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A Taste of Cumberland Wine Country

DelMonaco Winery and Vineyard in Baxter tempts tourists to toast regional agriculture

Over the last decade, growth in Tennessee agriculture tourism, or “agritourism,” has emerged as a promising, profitable trend for many families relying in whole or part on farm income for their livelihood.

A 2013 University of Tennessee economic survey estimated that farm-based businesses that cater to tourist harvested $34.4 million statewide, and another $54.2 million was generated in local economies as a “multiplier effect” of spending by visitors.delmonacomap

Volunteer State “wine tourism” has particularly flourished.

The number of Tennessee vino-making venues has more than doubled over the last eight years. In 2008, there were about 30 wineries in the state. Today there are about 65, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“Wine, grapes, grape products and allied industries create employment and new market opportunities in rural communities,” a 2014 study commissioned by the department asserted. “In areas that previously had diminishing farming of tobacco, cotton, and other crops, the planting of grapevines and the creation of wineries is now offering new life. Grape farming is providing employment as is the establishment of new wineries, shops and restaurants springing up in the footprint of these rural communities.”

Barbara DelMonaco, who owns DelMonaco Winery and Vineyard in Putnam County, has witnessed firsthand the industry’s burgeoning potential to prosper since she and her husband, David, planted their first vines 14 years ago.

“Tennessee still has a long way to go to reach its full potential,” she said.

But DelMonaco Winery is doing its best to help Upper Cumberland’s wine industry blossom and develop.

Situated just a few miles off I-40 — an easy detour for travelers thirsting to put interstate traffic in the rearview mirror — DelMonaco is one of seven wineries that make up tasting stations along the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail.

DelMonaco also happens to have taken root right by a working set of railroad tracks. So it periodically serves as the destination depot for a vintage excursion train departing from the Tennessee Central Railway Museum in Nashville. The 10-hour round-trip rides are hugely popular, typically selling out weeks or even months in advance.

A Sip Starts in the Soil

Diane Parks, a winemaker at DelMonaco, takes full advantage of the teachable moments when rail riders from the Music City detrain at the vineyard. It’s a great opportunity to enlighten folks living outside the countryside about the time, talent and tolerance for trial-and-error necessary to coax a crop of grapes out of the ground and into the wine-imbiber’s glass.winetrain

First and foremost, winemaking is an agricultural endeavor, Parks explains.

“A winery is nothing without grapes. The life’s blood of most wineries are its grapes,” she said. “You can make a crappy wine out of really good grapes, but you can’t make a really good wine out of crappy grapes. You really have to manage your vineyard well in order to have good quality grapes — and, in turn, to make good quality wine.”

Tammy Algood, a viticulture marketing specialist for the state, has been studying and helping promote Volunteer State varietals for the better part of 30 years.

It’s gratifying to see the wine industry benefiting from Tennessee’s booming tourism economy, said Algood, precisely because it is “inherently tied to the land.” Tasting-destination wineries represent “a beautiful marriage between the tourist industry and the Tennessee wine and grape industry,” she said

“Grape-growing is farming. And it is beautiful farming,” she said. “This industry is enhancing the visual appeal of Tennessee. If you are going to have a great wine, it started on the vine.”

And often wineries are drawing visitors’ and their vacation-spending into areas both that particularly need it — and might not otherwise enjoy a reputation as a tourist draw, Algood said.

“The topography of the land is very important for grape growing. Unlike a manufacturing facility that can pick up their operations and move to a different county or a different state seeking out tax incentives or a different kind of labor force, an agriculture operation like a vineyard is connected to the land and the local rural economy,” she said.

“You are not typically going to see vineyards in the middle of large cities. You are going to see them where they have land to spread out,” said Algood.

While Tennessee is trailing neighboring states like Missouri, Georgia and Virginia in total number of wineries, wines from here are regularly judged favorably against the best at national and international festivals, she said.

“Each winemaker puts his or her own spin on a particular product,” said Algood. “Tourists that come to Tennessee, particularly from more northern areas, are surprised and pleased to learn that we grow different grapes and as a result have different wines than they are accustomed to.”

“Everybody wants to go home with something from Tennessee, and a bottle of wine is the perfect thing to carry home with you after spending a vacation here,” she said.

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Go Deep, Move Often to Catch Daytime Summer Bass on Center Hill

Lake serves up sunlight bite later than people think

When Tennessee’s summer rays are smoldering over Center Hill Lake, a lot of sport fisherman turn nocturnal for the season.

