Tennessee Statewide Fishing Regulations: Creel and Size Limits

Tennessee's fishing regulations set specific creel and size limits for various species to promote sustainable fishing practices and maintain healthy fish populations. These limits are applied statewide, with certain waters having exceptions. Always refer to the official Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency guidelines for any location-specific regulations.

General Creel and Size Limits

  • Black Bass Group: This includes Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Alabama, and Coosa bass. Anglers are limited to a daily creel of 5 black bass in any combination, with no minimum length requirement.

  • Crappie (All Species): The statewide limit is 15 crappies per day with a minimum length of 10 inches. However, in Region 1, unless specified otherwise, the limit is 30 with no length requirement.

  • Rock Bass, Redeye, and Shadow Bass: There is a 20 fish daily limit with no size restriction.

  • Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass: Anglers can take 2 fish per day, with each needing to be at least 15 inches long.

  • White Bass: The daily limit is 15 fish with no minimum length.

  • Muskellunge: Only 1 muskellunge may be taken per day, with a minimum length of 36 inches.

  • Sauger and Sauger/Walleye Hybrids: The creel limit is 10, with a 15-inch minimum for all fish.

  • Walleye: A daily limit of 5 fish applies, with a minimum length of 16 inches.

  • Trout (All Species Combined): Anglers are allowed 7 trout per day, with no size limit, except that only 2 of the 7 trout may be lake trout.

  • Redear Sunfish or Shellcracker: There is a 20 fish daily limit with no minimum size.

  • Yellow Bass, Bluegill, Warmouth, Bream, Bullheads, Pickerel, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, and Nongame Species: No daily limit or size restriction.

  • Skipjack Herring: A daily limit of 100 fish applies, with no size restrictions.

Specific Species Notes

  • Alligator Gar: Catch and release only; all caught must be immediately returned to the water.

  • Catfish: While there is no daily limit for catfish under 34 inches, only one catfish over 34 inches may be harvested per day.

  • Paddlefish: Harvesting is allowed from April 24 through May 31, with a 2 fish daily creel limit and no size restrictions. Culling paddlefish is not allowed. Check for exceptions in Region 3 and Region 4 for specific reservoirs.

  • Shovelnose Sturgeon: Like Alligator Gar, there is a strict catch and release policy; all shovelnose sturgeon must be immediately returned to the water.

Minimum Length Limits

Minimum length limits ensure young, growing fish are given a chance to mature and potentially reproduce before being harvested. For instance, a 15-inch minimum length limit means anglers are permitted to keep fish that measure 15 inches or more, while those under 15 inches must be released. This regulation helps maintain a healthy population structure.

Slot Limits and Protected Length Ranges (PLRs)

Slot limits or PLRs are designed to protect fish within a certain size range, allowing only the harvest of fish smaller or larger than this range. For example, a slot limit protecting fish between 14 and 18 inches means anglers can keep fish under 14 inches and those over 18 inches. This strategy specifically aims to conserve fish at vulnerable growth stages, ensuring larger, potentially more fecund individuals remain in the ecosystem to contribute to population stability.

Possession Limits

Possession limits dictate the maximum number of fish an angler can legally hold. The total possession limit is generally set at twice the daily creel limit, ensuring sustainable harvest levels. Importantly, while fishing (afield), anglers cannot possess more than the daily creel limit of any given species. This regulation helps prevent overfishing and ensures equitable resource distribution among anglers.

Pole or Rod Limit

In Tennessee, there is typically no restriction on the number of fishing poles (or rods) an angler can use simultaneously, unless specific exceptions are stated. This allows anglers flexibility in their fishing methods but still within the bounds of responsible and ethical angling practices.

Key Takeaways

TWRA's regulations, including minimum length limits, slot limits, and possession limits, are crucial for protecting Tennessee's fish populations. These rules encourage anglers to engage in sustainable fishing practices, contributing to the conservation of aquatic ecosystems and ensuring enjoyable fishing experiences for future generations. Anglers are encouraged to stay informed about specific regulations applicable to the waters they fish, as these can vary based on local ecological conditions and management goals.

