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Walleye fishing in April and May

Posted: April 2nd, 2019 by Bill Dance

Several impoundments in Tennessee offer some great walleye fishing opportunities in April and May. One such reservoir is Chickamauga which is a 36,240 acre reservoir located along the Tennessee River in Southeast TN. Chickamauga Reservoir was created in 1940 when it was impounded by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) by the completion of Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, TN. Upstream from Chickamauga Reservoir is Watts Bar Reservoir and downstream, Nickajack Reservoir. These reservoirs were traditionally predominantly sauger fisheries but inconsistencies annual sauger spawning success and available sauger for stocking initiated a change in management by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) who manage the fish populations within the reservoirs. The change would be a walleye stocking project instead of the historical sauger stocking regimes. Walleye, which is closely related to sauger and also native to the Tennessee River, offers great angling opportunities within both Chickamauga and Watts Bar reservoirs currently thanks to annual stockings by the TWRA. There were several reasons why stocking walleye over sauger were a good idea; when compared to sauger, walleye live longer, grow to a greater size, are more successful in overall hatchery production, utilize more areas in the reservoir and offer better year around fishing opportunities. Like sauger, the table fare for walleye is excellent and is one of the main reasons they are sought after.

Walleye fishing on Chickamauga Reservoir has been good for the past few years thanks to this annual stocking program of walleye. Although walleye are native to the Tennessee River, their numbers, prior to stocking, have not been at satisfactory levels overall for successful harvest by anglers. Recently however consistent success has been realized through roving creel surveys which record the harvest of walleye by anglers.  The most consistent part of Chickamauga Reservoir for successful walleye angling continues to be in the Watts Bar tailwaters which are at the head of Chickamauga Reservoir located in both Rhea and Meigs counties.  Ample supplies of forage fish (threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and skipjack herring) and desirable water flows for walleye spawning needs have made these tailwater areas very productive in regards to walleye inhabitation and thus angling success.  Walleye spawning efforts in this tailwater area will typically peak in March and into April. After the spawning efforts, walleye will focus on feeding to replenish depleted fat reserves and overall resuming natural habits mainly during the months of April and May. This is a great time for anglers to pursue this fish.

Several different types of lures and approaches are utilized by walleye anglers; for example, bouncing jigs off of the bottom (often tipped with minnows or night crawlers), crank baits that resemble shad, night crawler rigs, plastic curly tail jigs, and other preferred methods. Success comes while fishing both during the day and night time. Walleye dwell close to the bottom often times and usually are more active at night during this period but don’t rule out early morning and late evening as the outside lights are dim. Since sauger and walleye often inhabit the same areas during this time of year and fishing techniques for both are similar don’t be surprised to catch either species in waters where both are present.  Please consult the TWRA fishing guide for the latest walleye regulations regarding the body of water you intend to fish.  The statewide walleye regulation allows 5 walleye per day with a 16 inch minimum length limit while the sauger regulation is 10 fish per day with a 15 inch minimum length limit. Hopefully you will be successful fishing for one of Tennessee’s most popular native game fish, walleye. A great place to focus such efforts would be the Watts Bar tailwaters on the upper end of Chickamauga Reservoir during the months of April and May. Please respect the waters in this area and observe all safety precautions and laws as water current can be manipulative to a boat within this area. Great fishing also exists from the bank on the Meigs County side of the river. Best wishes as you pursue this tasty native fish of Tennessee.

Bill Dance


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