But shunning sunshine to focus all your angling efforts after dark can be a big mistake, says Smithville bass pro Josh Tramel.

If you’re willing to fish deep and keep moving, opportunities to catch pugnacious plumpers will arise, especially in morning shade and along late afternoon shadows.

“People don’t realize that Center Hill is great during the day in July, especially with football jigs, big crankbaits and even worms,” Tramel said.

Deep-diving crankbaits, like the Strike King 6XD and Norman DD22, “are good options” to provoke a Dog Day bass attack, he said.dd22

Tramel, a mild-mannered 37-year-old accountant, knows a thing or two about angling on Center Hill Lake. “It’s where I learned to fish, for sure,” he said.

Center Hill is an excellent lake to acquire diverse fishing expertise, he said.

“You have to learn all kinds of different techniques here,” he said. “It is a really good lake to do what I like to call ‘power fish’ – throw jigs, and topwater and spinnerbaits. In the winter it gets really clear and requires a lot of finesse.”

Tramel has been racking up tournament wins and big-money finishes for more than a decade on Middle Tennessee lakes.

He’s developed into one of the premier bass-baggers to beat over the course of his career, especially on Center Hill Lake.

Of his 25 career FLW Top 10 finishes, six have been on Center Hill. This year, he took third at the FLW Bass Fishing League’s Music City Division tourney. Back in April he won the American Bass Anglers Ram Truck Open Series tournament and floated home with $5,000 in his creel.

His schooling on Center Hill has served him well on other lakes, too – in particular, Old Hickory.

Tramel blew fish-fixated minds in April 2014 when he weighed in at an ABA tournament with a whopping sack of five smallmouths tipping scales at nearly 27 pounds. Old Hickory isn’t really known for giving up prodigious numbers of bronzebacks, but on that day Tramel hooked at least a dozen that were keeper-sized.

On Center Hill, Tramel said he tends to target his summertime casts at shallow-to-deep drops and “transition banks.” Also, bluffs and gravel points. “Look for places where you can cast shallow and retrieve out to deep water,” he said.

Keep in mind that bass are prone to loiter around deep brush piles, he said.

“Smallmouth seem to like a shallower-sloped bank,” noted Tramel. “They still hold in deeper water, but farther off the shore.”

Smallmouth also tend to change holding-places more often than spotted bass and largemouth, he said.

As a general rule, “moving around a lot” increases your odds of catching fish, he said. “Center Hill Lake is not a place where you tend to find large schools of fish congregating,” Tramel said.

If you catch two or three nice bass in one spot, the action’s probably going to cool off in short order.

“It’s not that you can’t catch more if you sit there long enough – but it’ll probably turn into a really slow day,” he said.

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Trophy Browns and Rainbows Sharing Caney With Big Brook Trout

Shad-fattened lunker lurking below Center Hill Dam shatters state record

Some anglers say it’s bad luck to catch a fish on your first cast of the day.

Try telling that to Sasa Krezic.

He actually caught several more fish after that big brook trout gobbled up his introductory baitfish offering below Center Hill Dam’s spillway.

Of course, it was April Fools Day, so maybe all bets were off, superstition-wise. Or maybe the First Cast Curse just doesn’t apply if the catch is big enough.

But it’ll assuredly be that first fish on that lucky first cast that Krezic remembers, and probably for the rest of his life.

As he was wrestling the bruiser ashore, the 27-year-old Nashvillian figured it was “probably a keeper.” But little did Krezic figure he’d also soon be the keeper of a new state record for brook trout: 4 pounds 12 ounces.

Krazic, who spent the first decade of his life in the war-ravaged Balkans, said he actually “got pretty lucky” in getting his name added to the record books.

A friend he was fishing with observed, “That’s a pretty good fish — a nice-sized brook trout.”

Krazic, who’d only ever caught browns and rainbows on the Caney, said he’s seen bigger fish come out of the river. And he wasn’t particularly familiar with the state records, which, for brook trout, was 3 pounds 14 ounces and had been set on the Hiwassee River in 1973.

“I really wouldn’t have known if this other guy hadn’t looked up the old record online on his phone and told me, ‘I think this one probably weighs more’,” Krezic said.

They weighed Krazic’s brookie on a digital fish scale. Then they promptly put in a call to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

No Joke: Not a Case of Mistaken Identity

Will Collier, a TWRA fish biologist in the area, figured somebody was angling to hook him into a bit of April Fools mischief when he got a call from the agency’s enforcement officer, Tony Cross.

