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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Arrow Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?

    Both Norris and Cherokee lakes days of quality Striper fishing seem to be falling into memory.
    Norris once yielded the state record for Striped Bass. In April of 1978, a 49.5 lb Norris Striper captured the title and the future of the lake seemed bright. Then in 2003 disaster struck. Water quality caused a major fish kill that ended the lakes reputation as a quality Striped Bass fishery. Most anglers agreed that any Striped Bass recovery on Norris would be limited even with the change to a 36-inch size limit.

    Stocking levels on Norris have not increased while fishing pressure on Norris has increased drastically. There are more anglers than ever before. This is partly due to the normal growth in population but the Internet has also played a major roll in bringing anglers to the area. Events in neighboring states have also increased fishing pressure. Water levels in lake Cumberland are quite low while repairs are being made to the dam. This caused Anglers that once dropped their lines in Cumberland, to now attempt to fish Norris.

    Norris Striped bass stocking levels:
    2005 - 103655
    2004 - 103196
    2003 - 103489
    2002 - 104200
    2001 - 105857
    2000 - 103607
    1999 - 102685

    Now should be the time to increase the stocking levels of Striped Bass in Norris but any hope of this seems dim. There are many local Non-Striped Bass Anglers who oppose increased stocking levels and in fact, wish to end stocking altogether. They unjustified believe that Striped Bass are eating other game fish. Studies have shown Stripers prefer to eat shad. Very few non-shad species have ever been found in their stomachs. Thereís a great web site that tells more of the story at:

    Drought and flooding conditions will always play a roll in the ecosystem of the reservoir. Some water quality problems are caused by natural cycles of nature and we have little control over their occurrence. We need to focus on the man-made water quality problems that seem to be overlooked.
    The Clinch River arm of Norris Lake is being contaminated with coal dust. This dust is being carried down river to the reservoir from upstream out of state coalmines.
    To this day, some docked houseboats still dump their holding tanks into the water.
    The TWRA recently issued a ďPrecautionary advisory for largemouth bassĒ due to Mercury ď levels.
    The effect of all this pollution has not yet been determined and may have a major impact in the future health of the fishery.

    This left Cherokee lake as the anglersí best hope in the region and Anglers figured this out in a hurry. It got to be well known that Cherokee was growing and retaining a decent size population of quality fish. The lake was developing into a fishery where a twenty-pound Striped Bass was becoming common and landing a fish in the 30 pound range was more than possible. Long time Norris anglers were flocking to Cherokee in droves. The Internet caused Anglers from other states to start making the drive to try their luck. Fishing pressure on Cherokee was increasing at an alarming rate. Now reports indicate that recent water conditions (due to the 2007 drought) have all but destroyed Cherokeesí population of fish exceeding 8 pounds.

    Are these two lakes now doomed never to recover? Maybe. But there are things you can do to help that donít take much effort.

    First off start by looking in the mirror and asking yourself a few questions:

    #1: Do I really need to take my picture with another fish?
    No matter how careful you are, picking the fish up out of the water for a photo may cause that fish to die due to undo stress that YOU UNNESSARYLY caused. You WILL remove some of the slime coating from the fish. It may swim off and appear to be fine, but removing this protective coating can cause viruses and bacteria that kill the fish even weeks later. This practice should be avoided. Isnít that picture just wasting hard drive space anyway?

    #2: Why do I weigh the fish I catch that I plan to release?
    Anglers really lift a Striper out of the water by itsí gills, or use one of those scales that they stick through the fishes lower jaw & expect it to live! Either way they are hanging that fishes entire weight from itís head! No Fisheries Biologist condones this practice. Imagine the stress this causes. Most anglers can guess the weight of a fish and get really close. Does it really matter if this fish was 20 or 22 pounds anyway? Most of us are after bigger fish. Weíve caught the 20ís and 25ís, so we tend to weigh the bigger fish, you know, the ones that can take the stress the least. Weighing a fish causes undo stress! Just tell your buddy it was 25. He doesnít need to know that you didnít weigh it on your K-mart scale does he?

