River Herring

David with Striper

David with a fat striper.


While I am a dedicated trout fisherman, other species are fun to chase occasionally as well. While in school in the Chattanooga area, I started fishing the Chickamauga tailwater for various warm water species. Spring is the prime time of year to be fishing places such as below Chickamauga dam and below Watts Bar dam. Yellow bass, white bass, hybrids, stripers, crappie, large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, the list could go on and on. On any given day you can chase any of these fish on many of Tennessee’s tailwaters.

Last spring I caught my first skipjack herring (often referred to as “Tennessee Tarpon”). As soon as I got that first fish, I was on the river at every possible moment trying to catch some more. This is the time of year to try and catch them. The best action is probably already over but there should still be fish available. In the spring they migrate upstream to spawn and for the fish living below the hydroelectric dams, this means running up to the dam.

Huge numbers of skipjack will be concentrated below the dams this time of year and they are easy to catch on the fly rod.

Why are they so much fun? They pull hard and jump like a mad rainbow trout (or maybe a tarpon). The best technique that I’ve used is to fish various white colored flies such as Clouser Minnows and white Wooly Buggers across or down and across in the heavy current. The fish will concentrate in specific areas so look for gravel bars or other structure that will give the fish a good place to hang out. People will do well from boats this time of year just drifting below the dam tossing brightly colored flies. I have done best when swinging my flies, but at times they seem to prefer fast short strips.

Best of all, if they aren’t biting there are still a lot of fish available to catch. The white bass and hybrids provide a lot of fun on the fly rod and any small shad imitation (same white flies as mentioned above) will generally work. This type of fishing is fun because you never know what will be on the end of your line. It could be an 8 inch yellow bass or a 15 pound striped bass…not a bad way to get a quick fix when you can’t make it to the mountains!


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