Statewide Creel and Length Limits & Regulations
The following are the creel and size limits that apply statewide. Several waters have exceptions to these limits. Refer to the pages listed in red at the bottom of this page to see exceptions to the statewide regulations. If you are fishing a location that does not have exceptions listed in this guide, then the statewide limits apply.
|Species||Creel Limits||Minimum Length Limit|
|Black Bass (includes Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted and Coosa)||5 - No more than 5 black bass per day in any combination may be taken.||None|
|Crappie (all species combined)||15||10 inches|
|Region 1 Crappie Exception: unless otherwise noted for specific waters.||30||None|
|Rock Bass or Redeye and Shadow Bass||20||None|
|Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass (any combination)||2||15 inches|
|Sauger or Sauger/Walleye hybrids||10||15 inches|
|Trout (all trout species combined)||7||
|Lake Trout||Only 2 of your 7 total trout may be lake trout.||----|
|Redear Sunfish or Shellcracker||20||
|Yellow Bass, Bluegill, Warmouth, Bream, Bullheads, Pickerel, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, and nongame species||no limit||
Alligator Gar: No harvest allowed. Must be returned to water immediately.
Catfish: Only one catfish over 34 inches may be harvested per day. No harvest limit on catfish less
than 34 inches.
Paddlefish: Paddlefish may be harvested from April 24 through May 31. Daily creel limit is 2 fish per day with no size limit. Culling is prohibited. For exceptions on Center Hill, Cherokee, and Watts Bar reservoirs, see pages 24 and 26.
Sturgeon (Shovelnose, Pallid, Lake, and Hybrids): No harvest allowed. Must be returned to water immediately. Please report all catches to TWRA (see details on page 19).
TWRA’s goal is to manage each species of fish with statewide creel and length limits where possible. However, many waters, because of their unique characteristics, require individual creel and length limits. These regulations improve fishing for all anglers.
Minimum Length Limits restrict the harvest of fish below a specified minimum length. For example, a 15-inch minimum length limit allows the angler to keep fish 15 inches or greater. Fish less than 15 inches cannot be harvested.
Slot Limits or Protected Length Ranges (PLRs) allow anglers to harvest fish above and below a specified length range. For example, a 14–18" PLR protects fish in the 14- to 18-inch length group. Anglers may harvest fish that measure less than 14 inches and they may harvest fish that measure over 18 inches. For a protected length range to be effective, anglers must harvest fish below the protected range.
Possession Limits: The total possession limit is twice the daily creel limit. You may not have more than the daily creel limit with you while afield. It is unlawful to have, while afield, any fish which has been altered so that its species and/or total body length cannot be determined.
Pole or Rod Limit: Unless otherwise noted in this guide or by proclamation, there is no limit on the number of poles an angler may fish at one time.
Exceptions to the statewide limits and other regulations for:
Reservoirs and TWRA Fishing Lakes - Here
Small Impoundments, State Park Lakes, Streams and Rivers - Here
Trout Fisheries - Here
Statewide Hook Restriction
Unless otherwise restricted in this proclamation, anglers are restricted to a maximum of 3 hooks per rod, pole or hand-held line. Single, double or treble hooks each count as one hook. The statewide hook restriction does not apply when using a sabiki rig (also known as a piscatore rig) to take shad or herring. A sabiki rig is a set of small lures attached to a single line, typically used to catch baitfish.
Banned In Tennessee
It is unlawful to possess or transport live specimens of the following animals:
- Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
- Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)
- Black carp (Hypophthalmichthys piceus)
- Blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis)
- Marbled Crayfish (Marmorkreb) (Procambarus fallax f. virginalis)
- New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum)
- Round goby (Neogobius melanostomus)
- Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)
- Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua)
- Snakeheads (all members of the Family Channidae)
- Swamp eels (all members of the Family Synbranchidae)
- Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)
Tennessee has several reciprocal agreements with adjacent states. These agreements have been arranged so that any fishing license from either Tennessee or the corresponding state is valid in the following waters.
