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 abundance of largemouth bass in Lake Chatuge is similar to other mountain lakes in North Georgia. Anglers can improve their chances of success by targeting the types of shallow water structures that are preferred by largemouth bass. Like most lakes, anglers will mostly catch largemouths in the 10 to 14-inch size range, but it is possible to catch much larger bass at certain times of the year.
Underwater structure is relatively sparse in Lake Chatuge, therefore, largemouth bass strongly orient to hard structures with vertical relief such as downed trees, large rocks, creek channel ledges, points, rocky banks and boat docks. During the winter months, slow moving live baits and artificial baits that imitate crayfish or dying shad are effective. A heavy pig’n jig combo with crayfish profile is a popular wintertime bait. Vertical jigging with spoons over deep channels and near the face of the dam gives the appearance of a dying herring that largemouths find hard to resist.
When the surface temperature starts to rise from March through May, largemouth bass move into shallow water. Soft-bodied jerk baits like a Super Fluke as well as spinner baits and topwater plugs should be fished around visible structure in the backs of coves. If you are catching a lot of small fish, then cast fast moving spinner baits and crankbaits into slightly deeper water for bigger bass.
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 like a Spook or Sammy. During the heat of the day, bass will retreat to deeper water where slower presentations using plastic worms are more effective. In the fall months, bass will feed more aggressively. Look for surface feeding fish at dawn and dusk. During the day, target main lake points with crankbaits and Carolina-rigged worms.
Largemouth bass are typically more abundant in upper reaches of Lake Chatuge, especially upstream of the Highway 76 Bridge. Largemouths are also more concentrated in the back of coves and in cove pockets throughout the lake. In the winter months, largemouths may bunch up in creek channels, around fallen trees, and near any available rip-rap that is in the water. The coldwater bite is usually 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 in cove pockets along the main channel upstream from Towns County Park. Also be sure to target the rip-rapped banks along the dam and at various places adjacent to Highway 76. Warm summer temperatures drive largemouth bass into deeper water in the 20 to 30-ft depth range. Search for summer bass on points and humps or around the artificial structures placed by DNR and the US Forest Service. When water temperatures cool down in the fall months, largemouth bass go on the prowl in search of food to build up their winter fat reserves. Look for schooling fish near the surface in the twilight hours and overcast days. During the daytime, fish deep with crankbaits or slow-moving soft plastics near any type of structure.
Spotted bass are very abundant in Lake Chatuge and anglers will have no problem putting fish a lot of fish in the boat. As with most spotted bass fisheries, small fish in the 8 to 12-inch size range will make up the bulk of the catch but spots in the 2 to 4 lb range are becoming more common, if you know where and how to fish for them.
Anglers are encouraged to harvest the legal limit of spotted bass in hopes of reducing the population and improving their growth rate. In the Georgia waters of Lake Chatuge, there is no minimum size restriction on spotted bass but anglers may only keep a combined total of 10 bass. Anglers with a valid Georgia fishing license may enter the North Carolina waters of Lake Chatuge by boat but must abide by the North Carolina fishing regulations. For the North Carolina waters of Lake Chatuge, anglers may only keep a combined total of 5 bass of which only two bass can be less than 14-inches long.
During the winter months, spotted bass prey on blueback herring in open water. Trolling live herring or their artificial counterparts behind planer boards or live lines is your best bait option in the wintertime. Spotted bass will also take live bait and slow-moving pig’n jig combos when fished around downed timber or near rip-rap.
During the spring months, spotted bass are very active and will attack a variety of artificial lures such as soft-bodied flukes, grubs, tube worms, and floating worms as well as spinnerbaits. Anglers should target rocky shorelines and fallen trees during the spring months. In the summer, anglers will have their highest success 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 drop shot presentations on brushpiles and artificial reefs. Also consider casting to long points and along the face of the dam with finesse worms and crankbaits. Fishing activity peaks again during the fall months when spotted bass are feeding in shallow water on small blueback herring. Cast into surface-feeding fish with small poppers and flukes. Also consider using casting spoons. Allow the spoon to flutter into slightly deeper water where the bigger fish are often lurking. During the sunny part of the day, switch to bottom tactics that imitate a slow moving crayfish.
