The Nashville District Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating that heavy rains over the past weeks will result in higher-than-normal pool elevations for some time on the Cumberland River system lakes it manages.

Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow, Percy Priest and Lake Cumberland in Kentucky are all discharging vast quantities of water in wake of a storm system that dumped 3-4 inches of rain around the region late last week.

Precipitation Friday and Saturday raised reservoirs along the Cumberland River to levels not seen since the spring floods of 2010 or before. Rainfall in Nashville for the month of February this year has surpassed 13.5 inches — reportedly breaking a previous record set in 1880.

The reservoir level behind Center Hill Dam Monday morning was reported at over 677.43 feet and still rising. That’s 20 feet higher than it was early Saturday morning. Officials said the lake could rise above 680 feet before its starts to recede. That’s tremendously higher than the 625 feet that water-level managers want to get the lake down to before summer in order to finish a scheduled boat-ramp construction project near the dam.

The Corps’ Nashville District water management specialist Anthony Rodino predicts higher than normal water-releases for the foreseeable future from dams along the Cumberland.

Water levels along Center Hill Lake have eclipsed parking lots and shore-area recreation grounds. The picnic area adjacent to Edgar Evins Marina was completely submerged as of Sunday, as were a large portion of improved campground facilities at Floating Mill Park near Hurricane Marina.

Despite well-publicized concerns over the years about the structural soundness of dams along the Cumberland River system — especially Center Hill and Wolf Creek in Kentucky — Nashville District USACE commander Cullen Jones said the impoundments have performed flawlessly so far.

“While there were localized flooding impacts, especially along unregulated waterways, the Corps of Engineers dams held a lot of water back,” Jones said.

According to the Corps, Nashville water levels “would have exceeded 55 feet without the dams holding water during recent rains.”

“The water level in Nashville crested in minor flood stage near 41 feet, so the dams reduced the water level on the Cumberland River in Music City over 14 feet,” the USACE press release said.

PRESS RELEASE from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Feb. 24, 2019:

Link: https://www.dvidshub.net/news/311799/corps-turns-attention-drawing-down-storage-reservoirs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 24, 2019) – As rainfall runoff makes its way through the Cumberland River Basin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is quickly turning its attention to drawing down its storage reservoirs.

The Cumberland River received widespread amounts of rain ranging from a half inch to four inches since Saturday and the river crested at 40.93 feet in Nashville, Tenn., this morning, which is minor flood stage. The river level has already fallen below minor flood stage and is currently 39.9 feet. The stage at Clarksville, Tenn., is 50.4 feet, which is just above moderate flood stage (50 feet).

Anthony Rodino, Nashville District Water Management Section chief, said now that the latest rainfall system has moved out of the region, the water management plan is to begin discharging water to lower the lake levels at Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake, Center Hill Lake and J. Percy Priest Lake, while taking into account downstream conditions where rainfall runoff is still making its way through the system.

“It will take several months to reduce these lake levels to more seasonal levels,” Rodino said. “What this means is there will be higher than seasonal water releases from Wolf Creek Dam (Jamestown, Ky.) on the Cumberland River, from Dale Hollow Dam (Celina, Tenn.) on the Obey River, from Center Hill Dam (Lancaster, Tenn.) on the Caney Fork River, and from J. Percy Priest Dam (Nashville, Tenn.) on the Stones River as the Corps manages water levels at these projects.”

Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander, said the dams in the Cumberland River Basin are holding a lot of water right now, but they operated perfectly during heavy rains to provide flood risk reduction benefits to the region.

“It’s a great news story,” Jones said. “While there were localized flooding impacts, especially along unregulated waterways, the Corps of Engineers dams held a lot of water back. I’m proud of our world-class water management team for balancing holding water at storage projects and releasing water when and where conditions allowed it.”

Nashville District’s water managers said the water level in Nashville would have exceeded 55 feet without the dams holding water during recent rains. The water level in Nashville crested in minor flood stage near 41 feet, so the dams reduced the water level on the Cumberland River in Music City over 14 feet.

Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky., is stepping up releases from 45,000 cubic feet per second to 60,000 cfs this afternoon. This discharge is the largest ever made from the dam. This means that water will completely fill the river channel downstream of the dam. Coupled with rainfall runoff it will likely impact areas near the river and cause some backwater with other small streams that run into the river.

With the increased discharge at Wolf Creek Dam, the area by Kendall Campground below the dam is being closed for public safety reasons.

