NASHVILLE — An agreement is in place to continue Tennessee's popular trout stocking program for three more years, a move that gives a boost to the nearby Erwin National Fish Hatchery and directly impacts fishing on several reservoirs and tailwaters in our area.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced a deal that will maintain the trout stocking programs in reservoirs and tailwaters of TVA dams across the region.
TVA will provide more than $900,000 per year for the next three years to support federal fish hatchery operations that provide the trout for stocking. During the three-year time frame, a working group will be formed with key stakeholders who benefit from the recreation-based trout stocking to identify a long-term funding source, according to the agreement.
Non-native trout stocked near some of TVA's dams are raised at three federal fish hatcheries operated by the USFWS: Erwin National Fish Hatchery, Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tenn., and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.
"Closing Dale Hollow and Erwin would have been a disaster for 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who bought fishing licenses last year," Alexander said. "Dale Hollow helps make Tennessee's rivers and lakes among the most prized trout fisheries in our country. And the Erwin hatchery provides brood stocks for fishing waters across the country."
The trout are provided to the TWRA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources for stocking in the colder water of the reservoirs and tailwaters of the TVA dams. TVA supports the stocking programs by enhancing aquatic habitat through oxygenation systems, forgoing electric generation and providing minimum river flows to help adequately maintain cooler water temperatures. However, in most of the waters, the trout cannot naturally reproduce, requiring regular stocking to maintain fishable populations.
Through this three-year hatchery funding agreement, trout will continue to be stocked for recreational fishing in reservoirs or tailwaters at 12 TVA dams in Tennessee and Georgia: Apalachia Dam on the Hiwassee River; Blue Ridge Dam on the Toccoa River; Cherokee Dam on the Holston River; Fort Patrick Henry Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Normandy Dam on the Duck River; Norris Dam on the Clinch River; Ocoee Dam No. 1 on the Ocoee River; South Holston Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River; Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River; Watauga Dam on the Watauga River; and Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.
"The funding of the federal hatchery operations is vital to our agency's ability to meet the demand for quality trout fishing in Tennessee," said Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "Their continued operation will help continue providing a tremendous recreational activity to thousands of Tennesseans. An associated but very important side benefit is the significant economic boost to local businesses associated with the fishing and outdoor industry."
Details on the trout hatchery funding working group are currently being developed. The agencies will be seeking representation, ideas and input from angling groups, local and regional businesses, tourism organizations and the local governments that realize the direct and indirect benefits of having fishable trout waters in their communities.
"This is good news for Tennessee fishermen," Alexander said of the agreement. "TVA has helped make sure Tennessee's rivers and lakes will remain among the most prized trout fisheries in our country."