Biologists Investigate Dead Catfish on Chickamauga Lake

Friday, May 05, 2023 | 01:39pm

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency biologists responded to several calls concerning dead catfish on Chickamauga Lake this week. After covering 32 miles of shoreline, from the lower part of the reservoir to the dam, biologists found approximately 300 dead channel catfish. Fish averaged in size of just over a pound, with the largest concentration of fish found near the dam. 

  “This sounds like a large number, but in the biological world, it isn’t. There are several clues that allow us to know this incident is not due to chemicals, bacteria, or a virus,” stated Bobby Brown, Aquatic Habitat Protection Biologist.  Because there was a single species (channel catfish) of similar size, agency biologists believe this was a solitary occurrence. If chemicals, a virus, or bacteria were the cause, there would be multiple ages and species of fish.  

All catfish died at the same time and the fish had good body composition, with no obvious signs of disease or trauma. Due to the stage of decomposition, samples could not be taken to determine the cause of death. 

Region III Fisheries Program Manager, Travis Scott stated, “Catfish are typically a hardy fish. There are many other fish more sensitive to water quality issues. Luckily, we are not seeing further signs of sick or dying fish.”

TWRA biologists will continue to monitor the lake. More information on Chickamauga and other reservoirs can be found at 


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