Lake Cumberland is 754.27 feet as of noon today. A total of 83 percent of the flood control pool is currently being utilized. With the larger release from Wolf Creek Dam, water managers are continuing to balance discharges from other reservoirs to minimize impacts throughout the Cumberland River Basin.

Based on calculations and discussions with the National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center, these increases will not push stages in Nashville or Clarksville higher than current forecasts, but will result in elevated stages all along the Cumberland River for quite some time. With system releases, the forecasts are showing the river maintaining approximately a 39-foot stage in Nashville and 42-foot stage in Clarksville.

The Nashville District is also operating Barkley Reservoir in conjunction with Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Reservoir to assist with flood risk management operations for the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The stage of the Ohio River at Cairo, Ill., is currently 54.8 feet with a forecasted crest of 56.5 feet (major flood stage is 53.0 feet) next weekend.

For more information about how the Nashville District operates the Cumberland River Reservoir System, see the Water Management Education Series at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/WaterManagement/EducationSeries.aspx.

As necessary, news and information regarding water management and flood operations will be made available on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.

March means angling madness for Rock Island’s early spring spawners

Ask around what’s the best-eating freshwater fish and there’s a good chance walleye tops any serious angler’s menu.

True, walleye aren’t necessarily know for their bellicose resistance subsequent to biting a bait — leastwise not in the manner of, say, a burly smallmouth or mean-spirited musky. But owing to their delectable flavor, delicate flaky texture and bulky fillet slabs, walleye are as prized as any game fish that prowls the waters of North America.

Dale Gribble and the eye-popping walleye wall mount he made for display at the Rock Island State Park ranger station. Contact Gribble’s fishing-guide and taxidermy service at 931-743-8163.

Even though they’re not officially considered a cold-water fish, walleye are regarded by many as something of a “northern” species. To give an indication, at least three cities in Minnesota alone lay claim to the title of “Walleye Capital of the World.”

But in fact, at certain times of year, walleye fishing below the Mason-Dixon line — especially here in Tennessee — is superior even to renown Upper Midwest hotspots like the Big Lake They Called Gitche Gumee.

For starters, the world record walleye was caught by a man named Marbry Harper on Old Hickory Lake in 1960. At 41 inches and 25 pounds, that fish dwarfed the 17-18 pounders that stand as state records in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A lot of people are unaware that three years prior to the Old Hickory catch, Center Hill Lake produced a behemoth-class monster that, at 21-pounds 4-ounces, was a certified U.S. record until eclipsed by the Harper fish. You can stop in and see that fabled catch for yourself at the Rock Island State Park ranger office, where it is mounted on the wall with a placard telling the tale of how local anglers Bennie “Buck” Bryant and Glen Grissom hauled it ashore after a 20-minute tug o’ war one frigid January day in 1957.

For 54-year-old local fishing guide and master taxidermist Dale Gribble, there indeed does not exist a finer body of water than Center Hill Lake for landing trophy walleye.

Bennie “Buck” Bryant and Glen Grissom caught a 21¼ lb. walleye on Center Hill Lake in 1957. At the time it was a national record. Pictured above is Bryant and then 2-year-old Jimmy Grissom. (Photo via TN State Library and Archives)

“In my personal opinion, there is no better place anywhere in the world for walleye fishing,” said Gribble. “I have fished for walleye everywhere — from here to Canada and all over Canada. Fishing for walleye, that’s my thing. And I can tell you that when it’s on, there’s no beating walleye fishing on Center Hill Lake.”

Gribble maintains that the record Rock Island walleye isn’t even the biggest walleye he’s personally witnessed lugged out of a Center Hill honey hole.

Once when Gribble was fishing with his grandfather back in the mid-1970s, he said they observed a couple elderly anglers tow in a brute that would have eclipsed even the Old Hickory monstrosity.

“I will never forget it. They caught that thing on a bluegill, and it was he biggest walleye I’ve ever seen,” said Gribble. “I still remember the exact bush they were tied on to when they caught it. You couldn’t believe it — that fish was massive. It was huge.”

“I had a picture for years and years — I wish I still did,” he added. “It was hanging on a scale and it weighed 27 pounds. That would be a world record today.” Gribble said it measured “right around 38 inches.”

Not every walleye is a trophy, but they’re always good-eating. Here a first-time walleye fisherman shows off his catch below Cordell Hull Dam. (Photo Credit: Bill Medley, Medley Fishing School. 615-397-4137)

But it was never reported for any kind of record verification. The guys who caught it “were a couple of old-timers who didn’t care about stuff like that,” said Gribble.