A record-breaking brook trout on the Caney, huh? And the guy caught it on his first cast? You don’t say.

To Collier’s surprise, the fishy story turned out to be legit. And it wasn’t a misidentified brown trout, which he’d alternately suspected. It was indeed a big brookie — almost a pound bigger than the old record.

But the more he thought about it, the more sense it made.

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YEP, THAT’S A KEEPER. Sasa Krezic of Nashville caught a state record brook trout in the Center HIll Dam spillway on April Fools Day this year.

“Compared to rainbow trout and brown trout, we haven’t put all that many brook trout in,” Collier said. “But if a person was going to catch a state record, it’s not too surprising that it would be by the dam here, where they feed on shad kills and whatnot. He caught it on a minnow, which made perfect sense. Certain times of year the fish are piling up right there, eating those little fish that come from the lake, getting fat in the process.”

There was another curious quirk, or near-quirk, in the tale of April Fools 2016’s catch of the day. Had the fish been just a half-inch shorter, it would have fallen within the Caney Fork’s “protected length range” — which for brooks and rainbows is 14-20 inches.

In that case, it would have been illegal to keep.

“It would have been something to have to write a ticket for a state record fish,” said Collier.

Bumpy Road for Brookies

For TWRA’s chief of fisheries, Frank Fiss, catching wind that a new state record brook trout had been pulled from the Caney Fork was particularly gratifying. And likewise for Andrew Currie, who manages Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery — where the big new state record brookie was reared from egg to a fry before its release, which they estimate was probably three or four years ago.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Fiss.

Back in the early and mid-2000s, TWRA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the Dale Hollow hatchery, weren’t keen on stocking the bigger and hardier non-native brook trout strains in Tennessee waters. They feared competition or cross-breeding would jeopardize the smaller and more threatened southern Appalachian brook trout.

“We were not real eager to expand brook trout populations,” said Fiss. “But then we got a better handle on what we had in the mountains — which areas needed protecting, and which areas already had northern brook trout in them.”

They figured they could plant northern brook trout in lower elevation Tennessee rivers where they’d never commingle with native populations.

The Watauga, Clinch and Lower Caney fit the bill. Between 2007 and 2008, stocking commenced in those waters. But it wasn’t an overnight success, as any new fish-stocking initiative tends to involve some trial and error.

The Watauga was the first river where they planted. But the fish all vanished in short order. They tended to run up into the tributaries and disappear, said Fiss. So they scrapped the program there.

On the Clinch River and the Caney Fork, brookies fared much better — particularly early on.

“I remember when we first put them in, I wrote an article saying that maybe in a few years we would have brook trout over 14 inches,” said Fiss. “Then, like the next year, fishing was terrible for brook trout, and I was wishing I’d never written the article.”

Big Stocking Season Predicted for Summer of ’17

Now, though, Fiss is feeling better about the program going forward. As is Currie, who told Center Hill Sun he’s confident that after a few tough years getting good brook trout eggs shipped in, more reliable supplies are lined up.

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Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery manager Andrew Currie surveys fish-rearing raceways in Clay County, TN. Currie manages the facility, which raises brown, rainbow and brook trout for stocking in regional waters. Netting hung above the pools helps reduce predation loss to fish-feasting birds.

Last year no brook trout were stocked in the Caney because the eggs, which come from Utah, were in such short supply. And this year the Dale Hollow hatchery will only release about 5,000 brookies. But a lot more are in the early stages of development. In order to enhance their chances of survival in the wild, the fish are usually 16-18 months old and nine inches long when they’re released, Currie said.

Next summer’s goal is 100,000 brook trout, Currie said. Barring unforeseen hazards and snags, a good portion of those will ultimately find their way to the Caney Fork.

In the first months of their lives, brook trout are particularly susceptible to adverse water quality, especially nitrogen supersaturation, said Currie. But their survivability substantially improves once they’re big enough for transport to the outdoor concrete raceways — to the point that they’re hardier even than the hatchery rainbows and browns.

“Once they go outside, they outperform everything,” said Currie. “Once they get up to about three inches, they do well. It is getting them there that’s the difficulty.”

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Burgess Falls Overlooks Closed, Park Still Open

Repairs planned, but not for popular old metal stairway

Storm-damage last summer to scenic observation decks and the unique gorge-descending staircase are keeping prime Burgess Falls viewing points inaccessible this spring.