Statewide Hook Restrictions for Anglers

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has established a statewide hook restriction to balance effective angling practices with conservation efforts. This regulation is designed to minimize harm to fish populations while still allowing anglers a fair chance at successful fishing. Understanding and adhering to these restrictions is essential for sustainable fishing and the protection of aquatic ecosystems.

Key Details of the Hook Restriction

  • Maximum Hooks Allowed: Anglers are limited to using a maximum of three hooks on each rod, pole, or hand-held line. This rule applies regardless of the fishing method or location within Tennessee, unless specified otherwise in certain areas or for specific species.

  • Definition of Hooks: For the purpose of this restriction, single, double, or treble hooks each count as a single hook. This classification ensures clarity and consistency in how hook limits are applied and enforced.

  • Exception for Sabiki Rigs: The statewide hook restriction does not apply to sabiki rigs, also known as piscatore rigs. Sabiki rigs are unique in their design, consisting of multiple small lures or hooks tied to a single mainline. These rigs are specifically intended for catching baitfish, such as shad or herring, and are recognized for their efficiency in this role.

Purpose and Benefits

The hook restriction serves multiple purposes:

  • Reduce Injury to Fish: Limiting the number of hooks reduces the potential for injury to fish, which is particularly important for catch-and-release fishing. Fewer hooks mean less handling and quicker release times, contributing to higher survival rates post-release.
  • Conservation of Fish Populations: By controlling the number of hooks used, TWRA aims to prevent overfishing and ensure healthy populations of various fish species. This regulation is a part of broader conservation efforts to maintain balanced ecosystems.
  • Fair Angling Practices: The restriction also promotes fairness among anglers, ensuring that no individual has an undue advantage through the use of excessive hooks. This creates a more equitable fishing experience for everyone.

Prohibited Species in Tennessee: A Conservation Effort

Tennessee has implemented strict regulations against the possession or transportation of certain invasive and potentially harmful species. These measures are crucial for protecting native ecosystems, preserving biodiversity, and preventing ecological imbalances caused by non-native species. The listed animals pose significant threats to local wildlife, water quality, and economic activities related to fishing and water resources.

Banned Aquatic and Invasive Species

  • Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix): Known for their rapid reproduction and high consumption of plankton, silver carp can outcompete native fish species for food resources, leading to declines in native populations.

  • Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis): Similar to silver carp, bighead carp consume vast amounts of plankton, threatening the food web and altering aquatic ecosystems.

  • Black Carp (Hypophthalmichthys piceus): Predominantly feed on native mussels and snails, putting several native mollusk species at risk of extinction.

  • Blueback Herring (Alosa aestivalis): While native to the Atlantic coast, their introduction to inland waters can disrupt local habitats and compete with native species.

  • Marbled Crayfish (Procambarus fallax f. virginalis): A single-sex species that reproduces quickly, leading to overpopulation and significant impact on local waterways.

  • New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum): These tiny snails reproduce prolifically, outcompeting native snail species and altering nutrient cycles in aquatic ecosystems.

  • Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus): This bottom-dwelling fish competes with native species for habitat and food, and can disrupt local aquatic ecosystems.

  • Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus): Can hybridize with native fish species, potentially leading to the loss of genetic diversity.

  • Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua): This invasive fish species competes with native fish for food and habitat, threatening local fish populations.

  • Snakeheads (Family Channidae): Highly predatory fish that can outcompete native species, potentially leading to declines in local fish populations.

  • Swamp Eels (Family Synbranchidae): Can inhabit a variety of water conditions, preying on native fish and altering aquatic environments.

  • Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha): Known for their ability to attach to and damage infrastructure, these mussels also filter large amounts of plankton from the water, reducing food availability for native species.

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