As far as predicting when the fishing is going to be “on,” there’s probably no better time than March, when walleye run by the thousands up Center Hill Lake’s headwaters on the Caney Fork for their yearly spawn. That’s when and where biologists from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency collect many of the walleye they use for breeding in state-run fry-rearing facilities, like the Normandy Fish Hatchery.

“The majority of the fish we collect come from Center Hill at Rock Island,” said Mike Jolley, the TWRA fisheries manager for Upper Cumberland reservoirs.

Because of their appetizing reputation, walleye that meet size-limit regulations “generally go home with people,” said Doug Markham, a four-decade veteran of TWRA who retired last year.

For that reason, stocking programs are important for maintaining strong numbers. “It’s a fishery that needs some help to sustain itself in a lot of these waters,” Markham said. In a lot of places like the Cumberland River system, walleye “would still be there if it wasn’t for stocking, but they wouldn’t be there is such abundance,” he said.

NOTICE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO March 23

PRESS RELEASE from Wildwood Resort & Marina, Granville, Tennessee:

River Bank Cleanup and Open House:
Saturday, February 23rd, 2019, 11am – 3pm 
7316 Granville Highway
Granville, Tennessee
www.visitwildwood.com

See what’s cooking at Wildwood over the winter! Hot food and drink for volunteers
————————————————————————–

Back by popular demand, Wildwood Resort and Marina’s mid-winter Adopt-a-Stream River Bank Clean-up and Open House is scheduled for February, 23rd, 2019.

The Adopt-a-Stream program is sponsored by the Cumberland River Compact in Middle Tennessee. Members of the program care for regional rivers and streams by organizing trash pick-ups, river access projects, and educational events. Wildwood Resort and Marina has adopted a 1-mile stretch of the Cumberland River between Indian Creek and Martin’s Creek on Cumberland River at Cordell Hull Lake. Detailed information on the Adopt-a-Stream program Middle Tennessee, the health of our local rivers and streams, and how you can get involved can be found at the regional CRC Adopt-a-Stream website (http://cumberlandriverbasin.org/).

First Annual Wildwood Resort & Marina Adopt-a-Stream River Shore Cleanup and Community Open House

Wildwood’s first annual Adopt-a-Stream shore cleanup and open house was held in February, 2018. Despite a very gloomy forecast that weekend, sixty hearty souls showed up to fan out over the adopted stretch of river, armed with heavy duty trash bags and work gloves, to remove the trash. Volunteers picked up over 100 bags of garbage along the shoreline that day.

GARBAGE GONE!

Following the cleanup, volunteers celebrated what turned out to be a balmy, partly sunny day with homemade chili and drinks on the porch at Timberloft Lakeside before hearing a talk on the quality of river life on this stretch of the Cumberland as well as information on Wildwood’s developing plans for the upcoming recreational season.

The response of the community was so remarkable the Adopt-a-Stream program has awarded a blue ribbon prize to the Wildwood Community for attracting the most volunteers across all of Middle Tennessee, including Nashville, in all of 2018. CRC’s annual awards celebration is scheduled on Wednesday February 27th, 2019 at its headquarters in the Bridge Building downtown Nashville, below the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. For more information, contact natasha@wildwoodresorttn.com.

MANY THANKS to those who joined in the effort to keep our shores free from garbage. The organizers hope that you will join in again this year and bring your friends for another great effort!

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Feb. 17, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/2/17/migratory-gamebird-hunting-seasons-among-february-tfwc-agenda-items.html

Two-day meeting to be held at Ellington Agricultural Center’s Ray Bell Building in Nashville

NASHVILLE — The setting of the 2019-20 migratory game bird hunting seasons will be among the agenda items for the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its February meeting.

The two-day meeting is set for Feb. 21-22 (Thursday-Friday). Committee meetings will start at 1 p.m. on Thursday. The regular commission meeting begins at 9 a.m., Friday.

A preview of waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting seasons were made at the January meeting held in Memphis. The proclamation includes season dates and bag limits for ducks, geese, crows, dove, snipe, woodcock, rails, and sandhill cranes.

Changes in the federal framework require the TWRA to update its proclamation each year. The season change proposed to crow, woodcock, ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes were based mainly on hunter input.

