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Fishing Report: Paddlefish getting paddled at Horseshoe Bend

April 4th, 2014 8:34 pm by George Thwaites

Fishing Report: Paddlefish getting paddled at Horseshoe Bend

The Strike King Red Eye Shad (shown) and other lipless crankbaits are among the artificial lures contributing to bass catches on Cherokee Lake this week.

There is no longer an active steam plant associated with the John Sevier Steam Plant Dam in Rogersville.

Be that as it may, that TVA barrier remains the upstream limit for fish that move up out of Cherokee Lake to spawn in the moving waters of the Holston River.

One of the more unusual migrations of interest to area anglers appears to be well under way. Paddlefish have arrived just in time for the limited paddlefish season.

Sometimes called "shovel-billed catfish" by old timers, paddlefish are no relation to catfish. They have a cavernous mouth and a long, flat bill and bear no real resemblance to any other native species but themselves.

Adult paddlefish average 36 inches in length but can grow much larger. The state record is 75 pounds. They attain their remarkable mass not from preying upon other fish, but from filter-feeding on clouds of tiny zooplankton. The eggs of these fish are highly prized as caviar and the firm flesh, which some compare to pork loin, is also desirable as table fare.

Because of their manner of feeding, paddlefish are not susceptible to normal hook-and-line presentations. Because of this, paddlefish are exempt from Tennessee's general prohibitions on snagging. Anglers are allowed one fish per day. Once you snag one, it's yours. No culling is allowed.

The 15-day season formerly opened on March 1, with warm water discharges from the John Sevier Steam Plant Dam artificially stimulating an early migration date. Now that the steam plant has shut down, the TWRA moved the season opener to April 1 to reflect more natural conditions.

It looks like the new regs hit it on the nose.

Randall Collier of Rogersville reports that anglers who wait all year for a shot at these massive fish have not been disappointed.

"Up at Horseshoe Bend they've been snagging them like crazy," Collier said. "When the water level gets high enough, they make a run for the steam plant dam. The water came up, but dropped back down and evidently some big ones got caught between shoals."

Stripers and hybrids are also being caught in good numbers around Clouds Creek and Caney Creek. Large shiners and live alewives have been the best baits. The crappie bite on that lake has also been decent.

Because of the lower water levels there isn't much water up in the creeks, Collier said. Shallow-running crankbaits have been effective.

"The largemouth bass are starting to turn on," Collier observed. "Believe it or not, they are coming up shallow. The bass are as pale as all get-out right now."

Alabama rigs aren't out of play on that lake. Bobby Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton agrees. He's selling a lot of the Keitech swimbaits, which are being fished singly and on umbrella rigs.

Other bass anglers headed for Cherokee Lake are stocking up on assorted brands of shallow-running square billed crankbaits. Carolina-rigged lizards are part of the picture. So are lipless crankbaits. Colyer said both classic Rat-L-Traps and the Strike King Red Eye Shad have been hot baits lately.

"Chrome and blue has been a popular color. But also red. I mean solid red, maybe with a little bit of black on it," Colyer said.

Over on Douglas, anglers have been catching lots of crappie and walleye. Anglers are trolling more than usual (Shad Raps, mostly) due to fluctuating water levels that have made it harder to hit crappie on the nose with a fly and minnow. Walleye have been mostly up in the rivers. Jigs with minnows are the staple, but up in the moving water Rapala Husky Jerks and other suspending jerkbaits have been working.

White bass are also very active in the lake and the full scale spawning run up the rivers seems imminent. They are already showing up at Leadvale in good numbers.

Former minor league magnate Rick Spivey reports that nice catfish continue to be caught on live shiners in the Clinch River, which was a little bit muddy as of Friday. Larger cats are showing up as these bigger fish have been moving up the river from as far downstream as Norris Lake, evidently.

Smallmouth bass fishing has been decent, Spivey said, but other species haven't kicked in yet. That shouldn't be too long in coming.

On the fly fishing beat, Todd Boyer at Mahoney's Sportsman's Paradise in Johnson City reports that small caddis are "starting to pop" on the Watauga tailwater river.

"Yeah, the trout are getting on them, but they're still hitting the Blue Wing hatch so you have to pay attention," said Boyer. "On the South Holston (tailwater) it's the same old thing. Blue Winged Olives and sticking to midges and smaller stuff until the sulphurs start popping, I guess."

The relatively rapid transition from cold weather to warm make it tough to anticipate spring rituals, like the Green Drake hatches on area mountain streams. They usually show up around May. But keep paying attention. They could be early.

In the meantime, the anglers' urges to get out and fish favored warm water rivers like the Nolichucky have probably arrived in advance of the prime smallmouth fishing.

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