TWRC Changes Controversial Norris Smallmouth Limit

Thursday, March 24, 2011 - by Richard Simms

As we reported Wednesday, fishermen will see a dramatic change in the smallmouth bass size limit on Norris Lake in Upper East Tennessee. Thursday the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission voted in support of a less-restrictive size and creel limit for smallmouth fishermen on Norris.

Last year, at the encouragement of the Norris Lake Fisheries Advisory Committee (NLFAC), the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission voted in a strict smallmouth "slot limit." Anglers were allowed to keep one smallmouth under 17 inches in length, and one smallmouth more than 22 inches in length. The regulation was mirrored after a similar regulation on Dale Hollow which has created a world-renowned trophy-class smallmouth fishery.

However in the Norris Lake area, there was a huge backlash, primarily among tournament anglers who argued that the regulation would be a potential death knell for tournaments.

The controversy turned political and reached into the highest halls of the Tennessee Legislature... and was at least partly to blame for a threat by some legislators actually eliminate TWRA as we know it. Pro-TWRA backers were able to stave off that effort, granting TWRA a one-year reprieve from what is known as the Sunset Provision.

Since that time TWRA Fisheries Chief Bill Reeves has taken a new job as the TWRA Chief of Biodiversity. There was no evidence that the change in position had anything to do with the Norris smallmouth controversy.

Earlier this week new Fisheries Chief Bobby Wilson went back to meet again with the NLFAC. According to Wilson the Committee voted to back off on the smallmouth regulation. He says the committee suggested a change in regulation to a minimum 18-inch length limit, with a creel limit of five smallmouth, from Oct. 16 to May 31. Then from June 1 to Oct. 15 there would be minimum 20-inch length limit with a creel limit of one.

The different limits at different times is to try and eliminate tournament mortality, a serious factor in summertime bass tournaments when water temperatures are higher and fish are more easily stressed.

Wilson said, "We stayed out of it. We were only there as advisers. All the proposals came from within the committee."

The committee is only "advisory" however. Biologists nor Commissioners are under no obligation to do what the NLFAC suggests. They have generally supported the committee recommendations.

Indeed, Thursday Commissioners voted in favor of the new limit.

The amended regulations will go into effect in late April, pending processing through the State Attorney General’s office and will be re-evaluated in 2015.

Biologically Wilson said of the new Norris smallmouth regulation, "We don't feel like they'll attain the trophy status (fish) as they would have under the stricter slot limit. But this regulation is better than what they once had... it can still result in quality fish, it will just take a little longer."

Wilson said if passed, the NLFAC agreed to evaluate the new regulation until 2015. If they don't see any improvements at that time they said they would revisit the issue.

The new compromise regulation is likely to take some of the political heat off of TWRA during this legislative session. However there are other Legislators and other bills looming that could continue to keep the fires burning.

Stay tuned.


Youth Hunter Injured In Hunting Accident In Grainger County

A 10-year-old boy from Knoxville was injured Monday evening after he accidentally shot himself in the foot while dove hunting at Buffalo Springs WMA in Grainger County. TWRA officers report that around 5:45 p.m., the young man accidentally fired his shotgun into his foot and was then air lifted to UT Medical Center in Knoxville with non-life-threatening injuries. Records ... (click for more)

Tennessee's 2014 Dove Season Opens Labor Day; Early Canada Goose Season Also Starts

Dove season opens on Labor Day, at noon (local time), which marks the annual start of one of Tennessee’s most long-standing outdoor sports traditions. Tennessee’s 2014 season is again be divided into three segments: Sept. 1 through Sept. 28; Oct. 11 through Nov. 2; and Nov. 29 through Jan. 6, 2015. Hunting times, other than opening day, are one-half hour before sunrise until ... (click for more)

Rhasean Lowry, 34, Charged In Death of 3-Year-Old Girl

Rhasean Lowry, 34, was arrested for abusing a three-year-old girl, and then criminal homicide after she died. Last Tuesday, the Chattanooga Police Department was called on a suspected child abuse case. Lowry took the victim to a local hospital and he stated the victim fell down steps. Doctors advised that the victim’s injuries were the result of blunt force trauma consistent ... (click for more)

City IDB Member Who Made Motion For $9 Million Black Creek TIF Had Not Lived In City For Years

A City Industrial Development Board (IDB) member who made the motion to approve a controversial $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) had not lived in the city for years, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed. Chris Ramsey, a BlueCross BlueShield official, was not present at an IDB meeting on Tuesday morning. Five other board members were. Citizen Helen Burns ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)