Frequently Asked Questions
If I am casting from my own property while I fish, do I need a fishing license to fish in a public lake or reservoir? Yes. You do not qualify for a landowner exemption because you do not own the waterbody that you are fishing.
Can I stock fish? No! Releasing fish or any other animal into a stream, river or reservoir can irreversibly ruin the fishing in that location. It is easy to imagine how an exotic species released from an aquarium could harm our native fish populations. But even the release of species such as a bass that might already live in that water body could introduce harmful viruses or diseases. For this reason only TWRA has the authority to stock public waters which includes all streams and rivers, and all public lakes and reservoirs. It is illegal to stock the waters of Tennessee, and only privately owned ponds may be stocked without TWRA approval.
Can I clean/dress my fish in any way, while on the water?
It is unlawful to possess while afield any fish which has been altered to the extent that its species and/or total body length cannot be determined.
Do I need a trout license if I do not plan on keeping trout?
If you are fishing for trout, you need a trout license whether or not you possess trout.
Do I need a fishing license to fish a private farm pond?
Yes, unless you are not required to have a license under a landowner, age, or military exemption. See “Who Must Have a Tennessee License” section on License Information.
What licenses are required to fish on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)?
No license is required if you are under the age of 13, or are military personnel on furlough with papers. Otherwise, you only need the proper fishing license. Generally there are no special WMA licenses required. However, a Tellico-Citico permit is required for all ages on certain waters within the Cherokee National Forest (Cherokee WMA). In addition, certain WMAs are periodically closed.
As I was cleaning a fish, I noticed a black, white or yellow grub or worm in them. What are these and are the fish safe to eat?
These are small parasites that are referred to as Trematodes. Commonly known as black spot, yellow grub and white grub, they are very common in many fish species in Tennessee and worldwide. The parasites have a complex life cycle that involves fish, fish-eating birds and other invertebrates such as snails. While the appearance may be unappetizing, fish that are cleaned and completely cooked cannot transmit any parasite or disease to people who eat the fish. The parasites usually do not affect the health of the fish except under unusual conditions.
What is a thermocline and what effect does it have on reservoir fish populations?
As the surface water warms in the late spring, a distinct temperature gradient is formed between the warm surface water and the cool water below. This thermocline does not allow the cold water to mix with the warm, oxygenated water above. The cold water slowly loses oxygen due to the decay of organisms and lack of photosynthesis. In certain reservoirs, the cold water loses enough oxygen during the summer that it can no longer support certain cool water species like striped bass.
When do our reservoirs “turn over”?
Northern reservoirs experience a spring and fall “turn over,” but our lakes destratify only in the fall. It occurs when the surface water cools sufficiently to mix with the cold water below. Prior to the cooling period, the warm surface water cannot mix with the denser water below because of thermal stratification (see the previous question).
What are those jelly-like masses that are attached to tree limbs, bushes and other objects in the water?
They are colonies of harmless microscopic animals called Bryozoans. They have miniature tentacles to capture prey and are permanently attached to the colony mass. Large colonies can exceed two feet in diameter, but most are less than one foot.