Even as other forms of outdoor activities gain interest in the Chattanooga and tri-state area, hunting and fishing remain a popular activity for many residents and visitors.
There are numerous rivers, streams and private ponds throughout the region, as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority system of lakes. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can be caught throughout the region, along with catfish, striped bass and sauger on bigger waterways such as the Tennessee River and its reservoirs.
Bass fishing in particular has always been popular, and the growth of student fishing teams is increasing the number of young fishermen. Several area high schools have bass fishing teams, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's bass club competes in tournaments throughout the Southeast and will host the 2012 Tennessee Collegiate Bass Fishing Trail series of college fishing tournaments.
Fly fishing is increasingly popular on smaller, fast-moving rivers and streams. Many bodies of water are regularly stocked by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to boost the fish populations for anglers.
For hunters, several wildlife management areas in the region hold scheduled hunts for deer and small game in the late summer and fall.
A license is required to hunt and fish in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, with various options and rules depending on what type of fish or game is being sought. It is always best to check first with the wildlife resources agency in the state where you are planning to fish or hunt.
Resident hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased by:
• People who possess valid Tennessee driver's licenses.
• People who have lived in Tennessee for 90 consecutive days with the genuine intent of making Tennessee their permanent home. Proof of residency required.
• Military personnel on active duty in this state and their immediate families, who reside with them.
• Students enrolled in Tennessee schools, colleges or universities for at least six months.
• A Social Security number is required.
Georgia licenses are available throughout the state from about 400 license agents in many sporting goods stores, marinas, bait and tackle stores, hardware stores, etc. Licenses also may be purchased at Department of Natural Resources' law enforcement offices statewide. For more information, go to www.georgiawildlife.com.
Hunting and Fishing Combination ($28): Minimum license required to fish or hunt small game.
Annual Sportsman ($136): All-inclusive license for hunting, trapping and sport fishing without state supplemental licenses or nonquota permits; holders may apply for quota permits at no extra cost.
Junior Hunt/Fish/Trap ($8): For ages 13 to 15. Good for hunting all game, fishing and trapping. Must be purchased prior to 16th birthday. No supplemental licenses required, but special season and WMA permits need to be purchased. Fees apply when applying for quota hunt permits, as well as leftover permits.
Permanent Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap ($11): Can only be purchased when 65th birthday is reached. No supplemental licenses are required, but special season and WMA permits need to be purchased, as well.
Annual Senior Citizen Permit ($41): May be purchased only by holders of a Type 166 license. Covers all required nonquota permits and allows holders to apply for quota permits with no additional fees.
Note: Check the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website at www.tn.gov/twr for information about supplemental licenses for large game and special licenses for disabled hunters, trapping and lifetime permits.
Chattanooga Ducks Unlimited: This organization provides education for local duck hunters and promotes habitat conservation through fundraisers and other activities. Learn more at www.chattanoogaducksunlimited.com.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: This state agency is in charge of managing Tennessee's fishing and wildlife resources and licensing for hunting and fishing throughout the state. Learn more at www.tn.gov/twra.
Trout Unlimited: Appalachian Chapter: This group promotes trout fishing and river conservation throughout the area and encourages new trout fishermen and women through education programs. Learn more at www.appalachiantu.org.
Tennessee Bass Federation: This grass-roots organization promotes catch-and-release bass fishing in the state, and it works to promote fishing and introduce young people and new fishermen to the sport through local tournaments. Learn more at www.tnbass.com.
CHEROKEE NATIONAL FOREST: It is located in Polk and Monroe counties, covering a combined 298,456 acres. Game species include Russian boar, black bear, white tail deer, turkey and grouse.
Directions: From Chattanooga, take I-24 east to I-75 north to Tennessee Highway 60 (exit 25) toward Cleveland/Dayton. Turn left onto TN-60 S/Georgetown Road NW, 25th St. NW. Continue on TN-60. S/25th St. NW. Left onto U.S. Highway 11/N Lee Hwy/N Ocoee St.
HIWASSEE WILDLIFE REFUGE: The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is in Meigs and Rhea counties, covering 1,000 acres on the Chickamauga Reservoir. Nontoxic shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required for small-game hunting. Refuge is closed to all public use, including all forms of trespass, from Nov. 1 to the last day of February.
Directions: From Highway 58 and Highway 60 near Georgetown, take 60 West; go 6.7 miles and turn right onto Old Highway 60. Go 0.7 mile and turn right onto Blythe Ferry Road. Go 0.4 mile and turn left onto Meigs County Road 163. Take the right fork to the parking area. From Highway 27 and Highway 60 in Dayton, take Highway 60 East. Go 8.3 miles and turn left onto Old Highway 60. Follow directions as given above.
PRENTICE COOPER STATE FOREST: Prentice Cooper State Forest in Marion County covers about 27,000 acres. The state forest lies atop Suck Creek Mountain overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge. Each spring and fall, Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area holds managed turkey and deer hunts for licensed and permitted hunters.
Directions: On Highway 27 five miles east of Powell's Crossroads.
ELK RIVER: A great river for trout fishing less than a two-hour drive from Chattanooga.
Directions: Take I-24 west to Monteagle. Take the Sewanee exit left on Highway 15 heading west. Connect to Highway 50 west in Winchester. About a 15-minute drive will take you to the public put-in below Tims Ford Dam.
LITTLE SEQUATCHIE RIVER: This river is stocked by the state with rainbow trout each year.
Directions: I-24 west to the Highway 28 exit toward Dunlap
CHICKAMAUGA LAKE: Fish are abundant in the lake; primary species of sport fish include white crappie, bluegill, white bass, channel and blue catfish, largemouth bass and sauger.
Directions: Take exit 4 from I-75 and go north on Highway 153 (Chickamauga Dam/Airport exit) to the Chickamauga Dam exit.
HIWASSEE RIVER: The Hiwassee River is one of the Southeast's best-kept fishing secrets. It is considered by area fishermen as the best dry-fly river in the Southeast.
Directions: From Chattanooga, take I-75 north to Cleveland, exit at U.S. Highway 64E (exit 20). Travel east on U.S. 64 to Highway 411N. Park is 6 miles north of Benton.
NICKAJACK RESERVOIR: This is an excellent fishery for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, white bass, panfish and catfish.
Directions: Take I-24 west to exit 161; look for signs.
NORTH CHICKAMAUGA CREEK: Hamilton County's streams are stocked with rainbow trout in early spring. Although fishing can be good in the cooler season, most stocked trout are fished out by summer, with the exception of a few hold-over fish.
Directions: North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is 15 miles north of Chattanooga. Via Highway 27, take the Thrasher Pike exit and turn left. Proceed about 1 mile to Dayton Pike and take a right. Proceed another mile to Montlake Road and take a left. Proceed 1.5 miles to the entrance, which will be on the left.