    #3: Do these fish I release in the summer really live?
    Chances are not. Fighting a fish to the boat or bank causes Lactic Acid build up in the fish. This changes the fishesí blood chemistry and may compromise survival.

    #4: Should I take someone fishing who hasnít bought a fishing license?
    A person who fishes without a license hasnít contributed to the financial support of the fishery.

    #5: Should I trade in my old fuel leaking, oil burning, smoking, stinking outboard for a newer model?
    If youíre interested in the water quality maybe itís time! The wife will love this idea! How much oil does your old outboard put in the lake? This might just be the excuse you were looking for. The new motors use less fuel, run better, start faster and are much cleaner!

    Iím not asking anyone to quit their job and attempt to save the world. Just do what you easily can. Thanks for your time.

    Toney Stevens

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Re: Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?

    As with many things, education is the answer. The better that people know the fishery, the species they target, and how best to protect them, the better. This goes for all species. Good post Toney!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Cincinnati, OH
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    Re: Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?


    That was an amazing post. I really enjoyed it. I used to post regularly on this site, but haven't in a while. I had to chime in because Toney's thread was that good. I am not striper fishermen and not as well versed as you. I know you are on the water many more hours than myself. I am a bass fishermen and not biologist or a politician. I agree that biologists need to make the decisions. I do agree.

    Would I rather see Norris turn into the ultimate SM fishery? Yes. Do I think that the only fish that should swim in the waters is a SM? No. I don't know the history on Norris and stocking. We all know Striper's are not a native fish, but definitely provides fun and economic advantages for a lot of people. With all this considered, I understand that the studies don't say that stripers eat SM, LG, spots, crappie, bluegill, or walleye. I am a firm believer in scientific based research. From my limited understanding, Stripers are eating machines. I think they would have to be to get so big. All these fish live in a confined area with limited food supply (the good ole "food web" from freshman year of high school biology class). I don't know the in's and out's of the life cycle of all the shad, however I believe that stripers do indeed effect the food chain and the balance of the lake. I used to catch stripers while fishing for bass in the spring and winter. Were they 40lb's no. They were 3-7 lber's. They are up there for a reason to eat. Does the non-native
    Stripers shake up the balance of the lake? Probably not if managed properly. Which fish is on the top of the food chain? Usually it is the more aggressive fish I think. As I understand it, I think that is the problem with our spotted bass population. It is my belief that the 40 lb. stripers aren't on the bottom of the food chain. How many big smallmouth do you catch when are stripper fishing? I know that different seasons produce different patterns and the fish may not be linked all the time.

    So where I am I going with this, Norris is a highland resevoir that is lacking in a lot of cover, structure, spawning areas, etc.. We need to be concerned with keeping the population of forage fish at a healthy level, which in turn keeps the gamefish healthy. This is a dynamic ecosystem. I think the stripers probably have an indirect effect on other fish even if they don't indeed eat gamefish. On the other hand, I would welcome a genetic strand of stripers that would eat small spotted bass - they don't eat gamefish unfortunately. This overlap, whether it is small or large, the striper population probably does have an effect on the other gamefish to some compacity if they were over-stocked. I think the biologists would have recommended restocking at higher levels if this wasn't the case. They haven't. The fish kill of '03 may have been nature rebalancing the situation at hand? I know it mainly effected the big stripers. Why? Did it effect the other gamefish? Unfortunately, I don't have time to research the situation to figure everything out.

    I don't know what other people are experiencing, but I can say the fishing for LG especially has been better in the past couple years. I think the LG are a real fragile fish in Norris, but at least they can spawn unlike the Stripers. Have other people experienced better fishing, bigger fish or am I just learning how to fish finally?

    Again I am not saying one way or another that I am right, but I am looking for other point of views to spark some debate. I know this can be a hot topic and I have tried to be considerate of everyone. As fishermen, we should be conservationists because with the pressure and lack of water. We need to protect our resources. We don't need to fight amongst ourselves because we need to stick together.

    These are my two cents even though the may only be worth that amount.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Re: Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?

    Striper's are not a native fish, but is Norris a native lake?