A notice on the state park’s website declares, “Repair work should begin on the overlook shortly, but the stairs down to the main falls will remained closed.”

Visitors may still hike along the Falling Water River and view various smaller cascades in the park.

“Extensive damage” to the metal staircase and overlooks in July resulted in both being “compromised and badly damaged,” park officials say.

Repairs are planned for the main falls overlook, which will cost around $55,000, and the middle falls overlook after that, said Kelly Brockman, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman.

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Storms last summer blew out two overlooks and the staircase into the gorge at the popular state park along Falling Water River.

Federal money has also been earmarked for park upgrades by way of the Americans With Disabilities Act. “That should help as well,” she said. “We do have funding for that, and we are in the early design process.”

However, no plans are in the works to fix and reopen the staircase, which is fastened to 90-year-old concrete pillars.

“That’s more of a capital project, and we don’t have funding for that right now,” said Brockman.

Located on the Falling Water River southwest of Cookeville, Burgess Falls State Park is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

“A lot of folks come from all over the United States to see this, it’s unbelievable,” said Mike Jeffers, whose family runs MMKM Family Produce on Burgess Falls Road.

Jeffers’ business is noticeably off this spring, as it was last year after the overlook and staircase closings.

“We’re down 50 percent, easy,” he said. “People go down there and they come out mad. They drive a long way and they can’t see anything.”

Jeffers, who’s been in business 13 years, figures he can weather the financial doldrums, though. When the Window Cliffs Natural Area opens, “we’ll be right in the middle of both parks,” he said.

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Can-Do Trout Flies for the Caney Fork

Ronnie Howard is an expert Tennessee angler with decades of fish-finding experience on regional waters. He’s also the resident fly fishing aficionado for Cumberland Transit outfitters in Nashville.

Howard chatted with Center Hill Sun about some tactics and must-have trout flies that will enhance your chances of hooking up with a trophy brown, ‘bow or brookie when you bug out for the Caney Fork River.

Go-to patterns include woolly buggers, midges, soft hackles, nymphs, emergers, mayfly imitators, stimulators and, occasionally, elk hair caddis and cicadas.

One of the not-so-obvious flies that every trout angler ought to have at the ready for when the fish get inflexibly finicky is an everyday red or black ant.

“Most folks don’t think an ant is capable of catching big fish, but big fish like ants, too,” said Howard.

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Talkin’ Turkey Restoration in TN

Robust return of iconic game bird has been hailed a marvel of modern conservation

Few sounds echoing through the woods are more emblematic of springtime in Tennessee than the exuberant gobble of a strutting tom turkey.

But not so long ago, that sound — along with clucks, cackles, peeps, whistles, yelps and other modes of turkey talk — was all but unheard in the wilds.

By the early 20th Century, turkeys had virtually disappeared from Tennessee. Remnant populations survived only in remote swatches of the Cumberland Plateau and Mississippi River bottomlands.

turkeynwtfToday, however, turkey populations throughout the country appear stronger than at any time since likely before Europeans began settling North America.

And nowhere has the rebound been more impressive than Tennessee and the South. The great turkey turnaround is one of the “tremendous success stories” of American wildlife restoration efforts, said Brad Miller, a regional biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation.

“Particularly in the last 25 years or so, turkeys have really grown in numbers across the state,” he said. “In 1990, hunters killed a little over 2,600 birds in Tennessee. Fast forward to the year 2000, and they reported killing a little more than 22,000 in Tennessee.”

In the current decade, hunters are bagging in the neighborhood of 30,000-35,000 birds a year statewide, said Miller.

Few have a keener appreciation for the turkey’s arduous odyssey than Tim White, a biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

White’s become something of a Tennessee turkey historian, having investigated two-and-a-half centuries worth of books, statistics, articles and photos documenting the demise and recovery of turkeys across the three Grand Divisions.

He calls today’s overall robust health of today’s flocks “pretty astounding,” given what the future looked to hold in the first half of the last century.

But even well before that, turkeys were facing trouble. Throughout the mid-to-late 1700s and into the 1800s, wild turkey populations had started declining, he told the Center Hill Sun. The culprit then was primarily over-hunting.

War is Hell on Wildlife, Too

But it was the Civil War and its aftermath that set in motion the most ruinous period for the wild turkey. Habitat destruction resulting from four savage years of military operations in the South proved catastrophic for many native wild species, said White.

