Public Lands & Waters photo

Ah, you’ve got to love the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

From the group that brought you the Chicago sanitary canal and a steady flow of invasive species into America, comes the next great hit to anglers everywhere: Bans on fishing in tailwaters below some of the most popular dams in the nation, citing “safety concerns.”

A recent report on outlined the issue. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has hatched a plan to close access to tailwater areas below all dams on the Cumberland River — a series of areas that are extremely popular with fisherman targeting a variety of species.{C}

Some of the dams involved include Cheatham, Percy Priest, Center Hill, and Old Hickory. Tennessee is home to nearly 1 million anglers and tailwater areas are prime locations.

The move has obviously angered a lot of folks in the Tennessee area and it’s not just because of the proposed closure. It’s also over the fact that the Corps has given virtually no public notice on the issue and doesn’t seem willing to consider any other options.

According to the report, the Corps has issued only a brief statement about the issue that reads:

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is currently in the process of finalizing a plan to restrict boat access to hazardous waters directly upstream and downstream of all hydroelectric power plant facilities along the Cumberland River and its tributaries. When the implementation plan is finalized, the corps will release the information to the public.”

Tailwater tactics are a staple for many Southern anglers living in reservoir country and for good reason — tailwater areas hold a ton of fish. The flow of water creates plenty of oxygen and deposits a buffet of food in the area as a result of turbulence. This increased oxygen level and food attracts small baitfish, which in turn, attract gamefish. It is food web fishing at its simplest.

Now that word of the closure has started to leak out, protests have begun. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander sent a letter to the Corps voicing his concern over the decision.

Bobby Wilson, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency chief of fisheries, also issued a letter to the Corps that stated:

“A decision to restrict access will annually eliminate thousands of trips made by sport anglers and commercial fishing guides. We strongly urge you to consider other alternatives and seek public comment as you move forward on this question.”

Thus far, the Corps seems not to be listening.