It’s one thing to see a monster catfish at the Tennessee Aquarium; it’s quite another to reel one in on 10-pound test line, warns Coast Guard captain and fishing guide Richard Simms. As owner of Scenic City Fishing Charters Simms has helped hundreds of fishermen (and women) reel in everything from crappie to largemouth bass, but his specialty are the whiskered blue giants that lurk in the depths of the Tennessee River – catfish.
Most of his tours take place within Chattanooga city limits, 15 miles up- or downstream from Chickamauga Dam on the Tennessee River. In fact, his clients often fish within sight of downtown’s Aquarium. Growing up in the area, Simms has an innate understanding of local waters and marine life. What’s more, he holds a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management, and even worked for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for several years.
“The Tennessee River in the Chattanooga region is unique in that it is so productive and so varied,” explains Sims. “It’s also a catfish factory. For most of the year it is very hard to go fishing here and NOT catch catfish." Five to ten pound catfish are routine, ten to 20 pound fish aren't unusual and each year brings numerous catches in the 30 to 50 pound class, he says. “The largest I've had a client catch was 75 pounds, which holds a line class world record.”