“The Civil War had some pretty devastating impacts on habitat and wildlife, and not just turkeys,” he said. Estimates suggest that in the years 1861-1865, Union and Confederate armies were clearing 400,000 acres of timber a year just for firewood, White said.

In the war’s aftermath, so continued the “big downward slide for a lot of wildlife, like elk and passenger pigeons that went extinct,” he said. “Deer and turkeys were really hit hard, too.”

“People killed and ate pretty much anything that they could find. There was widespread poverty,” he said. “Most everything was in pretty serious decline.”

Under the Deadening Chestnut Tree

Yet the the nadir was still to come.

Another decimating shock started taking shape in the early years of the 20th Century: The appearance of the chestnut blight. Over the course of the ensuing four decades, virtually all the mature, native chestnut trees in the eastern United States were felled by the disease. Prior to the blight, as many as one in every four or five trees in American hardwood forests are thought to have been chestnuts.

“The chestnut was really common in the Southeast back in the day,” said White. “It was a really important food source — and it was suddenly gone.”

To make matters worse, as the chestnut die-off was climaxing, the Great Depression commenced. And just as in the aftermath of the Civil War, destitute-stricken rural populations often turned to hunting wild meat for basic sustenance, or selling for extra money.

“Everything seemed to be working against the turkey back then,” said White. “The forests had been obliterated all across the Southeast. By the end of the 1930s, we were pretty well at a low point with wildlife — not just in the Southeast but probably everywhere.”

Hatching Restoration Plans

For the entire decade of the forties, turkey hunting was banned in Tennessee. But White said few probably took much notice: There were hardly any birds left to kill anyway.

Over roughly the same period, more than 3,700 pen‐reared “wild” turkeys were released across the state, 200 at a time. Most all succumbed to predation or disease or the general rigors of nature, and the stocking of the quasi-domesticated turkeys was halted in the early fifties.

White sees 1949 as the beginning of the bounce-back for turkeys. With the state Legislature’s formation of the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission as a stand-alone agency, more focus and technology was brought to bear on restoration, and regulation of hunting became a primary concern.

turkeyhunting1950s

A state conservation officer tags one of only 14 turkeys legally killed in 1951. That was the first year turkey hunting was open since 1940. (Photo credit: Tennessee State Library and Archives; Dept. of Conservation photo collection.)

Still, the 50s were lean times. Conservation officers at the time reported turkeys absent in more than half of Tennessee. In many of the counties where turkeys were confirmed to exist, sightings were “very rare.”

But things were actually starting to look up.

Wildlife managers in 1951 began attempting to trap both deer and turkeys for transplant, a strategy that would ultimately prove essential for reintroduction efforts across Tennessee. But it was slow going at first, especially for turkeys. It took three years before state officials actually even caught one. According to White, just 119 birds had been relocated by 1960.

However, new systems of trapping would soon prove revolutionary.

The black powder cannon-net — which was later upgraded to a military-grade rocket-net — propelled out when fired and descended upon an unsuspecting flock of feeding birds. The turkeys could then be efficiently captured, tranquilized and transported to new environs.

There’s unmistakable irony in the fact that explosive-driven projectiles, much so responsible for disintegrating wild turkey flocks, did also ensure the revered bird’s extraordinary resurgence.

Even so, the net method still wasn’t an overnight success, and had its ups and downs. In his book, “Boxes, Rockets, and Pens: A History of Wildlife Recovery in Tennessee,” Doug Markham describes how even the howitzer powder-powered net mortars didn’t always work. “If you blinked your eyes, you missed it,” said one former wildlife management official interviewed for Markham’s book. “But even as fast as the rocket nets were, we still had turkeys outrun them.”

Rebound and Recovery

As the years wore on, though, the successes started to mount.

All told, according to White, more than 11,000 turkeys were trapped and relocated in the second half of the 20th Century. The wildly successful programed was ceased in 1999 because it was deemed to achieved the goal of bringing sustainably reproducing, harvestable turkey populations back to all 95 of Tennessee’s counties.

Caston Bowers, 11, and his sister, Laney, 8, always get geared up for going after spring gobblers. Their four-month-old cousin, Lizzie Watson, might have to wait a couple years.

Caston Bowers, 11, and his sister, Laney, 8, always get geared up for going after spring gobblers. Their four-month-old cousin, Lizzie Watson, might have to wait a couple years.

According to National Wild Turkey Federation population estimates, Tennessee is now one of the top states in the nation in turkey populations.

