J. Percy Priest Reservoir in Tennessee
J. Percy Priest Reservoir is a 14,200-acre impoundment located near east Nashville with the downstream section predominately in Davidson County and the upstream section in Rutherford County. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) owns and operates J. Percy Priest Reservoir.
The Dam completion occurred in 1969. Full pool elevation is 490 feet-mean sea level, and winter pool elevation is 483 feet-mean sea level. Daily water levels can be tracked on the TVA Lake Information website or the TVA app.
Fifteen public boat access sites are available for use with no fees. Five marinas are operated and provide services such as gas, boat rentals, food, as well as boat access.
Two enhanced bank fishing sites are maintained for public use. The Stewart Creek bank fishing site in Smyrna includes a full-size pier and five large fishing platforms connected by a paved greenway path that encompasses an embayment. The greenway path is tied to the Smryna Parks and Recreation greenway system.
The Vivrette Creek bank fishing site is located south of the Old Hickory and Mt. Juliet, I-40 exits in Nashville. This site has a full-size pier, a fishing jetty, and four smaller platforms connected by a paved path. Both sites include a diversity of fish attractors and excellent bank fishing opportunities.
The USACE manages three campgrounds (Pooles Knob, Anderson Recreation, and Seven Points), as well as primitive campsites on the islands in the lower reservoir section. Opportunities and reservation procedures are described on their website.
Fish attractor data for J. Percy Priest Reservoir is available for you to upload into your fishfinder or other GPS devices, or view in free or online mapping applications. Approximately 132 fish attractor sites are maintained on J. Percy Priest Reservoir by TWRA.
The best fishing opportunities are for: Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Hybrid Striped Bass (Cherokee Bass), White Bass, Yellow Bass, and Channel Catfish.
- Largemouth/Smallmouth/Spotted Bass: 5 per day in combination.
- Largemouth Bass: 15 inch minimum length limit.
- Smallmouth Bass: 18 inch minimum length limit.
- Spotted Bass: no length limit.
- Crappie (all species): 30 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.
- 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.
Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and Smallmouth Bass contribute to the J. Percy Priest Reservoir black bass fishery. The black bass fishery is the most popular accounting for 35 percent of the annual targeted angler effort. Largemouth Bass are the most abundant of these three species. Largemouth Bass abundance, size structure, and condition are all indicative of a healthy population providing very good fishing opportunities.
The creel limit for Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass is 5 per day in combination. Size restrictions include a 15-inch minimum length limit for Largemouth Bass and an 18-inch minimum length limit for Smallmouth Bass. No size restriction applies to Spotted Bass.
Early spring, particularly April, is a great time to bass fish on J. Percy Priest. Largemouth Bass have moved shallow to spawn and can be caught lake wide on gently sloping banks with lipless and square-billed crankbaits. During the summer months, Ned rigs, shaky heads, and wacky-rigged senkos on steep bluff walls can be productive. Popular and productive fishing areas for Largemouth Bass include the Spring and Fall Creek embayments in the upper reservoir, Stewart Creek embayment near mid-lake and Suggs Creek embayment in the lower reservoir. Largemouth Bass use TWRA fish attractors year-round but especially from late November through April in 6-15 ft of water. The attractors were designed for anglers to easily run a spinnerbait or crankbait through them with a low chance of getting hung up.
Crappie fishing is the second most popular fishery on J. Percy Priest Reservoir accounting for 20 percent of the targeted effort. Both White and Black Crappie are abundant. A very strong 2018 year-class of Black Crappie should provide excellent catches of harvestable crappie in 2021. The creel limit for White and Black Crappies is 30 per day in combination, and there is a 10-inch minimum length limit.
Like black bass, early April is a great time to crappie fish as crappie move shallow to spawn. They are readily caught on jigs tipped with soft plastics or minnows. Popular and productive fishing areas for crappie include gently sloping banks preferably with submerged structure such as stumps, treetops and even rocks. Again, as noted for black bass, the Spring Creek, Fall Creek, Stewart Creek and Suggs Creek embayments are very productive areas.
During the summer months, trolling is a popular method to catch crappie on J. Percy Priest. Deep diving lures are trolled at depths from 10 to 15 feet over flats with submerged structure. Crappie tend to school during this time so once a fish is caught, you can usually troll back through and catch more.
Crappie orient to some type of underwater structure during each seasonal period. TWRA fish attractors which include 20 buoyed sites, and over 100 stake beds are very productive fishing spots for crappie (link). Fish attractors are most productive for crappie from October through May in 6-12 feet of water using jigs and minnows. Jigs can be efficiently fished through the buoyed and unbuoyed sites with a low chance of getting hung up, while minnows on slip bobbers or floats work better for fishing stake beds.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Don’t miss a summertime fishing trip for hybrid striped bass on J. Percy Priest Reservoir! This fast action fishing is guaranteed to hook you as well as that strong fighting fish. Bring your boat or take advantage of the local fishing guides that can put you onto a limit of fish most any summer day.
