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TWRA Notes: Licenses go on sale; whirling disease in Watauga, South Holston tailwaters

From Matthew Cameron, TWRA • Feb 18, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Tennessee’s 2018-19 hunting and fishing licenses went on sale Sunday, Feb. 18.

Licenses are available at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regional offices, through license agents, online or via the TWRA “On the Go App.”

The 2018-19 licenses are valid through February 2019. The 2017-18 licenses expire Feb. 28.

License sales provide the primary funding for the TWRA.

Resident licenses may be purchased by: persons who possess a valid Tennessee driver’s license or who have lived in Tennessee for 90 consecutive days with the intent of making Tennessee their permanent home (but do not hold a driver’s license in another state); military personnel on active duty in this state and their immediate families who reside with them, regardless of resident status; and students who are enrolled in a Tennessee school, college or university for at least six months.

A Social Security number is required to purchase a Tennessee hunting or fishing license.

Via the internet, charges are $4.25 for licenses mailed and $3 for self-print or emailed.

In case of a lost license, duplicate licenses can be obtained from any TWRA license agent for an $8 fee. Valid duplicate licenses also can be printed online at no cost by selecting the reprint my licenses button on the customer information screen.

Resident and non-resident guide licenses will only be available by application as of Feb. 18. Replacements will only be available by application.

For the second license year, customers have the option to purchase a hard-copy collector’s card for any annual license. The size of a credit card, the license features re-created paintings by famed Tennessee artist Ralph McDonald. Customers may choose between his renditions of a buck or largemouth bass. Specific license information is on the back of the card.


Whirling disease was recently discovered by biologists during their annual trout population monitoring in the South Holston and Watauga tailwaters. The discovery is the first known occurrence of this disease in Tennessee.

Whirling disease, a condition caused by a non-native microscopic parasite, affects fish in the trout and salmon family, including rainbow, brook and brown trout. This parasite can cause damage to the fish’s cartilage and skeletal tissue, resulting in deformities in the head and spine. They may also develop a black tail or display “whirling” or erratic tail-chasing behavior.

Although a diseased trout may not die directly from the parasite, it can affect a fish's ability to swim, eat and escape predators. Other organisms, such as humans, mammals, pets or other fish like bass, catfish and perch, cannot become infected.

“So far, there has been no indication of negative impacts of whirling disease in the South Holston and Watauga tailwater trout populations,” said Sally Petre, TWRA Region IV trout biologist. “Although the infected trout were collected in the South Holston and Watauga tailwaters, the more immediate concern is the spread of whirling disease to areas that may be more vulnerable such as wild trout streams.”

Petre notes those impacts can be dependent on water temperature, habitat and the age and species of trout present.

“Brown trout rarely display symptoms associated with whirling disease unless heavily infested, while rainbow and brook trout, especially young fingerlings, are more susceptible to the effects of the parasite,” she said.

TWRA biologists will begin collecting trout in tailwaters across the state and within the South Holston and Watauga watersheds to determine the current distribution of the non-native parasite and the prevalence of whirling disease. Annual routine testing currently indicates all TWRA hatchery facilities are disease-free.

There is no known cure to rid the parasite that causes whirling disease once it’s been established, so the best way to protect Tennessee’s many trout fisheries is to prevent it from spreading.

For more information on whirling disease and how you can help, visit the TWRA website.


The TWRA will host the annual gathering of the top deer researchers and managers in the Southeast and beyond Monday through Wednesday, Feb. 19-21 in Nashville.

The 41st annual meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group at the Millenium Maxwell House Hotel will bring to Music City biologists, managers and researchers who oversee the management of the country’s most popular game animal.

“We are excited and looking forward to hosting this gathering of our friends and professional peers,” said Ed Carter, executive director of the TWRA. “Deer are important to our entire country for many reasons and this group is vital in helping share knowledge and expertise that helps properly manage them.”

The SEDSG meets annually to share the latest information on white-tailed deer research and management. Meetings provide a forum to share research results and management strategies, and foster discussions. This year’s meeting will focus on the management of white-tailed deer on a statewide scale and what a responsible, defendable state agency deer management program entails.

Also featured at the meeting will be an exhibit of many of the largest bucks ever harvested in Tennessee. More than 60 deer mounts have been loaned to TWRA.

“To the best of our knowledge this is the largest and most geographically comprehensive exhibit of top-ranking bucks ever assembled in the state of Tennessee,” said Dale Grandstaff, TWRA District 21 law enforcement captain.

Although there is a registration fee to attend the SEDSG meeting, the event is open to all deer enthusiasts. More information about this year’s meeting may be found by visiting the event website.


The 2018-19 state waterfowl hunting regulations will be among the agenda items addressed when the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission meets Feb. 27-28 in Nashville at the TWRA's Region II Ray Bell Building. In addition, the TFWC will elect its new officers for 2018-19.

The committee meetings will begin at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The regular TFWC meeting will start at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The public is invited to attend.

A preview of the regulations was given during in January. Seasons and bag limits for most migratory gamebirds will be similar to 2017-18.

Proposed changes include the increase of the daily bag limit for pintails and black ducks from one bird a day to two birds a day.

Another proposed change regards the youth waterfowl hunts, which occur on consecutive Saturdays in February. The hunts have been for youth ages 6 to 15, but the agency is proposing a change for youth from ages 6 to 16 to fall in line with other TWRA youth hunts such as deer and turkey. Federal regulations were recently changed to include youth to age 16.

The proposal includes an expansion for most goose seasons to include more days. The bag limit of white-fronted geese would increase from two birds a day to three a day.

The statewide sandhill crane hunting season will remain the same with only a change in calendar dates.

In addition, the commission will discuss the possibility of applying Tennessee’s restrictions on the importation of deer, elk, moose and caribou carcasses on all U.S. states and Canadian provinces, rather than just those that have confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Contagious and deadly to members of the deer family known as cervids, this disease has been discovered in 25 states and two Canadian provinces. Mississippi became the latest state to confirm CWD last week.

Many hunters travel out of state and often return with harvested animals. Import restrictions require that cervid carcasses be properly cleaned and dressed before being transported into Tennessee.

— Information from Matthew Cameron, TWRA Region 4 information and education coordinator

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