Fishing Western Tennessee Lakes is truly spectacular

Find great fishing in western Tennessee at Reelfoot Lake's stump garden, the expansive Pickwick Lake, the gorgeous Kentucky Lake, and the muskie haven of Cave Run Lake.

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Kentucky Lake fishing in western Tennessee.

MEMPHIS,TENNESSEE, May 26, 2017 – Tennessee is a great state for fishing. It has incredible lakes and rivers throughout the state and within various State and Federal parks that are clean and teeming with fish.

A fine catch on Kentucky Lake in Western Tennessee

The only way to address the fishing in Tennessee is region by region. Tennessee, for purposes of these articles, is broken into 3 regions, western, central and eastern Tennessee for lakes as well as for the multitude of rivers here.

Fishing Western Tennessee Lakes.

Tennessee has some interesting aquatic history. Imagine being a fur trader on Feb 7th 1812 near New Madrid south of St Louis when the earthquake struck.


The earthquake, a 7.0 – 8.0 tremor, caused an uplift along a segment of the Mississippi creating temporary waterfalls on the Mississippi at Kentucky Bend. This created waves that drove upstream, causing the Mississippi River to flow north.

Pity the poor fur traders or Native American Indians, paddling south on the Mississippi but moving backwards. Imagine the shock these folks had. This same backwards flow caused the formation of Reelfoot Lake by creating a depression and blocking streams in Northwest Tn in Lake County, Tennessee.

The earthquake did do severe damage elsewhere as well. New Madrid experienced a complete leveling and was destroyed. In St. Louis, Missouri, many houses experienced severe damage when walls collapsed and chimneys toppled.

Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake is a sportsman’s paradise. There are very nice resorts for the families to stay at and marinas for boat rentals on the lake.

Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee.

The TN.gov website will provide information regarding these resorts. There are 54 different species of fish residing in this relatively shallow lake.

The primary game fish most of the anglers go for includes bream/bluegill, crappie, large-mouth bass, and catfish, though these are but a small fraction of what is there.

Reelfoot Lake is a flooded forest formed by a massive earthquake in 1812.

Reelfoot Lake is a flooded forest – full of submerged cypress stumps. Much of it is really more of a swamp, with ditches connecting more open bodies of water called basins, the largest of which is called Blue Basin.

While Reelfoot Lake has 30 daily limit on crappie, there is no limit on bluegill.  For the bass fisherman, there are very decent four to seven pound large-mouth bass that are fairly common with larger ones in the 9-12 lb category lurking in the underwater structures.

Fishing varies on a seasonal basis, but the prime fishing generally runs from March through October. Reelfoot Lake has many backwater shallow water cypress fields holding very large fish.

Kayaking thru the backwaters of Reelfoot Lake.

Bait, caught with dip nets, is fun if you like being adventurous or it may be acquired from the various marinas in the resorts or bait shops.

Ask the fisherman or research to determine what the fish are eating in terms of minnows, worms, crickets, frogs, salamanders, or large flying bugs, based upon the seasonality of your fishing trip.

Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee.

Learn what the fish are biting on before buying the bait, as the bait stores will sell you what they have as opposed to providing the bait the fish are eating.

Reelfoot, due to the TNRVA, hunters, fishermen, and some environmental groups, has grown to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural fish hatcheries.

Kentucky Lake and Cave Run Lake

Kentucky Lake is a significant reservoir along the Tennessee River in Kentucky and Tennessee. The lake, created in 1944 by the TVA’s impounding of the Tennessee River by the Kentucky Dam, established the largest (160,309-acre (649 km2) artificial lake by surface area in the United States east of the Mississippi River, with 2,064 miles of shoreline.

Kentucky Lake in western Tennessee

Cave Run Lake is perfect for anglers looking for variety in their fishing experience. Cave Run Lake at the northern segment of Kentucky Lake, near Morehead, Kentucky, is the Musky Capital of the South.

Cave Run Lake near Kentucky Lake.

Musky season traditionally starts in March, when the fish begin to spawn, and continues through the fall. Anglers come from across the nation to fill their nets with these beasts, one of the freshwater’s largest fish.

Cave Run Lake is the muskie capital of the south.

The state record musky, caught in Cave Run Lake in 2013, weighed in at 47 lbs and measured 54 inches.

There are many guides in the area based upon the types of fish you want to go after. For your best fishing experience, they are well worth it.

Cave Run Lake

Musky is not the only type of fish swimming in this lake. More than 150 species of fish live in the lake. These include Channel and Blue Catfish, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Spotted and White Bass, White and Black Crappie, and bream/bluegill.

Cave Run Lake.

