BLOUNT COUNTY - Chilhowee Lake reopened to the public Saturday after a two year drawdown for repairs to the dam. Though the lake is open, it could take years before the lake is restored to the fishery it was before.
"What happens is the water is concentrated into a river channel, and the fish are in turn concentrated into that same river channel, so predation likely increased," TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron said. "The bigger fish probably really enjoy that because the smaller fish didn't have a place to hide."
PREVIOUS: Chilhowee Lake reopens July 1st
TWRA fisheries biologists expect anglers to notice a decrease in fishing success at first. However, new plant growth on the previously exposed lake bed should help with fish production for the first year or two.
"There's not as much vegetation now as there would have been when the dam was initially built and that area was flooded. Early on reservoirs are very productive because there was so much vegetation - all the trees and the grass and everything. That gets flooded, it decays and it puts a lot of nutrition in the water for several years," Cameron said. "A lot of that vegetation has resprouted in the last two years."
Cameron says TWRA will likely survey fish population in the lake. Biologists and creel agents collect information on the health of fish populations. Several methods include electrofishing, gillnetting and talking with anglers.
"It may be doing better than we though it was. We may not have lost that many fish," Cameron said. "We just have to take a survey, see what's there and we'll plan accordingly."
Beginning this Fall, TWRA plans to begin restocking crappie, redear sunfish, bluegill and channel catfish.
Trout stocking will resume in the Winter. The following Spring TWRA will stock smallmouth bass and walleye.
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