Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Frequently Asked Questions


Possession limit, daily creel limit, and "afield" explained.
  • Even in a freezer at home or at a temporary residence*, one can never possess more than twice the daily creel.
  • Daily creel limits run from midnight to midnight.
  • One cannot have more than one daily creel limit while "afield".

Example: Say an individual is fishing Cherokee Lake for a week and is camping* along the bank. During that week, the angler could possess no more than four striped bass or hybrid striped bass or any combination of the two. It also means an individual could not possess more than 30 "stripes" (white bass) at any given time during the week.

Now, if one harvests a possession limit over a period of time and eats a few of these fish, they could then harvest more to replace them. One can never have in their possession - be it at home or anywhere else - more than twice the daily creel limit.

Remember that creel limit is written as "daily creel limit". One cannot catch a limit, process the fish or give them away to someone else, and go back and harvest more of the same species during a 24-hour period which runs from midnight to midnight.

Say an individual is fishing from 8:00 pm to 3:00 am - they may only have a daily creel limit in their possession while "afield". They could, however, stop fishing before midnight and drop their catch off at their campsite* or home and return after midnight and catch another limit. Overnight anglers who are not camping* are limited to one daily creel limit.

*Campsites or houseboats, etc. qualify as temporary residences as evidenced by sleeping bags, tents, cooking utensils, etc.



What are those jelly-like masses that are attached to tree limbs, bushes and other objects in the water?
Bryozoan They are colonies of harmless microscopic animals called Bryozoans. They have miniature tentacles to capture prey and are permanently attached to the colony mass. Large colonies can exceed two feet in diameter, but most are less than one foot.


What are those eel-like animals that attach to fish?
Lamprey on carp They are primitive fish called parasitic lampreys that feed off many freshwater species. They occasionally kill their host, but most often drop off after some time leaving a distinctively shaped sore.


What are those parasites inside the mouths of striped bass and other fish?
Achtheres Achtheres is one of several genera of parasitic copepods that attach inside the mouths of numerous fresh and saltwater fish. During severe infestations, it appears as if their mouths are full of maggots; hence the common term, “gill maggots”. Several species of parasitic copepods can inflict great harm and even kill fish, but Achtheres is not considered to be one of them.


Why does the water turn a brown-red color during the early spring in some areas of our local reservoirs?
Contrary to popular belief, this odd coloration is the result of a phytoplankton bloom not a result of the reservoir experiencing a spring "turn over". As the water warms in the spring, phytoplankton (algae, diatoms, dinoflagellates) reproduce at a tremendous rate. Some of these organisms are brown or red in color and cause the coloration when they are abundant.


What is a thermocline and what effect does it have on reservoir fish populations?
Thermal Stratification As the surface water warms in the late spring, a distinct temperature gradient is formed between the warm surface water and the cool water below. This thermocline does not allow the cold water to mix with the warm, oxygenated water above. The cold water slowly loses oxygen due to the decay of organisms and lack of photosynthesis. In certain reservoirs, the cold water loses enough oxygen during the summer that it can no longer support certain cool water species like striped bass.


When do our reservoirs "turn over"?
Northern reservoirs experience a spring and fall "turn over", but our lakes destratify only in the fall. It occurs when the surface water cools sufficiently to mix with the cold water below. Prior to the cooling period, the warm surface water cannot mix with the denser water below because of thermal stratification (see the previous question).


Why are the spines of some fish deformed?
Sauger There are several causes for the spinal curvature (lordosis or scoliosis) seen in our reservoir fish. It is often the result of a congenital birth defect or juvenile predation injuries in wild fish populations. Similar spinal abnormalities occur in hatchery raised fish fed a diet deficient in vitamin C or subjected to temperature changes during the egg stage. The affected fish are safe to eat.


How many rods or poles may an angler fish with?
There is no limit to the number of rods that can be fished in MOST of our reservoirs, but there are exceptions. Only three rods may be used when fishing for walleye in Center Hill and Dale Hollow. Also, there are certain trout waters where an angler is limited to one hand-held rod (Gatlinburg). It is always best to consult the fishing regulations for the specific water fished prior to any trip.


What causes the dark blotches (pigmentation) on the skin of largemouth bass?
Bass Melanosis It is possible that this condition is genetic, viral, or related to some environmental factor unique to certain bodies of water that stimulates the increased production of melanin.  This unusual pigmentation (melanosis) has been observed on bass within most Tennessee reservoirs and in other areas of the country for many years.  The Fish Disease Diagnostics Laboratory at Auburn University is currently investigating the cause of hyperpigmented melanosis in Tennessee largemouth bass.


Is there such a thing as a freshwater jellyfish in Tennessee?
Freshwater jellyfish Craspedacusta sowerbii are occasionally seen in our reservoirs and look like small marine jellyfish, but actually belong to a different taxonomic class, Hydrozoa, which includes the common hydra. These mostly translucent organisms are about the size of a quarter and feed on tiny zooplankton. The large, non-translucent gonads hanging on their underside make them easy to spot on sunny days during the late summer. They have stinging cells like marine jellyfish, but have not been shown to affect the external skin of humans. There has been at least one occasion when they have temporarily paralyzed human vocal cords when intentionally ingested.


Can game fish be used as bait?
Yes, provided the fish were legally harvested and the harvest restrictions are followed. Trout purchased as bait should be accompanied by a dated and signed receipt showing the number and where the fish were purchased. One should not exceed TWRA's trout limits when fishing in "trout waters" with purchased trout.


Can I stock fish in public waters?
No! Releasing fish or water into a stream, river, or reservoir can irreversibly damage the fishing in that location. It is easy to imagine how an exotic species released from an aquarium could harm our native fish populations. But even the release of species such as a bass that might already live in that water body could introduce harmful viruses or diseases. Only TWRA has the authority to stock public waters which includes privately owned, streams and rivers. It is illegal to stock the waters of Tennessee, and only privately owned ponds may be stocked without TWRA approval.


Can fish be cleaned or dressed while on the water?
Yes, as long as the fish has not been altered to the extent that its species and length cannot be determined.


Is a license needed when fishing a private pond?
Yes, unless you are not required to have a license under the landowner, age, or military exemptions.


What are those black, white, or yellow worms in fish flesh?
They are common trematode parasites known as black spot, yellow grub, and white grub. They pose no danger to humans as long as the fish are properly cleaned and fully cooked. These parasites usually do not affect the health of fish except under unusual conditions.


What are the brown striations in walleye flesh?
The striations are caused by necrotic muscle fibers where lymphocytes have infiltrated. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system and are involved with inflammatory response to bacterial infections and parasites. Similar necrotic muscle lesions have been observed in crappie.


Can I fish with "spring lizards"?
spring lizard There is only one salamander, or what some locals call "spring lizards", that can be collected, sold, or purchased and used for bait in the State of Tennessee. Desmognathus fuscus, commonly known as the "dusky salamander", is the only "spring lizard" allowed persuant to TWRA's Rule 1660-01-17-.01(5b). Other amphibians may only be taken for scientific purposes upon the approval of TWRA's Executive Director via a scientific collection permit.