Almost a decade after Florida bass were introduced into Lake Chickamauga, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials still aren't sure if that has enhanced the fishing.
Lately, however, there have been signs of larger bass stringers from the lake, according to Bobby Wilson, the TWRA's assistant chief of fisheries.
"We initially stocked it for five years," Wilson said. "We're probably in our last year of stocking at Chickamauga until we can evaluate it. If everything looks good, we may continue it."
It probably will be later this year before enough evidence has been collected and studied to determine which way to go with the program, he said.
"Fins from 20 bass weighing 7 to 10 pounds in Gibson County Lake were collected in 2007, and about 16 were Florida bass," Wilson said. "The largest were Florida bass."
Florida bass grow much larger in their native territory than those found in the Tennessee Valley Authority lakes. But Lake Chickamauga is just below the geographic line where Florida fish are supposed to fare well.
In the experiment to see if Florida bass mingling with largemouths would lead to larger fish, stockings were done in Chickamauga tributaries Muddy, Grasshopper and Richland creeks.
Wilson said all the lakes in Tennessee appeared in good shape with water amounts, except for Douglas in East Tennessee. However, many trout streams in the Cherokee National Forest were still suffering from the lower-than-normal rainfalls of the last few years.
Cherokee biologist Jim Herrig said the winter rains helped them, but the amount of flow was still too little for what is needed.
"A lot of the water we've had is being absorbed by the ground," Herrig said. "We're a little behind, but it's getting better. In our small streams, we really lost a lot of fish last year due to the drought. They still have a lot of fish, but they're small. It will take a year or two to recover. There may be some streams where we have to do some more stocking."
Brook trout in the Tellico Section of the forest were especially affected, he said. Roaring Branch, one of the 12 brook streams, was damaged severely.
Many trouting buffs from the area have in the past headed to Georgia's Cohutta Wildlife Management Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest for fishing, but a hurricane that reached that area a couple of years ago greatly impacted it, according to Gary Beisser, biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.
The flood and wind rearranged the streams. Reproduction has been slow since then.
"We've been getting marginal temperature readings on the lower ends of both the Jacks and Conasauga rivers," Beisser said. "That had a lot to do with the storm coming through and scouring out everything, especially on the Jacks. It also moved boulders the size of small Volkswagens ... (and) created gravel bars that weren't there earlier."
The WRD planned to alter its stocking procedure this year.
"Because the stream temperatures are so much higher after July 1, we plan to stock 80 percent of them before that date," Beisser said.
HUNTING, FISHING LICENSE OUTLETS
Bridgeport: Big Daddy' s Outdoors, 52680 U.S. Highway 72, 256-495-9225.
(Note: Many Georgia outlets are switching to a system that will allow licenses to be purchased online from the store. New equipment for this was being received early this year. Purchasers are advised to check first with stores.)
Dalton: Grant's Sporting Goods, 613 Fifth Ave., 706-278-5598; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 2545 E. Walnut Ave., 706-279-1905.
Fort Oglethorpe: Wal-Mart Supercenter, 3040 Battlefield Parkway, 706-861-4698.
Athens: Wal-Mart Supercenter, 1815 Decatur Pike, 423-745-0395.
Chattanooga: Kmart, 680 Signal Mountain Road, 875-2511; Kmart, 4801 Highway 58, 899-3232; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 3550 Cummings Highway, 821-1556; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 490 Greenway View Drive, 892-8911; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 2020 Gunbarrel Road, 899-7021; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 601 Signal Mountain Road, 756-7202.
Charleston: B&B Marina, 117 Marina Drive, 336-2341.
Cleveland: Wal-Mart Supercenter, 4495 Keith St. NW, 423-472-1436; Wal-Mart Supercenter, 2300 Treasury Drive, 423-472-9660.
Dayton: Wal-Mart 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, 344-5095.
Hixson: Wal-Mart, 5764 Highway 153, 870-1680.
Kimball: Wal-Mart Supercenter, 525 Kimball Crossing, 837-6732.
Rockwood: Jerry's Bait Shop, 816 S. Gateway Ave., 865-354-1225.