Harry Richardson, of Centre, Ala., and John Kalabus, of Cleveland, Tenn., are two sportsmen who agree the area around Chattanooga offers much in traditional outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing.
Mr. Richardson grew up fishing Lake Weiss near his home. He returned to Centre to coach and teach after attending and playing football at Samford University in Birmingham. Following retirement from the school system nine years ago, he has spent many days guiding clients in crappie and bass fishing on the Alabama Power Co. reservoir.
Mr. Kalabus researched top retirement places a decade ago. That led him to Cleveland. Since then, he has built a canoe and floated the nearby Conasauga River, fished and found time to hunt for deer, turkey and wild boar in addition to painting outdoor scenes on canvas.
“I go hunting about once or twice a week, depending upon what the season allows,” he said. “I’m more of a hunter than a fisherman. I’ve taken one bear, but that was years ago in Pennsylvania.”
Living near the Cherokee National Forest has offered ample opportunity for him to hunt. But he’s also volunteered to help build trails in the Cherokee for those who just want to walk and study nature.
Mr. Richardson still does most of his fishing on Weiss, though he also fishes downstream in Neely Henry and Logan Martin lakes. He was hoping for a good Weiss spring after rains flooded the Coosa River chain during the winter.
“I’ve seen it a whole lot better than last year,” he said. “Biologists say that those back-to-back spawns we lost due to droughts three and four years ago have caught up with us.”
Weiss has a lot of inlets two feet or less deep, good for spawning when there’s sufficient water. But if the lake is down during the spring spawning season, crappies can’t get into them.
Weiss is popular with anglers from Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, and several touring pro circuits — among them Crappie USA — are regulars there. Nickajack, Chickamauga and Watts Bar lakes of the Tennessee Valley Authority system also pull anglers from the Southeast. Tims Ford and Woods of the Elk River chain are well-fished, too.
The Walmart Bass Fishing League — with generally one-day tournaments but chances for regional and national competition — regularly visits Guntersville, Old Hickory and Kentucky lakes. The bigger-money Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and Forrest L. Wood circuits also make stops in the region.
Much of the privately owned land for hunting near Chattanooga is leased to clubs, but there are public venues such as the Cohutta, John’s Mountain and Crockford-Pigeon wildlife management areas in Georgia; the South Cherokee, AEDC and Prentice Cooper WMAs in Tennessee; and the Skyline in Alabama. While draw hunts for big game such as deer and wild turkeys are designed to control numbers at those sites, hunting for squirrels, raccoons and other small game generally is much less restrictive.
Bear hunting is available at Georgia’s Cohutta WMA or its neighboring Rich Mountain WMA, usually on an alternating basis from year to year.
Tennessee’s North Cumberland WMA hosted the first legal hunting of elk in more than a century in 2009, and all five hunters who got the chance claimed elk.
AREA HUNTING/FISHING LICENSE OUTLETS
Bridgeport: Big Daddy’s Outdoors, 52680 U.S. Highway 72, 256-495-9225.
(Note: To order Georgia licenses online, go to www.georgiawildlife.com/recreational-licenses. For a list of license outlets, see www.georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us/content/licenseagents.asp.)
License outlets in Georgia include the following:
Dalton: Grant’s Sporting Goods, 613 Fifth Ave., 706-278-5598; Walmart Supercenter, 2545 E. Walnut Ave., 706-279-1905.
Fort Oglethorpe: Walmart Supercenter, 3040 Battlefield Parkway, 861-4698.
(Note: Order Tennessee hunting and fishing licenses online at www4.wildlifelicense.com/tn/start.php.)
Athens: Walmart Supercenter, 1815 Decatur Pike, 423-745-0395.
Chattanooga: Kmart, 680 Signal Mountain Road, 875-2511; Kmart, 4801 Highway 58, 899-3232; Walmart Supercenter, 3550 Cummings Highway, 821-1443; Walmart Supercenter, 490 Greenway View Drive, 892-8911; Walmart Supercenter, 2020 Gunbarrel Road, 899-7021; Walmart Supercenter, 601 Signal Mountain Road, 756-7202.
Charleston: B&B Marina, 117 Marina Drive, 423-336-2341.
Cleveland: Walmart Supercenter, 4495 Keith St., NW, 423-472-1436; Walmart Supercenter, 2300 Treasury Drive, 423-472-9660.
Dayton: Walmart Supercenter, 3034 Rhea Highway, 423-775-4448; Blue Water Campground and Boat Dock, 423-775-3265.
Guild: Anchor Inn Boat & Tackle, 11009 Highway 41, 423-942-5062.
Harrison: Hamilton Sport Shop, 6308 Highway 58, 423-344-5095.
Hixson: Walmart Supercenter, 5764 Highway 153, 870-1680.
Kimball: Walmart Supercenter, 525 Kimball Crossing, 423-837-6732.
Rockwood: Jerry’s Bait Shop, 816 S. Gateway Ave., 865-354-1225.