The Look in Brief

Tennessee advisory group recommends task force for waterway conflicts

By: - January 6, 2023 6:00 am
(Photo: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

(Photo: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

A state advisory group is recommending Tennessee establish a task force to address recreational uses of rivers, lakes and streams — and the increasing number of conflicts between anglers, boaters, paddlers and swimmers competing to enjoy the state’s waterways.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) was tasked by the state legislature to study the evolving uses of state waterways and release their findings by the end of 2022. 

Tennessee has seen a surge in outdoor recreation, driven in part by the pandemic. Between 2017 and 2021, the total number of fishing and hunting licenses sold increased by 12.2%, the report noted. 

It is likely there has been a similar increase in canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and tubing too, but no one is keeping track. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency last year began collecting data from commercial paddler outfitters, but the data does not reflect individual users. Among the report’s recommendations: the state must gather more data.

The 107-page report highlights examples of conflict on waterways: one boat outfitter has resorted to hiring a deputy sheriff to provide security at a boat ramp during busy times “because their customers were being harassed by motor boaters,” the report said. Property owners have reported instances of recreational users ignorantly or deliberately trespassing . The report notes that popular sections on rivers are increasingly congested, including the Buffalo, Caney Fork Harpeth and Little rivers.

In November, the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission heard impassioned testimony from paddler groups and residents seeking more regulations of trotlines – unmanned fishing lines studded with hooks that stretched across rivers and have, in some instances, entangled paddlers and swimmers. The agency voted to require trotline users to visibly mark their lines and limited their length to extending ¾ of the way across a waterway, but rejected stronger restrictions.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.