Although calculating accurate aggregate turkey numbers is difficult, NWTF’s 2015 “Spring Hunting Guide” put Tennessee’s statewide flock at 315,000. Only five states had higher totals — Texas with 500,000, Alabama with 400,00, Kansas with 350,000, Georgia with 335,000 and Missouri with 317,000.

“Although the wild turkey once was found only in isolated pockets and inaccessible areas, populations now occupy more square miles of habitat than any other game bird in North America,” concluded an NWTF publication summing up the turkey’s sensational history. “The restoration is truly a modern conservation marvel that is a credit to the wild turkey’s adaptability to a variety of climatic and habitat conditions, as well as to the great bird’s ability to respond well to modern management.”

(Note: The feature image at the top of this story is a portrait titled “Sons of Thunder” by Ryan Kirby. The National Wild Turkey Federation named Kirby its Stamp Print Artist of the Year for 2016. His work is available for purchase at ryankirbyart.com.)

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Tramel Lands Win at ABA Center Hill Bass Tourney

Josh B. Tramel of Smithville hooked a victory on Saturday at the American Bass Anglers Ram Truck Open Series tournament on Center Hill Lake.

Tramel’s 19.46 pound bag of bass bested runner-up Jason Dies of Lebanon by nearly a pound and a half.

The heftiest hog in Tramel’s sack weighed in just shy of six pounds — the second biggest catch of the day.

joshtramelfish

Josh B. Tramel and the biggest of his hefty catch to win the April 17 Ram Truck Open Series ABA tournament on Center Hill Lake.

Tramel said angling is pretty hot right now on Center Hill Lake, especially in the morning.

“I caught them all day long, really. They were hitting pretty good today,” he said. “Early is definitely better. But the good ones hit all day, you just catch less of them as the day goes on.”

Tramel, an accountant by day during the week, said he hooked all his fish on a jig in three- to 10-feet deep water.

The tournament whopper was a 6.39 pound largemouth landed by Noel Smith of Portland, who finished third overall.

Anthony Ryan Layhew of Murfreesboro won the co-angler division with a 10.52 pound bag of three fish.

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BAGS O’ BASS: Competition anglers on Center Hill Lake keep their sacks of fish alive in oxygenated tanks as they await weigh-in. All the fish were later released.

Other anglers from the Center Hill Lake region fared pretty well in the tournament, which included 56 entrants from Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky in the “boater” division, and 24 in the “co-angler” division.

Local fisherman placing in the Top 25 were Kenneth Reece of Brush Creek at 5th, Tim Staley of Dowelltown at 8th, Dustin Barlow of Walling at 10th, Greg Barnes of Rock Island at 13th, Anthony Nash of Quebeck at 15th, Mike Redmon of Dowelltown at 23rd and Frank Bell of Smithville at 24th.

At day’s end, 380 fish were weighed totaling 768 pounds. The average keeper-size bass for the tournament was in the two-and-a-half pound range. All the fish were later released.

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Sligo Marina’s Chow House Churning Out Fresh Grub

The Wheelhouse Restaurant at Sligo Marina is firing up the grill for the season.

Fifty or so hardcore fans of the on-the-water eatery just east of Smithville braved balmy temperatures and blue skies on Friday to celebrate the launch of 2016’s sun-soaked session of spring-and-summer fun.

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Sligo Marina Maniacs

Chris Batty is steering the Wheelhouse this year. He said Center Hill Lake customers ought to sail on in with high hopes and healthy appetites.

“We’re going to provide fresh quality food with excellent customer service, that’s our plan,” Batty promises.

Batty’s hoping the grade A prime rib, succulent sea food, ample-sized sandwiches, hand-prepped burgers and fresh-battered chicken tenders keep lake lubbers cruising back for moor all season long.

The Wheelhouse Restaurant hours of operation are Friday’s 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM, Saturday’s 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM, and Sunday’s 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

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Hundreds Attend First Annual Upper Cumberland Wine Fest

Organizers of the inaugural Upper Cumberland Wine Festival, billed as the “first of its kind for the region,” say it was a huge success. Read more

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Spring Colors Reign at Edgar Evins State Park

There really isn’t a bad time to visit Edgar Evins State Park. But if you’re looking for a best time, spring is arguably it.

As winter recedes and summer approaches, colors emerge, then abound. Birds, buds, leaves, butterflies and beautiful Tennessee wildflowers burst forth with vital vernal effervescence. Read more