Sometimes referred to as hybrids, Cherokee Bass, or hybrid striped bass, these fish are produced in TWRA fish hatcheries by spawning large Striped Bass females with White Bass males. The result is an aggressive, fast growing, strong fighting fish that can tolerate warmer water temperatures than Striped Bass. These qualities make for a unique fishery in several Tennessee tributary reservoirs like J. Percy Priest.
TWRA’s fish culturists spawn the hybrids each spring usually during early May and grow them out in hatchery ponds to a 3-inch fingerling. These fingerlings are stocked into the reservoirs during mid to late June. Growth rates are extremely fast reaching the 15-inch harvestable size as an Age-1 fish. This rapid growth continues with frequent catches of 6 to 8-pound hybrids and the occasional big one that exceeds 10 pounds.
Hybrids prefer cooler water temperatures and therefore concentrate during the summer months in the lower section of the reservoir from Hobson Pike Bridge downstream to the dam. These fish spend most of their time at depths in the coolest water providing adequate dissolved oxygen which is usually around 18 – 19 feet during July and August. They concentrate in schools over submerged humps, points or ledges close to the main river channel. Once you locate a school, you can hook up on multiple hybrids providing a great thrill that will not soon be forgotten.
Hybrids feed primarily on threadfin and gizzard shad. These shad species are therefore one of the most consistently productive baits. Live 4 to 5-inch shad are irresistible to hybrids. These baits can be caught during the summer in the backs of embayments by throwing a cast net over mud flats. It is important to keep them alive in a circulating live well up to the point they go on to the hook. A Carolina rig using a ½ to ¾ ounce weight, a number 10 barrel swivel, a 12 inch leader and a 3/0 hook fished as a down-line at 16 – 18 feet depth is a very productive method. Other productive artificial baits include jigging spoons, swim baits and deep diving crank baits. A sturdy landing net is a necessity as they never stop fighting.
Strategic summertime boat access sites include Seven Points, Cook Recreation, Hurricane Creek Recreation and Elm Hill and Four Corners Marinas. The statewide daily creel limit is 2 hybrids per angler, and the minimum length limit is 15 inches. This fishing experience is a must for every angler.
White and Yellow Bass
For some fast action springtime fishing head to the upstream reaches of J. Percy Priest Reservoir for White Bass and Yellow Bass in March and April. White Bass and Yellow Bass concentrate in the riverine headwaters of the reservoir to spawn in early spring. Productive fishing spots include the East and West Forks of the Stones River, as well as Stewart Creek. The Mona Boat Access site on the East Fork Stones River is a great place to launch and motor or paddle upstream to riffle areas or spots with fast current and eddies. A walk-in, bank fishing access site is available from West Jefferson Pike (Highway 266) on Percy Priest WMA on the north side of the Stones River. The gravel road leading to the parking area is located 3.2 miles east of the I-840 Smyrna exit ramp. The West Fork Boat Access site on the West Fork of the Stones River provides close access to similar upstream runs with current and eddies. The Smyrna Parks and Recreation, Stewart Creek access Site adjacent to the National Guard Armory provides prime springtime fishing access to Stewart Creek for White Bass and Yellow Bass. Light jigs tipped with either soft plastics or minnows and retrieved very slowly work well.
Beginning in mid-May, get geared up for some fantastic catfishing on J. Percy Priest. From mid-May to mid- June, Channel Catfish concentrate on big rock banks to spawn. Big rock habitat is predominant in the middle and lower sections of J. Percy Priest Reservoir. The Long Hunter State Park, Bryant’s Grove and Pooles Knob access sites are excellent places to launch in pursuit of these late spring spawners. Live or cut bait drifted under a float and just over these big rocks is a great technique.
Summertime catfishing using jugs or noodles can be fast action and fun. Like hybrids, they occupy the summer thermocline at depths down to 18 feet in the lower reservoir section and down to 10 feet in the upper reservoir section. The Suggs Creek embayment in the lower reservoir and Stewart Creek in the middle section are two productive areas for summertime catfish. Distributing jugs or noodles with live or cut bait is a popular method. Each jug or noodle must be tagged with the owner’s name and address, or TWRA identification number. Sport anglers are limited to 50 jugs or noodles and each with only one hook (TN Fishing Guide link, page 20).
Threadfin Shad and Gizzard shad are excellent baits for catfish and can be caught with a cast net in the backs of embayments over mud bottoms. Small bluegill can be caught by rod and reel and also work well as bait. Bait regulations are described in the Live Bait section of the Fishing Guide (link). No creel or length limits apply to catfish 34 inches or less but only one catfish greater than 34 inches can be harvested per day.