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Best Fishing Lakes in Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the most geographically diverse states in the United States and is separated into three parts.

woman fishing on a lake in tennessee

These are known as the Grand Divisions, each division being named East, Middle, and West Tennessee. 

East Tennessee is made up of the Southern Appalachian Mountains(also known as the Great Smoky Mountains), the eastern Tennessee River valley, and the Cumberland Plateau.

Part of the Cumberland Plateau, rolling hills and fertile ground make up what is known as Middle Tennessee. Lastly, West Tennessee contains the Mississippi River, the western Tennessee River valley, and flat fertile soil.

a bluegill caught in a lake in tennessee

Tennessee also has countless streams, lakes, and rivers sprawling across these Great Divisions.

Each lake contains a diverse ecosystem, brimming with many different fish species. Tennessee can be an angler’s dream if you know what lakes are the best to fish at.

Whether you are visiting or are living in Tennessee, you’ll find the best fishing lakes in Tennessee listed below.

Top 21 Tennessee Fishing Lakes

  1. Kentucky Lake
  2. Pickwick Lake
  3. Reelfoot Lake
  4. Center Hill Lake
  5. Cordell Hull Lake
  6. Dale Hollow Lake
  7. Douglas Lake
  8. Fort Loudon Lake
  9. Lake Barkley
  10. Percy Priest Lake
  11. Watauga Lake
  12. Calderwood Reservoir
  13. Cherokee Lake
  14. Gibson County Lake
  15. Hiwassee River
  16. Old Hickory Lake
  17. South Holston Lake
  18. Woods Reservoir
  19. Fort Loudon Lake
  20. Chickamauga Reservoir
  21. Melton Hill Reservoir

Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake is a reservoir along the Tennessee River, created when the Kentucky Dam was constructed in 1944.

Kentucky Lake

It is the 25th largest lake in the United States, with a shoreline 184 miles in length, a total acreage of 160,300, and a depth of more than 70ft. 

While providing a source of hydroelectric power, it also reigns as one of the most popular lakes to fish in Tennessee.

Within Kentucky Lake, you can find white bass, largemouth, smallmouth bass, sauger, catfish, bluegill, and red-ear sunfish. Kentucky Lake is a great choice of a fishing spot with great views and fish.


Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake is renowned as the best trophy smallmouth fishery in the U.S because of the beneficial conditions of its location situated at the southern boundary of a habitable climate for smallmouth bass, producing larger fish.

Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake has a shoreline length of 53 miles, a maximum depth of 59 feet, and a 47,500-acre surface area.

Pickwick contains a large variety of species, including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, bluegill, and more.

Moreover, if you specifically want to go after smallmouth bass, then this is the fishery for you. 


Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake is a natural lake located northwest of Tennessee. Created due to a series of earthquakes lasting from 1811 to 1812, it is now a shallow lake that spans over 15,000 acres of surface area.

The lake is very swamp-like, with Cypress trees rising tall above the waters and stumps submerged below the surface.

Reelfoot Lake is home to a diverse population of birds and fish. You’ll find black and white crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, gar, carp, and more.

Reelfoot Lake is a great lake for fishing and more, so give it a visit if you’re in the area!


Center Hill Lake

Center Hill Lake was a reservoir created by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in 1948 to provide electricity production and flood control.

Center Hill Lake

The lake has a shoreline length of 415 lines, a surface area spanning 18,220 acres, and a maximum depth of 190 feet. 

Center Hill Lake is a great spot for year-round fishing, offering a variety of species just waiting to be caught.

You can find largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, rainbow trout, black crappie, walleye, warmouth, and more.

It’s a great fishing spot and contains boat docks, lodging, stores, and more in its nine marinas.


Cordell Hull Lake

Cordell Hull Lake is named after Cordell Hull, a statesman who served in the House of Representatives, U.S Senate, and Secretary of State under Franklin D Roosevelt.

Cordell Hull Lake

Situated some 40 miles east of Nashville, the lake was created in 1973 for the primary uses of navigation, hydropower generation, and recreation. 

Cordell Hull Lake covers around 12,000 acres, has a shoreline length of 72 miles, and has a maximum depth of 90ft.

If you ever visit Cordell Hull Lake, you’ll find a variety of species of fish, such as Guadalupe bass, spotted bass, catfish, black bullhead, rainbow trout, and more.


