Lake Chatuge is a 7,050-acre Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir located on the North Carolina border. Fishing and boating regulations are restricted to the waters governed by each state, so anglers must pay careful attention to laws.
Tennessee Valley Authority: ph. 423-751-2264
Prospects and Fishing Tips
Fish attractor data (updated Oct. 2014) for this reservoir is available for you to upload into your fishfinder or other GPS devices, or view in free online mapping applications. The data is compatible with many brands including Lowrance, Humminbird, Garmin and Magellan to name a few.
The number of largemouth bass in Lake Chatuge may seem sparse to anglers who have never fished this reservoir, but their population density is typical for a North Georgia mountain reservoir. In general, the largemouth bass population is stable in terms of numbers and sizes. The average largemouth bass in Lake Chatuge is about 15-inches long and weighs a little less than 2 pounds, though you may find significantly larger fish.
Underwater structure is relatively sparse in Lake Chatuge, therefore, largemouth bass are typically found near downed trees, large rocks as well as topographic breaks such as creek channels and points. During the winter months, slow moving live baits and artificial baits that imitate crayfish or dying shad are effective. As surface temperatures rise during the spring months, jerk baits and spinner baits fished around visible structure in coves and creek channels are your best bets. During summer, largemouth bass will feed on small blueback herring at the surface during the early morning hours. Cast into surface feeding fish with fast moving topwater baits. Bass will retreat to deeper water during the day where slower presentations with plastic worms are more effective. To hook up with hungry bass in the fall months, anglers need to explore a lot of water with crankbaits and swimbaits. Also be on the lookout for surface feeding fish at dawn and dusk.
During the winter months, largemouths may bunch up in creek channels, along points and around fallen trees. Feeding activity is best during mid-afternoon when the daily water temperature reaches its peak. In the spring months, look for largemouth bass around shallow water structure near the backs of coves or along the main channel upstream from Towns County Park. The warm summer temperatures will drive largemouth bass to deeper water in the 20 to 30-ft depth range. Search for summer bass on points. As water temperatures cool down with the arrival of fall, largemouth bass go on the prowl in search of food to build up their winter fat reserves. Look for schooling fish near the surface as well as on points at this time of year.
The spotted bass population in Lake Chatuge has soared in numbers over the last decade-plus. In fact, spotted bass far outnumber largemouth bass in this lake. Although spotted bass are very abundant, the majority of fish are relatively small with nearly 80% of the population measuring less than 12-inches and weighing up to half a pound. Anglers are encouraged to harvest the legal limit of spotted bass in hopes of reducing the population and improving their growth rate.
During the winter months, spotted bass prey on blueback herring in open water. During the spring months, spotted bass will take a variety of artificial lures such as jerk baits, floating worms, and spinner baits when fished along rocky shorelines and fallen trees. Fishing during the summer is best at dawn and dusk. During these low light hours, cast topwater plugs to surface feeding fish in the vicinity of the dam. During the daytime, switch to slow moving deepwater presentations on nearby points and along the dam. Fishing activity peaks again during the fall months when spotted bass feed in shallow water throughout the day on a variety of artificial lures. Anglers need to use a variety of lures to cover a lot of water at different depth zones to zero in on the right location to catch feeding fish.
During the winter months, spotted bass are searching for bait fish that are holding in pockets of warmer water. Rocky banks radiate heat into the water during the winter and provide the ideal site for anglers to find the wintertime bite. Anglers should target banks along the main river channel that contain large boulders and other cover (stumps, brush and logs). The rip-rap lined face of the dam is also an excellent place to target during the winter months. Spawning activity occurs in April and May and spotted bass can be found in 5 to 15-ft of water near fallen trees, boat docks and along rocky banks. Main channel banks along the mid-section of the reservoir seem to hold the highest numbers of spotted bass in the spring. During summer, target points in 20 to 30-ft of water, gradually moving into deeper water as summer progresses. In fall, spotted bass can be just about anywhere looking for an easy meal. Look for surface feeding fish over open water at dawn and dusk. During the day, explore deeper water with crankbaits on points and around fallen trees.