Pickwick Lake: Applies to anyone with a valid Sport Fishing License from Tennessee, Alabama or Mississippi. Resident anglers of the three states may fish without purchasing a nonresident license anywhere within the boundaries covered by the agreement. The reciprocal area includes all impounded water from Pickwick Dam upstream to Tennessee River Mile 224.8 at the mouth of Bear Creek but does not include Bear Creek and does not include that portion of Yellow Creek above the Hwy. 25 Bridge. Sport fishing license holders shall abide by the regulations of the state in whose waters they are fishing.
This state agrees to honor either license on the flowing waters of the Mississippi River, adjacent sloughs, bayous and old river runs, which are accessible by boat from the river proper, and the old river chutes forming a common boundary, excluding all wildlife management areas established by either state and the Wolf, Loosahatchie, Hatchie, Forked Deer and Obion rivers. The following common regulations apply:
Black bass: creel limit 10, no length limit
Sunfish: creel limit 50, no length limit
Crappie: creel limit 50, no length limit\\
Striped bass and Hybrid striped bass: creel limit 6, no length limit
Sauger: creel limit 6, no length limit
All anglers must follow Arkansas regulations governing creel and size limits, trotlines, and other equipment requirements on Ikes Chute, Hopefield Chute, Mosquito Lake, Mound City Lake, Island 40 Chute and Lake Neark.
Dale Hollow Lake: Sportfishing licenses from either state are recognized in Wolf River including Illwill Creek, beginning at a line crossing the Wolf River at its mouth where it joins the Obey River. Creel limits and other regulations of the state where the license was issued apply.
Big South Fork of the Cumberland River: Sportfishing licenses from either state are recognized from Leatherwood Ford Bridge (Hwy. 279) in Tennessee, downstream to the Hwy. 92 bridge at Yamacraw, Kentucky. Creel limits and other regulations of the state where the license was issued apply.
Kentucky Lake: Each state will recognize the sport fishing licenses for the other state on the portion of Kentucky Lake south of the Eggners Ferry Bridge (US 68 & Hwy. 80) in Kentucky and north of the Governor Ned McWherter Bridge (US 79 & Hwy. 76) in Tennessee. This includes all embayments and tributaries within this portion of Kentucky Lake except the Blood River embayment. Blood River embayment shall be defined as a straight line between opposite points where the embayment connects to the main body of Kentucky Lake. A sport fishing license holder from either state may fish from the bank or attach legal sport fishing trot or limb lines in this described portion of Kentucky Lake. Sport fishing license holders shall abide by the regulations of the state in whose waters they are fishing. Wildlife enforcement officials in either state shall have the right to inspect the licenses, permits, catches and equipment of any person on this portion of Kentucky Lake subject to the laws of either state.
Persons possessing a valid sportfishing license in either state may fish in the Mississippi River and its backwaters within the boundaries of the other state and any oxbow lakes through which the Missouri-Tennessee boundary passes. They may fish from or attach any device or equipment to land under the jurisdiction of the other state. Persons licensed in only one state may not fish in the Mississippi River tributaries of the other state. Anglers must comply with the fishing regulations of the state where they are fishing and when fishing where they are not licensed will comply with the most restrictive state’s regulation. Persons legally exempted from license requirements of either state are entitled to these privileges and provisions. Except where it is shown to be elsewhere, the center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation channel will be the boundary between Tennessee and Missouri.
Sportfishing licenses from either state are recognized in all of Calderwood Reservoir while fishing from a boat and in that portion of Slickrock Creek which constitutes the boundary between the two states. See pages 26 and 35 for regulations on Calderwood Reservoir and Slickrock Creek, respectively.
