South Holston Reservoir in Tennessee

General Description

South Holston is a 7,580-acre TVA reservoir located in upper East Tennessee at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. About 1,250 acres of the reservoir are in Virginia and anglers must have a separate Virginia fishing license or a South Holston Reservoir license (type 063) to fish in the Virginia portion of the reservoir. 

The reservoir has relatively low productivity and water clarity is normally greater than most other Tennessee reservoirs.  The shoreline is only partially developed and much of the reservoir is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest.   This abundance of public land makes South Holston a haven for campers and bank anglers.

Winter drawdowns are severe and water levels can fluctuate 40 feet below the summer pool. Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, trout, crappie, and catfish are popular game fish.

A precautionary health advisory is issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for the consumption of Largemouth Bass, due to mercury. The advisory is for children, women who might become pregnant, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.  They should not consume Largemouth Bass and all other persons should limit consumption of this species to one meal per month.


TN + VA Rules

An additional South Holston Reservoir License is available for TN residents that want to fish the Virginia portion of the reservoir.

Restricted to 15 limb lines per angler. 

  • Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass:  5 per day in combination.
  • Largemouth Bass: no length limit.
  • Smallmouth Bass: 15 inch minimum length limit.
  • Spotted Bass: no creel, no length limit
  • Crappie (all species): 15 per day in combination, 10 inch minimum length limit
  • Catfish (all species):  20 per day in combination. Only one fish over 34 inches in length may be harvested per day. 
  • White Bass: No harvest allowed. 
  • Walleye 5 per day, 18 inch minimum length limit. Includes tributaries.
  • Rock Bass: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Redear Sunfish: 20 per day, no length limit. 
  • Bluegill:  50 per day, no length limits
  • Warmouth and other sunfishes: No creel or length limit.
  • Trout: 7 per day, only 2 may be lake trout

What you can catch

Black Bass

Although South Holston is not highly fertile, Smallmouth Bass from this reservoir grow large and are in excellent condition.  Also, Largemouth Bass, which are more common in the upper end of the reservoir and backs of creeks, attain incredibly good size in the reservoir.  Spotted Bass can also be found in the reservoir, but with limited numbers.  The daily creel limit for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass is five in any combination, with a 15-inch minimum size limit.  For Spotted Bass, there is a 15-fish creel limit with no size limit.

Fishing Tips:

Largemouth bass: Fish in the upper end of the reservoir. During spring, use spinner baits, buzz baits, lizards, 4-6 inch worms and Flukes, small Shad Raps, Bandit crankbaits and stick baits.  The flooded willows in the creeks and in the backs of coves can be very productive. There is great night fishing with worms and lizards during the summer.

Smallmouth bass: Fish clay and broken-shale banks with spinner baits, lizards, worms, live bait, small crankbaits, float-n-fly, and suspended flukes during the spring.  Secondary points are also prime smallmouth holding spots during the spring.  Smallmouth move to deeper water in the summer and this is a good time for night fishing with various worm rigs and pig-n-jig.  They can also be caught suspended in the winter months using jigs with minnow imitating lures.


South Holston has a nice population of quality Black Crappie that can be located on brush and fallen trees in the spring.  Recent stocking efforts seemed to have improved crappie angling within the reservoir.  The daily creel limit for crappie is 15-fish with a minimum length limit of 10 inches.

Fishing Tips:

During the winter, almost any kind of structure is produced.  Use small flies tipped with minnows, small crankbaits, grubs, and spinners are recommended. In the spring, look for downed trees and brush. Jacob’s Creek area would be a good place to start any crappie fishing trip.


South Holston's water is cool enough and has adequate dissolved oxygen to support trout.   However, dissolved oxygen can sometimes fall below optimum levels during the summer, limiting the success of the fishery, especially Lake Trout.   TWRA annually stocks good numbers of trout and many of them are harvested by anglers.  There is no size limit on trout and the daily creel limit is seven trout in any combination, except only two can be Lake Trout.

Fishing Tips:

Bank fishing with corn, salmon eggs, or other live bait is productive when the water is cool.  Also, troll spoons in the main channel.  During the summer, troll spoons at 30 to 50 feet deep for rainbows and browns and 90 feet deep for Lake Trout.


South Holston is well suited for a successful walleye fishery and they have been supported by stocking efforts since 1986.  They are able to grow quickly in the reservoir and attain harvestable size by 3 years post stocking.  The daily creel limit is five Walleye with an 18-inch minimum size limit.

Fishing Tips:

During the spring, fish at night with Long Bill Rebels, Rapalas, and Doll Flies near the shore.  Flooded tree tops and black willows will hold Walleye.  Since both lake and river spawning fish have been stocked, some Walleye make a spawning run to the headwaters of the reservoir.  Good fishing takes place as far upstream as Alvarado.  Standard river Walleye fishing tactics (grubs, flies, and minnows) should work.

Common length at Age (inches)

Age (years)










Length (Inches)

Largemouth Bass*








Smallmouth Bass*
















Black Crappie*








Channel Catfish


3 - 6

6 - 9

8 - 11

9 - 13

11 - 14

12 - 16

  ( * South Holston  specific)

Contact Information

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

Interactive Map of South Holston Reservoir
Fishing Regulations
Buy a license link