    Stripers do effect the balance of the lake & if Stripers were not in the lake, we'd have an over-population of large Gizzard Shad. Shad that made it to a size that the LM & SM can't eat anymore would take over the lake.

    "As I understand it, I think that is the problem with our spotted bass population." 100 percent correct! Those spots need to be removed.

    "How many big smallmouth do you catch when are stripper fishing?" I was catching them on Norris but I've almost stopped fishing Norris at this point. There's still a good crop of SM there. Norris will never be a good LM lake.

    "The fish kill of '03 may have been nature rebalancing the situation at hand? I know it mainly effected the big stripers. Why?" The Stripers were stranded in a low oxygen area that they could not leave due to warm water temps above 35 feet.

    "We don't need to fight amongst ourselves because we need to stick together." Correct again! Count me in.

    "These are my two cents even though the may only be worth that amount."
    Worth at least two bucks

    Nice post!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Re: Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?

    No Norris is not a native lake. No man made lakes are. No stripers are not a native species. They die because they have been placed in an envirorment that they cannot long term exist in.
    I have heard the argument that the shad would populate to the point that no other fish could live for years. Norris has been built since 1938. Stripers were not introduced until the late 1960's. Why did they not populate to that point in the 30 + years before the striper. Why is Douglas such a rich bass lake and why have the shad not taken over there? What happens to the White Bass when the stripers are introduced ? They use to be in great numbers at Cherokee and kept the shad population under control. Fisherman could catch 50 a day all summer in the Jumps. Now they are gone at Cherokee and Norris. But they thrive at Douglas.
    The black bass that we are referring to could and did live in the native rivers and creeks before the lakes.This is especially true of the Smallmouth and Spotted bass. Black bass also reproduce naturally and do not require constant stocking to maintain a fishable population.
    I respect the rights of all fishermen to fish for what ever species they want. I question the introduction of any non-native species that cannot reproduce naturally or survive naturally. I have fished the Knoxville area lake for 50 years and compile reports on the fishing of all the Knoxville area lakes weekly and have for the last 15 years.
    You have stated that Norris will never be a good Largemouth lake. In the last 4 years the largemouth along with the shad have made a great come back at Norris. The number of over 4 pound largemouth caught this year is the largest I can remember in the last 20. Before the introduction of the striper Norris was a great largemouth lake. Now as the forage base recovers the number of adult largemouth have increased.
    During the Norris striper peak the fishing pressure was great. The number of shad netted by striper fishermen was out of control. Shad were killed in great numbvers while in bait tanks. They were not the small 3 to 5 inch shad they were the breeders.Even Paul Shaw stated that it got to the point that he seldom saw any adult breeding shad. The schools of shad that are so visible on the surface were gone at Norris.Alewives were introduced, Why. Forage base, Why ? Not enough shad to feed the population of fish in the lake
    Now the balance is starting to come back. The lake will only produce what it can support.
    I read Warren Turners report about the die off of the stripers at Cherokee. This is not the first time it has happened at Cherokee.
    I believe that the lakes you are talking about are not the best lakes for what you want.he entire striper program needs to be re thought and re planned Fish2win

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Re: Are Norris & Cherokee Destroyed?

    I started fishing Cherokee for Stripers two years after Dave Bishop started the Striper program . I have caught Striper up to 30lbs. I spoke to Warren Turner and Ezell Coxs about what is going on on Cherokee . I reported at the end of the this summer a fish Kill in Mossey Creek . They were good size fish some in the 20 lb. class . Never heard any more about it from TWRA. As for the Hybrids I'm still catching a few. AS for White Bass I have not caught one in years . THere is another thing that went on this year which did not help the Striper population and may have added to the Striper Kill . The airators were turned off near the end of the HOT summer . I just heard this don't know if true . Supposedly by TVA. I thought TWRA was in charge them . THere was article in the local paper(by TWRA) that the fishing on Cherokee would improve next year because the lake was so low ... plants would grow on the lake bottom that was exposed. The new study shows that the Stripers ,Hybrids have WORMS , this the same thing that happened on Norris . Catch a BIG ONE HO! HO! YANK

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