Chuck Yoest, CWD (chronic wasting disease) Coordinator, will present an update on the TWRA’s CWD response efforts. James Kelly, Deer Management Program leader, will provide a brief update on changes made to the Strategic Deer Management Plan as a result of public input received and the confirmation of CWD in Tennessee.

Tennessee had a record black bear harvest in 2018. Dan Gibbs, the Black Bear Program leader, will provide an overview of the season, research, and ongoing issues.

Several TWRA divisions are in preparation for various outreach and support roles for the Bassmaster Classic and Outdoors Expo in Knoxville, March 15-17. Pro anglers will compete for three days on Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes. TWRA Fisheries Chief Frank Fiss will discuss TWRA’s involvement for the event, which is expected to attract more than 150,000 spectators.

Other updates will include in the area of marketing and R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) efforts from 2018 and a look at new tactics for this year.

The commission will elect its new officers for 2019-20 to serve as chairman, vice chairman, and secretary. The February meeting will also conclude the appointment terms for commissioners Jeff Cook (Franklin), Bill Cox (Collierville), Chad Baker (Bristol), Bill Swan (Dunlap), and Jamie Woodson (Lebanon).

Flavor-making is the spice of life for Cookeville entrepreneurs

Part of running a successful small business is knowing how to focus your energies where they’ll do the most good.

For Putnam County taste-creators John and Amanda Brantley, that means concentrating on the two aspects of their business they love most — the making and the marketing of their highly palatable spice-package products.

The Brantleys specialize in concocting a variety of culinary enhancement delights. They share an appetizing talent for mixing up flavor-packed batches of meat rubs, cooking-spice blends and other multi-purpose chow seasonings.

John Brantley and his wife Amanda run a pair of Cookeville-based culinary enhancement businesses: The Lagniappe Spice Company and the Tennessee Spice Company

Among their best-selling grill-mates for making mouthwatering flesh and fish dishes are products with names like Dixieland Steak Seasoning, Bodacious Blackened Seasoning, Booyah BBQ Shrimp Seasoning and Caribbean Citrus Seasoning.

Other products they prepare and sell include peppery-taste-laced jellies and jams, kits for supercharging stone-ground grits, and a line of gourmet cocoa mixes irresistibly infused with mood-warming essences like hazelnut, raspberry, peppermint and mocha.

The Brantleys founded their business in 2010, with the idea of sharing their shared fondness for down-home cooking and Southern food culture — especially New Orleans flavors.

They sell their products through a pair of homegrown companies — The Lagniappe Spice Company and the Tennessee Spice Company. “Lagniappe” is a Louisiana Creole French word that means “a little something extra,” or “an extra blessing.”

“Our custom blends are rooted in our Southern heritage and are sure to enhance your favorite recipes, and hopefully, a few new ones,” their website declares.

Blessings of Being a Small Business

For the Brantleys, living up to their company name means striving for “a little better quality and more product in a bag,” and both at a price that’s affordable to anybody who wants to add some zest to their kitchen cuisine repertoire and pizzazz to their backyard barbecue proficiency.

John said their adventure in commercial spice-making all began when he discovered a particularly savory Big Easy-style seasoning blend that he truly relished, but couldn’t get past the fact that it was a little on the bold side. “It was just too hot to eat in any quantity,” he said.

So he decided to improve upon it by dialing down the heat a bit in order to make it a little more accessible to palates unaccustomed to blistering levels of capsaicin-saturation. The result was a blend that was so popular with his friends that he had trouble keeping it on hand. So he decided to go into the business of making it for profit.

“That’s kind of how we got started,” John said.

“And here we are, 20-plus products later,” added Amanda.

Nowadays, friends and customers often tell John and Amanda they ought to open their own store or restaurant. But the Brantleys say they’re pretty sure that would cut into the fun factor of what they do — and cause unnecessary headaches

“We don’t have a lot of interest in running our own storefront,” said Amanda. “If people can sell it for us and customers see us enough locally, and they know where they can get our products, then that works just fine for us.”

John says one reason he’s an entrepreneur rather than a clock-puncher for someone else is that he gets to organize day-to-day production activities and business operations so as to avoid otherwise avoidable headaches.

“I really like flexibility,” said John, who spent two decades working as a quality-control and research development scientist in the commercial food-manufacturing industry.

Lagniappe Spice Company and Tennessee Spice Company are available direct-to-customer online and at a range of local and regional grocery stores and local-products boutiques.

“Our stuff is carried from time to time in places like Opryland,” said Amanda. “There’s a growing demand for ‘Made in Tennessee’ labeling in tourist-destination spots.”