In 1997, a world record hybrid bass, weighing 25 lb, 8 oz, was caught in Lake Chatuge. Since hybrid bass do not reproduce, the population must be maintained by stocking. Unfortunately, the hybrid bass stocking program was suspended for 13 years due to a collapse in forage abundance. As a result, hybrid bass disappeared from Lake Chatuge a few years after the stocking program ceased.
By 2010, the forage population fully recovered and hybrid bass were stocked into Lake Chatuge once again. Hybrid bass in the 18-22 inch range (3-5 pounds) are now reappearing with the potential for larger fish increasing each year.
Hybrid bass are aggressive feeders that will take a variety of artificial baits that imitate live shad or herring. Live baits, curly-tailed grubs, bucktail jigs, and Super Flukes are all effective at various times of the year.
Hybrid bass are schooling fish, so if you catch one there are sure to be others nearby. In the winter months, hybrid bass can be found on windblown points feeding on blueback herring. During the spring, they will roam the shallows along rocky banks in search of spawning baitfish. By summer, hybrid bass will migrate to the lower lake but water quality conditions will force them near the bottom at depths around 35 feet deep for most of the summer. Good electronics will help an angler locate schools of hybrid bass underneath a school of blueback herring. During the fall, hybrid bass will feed aggressively at the surface in shallow water during the early morning and evening.
Bluegill are one of the more abundant sunfish varieties in Lake Chatuge. Expect larger fish from May to August.
Crickets and night crawlers fished with or without a float are productive all year. An alternative summer strategy is to cast rubber spiders, small popping bugs or rubber ants with a fly rod toward overhanging tree limbs in coves and small pockets.
Adult fish spawn in relatively shallow water on sandy bottoms from May - August during the full moon. Search for their circular nests in 4 to 10 feet of water near creek mouths. For the remainder of the summer, look for schools of bluegill underneath overhanging tree limbs. In the fall months, sunfish retreat to deeper water near fallen trees.
Black crappie are present in Lake Chatuge but in low abundance. Anglers wanting to catch a crappie should fish for them in the spring months when crappie are concentrated in shallow water around visible structure.
Minnows and minnow-tipped jigs are most productive. Small curly-tailed jigs or hair jigs are suitable alternatives for the die-hard angler who prefers artificial presentations.
The upper lake from Towns County Park to the Highway 76 Bridge seems to hold the greatest concentration of black crappie. During March and April, anglers will find crappie near downed trees and other visible debris or vegetation. During summer, fall and winter, crappie can be found around deep water structures.
Chatuge supports a good population of channel catfish. Carp are also plentiful and great fun to catch.
Carp readily take prepared catfish baits, corn and dough baits from May - August. To increase your chances of catching carp, anglers should consider baiting a hole with a gallon or two of whole kernel corn a day or two before you want to fish.
Once again, the rocky shoreline upstream of Towns County Park seems to also hold the highest numbers of catfish.
Artificial fish attractors have been placed at several cove sites throughout the lake by the natural resource agencies. For information concerning fish attractor locations, call the Wildlife Resources Division office at: 770-535-5498.
The upper half of Lake Chatuge is located in the state of Georgia and the lower half of the lake is located in the state of North Carolina. Anglers must abide by the specific state boating and fishing regulations for whichever side of the lake they are fishing. Anglers who possess a valid fishing license from either state are permitted to fish the entire lake by boat; however, to harvest fish requires a valid fishing license from the respective state. For Georgia waters, the bass regulation includes a 10 fish per day creel limit for all combined bass species and a 12-inch minimum size limit only for largemouth bass. There is no size limit for spotted bass in Georgia waters of Lake Chatuge. For North Carolina waters, the bass regulation includes a 5 fish per day creel limit and 14-inch minimum size limit for all bass species; however, 2 fish may be kept that are less than 14-inches. Please be an ethical angler and abide by these regulations.