Melton Hill Reservoir in Tennessee

General Description

Melton Hill Reservoir is about 5,690 surface acres and is located on the Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  Much of the northwest shoreline is United States Department of Energy property, while most of the opposing shoreline is privately owned. 

A large extent of the reservoir is narrow and riverine; however, a few small coves do border the main navigation channel.  Melton Hill is a cool water reservoir with relatively low productivity.  The cold water released through Norris Dam negatively impacts warm water fish species like Largemouth Bass and Bluegill causing slow growth and limited reproduction. 

The cool flowing water, however, guarantees that dissolved oxygen levels remain good throughout the summer for Smallmouth Bass, Striped Bass, and Musky.  There is a wide variety of angling opportunities including Musky, Striped Bass, Crappie, and black bass.  The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation advises against the consumption of catfish for everyone from Melton Hill, due to PCB contamination.


  • Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass:  5 per day in combination
  • Largemouth Bass: 14 inch minimum length limit.
  • Smallmouth Bass: 18 inch minimum length limit.
  • Spotted Bass: 15 per day, 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. 
  • Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass: 2 per day in combination, including Clinch River upstream to Highway 61 bridge in Clinton.
  • Striped Bass: 32–42 inch PLR; only one fishmay be over 42 inches.
  • Hybrid Striped Bass: 15 inch minimum length limit.
  • White Bass: 15 per day, no length limit. 
  • Yellow Bass: no creel or length limit.
  • Sauger: 10 per day, 15 inch minimum length limit. 
  • Walleye: 5 per day, 16 inch minimum length limit.
  • Muskellunge: 1 per day, 50 inch minimumlength limit. Muskellunge that are not intended to be harvested must be released immediately in a manner that promotes survival of the fish. Culling is not allowed.
  • Paddlefish: 2 per day; season is open from April 24 through May 31. Culling is prohibited.
  • Rock Bass: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Redear Sunfish: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Bluegill/Warmouth and other sunfishes: no creel or length limit.
  • Trout: 7 per day, no length limit.


What you can catch

Black Bass

Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass are all present in the reservoir. The largemouth is by far the most abundant of the three.  There is a five-fish daily creel limit for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass in any combination. The minimum length limit is 14 inches for largemouth and 18 inches for smallmouth.  There is a 15-fish creel limit with no length limit for Spotted Bass.

Fishing Tips:

Largemouth Bass: Generally, if the discharge from Norris is great, fish the coves.  If the discharge is slight, largemouth can be found on the channel bends and flats.  Crankbaits and pig ‘n jigs are favorite lures for Melton Hill when fishing the channels and flats.  Use plastic worms, lizards, Sluggos, and spinners in the coves.  Spinners, buzz baits, Sluggos, and floating worms are good for working the tops of milfoil.  Use crankbaits along the channel edges of milfoil stands.

Smallmouth Bass: Best caught after dark on the lower end.  Small doll flies fished beneath a float are great in the late winter and early spring.  Pig ‘n jigs and crankbaits are other good options.

Striped Bass

Melton Hill is known for producing large stripers and has produced several state-record fish. A former state record striper that weighed over 63 pounds was caught at the Bull Run Steam Plant in February 1998.  Striped Bass are not intentionally stocked but remain in the reservoir due to fish stocked into Norris Reservoir, making their way downstream. Anglers are allowed to harvest two fish outside a 32 to 42-inch protected length range (PLR), but only one may be over 42 inches. This creel limit is in combination with hybrid Striped Bass, which have a 15-inch length limit.

Fishing Tips:

During the winter and spring fish in the discharge stream of the Bull Run Steam Plant, catch Skipjack Herring on Rooster Tail spinners and plastic grubs, and then use the large herring as bait for large stripers. Trolling is also a good method for catching stripers.


Musky have been stocked by the TWRA since 1998.  Anglers are having increased success catching this voracious predator and the TWRA routinely collects them while electrofishing throughout the reservoir. Since the population is limited and no natural reproduction has been documented, anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release when possible. Substantial harvest of this species could negatively impact the quality of the fishery. The current state record Musky came from Melton Hill Reservoir. Anglers are allowed to harvest only one Musky per day and it must be 44 inches or longer.

Fishing Tips:

The area around the Bull Run Steam Plant discharge cove in the winter and all coves with large “blow-downs” throughout the year are well-known Musky hot spots.  Use live bait or a variety of large crankbaits and spinners.


There is a decent population of White Crappie in the reservoir.  Many are available to anglers when they congregate in the shallow coves during the spring to spawn.  There is a 10-inch length limit and a 15-fish daily creel limit for crappie.

Fishing Tips:

The area around the Bull Run discharge, Bull Run Creek, and Clark Center Park are well-known crappie hot spots.  Use minnows, tube jigs, or doll flies.

Common length at age (inches)

Age (years)










Length (Inches)

Largemouth Bass*








Smallmouth Bass*








Spotted Bass*








Striped Bass
























(*Melton Hill specific)

Contact Information

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

Interactive Map of Melton Hill Reservoir
Fishing Regulations
Buy a license link
View the Weekly Fishing Forecast