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East Tennessee Outdoors… News for the week of September 2, 2020

BY DANNY BLEVINS

STAR CORRESPONDENT 

How does that Christmas song go? “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year if you are an outdoorsman in east Tennessee.

The water is cooling, and fish have started biting again. The squirrels are barking in the oak trees, and the squirrel hunting season is open. The first deer season has just opened and closed, giving us a taste of things to come.

The weather at night is cool enough to give us an enjoyable camping experience. Finally, the hiking is peaceful once again because summer tourists have gone home after also enjoying our great outdoors. You might say this is our time.

Lake Fishing

The water temperature is cooling little by little in our area lakes, and many of the fish have started feeding during the daylight hours again. A few weeks ago, I was fishing in Watauga Lake, and the water was so warm it felt like bathwater.

Now it is cooling, and the fish and the anglers could not be happier.

I recently spoke with a group that was catfishing on Watauga Lake, and they had been catching as many catfish as they could carry. They had filled two coolers of eating-size catfish, and the coolers were overflowing.

All of the fish were from four pounds to nine pounds in weight, just big enough to give good fillets for the table.

They were fishing during the day before a front came through using nightcrawlers and liver for bait. To say they were happy campers would be an understatement.

Largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass are also feeding a little earlier than normal, and some of the best fishing has been during the first hour or two after daylight and the last couple hours before dark.

Even the bluegills are biting better as the water cools, and you can catch a bucketful on jigs and natural baits such as worms, nightcrawlers and crickets.

As the fall creeps upon us, the fishing will only get better. In fact, the fall is one of my favorite times to fish. When most people are getting buck fever, I am looking to catch large catfish. By large catfish, I am talking about catfish over 25 pounds.

If you use the right baits and techniques, Watauga Lake can produce very, very large catfish. By this, I am talking about fish over 50 pounds.

They are there to catch if you know what they are biting and how to fish for them. Just remember, though, that they did not get that large without being smart.

2019 Tennessee Deer Harvest

The 2019 statewide deer harvest results have been released by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and things could be better.

The harvest was down last year with only 135,172 deer taken across the state. This is down by about 13,000 deer compared to 2018.

The interesting part of this report is there were fewer does killed last year than have been killed since 2005.

Only 56,000 does were killed compared to 79,000 bucks. There can only be two explanations for this.

One is that hunters are choosing antlers for the wall instead of meat for the freezer, or two, coyotes have impacted the Tennessee deer population more than we thought.

It is a fact that the mortality rate of fawns and doe have increased during the last few years as coyotes have become more common in the state. There is only a limited amount of deer, and we have started sharing these deer with these predators.

A doe or fawn is more likely to be killed by a coyote than a buck. Look for the doe harvest to drop over the next several years as more does become prey to coyotes.

Have a good week in the outdoors, and as always stay aware and stay safe.