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Four men watch as a fifth release a few dozen ntrout into the Clinch River.
Information icon Representatives of four state and federal agencies release the first of hundreds of trout into the Clinch River near Knoxville. They gathered recently to sign an agreement to stock trout in watersheds in Tennessee and Georgia. Photo by TVA.

Making a splash

Trout release highlights agencies’ partnership

Clinton, Tennessee — The Clinch River is now richer by a couple hundred extra trout. Other watersheds will soon share that wealth.

Four government agencies recently released rainbow, brook, brown and spotted trout into the tailwaters of the Clinch River near Knoxville.

Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Tennessee Valley Authority, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency took turns dumping nets of wriggling fish into the river — a symbolic gesture underscoring a fruitful partnership.

They also signed a three-year agreement to continue stocking fish in reservoirs and rivers in Tennessee and Georgia. With the stroke of pens, they guaranteed the release of more than 900,000 trout in both states in the coming 12 months.

Those signatures also mean an economic windfall for both states, said Mike Oetker, the acting regional director of the Service’s Southeast Region.

Three men signing, each signing a contract in the field
Representatives of four state and federal agencies sign agreements to continue stocking watersheds in Tennessee and Georgia with trout. Mike Oetker (center), acting regional director of the Service’s Southeast Region, joins others in the signing. Photo by Mark Davis, USFWS.

Trout fishing, said Oetker, is worth about $45 million to Tennessee and Georgia. Every dollar spent on stocking fish, he said, reaps a $73 return in anglers’ gear purchases, hotel stays, restaurant tabs and more.

“I think resuming this partnership means there will be great trout fishing in both states,” said Oetker, who stood at the river’s edge and upended a net full of trout into the water.

The fish are proof that the agreement is working, said David Bowling, the TVA’s Vice President of Land and River Management. He dumped trout in the river, too.

“You’re actually seeing living, wriggling results of a lot of hard work of all four parties involved,” he said.

The fish, delivered from hatcheries in both states, came in two sizes — big (14-inch-and longer brown trout ready to catch) and fish that didn’t quite meet that size (but should grow).

The trout, said Ed Carter, who heads Tennessee’s wildlife agency, should thrive in the Clinch’s chilled depths. For Carter, the ceremony was a chance to revisit an old haunt: As a child, he fished in these waters. He also recalled a Boy Scout canoeing trip on the Clinch. Rounding a bend, the scouts came upon a baptism in the river’s shallows.

He smiled at the memory — at the future, too. The fish released in the state’s watersheds, he said, are proof that agencies at different levels can work together.

“Partnerships,” he said, “are what makes things happen.”


Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist, (404) 679-7291

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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