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By DAMON LAWRENCE
If TVA’s sport fish survey of Watts Bar Lake is any indication, anglers competing in next week’s Bass Federation National Championship should have plenty to catch.
The first two stops Wednesday morning yielded dozens of largemouth bass.
TVA fisheries biologist Donny Lowery said it was typical of what the agency has seen on Watts Bar.
“Anytime you get 50 or 60 bass per hour, that’s considered a real good catch rate,” Lowery said. “Yesterday we got 75 bass per hour, which is a tremendous catch rate.”
The survey took place at different coves around the lake.
TVA used boat-mounted electro-fishing equipment to stun the fish and bring them to the water surface.
They were then scooped up and placed in a metal tank.
After data such as weight and species was recorded, the fish were put back in the water.
TVA officials said the process does not harm the fish.
“The sport fish survey is done yearly on several reservoirs around the Tennessee Valley region,” TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said. “We do that to determine the health of the fish, the size, the populations and how many fish are out there.”
The Watts Bar survey comes at an opportune time.
The Bass Federation National Championship will be held on the lake April 22-24.
Weigh-ins will take place at Ladd Park in Kingston.
TVA said conducting the survey before the tournament should help anglers know the types and sizes of fish they can expect to find.
“There’s some good fish out here,” said Carl Guffey, conservation director for the Tennessee Bass Federation.
Martocci said TVA is allowing the anglers to store their boats at the Kingston Fossil Plant, in addition to providing some other services.
“There are different things that we’re working with them to help make this event successful,” she said. “We’re helping them with the convention that they’re having in Knoxville. Some of our folks will be doing workshops with the people who are coming for the tournament.”
The largemouth bass is the official sport fish of Tennessee.
Lowery said research indicates the numbers of largemouth in Watts Bar are growing.
“There’s been an increasing trend the last four or five years on Watts Bar,” he said. “It’s kind of inching up gradually. It increased over last year and it looks like this year is very promising for it to continue to increase.”