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Fisherman drowned above dam, not below

Larry Woody, Correspondent • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:48 PM

An area fisherman who drowned last week was fishing above Cheatham Dam, not below, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency which oversaw the rescue operation.

Initial reports said the Clarksville man was fishing "near Cheatham Dam" when he apparently fell out of his boat. Officials were further quoted as saying the man "often fished below the dam."

 Since fishing below the dam is popular because schooling bait fish attract game fish such as rockfish, white bass and sauger into the fast water, it was widely assumed that's where the accident had taken place, especially considering the "near the dam" reference.

However, TWRA spokesman Doug Markham said that assumption was incorrect. He said "near the dam" in this case referred to an area above the dam, not below.

A debate about the risk of fishing in such turbulent water prompted the U.S. Corps of Engineers to propose closing the areas to boating. That effort was defeated last summer in the wake of a fishermen uprising, supported by the TWRA and several prominent politicians.

While a number of fishermen have drowned over the years after falling into the fast water below dams, Markham said the recent fatality did not occur in that area, and the TWRA wants to set the record straight and make the public aware of it.

The TWRA insists such areas are safe for boating if individuals take proper precautions.

Markham said the drowning victim was not wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket is mandatory for all boaters in the water immediately below the dam, but is not required for boaters above the dam, although they must have one per person aboard.

An investigation into the cause of the accident continues.

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