Center Hill Lake is one of the state's premiere fishing lakes. It's 18,200 surface acres of deep, clean waters and vast amounts of standing timber is ideal surroundings to sustain big fish. Combined with Center Hill's aquatic vegetation, underwater creeks, streams, ridges, hollows, and valleys, it's easy to see why, year after year, Center Hill Lake produces big fish and lots of them. Center Hill fishing is a lot like duck hunting, the rougher the weather, the better the fishing.
Center Hill Lake looks to be a lake formed from simply damming up a valley in the midst of numerous steep hills. But, if you were to fly over Center Hill Lake, you would notice it looks more like a canyon (Little Grand Canyon) that has been dammed up and all the countryside is level. Smithville, Silver Point, McMinnville, and all the surrounding areas have an elevation above Sea level of about eleven hundred feet, while Center Hill Lake elevation is approximately five hundred feet lower. So any approach that you make to Center Hill Lake will be down steep roads into this canyon-like formation. The Center Hill Lake is sixty-four miles long reservoir with four hundred fifteen miles of mostly undeveloped shoreline. Center Hill Lake is located in the mountains of Middle Tennessee about one hour drive from Nashville, Tennessee.
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus Dolomieu): Smallmouth Bass is one of the most well known and sought after fish in Center Hill Lake. The Smallmouth Bass is generally brown with red eyes, and dark brown vertical bands, rather than a horizontal band along the side. The upper jaw of Smallmouth Bass extends to the middle of the eye. Spawning occurs in the spring, when water temperatures approach sixty degrees in Center Hill Lake. Medium sloped mud and rock banks in high water conditions, usually in the spring when water is up around the trees, this excellent bass bedding area. The bluffs is good in early spring, late fall and the winter. Fishing during rapid rise or fall in water levels, and during extreme weather changes. Center Hill Lake is a bass fisherman's dream.
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmodies): Largemouth Bass is the most well known and sought after of the four species of black bass fought in Tennessee. The Largemouth Bass fish has a jaw that extends past the eye and a low bridge between the spiny and soft dorsal fins and have a dark mid-lateral band of pigmentation. The young Largemouth Bass feed on aquatic insect larvae and zooplankton. The adult Largemouth Bass feed on various items including, but not limited to fish, amphibians, and crayfish. Most Largemouth Bass are caught during the peak hot temperatures of summer.
Kentucky Bass (Micropterus Punctulatus): The notch between the dorsal fins is shallow and the upper jaw doesn't extend much, if any, behind the eye. It has a rough tooth patch on the tongue that's absent on largemouths, and there's a lengthwise row of dark spots below the dark mid-side stripe. The Kentucky Bass spawning occurs is in the later spring from April to May waiting for warmer water temperatures. Young spotted bass or kentucky bass feed on aquatic insect larvae while adults feed on fish, crayfish, and insects. High water conditions that covers grass and bushes are good locations, after a warm rain in winter and after a cold rain in the summer. On points are good locations year around, especially during rainy days.
Walleye (Stizostedin Vitreum): The name walleye refers to the glassy, large pupils of this fish; their white stare is a result of light reflected back through the pupil by crystalline matter in the retina. This allows the walleye to see extraordinarily well in darker waters. Walleye fish are long and slim; brownish-green or silver above to creamy white below with dark stripes. The ventral lobe of the tail fin has a prominent white margin of the walleye fish. The walleye fish have a large, visible, blackspot at the base of the last three spines in the first of their two dorsal fins. Walleye have really large canine teeth and are strictly carnivorous. They do eat insects, crayfish, snails, and shads minnows that are coming thru the dam generators. The Walleye is perhaps the most sought after fish in the river to eat. Walleye are usually caught in the winter months of high water levels. During the summer, Walleye fishing is most productive during the day. Walleye are caught mostly by trolling and are occasionally caught at night. Walleye like sloped mud and rock banks, which are plentiful on Center Hill Lake.
