One of the best things about kayaking is exploring the outdoors and enjoying the scenery as you paddle along. Add to it, the fishing component, and you have a great relaxation package that is multi-dimensional and ensures tons of fun too.
The kayaking gear is as important as the location you choose, as, after all, it is all about enjoying and relaxing in the outdoors. We have cut out your work and narrowed down a few great options on lakes and rivers in Tennessee that you can venture out to.
What are the Best Places to Fish in Tennessee?
Some of the best rivers to fish at in “The Volunteer State” are Little River, Holston River, The Harpeth River, The Caney Fork River and Little Pigeon River, while the top fishing lakes in TN are Boone Lake, Old Hickory Lake, Percy Priest Lake, Lake Chickamauga and Kentucky Lake.
Top 5 Rivers
Here are the top 5 rivers in Tennessee that will guarantee you a great outing whether you want to kayak or fish kayak:
Little River is around 60-mile (97 km) and covers a 380-square-mile (980 km2) area. It is meant to have some of the most breath-taking surroundings in the southeastern United States.
The initial 18 miles (29 km) of this river can be found around the edges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The rest of the 42 miles (68 km) can be seen flowing out from the mountains and passes through the Blount County and ends up in Tennessee River at Fort Loudon Lake in Knox County.
The river opens up to a flat region called Metcalf Bottoms, and there is an attractive area for picnics and wading.
There are quite a few waterfalls that also fall into the river. One such fall is Meigs Falls and there is plenty of parking for viewing too. has parking for viewing.
The Holston River starts close to the Kingsport and merges with the North Fork Holston and South Fork Holston Rivers.
The section of the river below the Cherokee Dam is the longest and quite scenic tailwater in the entire Tennessee Valley. From that point onwards, the river flows 52 miles to Knoxville, and then there is a confluence with the French Broad River. The wind direction takes a lot of paddlers within the Holston River to the Tennessee River on into Knoxville.
The Holston River Park (intercity) provides blueway access that includes a boat ramp and 2 fishing piers.
Some of the fish that you can frequently find here include adult and fingerling trout.
The river also provides great opportunities to the enthusiasts to do floating as well as wading.
The Harpeth River
The Harpeth River finishes into the Cumberland River, an, flows across the Williamson and Cheatham counties.
This river is 115 miles long and is a great option for those looking to kayak in shallow and very slow-moving waters. These waters are probably the best bet for kayakers looking for casual outing or beginners making it perfect for the beginning or casual kayakers or canoe’ers. On the other hand, experienced anglers or floaters may not get the thrill they get in deeper and faster waters; however, they may find the surroundings scenic. This river can also be a great option for those looking to relax and unwind on a nice sunny day when the weather is behaving well.
The Caney Fork River
The Caney Fork River is 143 miles long and passes through 11 counties. Most of the activities in this river are in Grundy, Warren, Dekalb, White, Putnam, and Smith.
The name of this river is derived from the thick cane breaks that thrive along the river’s banks. This started way back when the European explorers first came and inhabited this area.
It is a beautiful attraction that is visited by nature enthusiasts all year round. The water is generally cool and clear for kayakers to enjoy, regardless of the season.
On an annual basis, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency adds Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout fish in the river. For this reason alone, this river is one of the best and most sought after fishing spots in Tennessee.
Little Pigeon River
The Little Pigeon River is located completely inside the Sevier County. It is composed of multiple streams that collectively flow on the dividing ridge between Tennessee and North Carolina and within the confines of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This river is also subdivided into three little streams: East, Middle, and West, with the first two being less notable.
The West Prong of this river is more renowned as it drains across the big tourist towns namely Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The merging of the two forks takes place at Sevierville.
Do not be fooled by the name as it isn’t a tributary that originates from the Pigeon River close by. It got its name from the birds that frequented the area.
Top 5 Lakes
We have shortlisted top 5 lakes in Tennessee below that are meant to be great for fish kayaking:
Boone Lake is renowned for the varied recreational activities that it has to offer. Some of the most popular ones are swimming, water skiing, and fishing. The lake is 18 square kilometers long, has a marina, as well as convenient boat ramps that allow its visitors’ easy access to the lake.
This is one of the best places for sport fishing as the variety of species of fish is amazing – with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black bass, and striped bass to give you some big names. If you are a carp or catfish fan, then you can find those too!
The lake spans across two counties in northeastern Tennessee and came about due to damming of the South Fork Holston River and fluctuating watermarks.
Old Hickory Lake
The Old Hickory Lake has its borders with Sumner and Davidson counties and can be found in the north towards Nashville. This lake is close to the city so you can have the best of both worlds – a scenic lakeside as well as city nightlife and luxuries.
It is meant to be a great getaway for those looking to relax and unwind. You can rent a boat or bring your kayak and head on to fishing or just lay on the deck to get some tanning.
This lake is popular for bass and catfish. Some of the best recreational activities include hiking at the Rockland Recreational Area and Moss-Wright Park playgrounds that are a hit amongst the kids.
Percy Priest Lake
Percy Priest Lake is based in the heart of Nashville and is a renowned spot for swimmers. You can fish kayak and enjoy the city lights or just focus on fishing and unwind. If you do not have your boat or kayak, do not despair. This lake has paddleboards for rent too. The lake and offers quite a few tourist spots and activities when you are visiting such as a Sprocket Rocket Party Bike, or a city tour.
This lake provides anglers and kayakers with the ideal opportunity to enjoy a quiet location that is within the city realms but far from the madding crowd. The downtown is not too far though and you can always switch between the two whenever you have had enough of one side.
Lake Chickamauga has been consistently ranked as best for fishing by anglers. Over the last decade or so, this lake has grown in popularity and seen as a great spot for fishing giant bass that can be found in abundance.
The lake is so popular (particularly during winter and early spring) that it is difficult to get a decent spot at times. And even if you do, a lot of anglers will tell you that those spots are already ‘cleaned-up’ by a handful of boaters before them.
Some of the biggest fish-catching records were made on this lake e.g. the Tennessee State largemouth record of 15 lbs and 3oz monster.
The Dayton city is a famous spot for arranging tournaments; in particular, the Fish Dayton program at the lake helps promote fishing and visiting and enjoying the city.
The Kentucky Lake, as the name suggests, is present in Tennessee and Kentucky and a section of the Tennessee River system.
This lake covers an area of around 160,000 acres and also offers 2,064 miles of shoreline. This has been a preferred venue for many big tournaments for bass fishing for quite a few years. This location has also been consistently used by the Bassmaster High School series for its National Championship.
It is an amazing shallow water fishing spot, as long as you know where to spot them, and are patient. A lot of people vouch for the great quality and experience they have had fishing in this lake, with appreciations regarding its size too.
Kayaking is undoubtedly an underrated water sport, and fish kayaking even more so. This guide aims to highlight some of the best spots in Tennessee that you may find safe and enjoyable to practice this great sport. Before you set out on your trip, always ring their offices or check the routes and facilities nearby so you are not disappointed in any way, when you get there.