Old Hickory Lake (or Reservoir) is a 23,000-acre impoundment on the Cumberland River. It offers excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, crappie, striped bass, white bass, sauger, catfish, sunfish among a few other game fish species. During spring and fall, fish gather in the shallows. As summer and winter approach they migrate to deeper waters. Your best opportunity for getting a bite is to fish around submerged humps, ledges, and points.
The reservoir has roughly 440 miles of shoreline surrounded largely by private homes. There is public access for shore fishing in the parks and a few other areas. The best fishing opportunities exist when fishing by boat. There are several public access points for launching a motorboat, kayak or personal water craft. Fishing by boat allows anglers to access a large number of prime fishing spots that are inaccessible when fishing from shore.
Old Hickory Reservoir has 44 public boat ramps, 11 marinas, 8 fishing piers and several public parks. Three USACE recreation areas and a state park provide camping opportunities to the public as well as anglers who want to plan a multi-day fishing trip. Camp grounds are located at Cages Bend, Shutes Branch, Cedar Creek and Bledsoe Creek State Park.
While there are variety of game fish found throughout Old Hickory Lake, the best fishing opportunities exist for Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Stripers, Sauger, Catfish and White Bass.
Largemouth Bass are the predominant game fish species in Old Hickory Reservoir and the target of most anglers. Largemouths are abundant, relatively large (in excess of 15-inches), and provide the best fishing opportunity.
The daily creel limit on Old Hickory is a total of five bass, for any combination of Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted bass. The minimum length limit for Largemouth bass is 14 inches. The minimum length limit for Smallmouth bass is 18 inches. There is no minimum length limit for Spotted bass.
The most productive areas to target Largemouth bass in Old Hickory are the many embayments located throughout the reservoir. Popular embayments for targeting Largemouths in the upstream section of the reservoir include Spring Creek, Barton Creek, Little Cedar Creek and Misty Cove. In the middle and downstream sections of the lake, anglers the best Largemouth fishing embayments include Spencer Creek, Bledsoe Creek, Station Camp Creek, Shutes Branch and Drakes Creek.
Another hotspot for Largemouth bass fishing is around the Highway 109 bridge near Gallatin. The aquatic vegetation and structure in this area attracts Largemouths who congregate in its cooler waters during the heat of the summer.
Old Hickory Reservoir has hundreds of bouyed fish attractor sites that attract a variety of fish species, including Largemouth Bass. These attractor sites are ideal locations for targeting Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted bass, especially during the colder fall and winter months.
A few effective Largemouth lures for Old Hickory Lake include spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and square-billed crankbaits.
Crappie are the second most targeted game fish on Old Hickory Reservoir. Black crappie are the most abundant Crappie species, but there are also a fair number of White crappie throughout the lake. The daily creel limit for Crappie is 30 and the minimum length limit is 10 inches.
March and April are the best months for Crappie fishing. As the water warms, hungry Crappie move into the shallows to spawn and become easily targets for anglers. From October through May, during the colder months, Crappie fishing heats up around the TWRA fish attractors positioned throughout the lake.
Many of the same embayments where you’ll find Largemouth bass are top Crappie fishing spots. Spring Creek, Misty Cove, Little Cedar Creek, Barton Creek, Drakes Creek and Shutes Branch are all embayments that provide excellent Crappie fishing.
Striped Bass (Stripers)
While not as popular as Largemouth or Crappie fishing, Striped bass fishing accounts for a large portion of fishing activity on Old Hickory Reservoir. Old Hickory is known for providing some of the best striper fishing in the state of Tennessee. Some of the trophy Striper catches in Old Hickory have exceeded 50 pounds with a record catch of 65 pounds.
For the best striper fishing, try fishing the upper end of the reservoir near Carthage. Some of the best Striper catches have been reported in this area. Other Striper hotspots include the section from Cordell Hull Dam to Caney River, and the Caney Fork River and Cumberland River confluence.
