Tellico Reservoir in Tennessee

General Description

Tellico Reservoir was created in 1980 by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  It is located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in portions of Blount, Monroe, and Loudon Counties.  The Tellico and Little Tennessee Rivers are the two major tributaries.  The reservoir includes 373 miles of shoreline and contains 16,056 surface acres.

At full pool, the reservoir extends 33 miles up the Little Tennessee River to Chilhowee Dam and 20 miles up the Tellico River.  Except during flood events, all outflow from Tellico Reservoir passes through a canal into Fort Loudoun Reservoir just above the Dam.  For this reason, Tellico experiences the same water level fluctuations as Fort Loudoun.

Tellico is a cool water impoundment due to the cold water inflows from Chilhowee Reservoir and the Tellico River.  Since the reservoir is relatively infertile, it does not support high densities of fish.  Some of the most common game fish include Largemouth Bass, White Crappie, Bluegill, Smallmouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, and Walleye.  Due to PCB and mercury contamination, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation advises against the consumption of catfish.

Water level fluctuations are minimal and shoreline vegetation is well developed.  Therefore, traditional enhancement work using the brush to concentrate fish for anglers is not needed reservoir-wide.  The reservoir has several access points which can be found on TWRA’s website.


Tellico Reservoir boundary extends upstream on Tellico River to Big Creek Boat Ramp. The following restrictions apply to this area. 

  • 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, 15 inch minimum length limit. 
  • White Bass: 15 per day, no length limit. 
  • Yellow Bass: No creel. or length limit.
  • Walleye/Sauger: 10 per day in combination but no more than 5 may be walleye. 15 inch minimum length limit. One walleye may be 24 inches or larger. Includes tributaries. 
  • 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.  Since Tellico is not very fertile, it cannot support the number of black basses that the more fertile Cherokee and Douglas Reservoirs do.  Largemouth Bass is by far the most abundant of the black bass species in the reservoir.  Tellico is known for its numerous, quality-sized largemouth.  Usually, about half of the total fishing effort on Tellico is geared toward catching black bass.  Current regulations for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass are five fish creel limit in combination and there is a 14-inch minimum size limit for largemouth and an 18-inch minimum size limit for smallmouth.  Spotted (Kentucky) Bass make up a good percentage of the black bass population in Tellico. Unlike largemouth and smallmouth, this species rarely reaches quality size in any East Tennessee reservoir. They also utilize the same habitat and compete with the more quality-sized smallmouth bass. As a result, anglers are encouraged to keep these fish for the table. There is no size restriction and the limit is 15 spotted bass per day.

Fishing Tips:

Largemouth Bass - Spring: Bat, Clear, and Island creeks provide excellent pre-spawn bass fishing.  Creek points and channels using shallow running crankbaits, spinner baits, buzz baits, Carolina-rigged floating worms, and Texas-rigged worms; Summer: River channel points and humps with Mann’s deep-running crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and pig n’ jigs; Fall: Creek mouths and river channel points using shallow running crankbaits and topwater plugs; Winter: Creek mouths and river channels using crankbaits, jigs, and lizards.

Smallmouth Bass - Spring: Creek mouths and river channel points with shallow running crankbaits, pig ‘n jigs, and grubs; Summer: River channel points and humps and rip-rap banks using deep running crankbaits and pig ‘n jigs; Fall: River channels using shallow running crankbaits and topwater plugs; Winter: River channel near the dam and the Little Tennessee River section using jigs, grubs and shiners.

Spotted Bass - Bridge riprap and similar rocky areas with small white spinners, plastic grubs on leadhead jigs, doll flies, and crawfish crankbaits.


Anglers catch almost as many crappies as they do bass.  More crappie is taken home by Tellico anglers than any other game fish.  The majority of the fishery is comprised of White crappies, although Black crappies can be caught.  Crappie is a sought-after table fare by many anglers and is typically harvested when they reach the minimum size limit. There is a 15 fish daily creel and a 10-inch minimum size limit for crappie.

Fishing Tips:

Spring: Creek channels in open water and brush with jigs, grubs, and minnows.  The standing timber in the Tellico River also holds crappie; Summer: River channels at night with jigs, grubs, and minnows; Fall and Winter: In creeks with jigs, grubs, and minnows.


Tellico is well suited for supporting a quality Walleye fishery because it has cool water temperatures and good oxygen levels throughout the summer.  It does, however, have a limited food supply and cannot support extremely high numbers of fish.

Walleye have been stocked regularly into the reservoir since 1982.  Sauger were stocked just once in 1986.  Quality Walleye are found in Tellico and fish in the 10-pound range are not uncommon.  The current regulation allows five Walleye with a minimum length limit of 15 inches.  Only one, however, may be 24-inches or larger.

Fishing Tips:

Spring: Upper Little Tennessee River section trolling crankbaits or drifting with jigs, grubs, and minnows; Summer: Occasionally caught by bass anglers in river channels fishing deep running crankbaits; Fall and Winter: Same methods as in the spring with less success.


The upper reaches of Tellico Reservoir in the Little Tennessee Arm below Chilhowee Dam can support trout due to the cold, well-oxygenated releases from the Chilhowee Reservoir. Rainbow Trout are stocked in the upper reaches of the reservoir below Dam.  About 4,500 catchable Rainbow Trout are released there in the late winter and early spring annually. General trout regulations apply at Tellico with a seven-fish daily creel limit and no minimum size limit.

Fishing Tips:

Trout can be caught by drifting salmon eggs, night crawlers, or manufactured baits such as powerbait.  Small spinners, crankbaits, and spoons are also effective for trout.

Common Lenght at Age(inches)

AGE (years)














Largemouth bass*







Smallmouth bass*







Spotted bass*







Striped bass



































 (* Tellico specific)

Contact Information

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

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