Dale Hollow


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An impoundment of the Obey River. Major tributaries include Illwill Creek, Sulphur Creek, Irons Creek, Mitchell Creek and the Wolf River. Numerous secondary inlets are scattered around the reservoir.

Water clarity varies throughout the lake, ranging from extremely clear by the dam to light green in the creek arms. Summer secchi disc readings average between 18 and 20 feet. Dale Hollow is fairly infertile, and there is adequate dissolved oxygen throughout the water column. The remote location and lack of development keeps the water quality quite high.

Size and Depth: Approximately 21,800 acres at normal pool (651 msl). A maximum depth of about 150 feet is found near the dam. Water fluctuations of 10 to 20 feet can occur throughout the year. Water levels are controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Shoreline: The entire shoreline is under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Shoreline length is 620 miles at normal summer pool. Most of the shoreline is heavily wooded, and rock outcroppings are common. Shoreline development is restricted to marinas and day-use areas.

Bottom: Broken rock, boulders, gravel and sand are the primary bottom materials. Extensive areas of bedrock outcroppings are found along the shoreline.

Vegetation: Primarily submergent varieties, which include chara (sandgrass), coontail and several varieties of pondweed. Due to the clear water, it is not uncommon to find weed growth at the 30-foot level. Recently, some Eurasian watermilfoil has made an appearance in limited areas. The steep drop-offs and winter drawdown limit the development of emergent and floating vegetation.

Featured Species: Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Walleye.

Other Species: Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Channel Catfish, White Crappie, Black Crappie, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, Muskie, Flathead Catfish, White Bass, Rock Bass.

Dale Hollow is one of the nation's outstanding smallmouth bass lakes. In 1955, Dale Hollow Lake produced the current world record, 11-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth bass. Dale Hollow Lake also holds the Tennessee state record for lake trout (12 pounds, 13 ounces). The Obey River below Dale Hollow Dam produced a state record rainbow trout (14 pounds, eight ounces) and brown trout (26 pounds, two ounces). Finally, Dale Hollow also holds the Kentucky muskie record at 43 pounds. Anglers have discovered that good numbers of trophy smallmouth can be taken during winter when angling pressure is greatly reduced. During this period, locate deep points and steep drop-offs in the 15- to 25- foot depths in major creek arms. Usually the most productive points are near creek mouths. If the dam is pulling water, concentrate on main lake points where some current is evident. When power is not being generated, look to the secondary points in the major creeks. During periods of warm, stable weather, bass can also make brief movements into the shallows. In late winter, when surface water temperatures plunge into the low 40's, bass often form tight schools and move deep near rock points and steep, black shale banks. Smallmouth can be caught as deep as 50 or 60 feet during late winter. Try working a vibrating metal lure, such as the Silver Buddy, tight to bottom. Lick Run, Sulphur, Fanny and Illwill creeks are popular winter locations. When surface water temperatures move into the low 50's, look to steep banks composed of combinations of shale, clay and small chunk rock that are adjacent to deep water. The upper end of the lake in the Wolf and Obey rivers warms quickly in spring and attracts active bass. However, the lower end from Lillydale to the dam usually produces the largest fish. Spring bass move onto the spawning flats and banks when surface water temperatures are in the low 60's. Generally, the 6- to 15-foot depths on long, sloping banks that have a combination of clay, mud and gravel are preferred, however, black shale banks often produce the best catches. Cast a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce jig tipped with a grub tail or pork rind on six- or eight-pound test line. Deep-diving crankbaits can also be effective during this period. From late April through May, smallmouth bass respond to topwater baits, such as Zara Spooks, AC Shiners, Rapalas and Pop-R's. This exciting topwater action is generally available throughout the day. Cast the deeper water adjacent to spawning flats and points. Don't be afraid to work surface baits over water 20 to 30 feet deep. Beginning around the first full moon of June, nighttime smallmouth bass fishing begins in earnest. Target weedbeds that are at the 20- to 30-foot level with a 3/8-ounce, single-bladed spinnerbait or a Spider Jig. Many locals prefer to crawl a 3/8-ounce doll fly tipped with a No. 11 pork rind along bottom. Slowly lift the bait about a foot off bottom, then allow it to fall back on a tight line. Always allow the bait to drop on a tight line, because most of the hits occur as the lure drops. As the water warms throughout summer, target the deeper weedbeds on offshore humps and points. Due to Dale Hollow's clear water and high dissolved oxygen levels, it is not uncommon to find smallmouth as deep as 40 feet. A black light is effective for illuminating the inside of the boat and aiding the angler in detecting line movement during night fishing ventures. In fall, as water temperatures begin to drop, bass concentrate on banks that extend into deep water and have a 45-degree slope. Bottom combinations of black shale, gravel, clay and broken rock chunks attract the most fish. Beginning around the first part of October, smallmouth move into deep water. It is not uncommon to find smallmouth suspended off deep points in depths of 60 feet. During this period, the majority of anglers use vertical jigging techniques. Lures, such as the Silver Buddy, Hopkins Shorty Jigging Spoon and KastMaster, are extremely effective. In addition to the world-class smallmouth bass fishery, outstanding walleye action is available throughout the season to knowledgeable anglers. In late winter and early spring, walleye move into the East and West Branches of the Obey River and Wolf River to spawn. In addition to these river-run fish, walleye also utilize the gravel and rock points and sunken islands on the main lake. Keene Bend, the mouth of Sulphur Creek and Goat Island are some excellent main-lake areas. Light jigs tipped with minnows worked in the 5- to 12-foot depths often yield the most consistent results. Trolling deep-diving crankbaits on planer boards or long-lines is also effective. Some of the most consistent action is found during summer months when walleye develop predictable feeding habits and movements. From mid-June through September, walleye use mid-lake humps, submerged islands, points and river channel edges found between 15 and 45 feet deep. The structure in the middle portion of the lake is often the most productive. Cover in the form of stumps, weeds or submerged timber plays a valuable role in attracting and holding fish. Use a depthfinder to locate areas that contain the heaviest concentrations of wood and sandgrass. During summer, night fishing techniques are often the most productive for walleye. Vertical jigging methods using jigging spoons, such as Hopkins Shortys, Mann-O-Lures and KastMasters, provide exact depth and lure control. Because a variety of depths can be worked, a selection of silver jigging spoons from 1/2- to 1-ounce are needed. Metal vibrating lures, such as the Silver Buddy, are also popular offerings. To reduce line twist and fraying, always use a wire snap. When working a spoon, it is important to keep the lure in contact with bottom. After the lure hits bottom, engage the reel and quickly snap the rod upward. Then allow the lure to drop on a tight line. Expect the majority of the strikes to occur as the lure flutters on the drop. Black lights help illuminate the line to detect strikes. Leadhead jigs with a soft plastic collar are locally called "Spider Jigs." Baits like the Zorro Hoot-N-Nanny or the lighter Zorro Ninny Fly in black, black/blue or pumpkin are effective on trophy walleye. Largemouth bass anglers will find early spring trophy action in the flooded shoreline timber and willows. The north end of the creek arms often have the warmest water and the most active fish. Cast shallow cover with a weightless, Texas-rigged plastic worm. Bright colors, such as bubble gum, florescent chartreuse and electric grape, should be used. Spinning gear with 8- or 10-pound test line is recommended for working these light lures. Throughout late spring and summer, largemouth bass inhabit the same general locations as smallmouth. However, largemouth bass are shallower and relate more to cover. Locate areas along the drop-off that contain downed timber, stumps, broken rock, boulders and weedbeds. Dale Hollow Lake supports good year-round populations of rainbow and lake trout. Most of the trout action occurs within four miles of the dam. During winter and early spring, troll the steep shoreline drop-offs with deep-diving crankbaits. Planer boards and long-lining techniques should be used to avoid spooking fish. As the water warms in spring, trout move to deeper water and suspend around the thermocline to feed on alewife and gizzard shad. Downriggers are often used to work crankbaits just above the thermocline. Use a depthfinder to locate schools of baitfish before fishing an area. Many of the creek arms in the middle portion of the lake harbor a fair number of muskie. Sulphur Creek, Ashburn Creek, Irons Branch and the weedbeds around Opossum and Lillydale islands are excellent year-round locations. In early spring, muskie are found in flooded brush and shoreline timber. During most of the year, muskie suspend just below schools of alewife and shad. Spotted bass (Kentucky Bass) are found in good numbers throughout the lake. This species is often overlooked in favor of its bigger cousins, the largemouth and smallmouth bass. Some excellent spotted bass action is found in spring when they move into the shallows to spawn. Beginning around mid-October, spotted bass usually move into deep creek arms and suspend below schools of baitfish. Vertical jigging with spoons and metal vibrating lures can be effective.