Great Striper fishing occurs during early Spring (May) around Cordell Hull Dam. As water temperatures drop during the winter months, Striped bass congregate near the embayments in the downstream section of the reservoir. Top embayments for winter Striper fishing include Drakes Creek and Station Camp.
If your target is giant Stripers, one of the best fishing methods is drift fishing using live bait including skipjack herring, rainbow trout or gizzard shad. And don’t be shy. If you want to target giant Stripers, don’t skimp on the bait. The bigger the better. Large top water lure are also effective for catching Striped bass on Old Hickory Reservoir.
The daily creel limit for Stripers is 2 and the minimum length limit is 15 inches.
Sauger is the game fish of choice for anglers that fancy fishing Old Hickery Lake during the dead of winter. Sauger fishing on the reservoir during the winter is excellent.
From January through March the best Sauger fishing occurs in the upper section of Old Hickory Reservoir from Hunter’s Point to Cordell Hull Dam. Sauger concentrate in the deeper waters near the dam during the winter into early spring. As spring approaches, and water temperatures rise, Sauger migrate down stream to spawn. During the remainder of the year ’till the return of winter, Sauger are found throughout the reservoir.
Targeting Sauger directly below Cordell Hull Dam during the winter provides the best opportunity to catch these tasty table fare. The best approach for fishing Cordell Hull Dam is to drop your line around the general wall, lock wall and spill gates. Bottom fishing these areas is a proven method for catching Sauger in these areas as they generally remain near the bottom.
An effective bottom fishing technique for Sauger is to fish a 1 ounce jig tipped with a live minnow or grub by bouncing it off the bottom. Bottom fishing a live minnow using a split shot rig, Carolina rig or 3-way swivel rig is a great way to present your bait.
Bank fishing from either the generator or lock side of the dam will also work for catching Saugeye. Bait a #3 to 1/0 hook using a 1/2-1 and 1/2 ounce weight with a live minnow using any of the rigs previously mentioned, and cast your line.
When fishing downstream from the dam focus efforts on the mouths of creek embayments and drops offs that form as the creeks enter the reservoir. Saugeye often congregate near these transition points to ambush shad and other baitfish moving out of the embayments into Cumberland River main channel. Popular embayments for Saugeye fishing include Little Cedar Creek, Bledsoe Creek, Second Creek, Jennings Fork Creek and Bartons Creek.
Daily creel limits for Saugeye are 10 and minimum length limit is 15 inches. While not as popular as Saugeye fishing, a fair amount of Walleye fishing also occurs on Old Hickory Lake. Daily creel limits for Walleye are 5 per day and minimum length limit is 16 inches. As you fish for Saugeye, you’re bound to reel in some Walleye as well.
Fishing for Catfish is a popular pastime for anglers on Old Hickory Reservoir. The reservoir is home to all three major species of catfish including Channel cats, Flatheads and Blue Catfish. Channel Catfish are the most abundant species in the lake, but Old Hickory is known for producing giant trophy worthy Flathead and Blue Catfish. Daily creel limits for catfish over 34 inches is 1. For catfish under 34 inches there are is no daily creel limit.
A few of the most productive spots for targeting giant Flathead and Blue Catfish include the embayments of the confluence of Drakes and Bledsoe Creeks, Spender and Station Camp Creeks, and Cedar Creek. Another hotspot for catching catfish is just below Cordell Hull Dam, although catfish can be found throughout the reservoir.
The most popular method for catching catfish is using live or cut bait fished off the bottom. Top bait choices include skipjack herring and Gizzard shad.
The best time of year to target White bass on Old Hickory Reservoir is during the early spring (April-May) from Caney Fork River to Cordell Hull Dam. White bass typically congregate in the eddies that form along the banks. One of the most effective baits for catching White bass is a jig tipped with a minnow or soft plastic bait.
The daily creel limit for White bass is 15. There are no minimum length limits or size restrictions for White Bass.
Old Hickory Lake Fish:
Old Hickory Lake boat ramps:
The following boat ramps provide access to Old Hickory Lake.