Black Crappie (Pomoxis Nigromaculatus): The Black Crappie is easily confused with the white crappie. It is deeper bodied than the white crappie, and silvery-green in color. There are no distinct vertical bars; rather there are irregular black blotches. The Black Crappie in the spring are nest builders, when the water temperatures reaches sixty degrees. On Center Hill Lake the best cover is fallen trees, fish them year around.
White Crappie (Pomoxisannularis): The White Crappie is deep-bodied and silvery in color, ranging from silvery-white on the belly to silvery-green or even dark green on the bank. There are several vertical bars on the sides. Like other members of the sunfish family White Crappie are nest builders. They are similar to bluegills in that they tend to nest in relatively large "beds". White Crappie nest in the spring, generally when water temperatures reach sixty-five to seventy degrees. Center Hill Lake has great areas to fish for crappie.
Bluegill (Lepomis Macrochirus): Maybe distinguished from other sunfish by the dark spot at the base of the dorsal fin, vertical bars on their sides, and a relatively small mouth. The spiny dorsal fin usually has 10 spines (may have as many as 11 or as few as 9), and is broadly connected to the soft dorsal. The anal fin has three spines. The back and upper sides are usually dark olive green blending to lavender, brown, copper, or orange on the sides, and reddish-orange or yellow on the belly. On Center Hill Lake Bluegills begin spawning when water temperatures reach about 70 degrees. Spawning usually peaks May or June, but continues until water temperatures cool in the fall. Center Hill out on the points of the coves is a good place to fish when the water warms up. The many bluffs of Center Hill lake is a favorite place to fish for bluegills.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus Punctatus): Channel Catfish are easily distinguished from all others, by their deeply forked tail fin. Unlike Flathead Catfish, the upper jaw projects beyond the lower jaw. Channel Catfish spawn in late spring or early summer when water temperatures reach 75 degrees. Males select nest sites which are normally dark secluded areas, such as cavities in drift piles, logs, undercut banks, rocks in the Center Hill Lake.
Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis Olivaris): This catfish has a flat head, it has smooth, scaleless skin, whisker-like barbells around the mouth and long, sharp spines on the dorsal fin and one on each side of the pectoral (shoulder) fin. Flathead Catfish reach a length of three to four feet and their weight can exceed one hundred pounds on Center Hill Lake. The Flathead Catfish prey only on live fish. Young Flathead Catfish feed mostly on invertebrates such as worms, insects, and crayfish. When ten inches or larger, their diet consists entirely of fish including Shad, Carp, Suckers, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, and other catfish.
Muskellunge(Esox Masquinongy): Esox comes from the old European name for pike and masquinongy comes from the Chippewa "Indian name for this fish", "mas", meaning "ugly", and "Kinononge", means "fish". Muskellunges are voracious predators and one of our largest and fast growing fish. Muskies are native to Tennessee. Native Tennessee Muskies originally occurred in both the Cumberland and the Tennessee watersheds. Muskellunge are found at the upper section of Center Hill Lake (headwaters of the Caney Fork River). Muskies may be found near the steep rock drop offs or sand bars. Most often they are caught close to shorelines having overhanging and submerged trees. They have earned the reputation of being the fish of "TEN THOUSAND CASTS". They prefer baits that have considerable action, and makes a lot of noise. The most important handling tip is to leave the Muskie IN THE WATER WHILE UNHOOKING. They remain relatively calm in the waters, but outside of the water they usually become aggressive and will damage themselves and possibly you.
Caney Fork River tailwaters of Center Hill Dam is a winding river of excellent trout fishing. The long stretches of water make for good casting from one's boat or wading the river. The many logs, trees, and cover over the river banks make for excellent habitat for the trout. The fishing opportunities have been particularly good due to our fishery management efforts of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The growing catch and release ethic pays big dividends, in a better fishery and larger fish to be caught by our future generations. When handling any fish dip your hand in the river or lake water first. This will protect the fish's natural protective scales, and makes it less likely to contract germs or bacteria. Simply face the fish upstream in the water and wait for fish to swim out of your hands. For someone or maybe even you to catch another day!