More than 100K trout fishermen in Tennessee annually spend paltry $1.29M dollars compared to $389M spent by trout fishermen in North Carolina which activity supports trout fishing and has wildly successful programs such Heritage Waters and Delayed Harvests.
The sight of a trout stream fisherman fin water up to the top of his waders has been common in East Tennessee as far back as anyone can remember. Trout stocking is nothing new in Tennessee. The first rearing pools their Tellico Trout Hatchery were built in the 1930s. Despite highly successful new trout management programs in neighboring Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, Volunteer State trout management remains largely hitched to horse ‘n buggy, “put-and-take” era trout management practices from 80 years ago. Tennessee’s “grow em and grill em” policy is remarkably out of step with other states in the region and is unlikely to change with the new round of regulations currently being digested in Nashville.
Trout stocking is a big operation in the Volunteer State. In recent years trout release sites have been added in West Tennessee under the winter trout program. The fish needs water no warmer than 70 degrees, which limits warmer places to winter months but allow season stocking as far west as Memphis. TWRA is looking for public input on its latest Statewide Trout Management Plan.
“Trout fishing has always been popular here,” said Jon Ellis, manager at Tellico. “It’s pretty amazing the amount of effort people will put into coming up here to fish for trout. “Every one of these raceways contains 5,000 fish,” explains Ellis, as he points to the 20-plus cement raceways.
Tellico is one of four TWRA hatcheries in Tennessee; the others are at Erwin, Buffalo Springs, and Flintville. Up in the Cherokee National Forest off Cherohala Skyway, Tellico has been at it a long time. Tellico gets its trout as 6-inch fish from the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery; the ones at Tellico on Thursday during a media visit had been brought in about a week earlier.
Once at the Tellico hatchery these trout will feed as they gradually move from one raceway to another. When they get up to around a pound, usually by March, they’ll be lifted out, put in tanks on a TWRA truck and taken to one of nearly 200 sites along the designated rivers, creeks and ponds in the area around Monroe and Polk counties and on the Hiwassee River where they’ll be cut loose. Tellico services thirteen bodies of water.