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Tennessee Musky Fishing

Updated: Feb 22




Tennessee Musky Fishing: A Guide to the Southern Giants

Musky, or muskellunge, are one of the most elusive and sought-after freshwater fish in North America. Known for their size, strength, and aggression, musky can grow up to 60 inches long and weigh over 50 pounds. They are also notoriously difficult to catch, earning them the nickname “the fish of 10,000 casts.”

 

However, musky fishing is not only limited to the northern states and Canada. In fact, Tennessee offers some of the best musky fishing opportunities in the South, with a variety of lakes and rivers that hold healthy populations of these apex predators. Whether you are a seasoned musky angler or a beginner looking for a new challenge, Tennessee musky fishing has something for everyone.

 

Where to Fish for Musky in Tennessee

Tennessee boasts an abundance of musky waters across the state, giving anglers plenty of options to chase these topwater titans. Popular musky fisheries include:

 

Melton Hill Reservoir: Located in Oak Ridge, this 57-mile-long reservoir is home to the current Tennessee state record musky, a 43-pound, 14-ounce beast caught by Steven Paul in 2017. Melton Hill receives semi-regular musky stocking and has a diverse forage base, including shad, alewife, crappie, and carp. Melton Hill is also known for its night fishing, as musky often feed on the surface after dark.

Great Falls Lake: This scenic lake is formed by the confluence of the Caney Fork, Calf Killer, Rocky, and Collins Rivers. Great Falls has a strong native musky population and produces some of the largest muskies in the state, with several fish over 50 inches reported. Great Falls has a lot of structure and cover, such as rocks, logs, and weed beds, where musky like to ambush their prey.

Parksville Lake: This is the newest musky destination in Tennessee, with stocking starting in 2017. Parksville Lake is a 1,930-acre impoundment of the Ocoee River, which is famous for its whitewater rapids and Olympic history. Parksville Lake has a lot of potential for trophy musky, as the fish have grown quickly and have access to a variety of food sources, such as trout, bluegill, and shiners.

Clinch River: This is one of the premier musky rivers in the South, flowing for 300 miles from Virginia to Tennessee. The Clinch River has a mix of native and stocked musky, and offers a diverse habitat, from deep pools and riffles to shallow flats and islands. The Clinch River is also a renowned trout fishery, providing a high-protein diet for the musky.

How to Fish for Musky in Tennessee

Musky fishing is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience, persistence, and a lot of casting. Musky are often called “the fish of 10,000 casts” because they can be very hard to hook and land. However, when you do connect with a musky, it is an exhilarating and rewarding experience.

 

There are many ways to fish for musky, but some of the most common methods are:

 

Casting: This is the most popular and versatile way to fish for musky. Casting allows you to cover a lot of water and target specific areas and structures where musky might be hiding. You can use a variety of lures, such as bucktails, jerkbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits, and topwaters, depending on the conditions and the mood of the fish. You need a heavy-duty rod, reel, and line to handle the power and weight of a musky, as well as a wire or fluorocarbon leader to prevent bite-offs. You also need to perform a “figure-eight” or “L-turn” at the end of each cast, as musky often follow the lure to the boat and strike at the last moment.

Trolling: This is another effective way to fish for musky, especially on large lakes where musky can be scattered and hard to locate. Trolling allows you to cover a lot of water and present your lure at a consistent depth and speed. You can use the same lures as casting, but you need to adjust the size, weight, and diving depth according to the trolling speed and the depth of the water. You also need a sturdy rod holder, a line counter, and a planer board to spread out your lines and avoid tangles. Trolling can be a great way to catch big musky, as they often roam the open water in search of food.

Fly Fishing: This is a challenging but rewarding way to fish for musky. Fly fishing allows you to present a natural and lifelike imitation of the musky’s prey, such as baitfish, frogs, or mice. You can use a variety of flies, such as streamers, poppers, or divers, depending on the water depth and the surface activity. You need a powerful fly rod, a large-arbor fly reel, and a heavy fly line to cast and fight a musky, as well as a wire or fluorocarbon leader to prevent bite-offs. You also need to strip and twitch the fly to make it move and attract the musky’s attention. Fly fishing for musky can be a thrilling and satisfying experience, as you can feel every strike and every run of the fish.


When to Fish for Musky in Tennessee :


Musky fishing in Tennessee is a year-round activity, as the water temperatures are relatively mild and stable throughout the seasons. However, there are some factors that can affect the musky’s behavior and activity, such as weather, moon phase, and spawning cycle. Here are some general guidelines on when to fish for musky in Tennessee:

 

Spring: This is a good time to fish for musky, as they are hungry and aggressive after the winter. The water temperature is rising and the musky are moving into shallow areas to feed and spawn. You can find them near weed beds, creek mouths, and flats, where they chase baitfish and other prey. You can use bright-colored and noisy lures, such as bucktails, jerkbaits, and topwaters, to trigger a reaction strike from the musky. The best time to fish is in the morning and evening, when the light is low and the musky are more active.

Summer: This is a challenging time to fish for musky, as they are more selective and less active. The water temperature is high and the musky are moving into deeper areas to find cooler and more oxygenated water. You can find them near drop-offs, ledges, and humps, where they suspend and wait for an easy meal. You can use natural-colored and subtle lures, such as crankbaits, swimbaits, and divers, to entice a lazy strike from the musky. The best time to fish is at night, when the water is cooler and the musky are more active.

Fall: This is a great time to fish for musky, as they are feeding heavily and aggressively before the winter. The water temperature is dropping and the musky are moving into shallow areas to feed and prepare for the cold. You can find them near weed beds, points, and islands, where they ambush baitfish and other prey. You can use dark-colored and large lures, such as bucktails, jerkbaits, and topwaters, to provoke a territorial strike from the musky. The best time to fish is during the day, when the sun is shining and the musky are more active.

Winter: This is a tough time to fish for musky, as they are sluggish and inactive. The water temperature is low and the musky are moving into deeper areas to conserve energy and survive the cold. You can find them near deep holes, channels, and dams, where they rest and feed occasionally. You can use small and slow lures, such as crankbaits, swimbaits, and divers, to tempt a curious strike from the musky. The best time to fish is in the afternoon, when the water is warmer and the musky are more active.

Why Fish for Musky in Tennessee

Musky fishing in Tennessee is a rewarding and exciting adventure, as you never know when you might hook into a monster fish that will test your skills and equipment. Musky fishing in Tennessee is also a unique and diverse experience, as you can explore different types of waters and use different techniques to catch these southern giants. Musky fishing in Tennessee is also a conservation-minded and respectful activity, as most anglers practice catch-and-release and handle the fish with care and caution. Musky fishing in Tennessee is not only a sport, but also a passion and a lifestyle, as you can connect with nature and fellow anglers who share the same love and respect for these magnificent creatures.






















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