South Holston Reservoir: Tennessee residents may purchase an annual South Holston Reservoir License (Type 063) to fish the VA portion of South Holston Reservoir. Virginia residents can purchase a similar license from VDGIF to fish the TN portion of the reservoir. Anglers that are not TN or VA residents must abide by the state boundary line unless they purchase other appropriate fishing licenses from both states. A South Holston Reservoir License is valid for all impounded portions of the reservoir below full pool elevation of 1,730 feet, including the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork Holston Rivers and the South Fork Holston upstream to the Route 710 Bridge at Alvarado, VA. In addition to the South Holston Reservoir License, an angler must have whatever licenses that are required to fish in their home state. A valid resident TN trout fishing license or a valid resident VA trout fishing license is required to fish for trout. All anglers shall abide by the laws of the state in which they are fishing as to manner and means of taking fish. Length and creel limits are listed on page 29 of this guide.
Notice of inspection law
It is the duty of every person participating in the privileges of taking or possessing wildlife to permit agency officers to ascertain whether the requirements of this title are being faithfully complied with, including the possession of a proper license. It is a violation of law to refuse such inspection or to interfere with an officer attempting such inspection. TCA 70-6-101(b)(1)
Basic Laws and Definitions
- Stocking of any fish, crayfish or salamanders into public waters is strictly prohibited.
- Explosives, chemicals and electrical shocking devices are strictly forbidden, and their use carries heavy penalties.
- Shooting with any type of firearm or air gun to injure or take fish or turtles is prohibited.
- All boaters and passengers must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket within the area designated and appropriately marked as a hazardous area below any dam and/or lock.
- It is illegal to take any fish, crayfish, salamander, or turtle that is listed as endangered, threatened or in need of management.
- It is illegal to sell or offer to sell fish or turtles without a commercial fishing license.
Bait: Any living or dead organism, or prepared substance designed to attract fish by taste or odor. For the purpose of this proclamation bait includes, but is not limited to, fish, fish eggs, crayfish, worms, grubs, crickets, corn, cheese, bread, pork rinds, putty or paste-type products, and flavors or scents applied to or impregnated into artificial lures.
Culling: The removal of a fish from the creel limit and replacing it with another fish of the same species. The released fish must be a live, healthy specimen which should be expected to survive once it is returned to its natural environment.
Gigging: The taking of fish by means of a handheld pole or spear with a tip consisting of a single, sharpened point or one or more sharpened barbed points. This includes, but is not limited to gear known as the Hawaiian sling.
Single hook: A hook with only one point.
Spear gun: Any device designed to propel a spear through water and is drawn or held by a mechanical device.
Methods other Than Rod and Reel
Trotlines, Limblines and Jugs
Trotlines consist of a main line with drop lines to which single hooks are attached. Drop lines must not be closer than 24 inches. Nongame fish, except paddlefish and sturgeon, may be taken without limit. Game fish may be taken according to local limits. There is no limit on catfish, except only one fish may exceed 34 inches. The creel limit for skipjack is 100 fish.
Sportfishing trotlines, limblines and jugs must be tagged and/or marked with the owner’s name and address, or TWRA identification number. Trotlines attached to the bank must be tagged on the line within five feet of the bank. Other trotlines must be tagged within five feet of either end, and floating trotlines must be marked on floats. The holder of a sport fishing license may use one or more trotlines not having a combination of more than 100 hooks. Limblines (including yo-yos) must be tagged above water level and are allowed only one hook per line. Sport anglers are limited to 25 limblines. Sport anglers are limited to 50 jugs or blocks and each with only one hook.
Trotlines, limblines and jugs must be run at least once each day and are prohibited within 1,000 yards below any TVA or Corps of Engineers dam. Trotlines may not be set within 100 yards of the mouth of any river, creek or slough.
- Allen Branch Pond and Chilhowee (McKamy) Pond in Cherokee WMA: Closed to jugs and trotlines.
- Bards Lake on Land Between the Lakes: Closed to trotlines and limblines. Jugs are permitted from October 1–March 21.
