison. The discharge at the top of Chilhowee Lake on the Little T. comes to mind, but it is more of a lake habitat than a flowing river. The discharge is usually around 55 degrees, sometimes a little colder, but there are plenty of bass and trout in this area, which brings up an interesting question. Is this because upper Chilhowee is not stocked as heavily as the Clinch and Holston, or is it because Chilhowee is a lake habitat, or is it simply that the Little T. is far more fertile than the Clinch and Holston? No telling. Can you guys think of any really cold tailwaters that aren't stocked with trout?

02-28-2008, 04:06 PM
Poked around some more on TWRA's site and found a little more info. Not very technical but it does basically say the cold water releases below specific TVA Dams impact the natural species to the river systems.
The reason for the stocking.

and another list of the affected dams in region 4

I'm sure they have numerous studies.
Maybe you could talk to Roy Hawk, at one of the LRCTU meetings. He is pictured holding that nice fat bow.

I was also trying to think of places that have some cold water discharges and still have cold and warm water species. The only place that comes to mind is the Powerhouse at the TN/NC stateline at exit 451 on I-40. I have caught trout, smallmouth and gills below the powerhouse and the water discharged is pretty cold. I think the trout come in from Big creek which is stocked outside the park and possibly from the creek that follows upstream along I-40 to the dam.
This may not be a good comparision to the TVA cold release dams though.

02-28-2008, 10:52 PM
Taking Little River as an example; at the lake and up a couple of miles you will catch largemouth and smallmouth, then more smallmouth and rockbass.......and bluegill, then the bluegill and rockbass fade out and you have smallmouth and some trout. At some point below Metcalf you begin to catch trout almost exclusively. It is the temps. On warm water years the smallies move further upstream and vice-versa. I have caught some pretty ratty trout as far down stream as Walland below the bridge at Elijay (sp?) creek. I'm not a scientist, I just play one on television! And I stayed at a Holiday Inn Select once..............!

02-29-2008, 01:23 PM
Thanks for the links troutman. So the coldwater hypolimnetic dishcharges actually removed most native fish and left the immediate tailwaters virtually void of any recreational fishing opportunity. Crazy. And the reason that they stock the tailwaters is so we can fish for at least something. Well thank God. I think we all concluded that water temps are the main factor in determining which species will be where. I just wish all rivers could be like the Little Tennessee and have an extreme abundance of all species we discussed. A little selfish, maybe, but I like to catch 'em all! It almost seems like the stocking on this river helps not only the recreational opportunities but also provides food for big predators, like the monster stripers below Chilhowee Dam. Thanks for the help guys

03-03-2008, 12:24 AM
Had not heard about those fish. I didn't realize Fort Loudon or Tellico had been stocked with Striper. Most of the other dams have them though, why should that one be any different.
I wish I had had the chance to fish the Little T, it must have been fantastic.

03-05-2008, 09:09 PM
The way old timers talk, the Little T was the place to be before '76. I know its not like it used to be, but it is still a blast to fish. I love fishing for trout and bass in Chilhowee and upper Tellico. Calderwood also has lots of trout. Im like you, jswitow, the stripers in Tellico definitely suprised me. I had heard people say they caught them below Chilhowee dam, but I thought they pulling my leg. Then I caught one next to the historic Fort Loudoun in Vonore and couldn't believe it! (I was bass fishing and thought i had the world record) But the more I thought about it, if they are below Cherokee and Douglas dams, they could (theoretically) swim all the way to Chilhowee dam because Ft Loudoun and Tellico are connected by canal. That seems farfetched, but stripers are a migratory saltwater fish, so 40-50 river miles probaly is like a daily workout to them.

04-07-2008, 10:40 PM
I can see most people agree that warm water fish arent going to be found in a cold water habitat and vice versu. If you notice, as you move down stream from a coldwater to cool water then warm you find fish species changing. Its not that the introduced trout are out competeting smallmouth or anyother fish populations in tailwaters, its just that habitat regimes for species differ. As for the snail darter, competition among fish was not the problem that was addressed, it was the dam itself. Snail darter young are palagic, high releases mean that the fry are washed further downstream, reducing young of year within their niche. Im a wildlife and fisheries student myself, and actually today we had a lecture from Ed Scott from TVA who ran stream surveys and is still deeply fascinated with the snail darter. The question of what is the snail darters main predatory fish came up, and it actually wasn't a game fish at all, he belives its sculpin, theres also a problem associated with (star grass?). It blankets the substrate, becoming to dense for proper habitat.

05-29-2008, 11:19 AM
Hey Russell....give me a call at 705-3237..i have a pond I want your advice on. I tried you at work but you are not in.


06-08-2008, 07:15 PM
I am no expert by any means but Chilhowee, Calderwood, and Cheoha I have fished many, many times over. For starters Chilhowee is one of the finest lakes around in my book for about all the species. I have caught every species of trout in this lake (including lakers) with every possible combination of lure. Bows and lakers are stocked in this lake. If you spend much time on the upper end of the lake you will know that once they "kick" the water on the bass fishing fades off for the first hour in the extreme upper parts or until they get acclimated to the change. Farther down the lake you can watch the smallies and large mouth stack up on the cold water line. They use the temperature difference in the summer as a wall. They push the shad to it and they do not want to cross into it and therefore become easy pickings for every species. I have caught trout, large mouth and smallmouth off the same school of shad all feeding together. I have caught bluegill and trout feeding on emerging mayflys under the trees. I also know that a 10 # large mouth will gobble up a 7 inch bow. LOL!! If only I hadn't had 4# test on. On another note, I have caught trout below the wier dam in Walland myself and have caught them all the way down to Maryville Water Plant on 411 in the coldest parts of winter. Oh and it's spelled Ellejoy Creek. I live off of it way on up the "hollar". ;)