She said the state Department of Agriculture’s “Pick Tennessee” program has been a good boost for their business — although she’d like to see more PickTN-focused shows and events around the state to promote Tennessee-based products to other Tennesseans.

Home Cooking at Home Shows

John, who helps plan the Upper Cumberland Home and Garden Show’s kitchen demonstration lineup, said he’s particularly fond of participating in trade shows and lifestyle expos.

There he and his wife get to meet not just large numbers of people in short periods of time, but also come in friendly contact with people who might never come across their products otherwise — and who may, as a result of sampling a succulent morsel of John and Amanda’s handiwork, become regular customers.

John especially enjoys conducting demonstrations on “doing something a little different” in the kitchen that people maybe haven’t seen before — like fashioning a meat or seafood glaze out of Lagniappe’s spiced jams or jellies.

“He’s cooked pork tenderloins and steaks before. People alway seem to like that,” said Amanda.

At the Wilson County Southern Home & Garden Expo in February, John gave a lesson on how to whip up a savory shrimp dip guaranteed to please at any party.

John said the culinary demonstration aspect of the Upper Cumberland Home and Garden Show has really come into its own the past few years as Cookeville and the surrounding region continue to draw in skilled chefs and food-and-beverage entrepreneurs.

“It’s nice to be able to showcase local talent,” he said. “Cookeville is becoming a great place for really good food.”

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Feb. 8, 2019:

Link: https://press.tnvacation.com/press-releases/cookeville-tennessee-selected-host-pan-am-kayak-bass-championship

Cookeville Selected to Host Pan-Am Kayak Bass Championship

COOKEVILLE – Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, along with USA Bass and Pan-American Sportfishing Federation will host the inaugural Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship May 28-31 in Cookeville.

Eric Jackson, president and chief operating officer of Jackson Kayak in White County

The first-of-its-kind in the world, the four-day event will welcome more than 100 of the most elite kayak bass anglers from around the globe to Center Hill Lake. The exclusive competition is invitation only and is expected to include participants from Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Canada, and more. More than 40 Pan-American countries will be invited.

“Cookeville is a world-class destination and the perfect place to showcase our state’s warm hospitality and incredible natural resources, including the lakes, rivers and streams unique to our Upper Cumberland,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “This is a tremendous win for Tennessee, and we know Putnam County will set a high standard for visitors who want to return year after year.”

In addition to being an inaugural Pan-American championship, officials with the Confederation Internationale de Peche Sportive will be in attendance to evaluate the potential for officially making kayak bass fishing a world championship level sport.

“Cookeville and Center Hill Lake quickly became the clear choice to host this historic event,” said Tony Forte, U.S. Angling founder and USA Bass president. “Kayak fishing is exploding worldwide and the Pan-American Sportfishing Federation felt it was time to make it an official sport.”

The visitors’ bureau will leverage its strong partnerships with local outdoor enthusiasts like Eric Jackson, who is an Olympian, champion kayaker, and president/CEO of Jackson Kayak. These partnerships offer an added advantage in hosting and supporting the logistics for this event.

Cookeville, Tennessee selected to host the first-ever Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship, welcoming elite anglers from around the globe, May 28-31, 2019.

Cookeville is no stranger to high level fishing attention, having hosted multiple internationally televised fishing shows on the Outdoor and Sportsman Channels and the World Fishing Network, Major League Fishing GEICO Select Series, Fishing University and Kayak Bassin’ TV.

“We have been working for several months to recruit this big win for our community,” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “As we prepared the bid-proposal for this event, we knew Cookeville-Putnam County was a natural fit. We have an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who want to compete on calm and bass-filled waters. Aside from the outstanding hospitality of our community, the value of our natural assets allows us to welcome anglers from all over the world.”

Participants are expected to arrive early for pre-fishing various area waters like Center Hill, Cordell Hull, Dale Hollow Lake, Caney Fork, Falling Water, and Calfkiller Rivers. They are also anticipated to stay and explore more local attractions, waterfalls, downtown life, etc. following the competition.

The media value for exposure during this event is anticipated to grow as several high-level outlets are showing interest in covering the competition like Pro Team Journal by Strike King, Outdoor Channel Strike King’s Fish Hard, and World Fishing Network.

The visitors’ bureau will work with the Pan-Am event staff and area hospitality partners, as well as the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

About the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau

The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc.

Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents with a savings of $358.47 per household.

Explore more at www.VisitCookevilleTN.com.