During the winter months, spotted bass are searching for blueback herring that are seeking relief from the cold in pockets of warmer water. Rocky banks and muddy water radiate heat into the water on sunny days during the cold weather months. Winter bass anglers should consider these areas as the primary target for the wintertime bite. The rip-rap along the dam is an obvious choice but anglers should also look for areas that contain large boulders and other cover (stumps, brush and logs).
During April and May, spotted bass are spawning 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, long, rocky points and artificial structures on the lower half of the lake in 20 to 30-ft of water provide the best sites to fish with slow-moving soft plastics. In fall, spotted bass will frequently be found at the surface over open water near the dam feeding on small blueback herring. During the heat of the day, spotted bass will usually move to deeper water on points and around fallen trees. Rip fast-moving crankbaits through the mid-depths or work slow-moving plastic baits over rocky bottoms along the main lake.
Lake Chatuge is famous in the fishing world for producing a world record hybrid bass in 1997 that weighed 25 lb, 8 oz, Although that record was eventually broken, Lake Chatuge still supports a quality hybrid bass fishery that is maintained by DNR’s annual stocking efforts. This year, anglers will mostly catch hybrid bass in the 3 to 7 lb range, but anglers have reported catching hybrids up to 12 lb.
Hybrid bass feed primarily on blueback herring. In the spring, hybrids will chase adult herring at the surface, especially near rocky shorelines on the lower half of the lake. In the summer months, hybrids prefer to track down larger herring (6-inches and above) in 30 to 50-feet of water on the lower end of the lake. When the surface temperature drops below 75oF in October, hybrid bass return to the surface, but this time to feed on the abundance of smaller 3-inch herring that are schooling over open water near the dam and along the main river channel. Casting bucktail jigs or flukes to surface-feeding fish or trolling umbrella rigs in deep water are the most popular artificial tactics used by Chatuge’s hybrid bass anglers.
Hybrid bass are schooling fish, so if you catch one then you can be confident that other hybrids are nearby. In the winter months, hybrid bass can be found on windblown points feeding on blueback herring. Pulling live herring behind a planer board or live line near the shoreline is the best approach for catching hybrids in the winter.
During the spring, hybrids will roam the shallows in search of adult herring that are spawning on rocky banks. 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. By late-summer, hybrids may be as deep as 60 to 80-feet. Good electronics will help an angler locate a large school of fish hovering near the bottom. During the fall, hybrid bass will feed aggressively at the surface in shallow water during the early morning and evening. Look of schooling activity near the dam and along the main river channel on the lower half of the lake.
Bluegill are one of the more abundant sunfish varieties in Lake Chatuge and the lake supports good numbers of quality-sized fish. Success is highest during the spawning period, which spans from May to August.
Crickets and live worms 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 underneath overhanging tree limbs that are located in coves and small pockets.
Adult bream spawn in relatively shallow water on sandy bottoms from May to August during the full moon. Search for their circular nests in 4 to 10 feet of water near creek mouths and their adjacent flats. For the remainder of the summer, look for schools of bluegill underneath overhanging tree limbs and around boat docks. In the fall months, sunfish retreat to deeper water near fallen trees.
Modest numbers of black crappie are present in Lake Chatuge. Anglers will have their best success during the spring months when crappie are concentrated in shallow water around visible structure located in the backs of coves.
Minnows fished under a bobber or a minnow-tipped jig are the most productive baits for catching crappie. Among artificial baits, small curly-tailed grubs on a 1/8 oz. jig or hair jigs are the best choices.
The upper lake from Towns County Park to the Highway 76 Bridge, including Bell Creek, seems to hold the highest number 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. Be sure to target creek channels in deeper water, especially if they have any structure whatsoever.
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.
About a mile of good shoreline fishing access is available at the US Forest Service’s Lake Chatuge Campground, which is closed to camping but still open for day use. Head west on Hwy 76 through town. After passing the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, travel about 1 mile and then turn left onto Sunnyside Road (GA Hwy 288). Travel south about 1 mile and the old campground is on the left on FS Road 704.
The website for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is www.tva.gov/sites/chatuge
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.
North Carolina’s fishing regulations can be viewed at the following website: