Right up there with hiking, fishing is among the most popular outdoor activities in the entire region. That’s because this area is truly blessed with a wide variety of opportunities for your piscatorial pursuits. Whether you’re after bass, trout, catfish, crappie or even those spunky sunfish, there’s something with fins waiting to test your skills.

South Holston Lake

This lake stands out for both its beautiful, clear waters and its fine populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Walleye, crappie and bluegill call “So Ho” lake home, too. Access: go to Bristol and head east on Highway 421.


Boone Lake

Boone has similar fishing opportunities to those of S. Holston, but it is a bit smaller and more heavily used. Much of this TVA reservoir lies roughly midway between Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, drawing lots of lake lovers from all three areas. TVA’s long-term drawdown of the lake over the past few years, for repair work to Boone Dam, can sometimes mean even further crowding. Main access points, including several marinas, are primarily in and around Johnson City.


Watauga Lake

The sister lake to South Holston, this reservoir is clean, clear and surrounded by mountainous Cherokee National Forest lands. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are its main residents, but many of the same species found in So Ho live here, too. Even a few lake trout have been known to cruise the depths of this scenic Blue Ridge gem. Access is primarily along Highway 321, east of Hampton.


Nolichucky River

The Noli has long been known as a fine smallmouth bass fishery. Keep in mind, though, you’ll have to share its upper reaches, near Erwin, with lots of paddlers and rafters. Explore the possibilities downstream of Erwin, in Washington and Greene Counties, to enjoy less crowded waters.


Watauga River

The Watauga is a storied river, though now primarily a tail water of Watauga Lake. It holds a prominent place in the early history, both of NE Tennessee and America, having hosted along its banks the first independently established and governed region to be located outside the original British-ruled colonies. But of course, the beautiful rainbow and brown trout that call it home could care less. They’re just hanging out, waiting to see if you have what it takes to fool them. While access can be found from the Elizabethton area downstream to the little town of Watauga, if you want a trip you’ll never forget just grab a buddy and book one of the outstanding trout fishing guides in the area for a float and fish adventure of a lifetime.

Photo and text by David Ramsey

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