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Tennessee Musky Stocking

Tennessee Musky Stocking: A Success Story for the Fish of 10,000 Casts

Muskellunge, or musky for short, are the largest and most elusive members of the pike family. They can grow up to 50 inches long and weigh over 40 pounds, earning them the nickname of “the fish of 10,000 casts” among anglers. Muskies are native to the Ohio River drainage, including the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, but their populations declined drastically due to habitat loss, overfishing, and pollution. To restore these magnificent predators to their former glory, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has been stocking muskies in several lakes and rivers across the state since the 1970s.

One of the most successful musky stocking programs in Tennessee is in Melton Hill Reservoir, a 5,690-acre impoundment on the Clinch River in East Tennessee. Melton Hill is home to the current Tennessee state record musky, a 43-pound, 14-ounce beast caught in 2017. The TWRA stocks muskies in Melton Hill every year, maintaining a healthy and stable population that attracts anglers from all over the country. The best time to fish for muskies in Melton Hill is during the winter months, when the fish move into shallow water near the warm water discharge from the Bull Run Fossil Plant. Anglers use large crankbaits, bucktails, spinners, and jerkbaits to entice these wary fish to bite.

Another prime destination for musky fishing in Tennessee is Great Falls Lake, a 1,800-acre reservoir on the Caney Fork River in Middle Tennessee. Great Falls is the meeting point of four rivers: the Caney Fork, the Calf Killer, the Rocky, and the Collins. These rivers provide a diverse and abundant forage base for the muskies, allowing them to grow to trophy sizes. The TWRA began stocking muskies in Great Falls in 1976, and has continued to do so ever since. A recent study by the TWRA and Tennessee Tech University showed that muskies in Great Falls are successfully reproducing naturally, eliminating the need for further stocking. The best time to fish for muskies in Great Falls is during the spring and fall, when the fish are active and aggressive. Anglers use a variety of lures, such as topwater baits, swimbaits, and live bait, to catch these powerful fish.

A newer addition to the musky stocking program in Tennessee is Parksville Lake, a 1,930-acre reservoir on the Ocoee River in Southeast Tennessee. Parksville Lake is a scenic and pristine lake surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. The TWRA started stocking muskies in Parksville Lake in 2017, and has stocked 600 fish every year since then. The muskies in Parksville Lake have grown quickly, reaching over 30 inches in length in just a few years. The best time to fish for muskies in Parksville Lake is during the summer months, when the fish are more active and visible. Anglers use a variety of lures, such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and soft plastics, to catch these young and hungry fish.

Tennessee musky stocking is a success story for the conservation and restoration of a native species that was once threatened by human activities. Thanks to the efforts of the TWRA and the support of the anglers, muskies are thriving in Tennessee waters, providing a unique and exciting fishing opportunity for those who seek the challenge of catching the fish of 10,000 casts.

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