Fishermen concerned TN river deaths not just catfish



About three weeks ago, fishermen along Chickamauga Lake say they began to see some very concerning signs.

bass with sore

Chickamauga Lake has been renowned across the country for its plentiful bass fishing.

However, for those who frequent its waters, numerous sightings of dead catfish have them asking questions on what is causing these deaths.

The owner of Wishin’ I Was Fishin’ Bass Guide, Dillon Falardeau, said, “We drove by one spot up by the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant and we were fishing a ledge up there, and we had to have seen over a thousand dead fish floating by the nuclear plant today.”

Falardeau is a seasoned guide on these waters, treating visitors from around the globe to the fishing available here.

He said, “I’ve been here for ten years. I’ve talked to hundreds of locals, people who have lived on the lake for their entire lives, never seen anything like this.”

He said it started with one to three pound catfish popping up in the water, mostly closer to the Chickamauga Dam. 

How the situation is progressing is giving him pause.

Falardeau said, “All those bass had big spots, big infections, it looked like something was growing on them.”

He’s provided several pictures of these bass he has caught.

bass with sorebass with sore

He said, “It wasn’t just one, it wasn’t just two, it was probably was about 25 to 28 out of the 30 we caught today.”

The TWRA in a statement said that their biologists had not found any additional dead or sick catfish in their most recent survey this week.

They also said they have not found any evidence of toxins or a chemical spill that would be causing these die-offs.

They mention that possible causes could be warm waters, lower oxygen content and pathogens.

Falardeau believes it could be related to a lack of rainfall, preventing the Chickamauga Dam’s flood gates from being opened which would flush out toxins, and one other factor most wouldn’t consider.

Falardeau said, “The more grass you have on a lake, the bigger the fish, the healthier the fish are, and now there’s almost no grass on this lake. “

While he says he wouldn’t be scared to swim in the lake, he won’t be transporting any of it to his dinner plate.

He said, “For everyone who is trying to eat fish to take home for dinner, I would say hold off on that before we get some answer, because after three weeks now, it’s every species of fish.”

He also mentioned he’s heard reports of similar events further downstream at Nickajack Lake and in Northern Alabama, but not upstream at Watt’s Bar Lake.

The TWRA says they are working with Auburn University to determine the cause of this event.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Despite statements from the TWRA that there is not an ongoing problem, local fishermen and lake-goers say otherwise.

Fishermen say they are continuing to see more dead fish on the river.

dead fish dead fish

It’s happening on Chickamauga Lake, but some say it’s also happening on Nickajack.

Several viewers have told News 12 they are finding a white, slimy substance on live fish they are catching. Some white spots can be seen on the top of the fish in this photo:


But now, fishermen are also finding sores on bass in the river.

They are concerned and wondering what could be causing this issue.

Dillon Falardeau is a local fisherman and bass guide along the river.

He provided News 12 with several images of bass he has recently caught with these kinds of sores.bass with sore

News 12’s Nick Hill is investigating and will provide more information.

All photo courtesy to Dillon Falardeau. 

Categories: Environment, Featured, Local News