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No Minnows In The Smokies!

Aug 18, 2007
One could almost say that the fishing minnow is on the endangered specie list, at least in Lake Douglas and Dolly Parton's home town of Sevierville, Tennessee. My brother-in-law had brought his boat from Florida and we were all set to spend a lot of time on the water; as this vacation area is renowned as being one of the premier crappie lakes in the country.

There were a total of 10 bedrooms in the two cottages we had rented over the internet, and according to the brochures sent to us by the rental agencies there was a beautiful picturesque lake with many small coves off McGuire Creek on Douglas Lake, that were just teeming with fish. We'd received numerous cards and pamphlets in February and March and for that period of time the information was correct. By the time we appeared at the lake however, the water level had dropped 14 feet, leaving floating boat docks, bass boats and pontoon boats stranded on the shore like fallen soldiers in the desert searching for water.

The TVA, which controls all the water that runs into the Tennessee River, has a problem this year, in the form of one of the worst droughts in recorded history, for parts of Tennessee and practically all of Alabama. Down the river about 200 or so miles, the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant demands a huge amount of running water in order to cool down its reactors. The Oakridge Nuclear Laboratory, which specializes in the production of nuclear materials for industry as well as the military, also requires a huge amount of water. With an approximate requirement of two and a half million gallons of water a day flowing down the river in order to keep these facilities running, I was left with a lake that was 14 feet shallower than when I first rented the cabins.

The afternoon we arrived and we launched the boat, fishing many of the small coves nearest our house. After striking out with artificial lures, we came to the conclusion that we needed minnows. The low water level was changing the fish's feeding habits. Even down 14 feet, the shoreline was beautiful. It was a little spooky though, fishing in the coves that were made of these mountains when the French Broad River was dammed in 1942. It was almost as if we were walking the concrete canyons in large cities.

Early the next morning we jumped in the boat and headed toward Douglas Dam, which by water was only about seven minutes away. As we discovered later, by road it was almost an hour away. We visited two marinas that had plenty of boats to rent, but no minnows. In fact they were somewhat arrogant in announcing that they had never sold bait. The one bait store that we saw on the water's edge, was closed either for the day or for the season, we didn't know which.

Not to be defeated over our failure to find minnows, we went back to the cabin, got into our pickup truck and headed out of the river area. The road was very curvy, with switchbacks every eighth of a mile making this 5 mile stretch of pavement quite hard on the stomach. It took almost an hour to the main road!

About a mile from our house we saw a concrete block building that simply said "Bait Store". It was closed! Assuming that we would surely find a bait shop on the way to the dam, we were still confident as to the success of our mission. We stopped and went into a store that was part gas station, part cafe, part grocery store and part hunting and fishing store.

Two guys who were sitting around a nail barrel chewing tobacco and whittling on a pieces of wood, told us that there was a bait store farther on down the highway, if they hadn't closed. He wasn't sure, but added with a smile, that since the lake was so low, there weren't very many fishermen out; only the tourists who didn't know any better. I think he was talking about us.

Undaunted, we continued our journey toward Douglas Dam and finally found a store with a minnow tank by the front door. Our task would have been completed except for the fact the tank was dry. The owner said that he hadn't had any minnows in over two months.

The last shop we found had minnows; 13! When we asked for 6 dozen, the operator of the store laughed. "We haven't had that many minnows in months. I feed these everyday so I know exactly how many I have. They're almost like part of the family now!"

By the time we got back to the cabin, it was almost dark. We didn't find minnows, but we still caught quite a few bass. All in all it was a great vacation!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
http://www.redfishbob.com
http://www.bluemarlinbob.com
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