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  • Travis Dockery

The gem that is Lake Chatuge

Chances are, if you pay a visit to Chatuge Dam, you will see people of all ages taking advantage the the Chatuge Dam trail with a stroll, jog or bike ride. Most of us probably make the trek across the dam without ever thinking about the dam itself.

Construction on Chatuge Dam began in 1941 as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority system of dams. In 1942, the 150 ft tall and 3,336 ft long dam was called complete and the lake began filling up. Lake Chatuge, named after a nearby Cherokee settlement, is 13 miles long and is shared by Clay County , NC and Towns County, GA.

Originally, Chatuge Dam was built to help with flood control downstream. However, in 1954, a single hydropower generating unit was added with a summer net dependable capacity of 14 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a hydroelectric dam can produce on an average day minus the electricity used by the dam itself.

In a year with normal rainfall, Lake Chatuge varies about 10 ft from summer to provide winter flood storage. Storage capacity for Chatuge is around 62,600 acre-feet. A concrete weir has been installed below the dam to provide a steady flow into the Hiwassee River and to increase oxygen levels in the water released from the lake into the river.

Sports fishing is popular on the lake itself as well as the downstream waterways. Multiple species of bass patrol the waters of Lake Chatuge along with panfish such as crappie and bream. Several different types of catfish often bend the rods of anglers.

Lake Chatuge currently holds two Georgia fishing records with David Hobby's 25 pound 8 ounce hybrid bass caught in 1995 and a 7 pound 2 ounce smallmouth caught by Jack Hall in 1973.

In 1986, Lamar Cofer landed a 13 pounds 8 ounces walleye for a North Carolina state record. Ten years later in 1996, Michael Hogsed reeled in a 17 pounds, 7 ounces hybrid for a still-standing North Carolina record.

Recreational boating of all forms are popular on Lake Chatuge. Walk the banks of the lake on any given day and you can see skiers and tubers being pulled by a state of the art ski boat or maybe a group enjoying a leisure day on a pontoon party barge. Find a peaceful cove and you might catch an angler paddling a kayak or maybe a pair of friends trying to conquer paddle boards.

Much like the leaves in the fall, Lake Chatuge is often overlooked by those of us who live here full time. We know it's there, but we often don't appreciate all it offers to us.

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