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.


“What’s In A Name?” - Exploring Some Of The Unique Names In The Battle of Chickamauga

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will host a special 45-minute program at Chickamauga Battlefield at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 2. Participants will visit places associated with some of the strange and unusual names one sees around the park. Participatants should dress appropriately for conditions and bring along a bottle of water and a folding chair, ... (click for more)

Teen From Georgetown Charged With Illegal Hunting

An 18-year-old from Georgetown was arrested for illegal hunting. Eugene Clay Myers, of 11309 Highway 58, was charged with hunting without permission, illegal taking of wildlife, deer hunting in a closed season, false reports and tampering with evidence. A wildlife officer said on April 2 he was contacted that a turkey had been shot without permission on Monger Lane. A homeowner ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Area Under Tornado Watch Until 9 PM

A Tornado Watch is in effect for counties in the Chattanooga area until 9 p.m. The sun broke out early Friday afternoon after drenching rains that started Wednesday night. However, a line of storms was en route from the west and southwest. Here is the notice from the National Weather Service: TORNADO WATCH FROM  1:15PM EDT  FRI UNTIL  9PM ... (click for more)

12 "Johns" Arrested In Multi-Agency Prostitution Sting Operation In East Ridge, Including Doctor, Teacher

A joint operation was conducted on Wednesday by the East Ridge Police Department in cooperation with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Chattanooga Police Department, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to combat human trafficking and prostitution complaints within the city of East Ridge. The operation was conducted over a two-day period when online advertisements ... (click for more)

Tom Edd Wilson Was A Great Visionary

We want to add to the many heart-felt messages that have been expressed regarding the recent passing of Tom Edd Wilson, a truly great visionary.    While he made his mark on many local organizations, Tom Edd will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who worked closely with him at Erlanger.   We benefited greatly from his steady guidance, leadership ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Luther’s B-17 Showed Up

I am a huge sap for our veterans and just the other days a reader shared the ultimate story about a guy who returned to his sweetheart at the end of World War II. The little town of Miller. Missouri, is located in the southwest corner of the state and the biggest thing to ever happen in Lawrence County is when a native son, James Lawrence, hollered “Don’t Give Up The Ship” in the ... (click for more)