Forage: Gizzard shad are present, but they often grow too large to be utilized by most species. The smaller threadfin shad are a heavily utilized but are prone to die-off during harsh winters. To stabilize forage base fluctuations, alewife have been stocked. An abundant crayfish population and various minnow species also contribute.

Smallmouth: Dale Hollow Lake is known throughout North America for its ability to produce trophy smallmouth bass. In 1955, the world's record, 11-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth was caught by David L. Hayes of Litchfield, Kentucky. As recent as 1986, a 10-pound, eight-ounce monster bass was added to the lake's record books. Smallmouth bass in the 14- to 18-inch range are common, with good numbers of fish around eight pounds. To stabilize seasonal fluctuations in the forage base and improve growth rates, alewife have been added to the lake. Improvements in bass growth rates have already been noted. An 18-inch size limit and reduction in the daily possession limit were implemented to reduce harvest and insure a quality bass fishery for future generations. Many anglers believe that Dale Hollow Lake is still able to produce a world-record smallmouth.

Largemouth: Largemouth bass are common throughout the lake and remain popular with many anglers. Trophy fish in the seven- to 10- pound range are available, but most fish average 14- to 18-inches.

Walleye: Walleye existed in the Obey River system prior to impoundment of Dale Hollow Lake. A few years after Dale Hollow Dam was completed, walleye numbers began to decline. In an attempt to reverse this trend, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency began an extensive stocking effort. With the stocking of lake and river spawning walleye, the population showed a dramatic increase. Walleye in the two- to six-pound class are present in good numbers and a trophy over 10 pounds is a good possibility.

Muskie: During the late 1950's, muskie were stocked to provide a trophy fishery. The stocking program was discontinued when natural reproduction was observed. Fish from 15 to 25 pounds are present and trophies up to 43 pounds have been taken.

Trout: The year-round cool water temperatures and adequate oxygen levels throughout the water column provide an excellent environment for lake and rainbow trout. A stocking program was begun in 1977 to establish a two-story fishery. There are good numbers of rainbow trout in the four- to five-pound range and lakers from eight to 12 pounds. The Obey River below Dale Hollow Dam provides a year-round, cold-water environment for rainbow and brown trout. A Tennessee state record 14-pound, eight-ounce rainbow and a 26-pound, two-ounce brown were taken from the tailwater area. Brown trout in the six-pound range and rainbows in the five-pound class are common.

Crappie: Because of the lack of shallow weed growth and submerged cover, crappie can be difficult to locate. White crappie are found primarily in the Wolf River Arm, while black crappie can be found in small groups throughout the lake. Most crappie are in the six-to eight-inch range.


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