Booker T. Washington State Park
The 353-acre Booker T. Washington State Park may be one of Tennessee’s smallest state parks, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in lakefront access. Resting on the shores of Chickamauga Lake, Booker T. Washington is home to dozens of fish species, including white crappie, striped and spotted bass, and channel and blue catfish – the crappie fishing here is best in springtime, while bass and catfish are readily available year-round. Cast your line at one of several fishing piers, or use the motorized boat ramp to spend a whole morning on the lake. Conveniently located just 20 minutes east of Chattanooga, this state park will have you returning again and again.
Chester Frost Park
Hixson’s Chester Frost Park – maintained by the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation – is a regular host to bass fishing tournaments from near and far. Twelve fishing piers, two boat ramps, and boat docks throughout the park allow for easy access onto Dallas Bay, where sport fish such as bass, crappie, bream, and catfish reside. The family-friendly park also boasts picnic areas with grills so that you can enjoy your fresh catch within the hour. For more information on Chester Frost’s offerings, or to apply to have a fishing tournament at the park, visit the website.
Chickamauga Lake has gained a reputation for its largemouth bass fishing, and there’s no better place to take advantage of it than Chickamauga Dam. Constructed in the late 1930s, Chickamauga Dam has a storied history as a New Deal-era project, and today it’s owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Travel Amnicola Highway to get to the dam – you’ll be looking for the Chickamauga Dam Day Use Area. Here, you’ll find a beach, ramps for boating, and a fishing pier frequented by the most intrepid of fishermen. Bring along your gear (both fly and conventional tackle can be used), and prepare yourself for a busy morning full of fish and fun.
Harrison Bay State Park
At this picturesque state park, you can fish to your heart’s content by boat, bank, or pier. Harrison Bay boasts nearly 40 miles of shoreline on Chickamauga Lake, making more than 35,000 acres of this reservoir accessible. The park also has some of the best marina facilities around, including rowboats and fishing boats that can be rented by the day or week – but all types of watercraft are allowed in the park. When the fish are biting, anglers routinely reel in bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, gar, and shell cracker. Located just outside of Chattanooga, Harrison Bay makes for a great overnight fishing destination; both primitive and RV camping sites are offered.
In nearby Marion County sits scenic Nickajack Lake, a locale that receives little fishing pressure when compared to Chickamauga Lake. Public access at the Nickajack Dam is the perfect launch spot to access the reservoir’s inhabitants, from blue and channel catfish to smallmouth and largemouth bass, spotted and white bass, and striped bass. Anglers have several options to set up camp for the day – lure in your catch from the comfort of your own boat, or make use of the area’s fishing berms or concrete fishing pier (complete with footbridges and a wheelchair ramp). No matter your final count for the day, you’re sure to appreciate the gorgeous views of the surrounding Tennessee River Gorge.
A long-time favorite fly fishing site for anglers across the state, a visit to the Hiwassee River is worth the hour-long drive out of Chattanooga. Thanks to constant water temperatures, trout fishing here is a year-round sport (although early spring is a prime time to visit), and rainbow, brown, and a small population of brook trout are all stocked. The six-mile stretch near Reliance, Tennessee, is the highest trafficked area of the river, and for good reason – it’s loaded with fish. Try your hand at wading or float fishing at one of several public access spots along the river, and if staying overnight, you can take your pick of campgrounds, cabins, and various lodgings that dot the area.
Another popular trout stream, the Tellico River flows through Monroe County, Tennessee. A mix of stocked and wild brown and rainbow trout offers something for every type of fisherman – simply catch enough fish to fry at your campsite, or, for those wanting a challenge, try hunting down the elusive wild brown variety. While fishing boats aren’t allowed on the trout-filled waters, you can always take a break from wading via kayak or canoe. Note that the river is stocked most heavily during the spring and summer seasons, and you’ll need to purchase a daily Tellico/Citico permit (in addition to your Tennessee fishing license) in order to fish the Tellico River.