TWRA’s Jack Swearengin is retiring after 33 years of service with TWRA. He started his career with the agency in 1987 as a technician on the newly formed streams crew in Region 3. Mr. Swearengin was promoted twice in his career and retires as a Manager 2. His longevity on this crew is unsurpassed.
Swearengin saw considerable advancement in fisheries management throughout his career. Electroshocking studies, those that stun fish temporarily for counts, first conducted on streams in the region utilized electric shockers built by the crew of weed-eater motors. Today, the equipment weighs less than five pounds and is run on batteries. One of the first studies Mr. Swearengin was involved with was that of smallmouth bass and rock bass, his favorite fish. “We learned so much about these fish in Tennessee’s streams that could be applied towards better management. We found 10 to 12 inch fish that were 10 years old,” he said. “We were also the first crew to survey the Hiwassee River, heading down the river with a guide in a boat.”
Mr. Swearengin is known for his patience, ingenuity and steadiness when entering and maneuvering small streams in the mountainous region. His accomplishments throughout his career include being awarded Biologist of the Year. “Jack has always cared not only about the resource, but about fishing and providing opportunities for anglers,” shared Region 3 Fisheries Program Manager, Mark Thurman. “He’s always been involved in giving back to the community through Field Days with the Jackson County High School.”
One of Mr. Swearengin’s favorite projects during his career was the muskellunge study and reintroduction in the Collins River watershed and other areas of the state. When searching for muskellunge during the reintroduction process in the late 1980s Mr. Swearengin stopped into a local Morgan County shop for a break. People were naturally interested in what the crew was doing in the area. Mr. Swearengin shared that he was looking for musky. Locals shared that he wouldn’t find any. When Mr. Swearengin later found a fish, collected to ensure proper genetic stocking of others to the area, he took it back to the shop to share. Those gathered at the store responded, “That’s not a musky. That’s a jack-fish and we can tell you right where to find them.” Mr. Swearengin went to the location and did. His willingness to share and listen allowed for a more successful project in the area.
When asked what he would miss about the agency Mr. Swearengin said, “Working with my buddies. Even on the worst days of work, we had fun together.” Mr. Swearengin shared a story of being on the Caney Fork River in a terrible thunderstorm. “It was terrible. We took the lids off of the fish coolers and held them over our heads to keep from getting pelted. We looked at each other and just howled with laughter. If you can laugh through a thunderstorm like that, you’re in good shape.”
Mr. Swearengin shared that he would miss this comradery and doing good things for the resource together most.
Mr. Swearengin praised his coworkers for never leaving a stone unturned, asking hard questions for the betterment of fisheries science and encouraging each other to learn. “They’re a hard-working bunch and I’ll miss them.” Regional Streams Fisheries Coordinator Travis Scott stated, “We will miss Jack’s knowledge. He’s been with this crew since its inception and easily recalled studies performed in previous years. We’ve benefitted from his knowledge.”
TWRA wishes Mr. Swearengin tight lines and a steady hand. If you see him wading on the Roaring River, say hello and enjoy the great story he’s bound to share.