- Beech River Watershed Development Authority: 20 jugs or blocks per boat. Trotlines prohibited.
- Calderwood Reservoir: Trotlines and limblines prohibited.
- Danville Railroad Bridge Dikes: Trotlines are prohibited within 50 yards of dikes.
- Indian Boundary Lake: Closed to trotlines, jugs and limblines.
- New Johnsonville Steam Plant Harbor: 10 jugs or blocks per angler. Trotlines prohibited.
- Norris Reservoir: From January 1 through April 30, trotlines, limblines and jugs are prohibited between River Mile 32 (Point 15) and Hwy. 25E Bridge on the Powell River arm and Between River Mile 137 (Point 31) and the Hwy. 25E Bridge on the Clinch River arm.
- TWRA Lakes: Trotlines and limblines are prohibited. From April 1 through Sept. 30, jug fishing is prohibited on Saturdays, Sundays, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. On days open to jug fishing, each boat is limited to 10 jugs or blocks per day.
Persons eligible to fish with a slat basket may fish with one slat basket, provided the slat basket is marked with a metal tag, obtainable from the TWRA for an annual fee of $10.00. Possession or use of more than one slat basket is prohibited. A slat basket is defined as a device used for taking nongame fish and catfish only. Slat baskets may have only one outside funnel opening and must be made of wood, plastic or cane slats which are placed lengthwise and so constructed that there must be a minimum of four openings in the catching area, each being at least 1½ inches wide and 6 inches long. Fish taken may not be sold.
The slat basket may not be set within 100 yards of the mouth of any river, creek or slough. Slat basket must be checked at least every 72 hours.
Applications for metal tags can be obtained by writing to: TWRA Sales Office, P.O. Box 41729, Nashville, TN 37204. If you are applying in person and need directions to the TWRA central office, call 615-781-6500. You may also apply online at, GoOutdoorsTN.com.
Grabbling, Gigging, Grab Hooks, Snagging, Archery, Crossbow, Speargun
Season open year round in all waters except:
- where closed to fishing or expressly prohibited.
- within 100 yards below dams. At Pickwick Dam the closed area extends downstream to the first moorage cell across from ramp.
- at John Sevier Steam Plant the discharge channel is closed.
Nongame fish may be taken without limit. Game fish, sturgeon, and alligator gar may not be taken. Catfish, paddlefish, and skipjack may be harvested according to local limits.
Gigging is closed on the East Fork of the Obey River and its tributaries from Jan. 1–April 30.
Snagging is prohibited year round on the South Holston tailwater (from South Holston Dam to Highway 390 bridge at Bluff City), Center Hill Reservoir, and the Cumberland Fossil Plant discharge channel into Barkley Reservoir, Cherokee Reservoir (Holston River) from Malinda Ferry Road (Hwy. 344) bridge upstream to John Sevier Dam from March 1 through March 31 and April 16 through May 31.
Watts Bar Reservoir: Watts Bar Reservoir from US-321 bridge upstream to Fort Loudon Dam is closed to snagging from March 15 through April 30 and May 16 through May 31.
Grabbling, gigging, grab hooks, snagging, archery, crossbow, speargun is prohibited on the following waters from Jan. 1–Apr. 30:
- Dale Hollow Reservoir: East Fork Obey River and its tributaries.
- Norris Reservoir: between River Mile 32 (Point 15) and the Hwy. 25E Bridge on the Powell River arm and between River Mile 137 (Point 31) and the Hwy. 25E Bridge on the Clinch River arm
- Elk River in Carter County: from the Hwy. 321 Bridge downstream to River Mile 3.0 (Point 11) on the Elk River arm of Watauga Reservoir
- Doe Creek: Old Cabin Private Road downstream to Roan Creek
- Roan Creek: Mountain Lakes Estates Bridge downstream to Doe Creek
- Row Branch: NC state line downstream to end of Cownstown Road