The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved updates to the state’s fishing regulations at its September meeting which concluded Friday at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building.
The changes came to the commercial fishing, sportfishing regulations, and bait regulations for 2020-22. (The complete list of proclamation changes is attached at the end of the meeting summary).
In addition to the fishing regulations, the Fisheries Division announced its 2019 awards. Eric Ganus, who coordinates the agency’s statewide commercial fish, turtle, and mussel programs, was named Fisheries Biologist of the Year. Tim Williams was named Fisheries Technician of the Year and serves as the senior technician at Buffalo Springs Hatchery, the agency’s largest trout hatchery which is located in Rutledge.
An update on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and results from the recent August three-day deer hunt was given by CWD Coordinator Chuck Yoest. This year’s harvest was 586 compared to 798 last year. In the newly created Unit CWD in southwestern Tennessee, there was an increase from 36 to 61. Muzzleloaders were allowed in Unit CWD along with archery equipment.
There have been seven new CWD positives confirmed in the last month from five that were harvested during the August hunt, one roadkill, and one reported sick. The report also indicated that the TWRA expected the number of positives to have a sharp rise. Yoest said he expects some high-risk counties to become positive and several counties will become high-risk.
Yoest reported that the Unit CWD regulations have been well-received. There were eight total public meetings in the area for TWRA officials to meet with the public.
Boating and Law Enforcement Assistant Chief Glenn Moates presented a 2019 boating safety report. The number of boating –related fatalities has seen a drastic reduction so far this year with six. Since 1965, there has been an average of 22-boating-related fatalities each year. In 1965, there were two reported. Other low yearly fatalities were seven in 1995 and 10 in 200.
TWRA bating officers have inspected more than 58,000 vessels this year, almost half being paddle craft. Officers have issued more than 1,200 citations, 925 warnings, made 62 boating under the influence (BUI) arrests, and assisted more than 150 boaters.
Three boating division awards were presented. Region III, District 31’s Joe Fortner was named the Boating officer of the Year, Region II, District 21’s Carl McCoy was the part-time Boating Officer of the Year. Dustin Buttram, who was earlier named the Boating Educator of the Year, was also introduced at the commission meeting. He serves in District 31.
Jenifer Wisniewski, Outreach and Communications Division chief, announced that partnership with Academy Sports resulted in more than 3,200 persons reactivating their licenses. Those who renewed their licenses during the time period were able to get a 20 percent off coupon for use in Academy Sports locations in Tennessee. She said the agency holds to land similar partnerships in the future.
Fishing Proclamation Changes
1. All commercial fishing gear except slat baskets, turtle traps, and trotlines is prohibited in all creeks entering reservoirs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the month of April and May on Kentucky, Pickwick, and Barkley reservoirs.
2. Increase the length of wings or leads on fyke, trap, and pound nets to 100 ft. Wings must be constructed of Number 15 or larger cotton or linen.
3. Hoop nets, fyke nets, trap nets, and pound nets with a mesh size of one (1) inch or greater on the square may be fished from the Hwy. 51 bridge downstream to the confluence of the Mississippi River without seasonal closures.
4. Commercial fisherman fishing on Barkley, Kentucky, and Pickwick reservoirs that are enrolled in the TWRA Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program (ACHIP) and hold a commercial roe fish permit (supplemental) (type 108 or 110) may fish with a total of 24 nets during paddlefish season. Only 12 of the 24 nets can be used to harvest paddlefish and must be marked as paddlefish nets and comply with the mesh and length restrictions for paddle fish harvest. The remaining nets must be marked as nets participating in the ACHIP program and are prohibited for use in harvesting paddlefish.
Sportfishing Regulation Changes
· Carroll Lake will reopen April 4, 2020 and regulations will be reestablished for Largemouth bass at a 15-inch minimum length limit and 5 fish daily creel limit, bluegill and redear sunfish at a 20 fish daily creel limit and no minimum length limit, catfish at no daily creel limit for catfish 34 inches and less and one catfish over 34 inches. Crappie at no length or daily creel limits, and walleye at a 16- inch minimum length limit and 5 fish daily creel limit.
· Removal of the PLR length and daily creel limits on Graham and Glenn Springs lakes in order to better manage bass populations. Graham and Glenn Springs lakes would have a maximum length limit of 18 inches allowing harvest of 1 fish per day over 18 inches and no creel limit for largemouth bass under 18inches.
· On Pin Oak Lake in Natchez Trace State Park trotlines and limblines are prohibited year around. From April 1 through Sept. 30 fishing with jug lines prohibited on Fridays after noon until midnight on Sundays. Fishing with jug lines would also prohibited on Memorial Day, July 3-5, and Labor Day. On days open to jug fishing, each boat is limited to 10 jugs per day.
· Fort Patrick Henry Reservoir minimum length limit for Smallmouth bass is 15 inches and a 5 fish daily creel limit
· The time of day restriction and one pole limit restriction on wild trout streams was removed.
Bait Regulation Changes
· Additional waters where the harvest, use and possession of crayfish is prohibited in the following streams, in all their tributaries, and on all adjacent banks:
1. Caney Fork River in Van Buren County
2. Flint River in Lincoln County
3. Long Fork, White Oak Creek, and Salt Lick Creek in Macon County. Garrett Creek, Little Trammel Creek, and Middle Fork Drakes Creek in Sumner County.
4. Shoal Creek in Lawrence and Wayne counties
5. Puncheon Branch in Giles County
6. Cypress Creek in Wayne County
7. Gassaway Creek, Little Gassaway Creek, Laurel Creek, and Rogers Branch in Polk County
8. Hiwassee River and tributaries upstream of Apalachia powerhouse in Polk County
9. Conasauga River in Bradley and Polk counties
10. Big Brush Creek in Sequatchie County
11. Bullpen Branch in Cannon County
12. Mountain Creek in Warren County
13. Mill Creek, Fortyeight Creek upstream of Hwy. 64, Johnson Mill Branch, Chalk Creek, and Second Creek in Wayne County.
14. Pompeys Branch, McKelvey Branch, and Holly Branch in Hardin County
15. Blood River in Henry County
16. North Fork Obion River in Henry County
Additional areas where crayfish can be used as bait, but not possessed away from the waterbody they were harvested from are:
1. Clear Fork and tributaries in Campbell and Claiborne counties
2. Big South Fork of the Cumberland River in Scott county
· Remove the restriction on the dimensions of a minnow trap and add crayfish traps to legal gear for the harvest of bait.
· Wild caught trout from the following waters may only be used as bait in the waters from which they were harvested.
1. South Fork Holston River below South Holston Dam to Boone Dam.
2. Watauga River from Wilbur Dam to Boone Dam (including Watauga and Wilbur reservoirs).
3. Doe River (Carter County).
4. North River (Monroe County).
· Addition of Asian carp to Class D bait fish to provide for dead Asian carp to be sold as dead bait by bait dealers.