Kentucky Lake has an excellent population of blue, channel, and flathead catfish. The channel catfish prefer the shallower areas, while the blue catfish prefer the main river channel.

The catfish normally move shallow, and into rocky areas to spawn during June. The best fishing for blue catfish is during the summer months. The main thing to key in on is current in the river channel.

During the summer months hydropower at the Dam is pulling water, this creates current along the river channel. This current also makes for some fair fishing for white bass and striped bass.

A great area to fish for white bass is in the canal. The lake also offers other fish such as sauger, yellow bass, yellow perch, and walleyes.

Currently, local fishing reports and the Commercial Appeal newspaper are discussing the fact that anglers are catching Crappie up to 17 inches. Other species caught include largemouth (to 7 pounds), yellow bass (5-6 lbs), and 1-2 lb whitebass.

Anglers have also caught several sauger but only one longer than the 14 inch minimum. Redear and bluegill fishing is about to begin and decent cats have been taken.

Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake has many decent resorts for folks to enjoy while fishing there. These offer activities for kids and the women as well as golf.

There are many marinas for your boating, bait, fishing, or just recreation on the water needs to make your stays enjoyable. This region is certainly worth looking at if you enjoy an incredible environment and wondrous scenery.

Pickwick Lake

Pickwick is a reservoir created by the TVA by damming the Tennessee River. Covering portions of South Central Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi and provided for record sized smallmouth bass and Catfish.

Pickwick is at the northwestern end of the intercostal waterway (ICW), while another City and lake in Southeastern Tennessee also is connected to the ICW.

Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee/Alabama border

The beautiful waterway runs 45 miles on the Tennessee River from Pickwick Dam, near Counce, Tennessee to Wilson Dam, near Florence, Alabama. All of the main lake and its tributaries are prime smallmouth, largemouth, crappie and catfish areas providing excellent catches throughout.

Pickwick is an awesome fishing lake because it is actually three lakes in one. The upper levels to the south have shallow ledges to fish, while much steeper ledges abound on the north end. The lake offers deep and shallow feeder creeks, many gravel bars, bluff banks and excellent water quality.

Pickwick Lake in western Tennessee

Pickwick offers 12 months of some kind of fishing action and opportunity on all species of bass (spotted/Kentucky, Stripers, smallmouth and largemouth) as well as crappie, catfish and sauger. .

The same can be said of the Pickwick Tailrace below the Dam where there are year-round offerings always to be had. Obviously, fishing in inclement and cold weather might have a dampening effect on what you are able to catch but there is always something biting.

An Angler is able to catch excellent catfish, smallmouth, sauger, striped bass and white bass angling in the waters that have flowed through the dam to head north toward Kentucky Lake.

For Bass in early June look for them along the shallower edges in the 4 – 10 ft depth and as the water warms the bass move out to the4 deeper ledges around 12-20 ft. crankbaits plastic works on quarter oz jigs work well as do the Carolina rigs. Good catfish found out in Pickwick also.

Most anglers employ some variation of drift fishing with cut shad Brim or perch, minnows, works chicken livers. Try fishing below the dam in the boils the turbins create, for your enormous catfish.

Sunset on Pickwick Lake

There is also excellent crappie fishing in the lake. However unlike the bass and Catfish, in the early season one has to go deeper for them.

Catching a 3/4th lb to a 3 lb crappie requires fishing the deeper ledges with Jigs and around the deeper stump fields. The yellow creek area is a great spot to limit out on your crappies.

Pickwick has a variety of Resorts, Inns and Hotels to stay in when visiting the area. The State lodge and cabins are also a dream to stay in when visiting but require advance booking months ahead.

One of the marinas on Pickwick Lake

There are many marinas for your boating, fishing, or just recreation on the water needs to make your stays enjoyable. Bait acquisition from shops where you may select the live lures of your choice and launch ramps abound. There are supermarkets and restaurants for your food or dining pleasure.

Western Tennessee is blessed with 3 incredible lakes and numerous ponds to fish in. The fishing is world class and not be missed. The resort and amenities around the lakes also are great.

If flying in to Reelfoot, either St Louis or Memphis work best. For Kentucky Lake or Pickwick, either Memphis or Nashville are the optimal locations to fly into prior to renting a vehicle to go to the lake of your choice.

Not mentioned is the wonderful environment, the wildlife and the care the Tennesseans engage in to keep our wild areas and lakes pristine. Come on over and visit Tennessee and enjoy some of the finest tastiest game fishing anywhere.

Jim Berliner is an avid hunter, sports fisherman, and surfer, and is a senior IT Program Project manager for a major corporation in Nashville, TN.
Read more of his columns on CommDigiNews.com

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