This vast natural lake—which, technically, is more of a bayou—was formed by a series of massive earthquakes that rocked the Southeast in late 1811 and early 1812. The tremors were powerful enough to completely change the landscape and briefly reroute a section of the Mississippi River, and were felt as far away as Washington, D.C. Once the stomping grounds of legendary pioneer Davy Crockett, Reelfoot Lake today is a beloved recreation destination, and lucky for fishermen, it’s best experienced by boat.
What Makes It Great
Fishing in Tennessee’s only natural lake is an out-of-this-world experience, thanks to Reelfoot’s beautiful cypress forest and emerald-hued carpets of algae. Reelfoot is known across the country as a prime destination for fishing crappie and bluegill; the best season for these panfish is April and May. If you’re an experienced angler, though, crappie and bluegill are around all year, along with bass and catfish.
The best way to fish Reelfoot Lake is by boat. Thanks to the bayou’s shallow waters and cypress trees, you’ll have to navigate slowly and cautiously, especially near the lake’s edges. Look for the fish to hide among the underwater trees.
Five public boat launches allow anglers to launch their fishing boats (either privately owned or rented from a local business), but check the forecast to make sure winds will remain relatively calm during your outing.
Anglers will find a number of fish cleaning stations throughout Reelfoot Lake State Park near boat launches and picnic areas. You’re also allowed to fish from the banks, pier, or boardwalk, all of which are fairly productive, if you don’t have a boat or uncooperative winds won’t allow you to get out onto the lake.
Who is Going to Love It
Reelfoot Lake is beloved by anglers of all stripes, from recreational folks out to enjoy a day on the water with family to serious fishermen with eyes on the prize. If you haven’t fished in the area before, consider taking one of the park’s guided canoe or pontoon boat tours to get a feel for the lake or hiring a local guide to show you the best spots to fish. Several guides in the area have years of experience fishing at Reelfoot.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Reelfoot Lake State Park is located at 2595 Hwy 21 E in Tiptonville, about two hours north of Memphis.
Fishing at Reelfoot Lake requires a valid Tennessee Fishing license, which you can purchase either online or from a local vendor outside the state park. (Sporting goods and hardware stores all over Tennessee sell licenses.) Prices vary based on residency, length of trip, and fish species. You’ll also need a special Reelfoot-specific permit, which you can pick up at the Visitor Center on your way into the park.