Fishing on Cheatham Lake
Cheatham Lake offers great fishing opportunities for anglers of all ages and preferences. Lunker largemouth bass are but one of many species of fish that call the dingy waters of this lake home. Largemouth can be taken on a wide variety of artificial lures in the major tributaries of the lake. Two other popular game fish, sauger and white bass (stripe), are generally caught on spinners, jigs, minnows, or jig-minnow combinations in the tailwaters below the dam. Panfish, such as bream and crappie, are plentiful and make for great family fishing fun. They can be caught virtually anywhere in the lake or tailwaters.
For general fishing information please call (615) 792-2190.
If you're looking for something larger can try landing a rockfish (striped bass), which might weigh upwards of 30 pounds. These giants generally prowl the tailwaters and hit large jigs, lures, or live bait. Large catfish are also taken both above and below the dam on a wide variety of live and cut baits.
A state fishing license is required for fishing anywhere on Cheatham Lake or its tailwaters. County Clerks, as well as many commercial establishments, sell licenses. You can also visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Online License Center to order one on the web or by phone. Information about fishing in Tennessee, such as size and creel limits, can be found at the TWRA Fisheries Management web page.
Remember, safety should always come first on or near the water. Of the 128 people that have drowned in Cheatham Lake, only two were wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs). Your life jacket won't save your life unless you wear it! State and federal boating laws require that anyone in a boat under the age of 13 wear an approved PFD unless he or she is inside an enclosed cabin. This requirement applies whether the boat is adrift or under power.
Safety around the dam is extremely important. Below the dam, everyone in a boat, regardless of age, must wear an approved PFD between the dam and the tailwater launching ramp. This mandatory PFD area is clearly marked with large signs. Boaters must also observe the posted "keep out" areas at the power plant. Warning signals sound below the dam when the hydropower units in the power plant are about to start or when the lock chamber is about to be emptied. Boaters must take immediate action to avoid turbulent waters.
While safety is our main concern, conservation is a close second. Practice catch and release unless you intend to eat what you catch. Treat the lake as if it was yours, because it is. Do your part and take care of it. Dispose of your own trash properly and pick up the litter that may have been thoughtlessly left by someone else. Be careful to avoid spills of oil or gas. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the environment clean and to ensure that the lake and the plants and animals that inhabit it will flourish for many years to come.
A Summary of Popular Fish At Cheatham Lake
Crappie - both lake and tailwaters
Best times-March-April and October
Baits-small jigs and live minnows Sauger - tailwaters
Baits-jigs, minnows, and jig-minnow combinations
Largemouth Bass - major tributaries in lake
Baits-spinner baits, worms, and topwater plugs Rockfish (Striped Bass) - tailwaters
Best times-April-June and September-October
Baits-large jigs, spoons, and live baits
Bream - both lake and tailwaters
Baits-crickets, worms, and popping bugs White Bass (Stripe) - tailwaters
Baits-jigs, minnows, and small spinners
Catfish - both lake and tailwaters
Best times- April-November
Baits-small shad, nightcrawlers, and cut baits
Normal Lake Elevations
The normal pool elevation of Cheatham Lake is 385 feet above mean sea level (msl). Cheatham is a run-of-the-river navigation project, and there is no scheduled winter drawdown. However, the lake elevation may rise during major rainfall events.
Below the dam, the normal summer pool elevation of Lake Barkley is 359 msl, and winter pool elevation 354 msl. The Lake Barkley pool extends all the way upstream to the lower side of Cheatham Dam.
To hear a recording of lake levels, hydropower generation schedule, water temperature, and general fishing information call (615) 792-2190 or visit the web site.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
National Safe Boating Council
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
U.S. Power Squadron