Dale Hollow Lake

The damming of the Obey River, orchestrated by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in 1943, created Dale Hollow Lake.

Dale Hollow Lake

The lake covers 27,700 acres, has 620 miles of shoreline, and has a maximum depth of 130 feet. 

Recreational activities and watersports are common at Dale Hollow Lake. It also has a reputation for being one of the best fishing spots and is known for being a great spot for rainbow and brown trout fishing.

It is also known as the smallmouth capital of the world, yielding one of the largest smallmouth basses of all time. 


Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake was created upon the impoundment of the French Broad River in 1943. Sometimes when it rains heavily, the lake can rise to 15 to 20 feet over a couple of days.

Douglas Lake

The lake spans 30,400 acres, extends 43.1 miles across its shoreline, and has a maximum depth of 140 feet.

During the summer, fishing can be difficult due to thermal stratification, so if you want your best chance at catching fish, it is recommended to wait until fall.

There are a variety of species to catch, such as black bass, crappie, walleye, sauger, and more.


Fort Loudoun Lake

Fort Loudoun Lake is a reservoir located in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has a surface area of 14,600 acres, a maximum depth of 78 feet, and a shoreline length of 379 feet.

Fort Loudoun Lake

Fort Loudon Lake is a popular destination for many activities such as boating, birdwatching, and fishing.

Bass fishing is the most popular fishing here, but you can find other fish like crappie, catfish, redear sunfish, warmouth, sauger, and paddlefish.


Lake Barkley

Lake Barkley is a reservoir created upon the construction of the Barkley Dam in 1966. It forms the easter boundary of the land between the Lakes National Recreation Area. 

Lake Barkley

The lake spans over 58,000 acres, has a shoreline measuring 1,004 miles, and a maximum depth of 68.

This enormous lake is home to many fish species, featuring largemouth bass, channel catfish, white crappie, white bass, bluegill, and longear sunfish.

Due to each season affecting the fish behavior, fishing here can be quite a challenge. But if you want the challenge, this lake is a dream fishing spot.


Percy Priest Lake

Percy Priest Lake is a reservoir in north-central Tennessee that is formed by the J. Percy Priest Dam, completed in 1967.

Percy Priest Lake

This lake has a total surface area of 14,200 acres, a maximum depth of 99 feet, and a shoreline length of 213 miles.

The Natural Resource Management Office looks over and maintains three campgrounds, eleven day-use picnic areas, and twelve boat launching ramps in Percy Priest Lake.

From its six marinas located around the lake, anglers can set out to find a variety of species in the water. You can discover crappie, black bass, catfish, hybrid striped bass, and more in this lake.


Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake is found southeast of Elizabethton, Tennessee, and was created upon the completion of the TVA Watauga Dam and Reservoir.

Watauga Lake

This lake has a surface area of 6,353 acres, a shoreline length of 105 miles, and a maximum depth of 250 feet.

Watauga Lake boasts many recreational activities, including boating, water-skiing, camping, whitewater rafting, and kayaking.

It is even more diverse when it comes to fishing. The species of fish that inhabit this lake include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, black crappie, rainbow trout, catfish, and more.

Watauga Lake has a lot to offer and beautiful waters, so give it a visit when you can!


Calderwood Reservoir

The Calderwood Reservoir is a lake formed by the impounding of the Little Tennessee River by the Calderwood Dam in 1930.

Calderwood Reservoir

It is a very small reservoir, only 541 acres in surface area and 8 miles in shoreline length. It is, however, a very deep reservoir with a maximum depth of 190 feet. 

Despite how it might look, the Calderwood Reservoir has a variety of quality fish for anglers to catch.

The primary fish caught here are trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, and rock bass.

The trout population is abundant here because trout thrives in cold, clear water.


Cherokee Lake

Cherokee Lake, also known as Cherokee Reservoir, is an impoundment of the Holston River, constructed in 1943.

Cherokee Lake

The lake covers 28,780 acres, has a shoreline length of 395 miles, and has a maximum depth of 150 feet.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency commonly installs fish attractors, making this lake particularly good for fishing.

There are plenty of quality fish to catch here, such as striped bass, Cherokee(hybrid) bass, crappie, walleye, sauger, paddlefish, and more.

Depending on the fish you are after, there is a variety of fish each season, so be sure to check up on what is available if you plan on visiting.


