Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Melton Hill Reservoir - General Information

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



Melton Hill Reservoir was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1963 and impounds the Clinch River near Oak Ridge. This 5,690 acre reservoir extends 43.9 river miles upstream from the dam and fluctuates from 790 to 795 feet above sea level. There are 170 miles of shoreline.

Much of the northwest shoreline is United States Department of Energy property while most of the opposing shore is privately owned. Access to the lake by land is rather limited, but there are several boat ramps. A large extent of the reservoir is narrow and riverine, however, a few small coves do border the main navigation channel.

The Eurasian watermilfoil that covered much of the reservoir years ago is making a come back. Zebra mussels have become abundant in recent years and anglers are asked to be careful to not spread them to other systems.

Melton Hill is a cool water reservoir with relatively low productivity, but contains a surprisingly good forage base. The cold water released through Norris Dam negatively impacts the growth rates warm water fish species like largemouth bass and bluegill. The cool flowing water, however, guarantees that dissolved oxygen levels remain good throughout the summer for smallmouth bass, striped bass, and musky.

Melton Hill has a wide variety of angling opportunities available. Musky, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, white crappie, largemouth bass, and skipjack herring are among the fish to be found in abundance. Two current state records were taken from the lake: (1998 - saugeye - 10lb 12oz)(1988 - brown trout - 28lb 12oz).

During the winter, the warm water out-flow from the Bull Run Steam Plant concentrates fish like the Tennessee tarpon (skipjack herring) which in turn attract large striped bass and musky. In the spring, largemouth bass and crappie move into large coves such as Bull Run Creek and “Reactor Bend” to spawn. There is an advisory against the consumption of all catfish from Melton Hill due to PCB contamination.


Water level fluctuations are minimal and shoreline vegetation is well developed. Therefore, traditional enhancement work using brush to concentrate fish for anglers is not needed reservoir wide. During the past several years, enhancement projects have included smallmouth spawning benches, artificial reefs made of PVC pipe, re-brushing of attractors, and brushing of the new fishing pier near Solway Bridge.


Largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass are all present in the reservoir. Largemouth are by far the most abundant of the three, but few quality-size fish are present. Presently, there is a 5-fish limit on largemouth and smallmouth in any combination.  The minimum length limit is 14-inches for largemouth and 18-inches for smallmouth bass.

Spotted (Kentucky) bass make up a good percentage of the black bass population in Melton Hill. Unlike largemouth and smallmouth bass, this species rarely reaches quality size in any east Tennessee reservoir. They also utilize the same habitat and compete with the more quality size smallmouth bass. As a result, anglers are encouraged to keep these fish for the table. There is no size restriction and the limit is 15 spotted bass per day.


Melton Hill is known for producing large stripers and has produced several state record fish. A former state record striper that weighed over 63 pounds was caught at the Bull Run Steam Plant in February, 1998. A 60.5-pound Melton Hill striper once held the world record for landlocked stripers.

Striped bass are not intentionally stocked into the reservoir. They arrive by escaping from Eagle Bend Hatchery, passing through Norris Dam, or migrating through the Melton Hill Lock from Watts Bar.

Anglers are allowed two fish outside a 32- to 42-inch protected length range (PLR), but only one may be longer than 42-inches. (either two under 32-inches, or one under 32-inches and one over 42-inches).  This regulation was modified on March 1, 2010 to include the Clinch River upstream to the Highway 61 Bridge in Clinton.


TWRA has stocked Melton Hill consistently with quality musky fingerlings since 1998. Anglers are having increased success catching this voracious predator and they are routinely collected by electrofishing throughout the reservoir. Since the population is limited and no natural reproduction has been documented, anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release when possible. Substantial harvest of this species would negatively impact the quality of the fishery as it develops.

Anglers are allowed just one musky per day and it must be 50-inches or longer. Musky that are not intended to be harvested must be released immediately in a manner that promotes survival of the fish. See the Melton Hill musky specific web page for more information about this exciting species.


White crappie have become quite abundant during the past several years. Many are available to anglers when they congregate in the shallow coves during the spring to spawn. There is a 10-inch, 15-fish daily creel limit for crappie.



Striped bass - During the winter and spring fish in the warm discharge water of the Bull Run Steam Plant. Catch skipjack herring on Rooster Tail spinners or plastic grubs and then use the live herring as bait for huge stripers. In the summer, fish with live trout or gizzard shad in the upper reaches of the reservoir.

Largemouth bass - Generally, if the discharge from Norris is great, fish the coves. If the discharge is slight, largemouth can be found on the channel bends and flats. Crankbaits and pig ‘n jigs are favorite lures for Melton Hill when fishing the channels and flats. Use plastic worms, lizards, Sluggos, and spinners in the coves. Spinners, buzzbaits, Sluggos, and floating worms are good for working blow-downs.

Smallmouth bass - Best caught after dark on the lower end. Small doll flies fished beneath a float are deadly in the late winter and early spring. Pig ‘n jigs and crankbaits are other good options.

Crappie - The area around the Bull Run Steam Plant's discharge, Bull Run Creek, and Clark Center Park are well known crappie hot spots. Use minnows, tube jigs, or doll flies.

Trout - Trout fishing in the Norris tailwater is among the best in the state. Soon after the state record brown was caught in the Norris tailwater, one exceeding 27 lbs. was taken from the upper lake proper. Good fishing for browns and rainbows extends from Norris Dam to Hines Creek. Corn and nightcrawlers account for the bulk of the trout taken.

Musky - The warm water around the Bull Run Steam Plant's discharge in the winter and all coves with large “blow-downs” throughout the year are well known musky hot spots. Use a variety of large crankbaits and spinners. Please adhere to TWRA's catch and release guidelines.


Melton Hill Length at Age