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Sunday afternoon at Lake Junior, 2-year-old Asher Gregory sits holding a fishing rod in hopes of catching a trout. He was there with his grandparents, Ted and Christina Gregory. / Photo by Gary Petty

Local fishermen again are lining the banks of Lake Junior to try catching stocked rainbow trout.

Owned by TVA, the small but deep lake is located at the intersection of Highway 153 and Amnicola Highway. People of all ages can fish during daylight hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday until April 30.

The first stocking this year was on Jan. 2. The last for the year was on Wednesday, despite the rain.

"We've got trout trucks running every day; you can't miss one. If you do, then you are going to impact every stocking after," said Travis Scott, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Region III river and streams biologist.

Raised at the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tennessee, the trout are transported 132 miles by trucks carrying tanks that are aerated with oxygen. Lake Junior stockings have been going on for almost 20 years.

Scott declined to give a number of the fish stocked in 2020 but said they all were rainbows.

"I have never understood why (the amount) matters," Scott said. "We stock several thousand fish in that pond. There is still fish in the pond from the last time stocking. They can only fish it three days (a week). There is plenty of fish in there."

In past years TWRA has stocked up to 4,500 fish with a normal level of 2,000.

"There are some that will catch all seven (the daily limit) in an hour, and there are other people who will struggle to catch a fish," Scott added.

He noted catfish also were stocked last year, and some of those are still in the lake.

"I got some complaints from trout fishermen because they were catching more catfish than trout, which makes me think they were using the wrong bait," Scott said, adding: "We put like a dozen trophy rainbows in. They were from 3 to 5 pounds."

The state record for rainbow trout is 18 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught in nearby Polk County. According to the Dale Hollow hatchery website, rainbow trout can grow as large as 52 pounds.

Despite what seemed to be a perfect day for fishing with mostly sunny skies and a temperature high of 66 degrees, it did not turn out that way for Sunday's anglers.

Ooltewah resident Elizabeth Blaylock was one who walked away empty-handed.

"We didn't have no luck at all," she said, laughing about the day. "It just seemed like they weren't biting."

Her husband, Joe, sat on the bank playing a board game. The auto repair mechanic does not have any interest in fishing.

It was Elizabeth's first time at the lake this year. Not her first ever, however. On a visit last year, she recalled, she caught five, and the year before she caught the limit of seven.

She plans to try her luck again.

"Oh, yeah, I've got to," she said. "The last day of fishing up there is the end of April, so I am planning on going back."

Early on a Friday, next time.

"When you go out there Friday morning, I mean they are hungry as all get out," she said.

Two Tiftonia retirees were trying a different angle to take home some trout. They were on the opposite side of the lake from where most of the fishermen gather.

David Guinn and Charles Morton sat with three rods each as both hoped to see at least one rod move. They got their wish. They went away Sunday afternoon with one trout each.

The two enjoy their time fishing, regardless of the results.

"We're relaxed. We are relaxed as you can get," said Guinn, a retired Chattanooga State air-conditioning teacher. "We come over to pass the time. We don't have to drive so far."

He contends that when the fish are not biting, nothing is going to change that, no matter the bait. He and Morton use the soft power bait when fishing for trout.

"I think they like the soft bait as it's got more smell to it," Morton said, adding that also it seems to float better.

Sunday did not prove to be the best fishing day for 2-year-old Asher Gregory, either. He celebrated his birthday Wednesday.

"It was nice. We didn't catch any fish. Asher started throwing pine cones and sticks in the water, and he enjoyed that a lot," said his grandfather, Ted Gregory.

While holding the fishing rod, the young child could be seen slapping it in the water.

"I really wish I could have seen him see (a trout) come out," Ted said. "His dad has fish on the walls, so he knows what they are. That was one of his first words."

TWRA plans to stock North Chickamauga Creek the weeks of March 1, April 5 and May 3.

Contact Gary Petty at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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