Gibson County Lake

Gibson County Lake is a small lake located just outside of Trenton, Tennessee. It is 560 acres in surface area and has a maximum depth of 32 feet.

Gibson County Lake

Gibson County Lake has facilities that include a boat launching ramp, fish attractors, a fishing pier, rental boats, and a store to purchase a license, bait, and tackle.

At Gibson County Lake, you can find plenty of quality fish of large size, especially bass. There is a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, Florida bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, blue catfish, and channel catfish.

Gibson County Lake is an all-around quality fishing spot providing much-appreciated convenience to anglers.


Hiwassee River

Hiwassee River is a reservoir located just outside of Murphy, Tennessee. The river is 6,000 acres, 180 miles in shoreline length, and 240 feet at maximum depth.

Hiwassee River

There are many recreational activities that the Hiwassee River is used for, such as tubing, kayaking, and rafting.

Hiwassee River is also a great spot for fishing, providing a variety of fish to catch. Year-round, the temperature of the water remains consistent, making it a great spot to fish at all times.

At Hiwassee River, you can find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, brown trout, spotted bass, catfish, rainbow trout, and tiger muskellunge.


Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake is a reservoir just south of Hendersonville, Tennessee. The lake is formed by the Old Hickory Lock and Dam, named after President Andrew Jackson, who had the nickname “Old Hickory.”

Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake has a surface area of 22,500 acres and a maximum depth of 95 feet. Old Hickory Lake has beautiful views and water, with plenty of fish to catch.

You can fish for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, walleye, bluegill, warmouth, paddlefish, sauger, and more at this lake. If you’re in Hendersonville, Tennessee, this is a great fishing spot to visit. 


South Holston Lake

South Holston Lake is found nearby Bristol, Tennessee, and is under the care of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

South Holston Lake

This natural lake has a surface area of 4,860 Acres, a shoreline length of 160 miles, and a maximum depth of 228 feet. 

Many recreational activities are held here, such as big events like an annual 4th of July fireworks display, boat racing events, and fishing contests.

There is a variety of fish living here, such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, crappie, lake trout, rainbow trout, warmouth, and more.


Woods Reservoir

The Woods Reservoir was formed by the Elk River Dam, created by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in 1952.

Woods Reservoir

The reservoir has a surface area of 3,660 acres and a maximum depth of 50 feet. The Woods Reservoir has plenty of opportunities and amenities for nice catches there. 

The Woods Reservoir has five public boat access sites and four fishing piers that are all free to use.

The reservoir has a variety of fish such as largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, yellow bass, and channel catfish, which are all primarily fished for there. 


Boone Lake

Boone Lake was formed with the construction of the Boone Dam that impounded the Watauga River and South Fork Holston River.

Boone Lake

It is a reservoir with a shore length of 130 miles, a 4,510-acre surface area, and a maximum depth of 140 feet.

It is a popular place for recreation, featuring a swimming area, a boat ramp, and a courtesy pier.

Fishing is a popular pastime here, and anglers will be able to fish largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, rainbow trout, bluegill, redear sunfish, and more.


Chickamauga Reservoir

Chickamauga Lake is a reservoir that formed when the Chickamauga Dam was completed in 1940.

Chickamauga Reservoir

The lake is 34,500 acres in surface area, has a shoreline length of 60 miles, and has a maximum depth of 72 feet.

The Chickamauga Reservoir has a nice variety of fish to catch, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, catfish, bullhead, rainbow trout, longear sunfish, and more.


Melton Hill Reservoir

Melton Hill Lake stretches across parts of Loudon, Roane, Anderson, and Knox Counties.

The lake has around 193 miles of shoreline, a maximum depth of 57 feet, and covers 5,470 acres of surface area. 

Thanks to the Bull Run Steam Plant, the water is kept warm throughout the year to extend the growing seasons of fish.

This provides a larger quantity of quality fish such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, muskie, warmouth, rock bass, walleye, crappie, paddlefish, etc.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, each lake listed here is full of beautiful views and fish to catch. The lakes have plenty of opportunities for big catches, producing some of the most quality fish seen in the entire country.

Tennessee has nature as far as the eye can see with an open invitation to all those who want to explore it. These are the best fishing lakes you should visit while in Tennessee, but we’ve got our readers in Indiana covered too!

Rocco Smith

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