Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Douglas Reservoir - General Information

TWRA Region IV Office
3030 Wildlife Way Morristown, TN 37814
(423) 587-7037 or (800) 332-0900
Updated - October 2016



Douglas is a fertile, Tennessee Valley Authority impounded reservoir with 555-miles of shoreline and a surface area of 30,600-acres. The shoreline is primarily farmland and residential, with rolling hills. Water levels fluctuate a great deal and the winter draw-down can become relatively severe. The reservoir has 12 marinas and approximately 16 boat ramps.

Thermal stratification occurs during the summer and low dissolved oxygen concentrations below the thermocline are common. Stratification can begin as early as April, and can be firmly in place by June or July. Once stratified, anglers fishing the main body of the lake should concentrate their efforts in or above the thermocline.

Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish are the most popular game fish for Douglas anglers. Sauger, walleye, and white bass also provide excellent fishing opportunities when they make their late-winter spawning runs to the headwaters. Douglas Lake's game fish feed on an abundant supply of gizzard shad, bluegill, and various types of minnows.

Largemouth bass and crappie spawn in the large shallow embayments and have historically produced very strong year classes. In most years, sauger and walleye successfully spawn upstream in the rivers during the early spring. Douglas game fish are usually able to naturally sustain themselves, but some supplemental stocking of sauger, crappie, and smallmouth by the TWRA has taken place.


A variety of fish attractors have been constructed over the years in an attempt to concentrate fish for anglers. These include brush piles which are used by many species of game fish and stake beds that are primarily for concentrating crappie. These attractors work well, but must continually be refurbished to maintain their effectiveness.

Smartweed, a naturally occurring aquatic plant, has been transplanted in several areas in the attempt to provide long lasting habitat and nursery areas for young fish. Button bush and black willow trees are water loving, woody stem, plants that are abundant in shallow coves. These plants along with bald cypress trees have been transplanted in Douglas and provide excellent habitat for game fish.

Shoreline seeding of grasses on bare banks during the winter draw-down has the potential for creating spawning habitat and cover for young fish. Inconsistent water levels, however, have rendered any shoreline seeding projects impractical.


Douglas has one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in east Tennessee due to excellent reproduction and outstanding growth rates. The largemouth fishery is in such excellent condition there has been no reason to impose a length limit.

No more than five smallmouth, largemouth, or spotted bass in any combination are allowed to be harvested per day, year-round. There no minimum length limit and a 5-fish daily creel limit for largemouth year-round. From June 1 through October 15, only one smallmouth greater than the 18-inch minimum length limit is allowed. From October 16 through May 31, five smallmouth with a 15-inch minimum length limit are allowed.


Crappie are normally very abundant and extremely popular with Douglas anglers. Their numbers declined a few years back, but the population has recently rebounded substantially. There is a minimum size limit of 10-inches with a 15-fish daily creel. The TWRA has constructed a crappie rearing pond on Henderson Island to produce fingerlings for Douglas during years of poor natural reproduction.


Sauger and walleye provide a seasonal fishery and each spring, both species make spawning runs up the French Broad River. These fish are prized for their taste and very few legal sauger or walleye are released. Natural reproduction can normally maintain these fisheries, however, the TWRA closely monitors these populations and hatchery-reared fish are stocked if numbers become low.

There is a five-fish per day limit on walleye and sauger in any combination. There is no length limit on sauger, but only one may be 16-inches or longer. The minimum length limit remains at 15-inches for walleye.


White bass are a schooling fish that can provide some exciting fishing when they make spawning runs up the French Broad River in the late winter. They are a short-lived species (4-6 years), and the population can fluctuate greatly. There is a 15-fish daily creel limit with no size restriction.


Anglers can expect to find channel, blue, and flathead catfish in Douglas. Catfish feed more by taste than by sight and their natural foods include crayfish, worms, fish, insects, decaying animal matter, and mollusks. Spawning takes place when surface temperatures approach 75-degrees; rocky ledges and cavities are the preferred spawning habitat.

Only one 34-inch or longer catfish may be harvested per day. There is not a harvest limit for catfish under 34-inches.


Largemouth bass - March through June. Spinner baits in chartreuse or white and Carolina-rigged lizards are good. Other popular lures are Rattle Traps, DD-22's and electric red worms. Concentrations of largemouth bass have been observed in the creek channels after the water has been drawn down in the fall.

White bass - January through April. White bass make a spring spawning run to the headwaters of the reservoir. The Leadvale area is a good place to fish. White spinners (Rooster Tails), grubs and small flies are all effective. Good white bass fishing can be found on the lower end of the reservoir during the summer months. The lures listed for the early spring spawning run are also recommended for the summer.

Crappie - February through early May. Fishing points and brush is effective, but many crappie are caught trolling. Small flies (usually two per line) tipped with minnows (good colors are white, chartreuse, blue and green) and small tube jigs can be fished over brush and trolled. Small crank baits (chartreuse and orange) are also good trolling lures. Flat, Muddy and McGuire creeks would be good areas to look for crappie.

Sauger - January through April. Sauger make a spring spawning run to the headwaters of the reservoir. Good fishing takes place from Point 18 to Walters Bridge as fish move upstream. The most effective tactic is to bounce large red or orange flies off the bottom.


Douglas Length at Age