Douglas Reservoir in Tennessee

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General Description

Douglas is a fertile, Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir with 555 miles of shoreline and a total surface area of 30,600 acres. The shoreline is primarily farmland and residential, with rolling hills. Douglas' drainage basin of 4,541 square miles is the largest of the tributary reservoirs. The reservoir can fluctuate 60 feet from the summer elevation of 1000 feet above sea level to the winter elevation of 940 feet. It is not uncommon for the lake to rise as much as 15- to 20 feet in a day or two if heavy rains occur in the nearby Appalachians. However, summer levels can be relatively stable.

Thermal stratification is common during the summer months.  Low dissolved oxygen concentrations are common during the summer, making fishing tough until cooler fall weather arrives. Thermal stratification can begin forming as early as April and can be firmly in place by June or July. At that time of year, fishermen should concentrate on fishing the lower end of the lake, and at depths of less than 10 feet (above the thermocline).

Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish are the most popular game fish for Douglas anglers. Sauger, walleye, and white bass also provide excellent fishing opportunities when they make their late-winter spawning runs to the headwaters. Douglas' game fish feed on an abundant supply of gizzard shad, bluegill, and various types of minnows. Anglers unfamiliar with the lake should find excellent fishing in the Flat, Muddy, McGuire, and Nina Creek embayments.

Largemouth bass and crappie spawn in the large shallow embayments and have historically produced very strong year classes.  In most years, sauger and walleye successfully spawn upstream in the rivers during the early spring. Douglas' game fish are usually able to naturally sustain an excellent fishery, but some supplemental stocking has taken place.


Restrictions extend from Douglas Dam upstream to the ENKA Dam on the Nolichucky River, Hwy 321 bridge in Newport on Pigeon River, and Hwy 321 bridge on French Broad River. Restrictions on Walleye and Sauger or Sauger/Walleye hybrids also include Pigeon and French Broad Rivers upstream of Douglas Dam to NC state line.
  • Largemouth/Smallmouth/Spotted Bass: 5 per day year round
    • October 1 - May  31: no length limit
    • June 1 - September 30:  Only one largemouth or smallmouth bass over 16" per day 
    • Spotted Bass: no length limit
  • Crappie (all species): 15 per day in combination, 10 inch minimum length limit
  • Catfish (all species):  No creel limit for fish 34 inches and less in length; only one fish over 34 inches in length may be harvested per day. 
  • White Bass/Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass: 15 per day, no length limit.
  • Walleye/Sauger or Walleye/Sauger Hybrids: 5 per day in combination. 
  • Walleye: 15 inch minimum length limit.
  • Sauger or Sauger/Walleye Hybrids: no minimum length limit but only one sauger may be over 16 inches per day.
  • Rock Bass: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Redear Sunfish: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Muskellunge: 1 per day, 36 inch minimum length limit.
  • Bluegill/Warmouth and other sunfishes: no creel or length limit.

What you can catch

Black Bass

Douglas has one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in east Tennessee. This is due to the excellent reproduction and outstanding growth rates of Douglas bass.  In recent years, the Smallmouth Bass fishery has grown and there are good numbers and sizes for this species in the reservoir.  Spotted Bass are uncommon but are occasionally caught by anglers. The creel limit for largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted is five in any combination.  The minimum size limits for Smallmouth Bass are 15 inches from October 16 to May 31.  June 16 – October 15 there is a 1-fish creel limit and an 18-inch size limit on Smallmouth Bass. There is no minimum size limit for Largemouth Bass or Spotted Bass.   

Fishing Tips:

Largemouth bass - March through June.  Spinnerbaits in chartreuse or white and Carolina-rigged lizards are good.   Other popular lures are Rattle Traps, DD-22 and electric red worms.  Concentrations of largemouth bass have been observed in the creek channels after the water has been drawn down in the fall.

Smallmouth bass - They move to clay and gravel points in the spring for spawning but can be found on rocky areas as well.  Fish live bait on the bottom, Carolina-rigged lizards, or cast Firetiger or shad colored Shad Raps, Rapalas, and Rebels.  They can be caught in many areas where anglers are targeting Largemouth Bass. 

White Bass

White bass is a schooling fish that can provide some hot fishing action.  White bass makes a spawning run up the French Broad River in the late winter.  They are short-lived species (4-6 years), and the population can fluctuate greatly.  There is a 15-fish daily creel limit with no size restriction.

Fishing Tips:

January through April.  White bass makes a spring spawning run to the headwaters of the reservoir.  Leadvale area is a good place to fish.  White spinners (Rooster Tails), grubs, and small flies are all effective.  Good white bass fishing can be found on the lower end of the reservoir during the summer months.  The lures listed for the early spring spawning run are also recommended for the summer.


Crappie is normally very abundant and extremely popular with Douglas anglers.  Douglas is known as the best crappie reservoir in East Tennessee and attracts thousands of anglers every year in pursuit of this species.  Both Black and White crappie can be caught in Douglas but White Crappie is the predominant species.  There is a 15 fish daily creel limit and a 10-inch minimum size limit for crappie.

Fishing Tips:

February through early May.   Fishing points and brush is effective, but many crappies are caught trolling.   Small flies (usually two per line) tipped with minnows (good colors are white, chartreuse, blue, and green) and small tube jigs can be fished over brush and trolled.   Small crankbaits (chartreuse and orange) are also good trolling lures. Flat, Muddy, and McGuire creeks would be good areas to look for crappie.

Walleye and Sauger

Sauger and Walleye provide a seasonal fishery and each spring, both species make spawning runs up the French Broad River.

There is a 5-fish in combination daily creel limit and a 15-inch minimum size limit for Walleye.  Sauger has no minimum length limit but only one of the Sauger may be over 16 inches per day.  These fish are prized for their taste and very few legal Sauger or Walleye are released.  While natural reproduction can maintain the fishery, the TWRA closely monitors these populations and hatchery-reared fish are stocked if numbers become low.

Fishing Tips:

January through April. Sauger and Walleye make a spring spawning run to the headwaters of the reservoir. Good fishing takes place from Point 18 to Rankin Bridge as fish move upstream. The most effective tactics are to bounce large red or orange flies frequently tipped with a minnow off the bottom and trolling bright-colored crankbaits.


Bluegill is a fun, easily caught species that provides a great opportunity for all age and experience levels of anglers. There are no size or creel limits for Bluegill. 

Fishing Tips:

April through September. Bluegill is easily caught and typically anglers will fish with crickets, earthworms, or mealworms under a float or tight lining with a split shot to catch them.  Small spinners, jigs, and flies can also be effective lures.  Bluegill can be found around cover or rocky points and in the summertime tend to move to deeper water on steeper banks.     

AGE (years)















Largemouth bass*




























  (* Douglas specific

Contact Information

Region 4 Office: 423-587-7037
Toll-Free:  1-800-332-0900
E-mail the office

Interactive Map of Douglas Reservoir
Fishing Regulations
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