The Sweet 16 of
Coal Creek Health Days
28 October 2016
Briceville School

The quote of the day coming from a little boy holding a big fish was,
“This fish is big and juicy just like at Long John Silvers


Yes, students from Briceville Elementary School have been assessing the health of Coal Creek by documenting what lives in it for 16 years. As in the past, this year’s Sweet 16 event was led by world-class experts from TVA, UT, and Clinch River Chapter Trout Unlimited.  And for the first time, offspring of Coal Creek Scholars—now students at Briceville School—participated in the event.     

If you want to graduate from Briceville Elementary School, you first have to hold a fish collected during the annual Coal Creek Health Day sampling event.  We don’t get every student to hold a fish every year, but we do at least once before they graduate, even if we have to bribe them with a quarter.

The creek that gives the area its name, Coal Creek, runs beside Briceville School.  It's a living laboratory!!  Each class took a turn participating in a bioassay of Coal Creek.  An aquarium was filled with 18 different species of fish collected today, along with an assortment of aquatic insects displayed in separate trays.  Inside the gymnasium, students participated in fly tying and casting instructions. 

Barry gave this sweet girl a quarter to hold a fish

Do you know which elementary school in Tennessee has participated in a fish restoration project?  We do, it’s called Briceville.

Bioassays conducted in the past show that Coal Creek rates as good in its diversity of aquatic insects, but only fair in its diversity of native fish species.  Insects can fly to repopulate Coal Creek as water quality has improved, but not fish.  The cold water of the Clinch River tailwater below Norris Dam appears to impede the natural recruitment of some missing warm-water species.

In 2007, Briceville students participated in an effort by aquatic biologists from UT, TVA,
and TDEC to introduce rainbow darters, which should be present based on current water quality conditions as described at

Right on cue, young rainbow darters were again collected this year, indicating that
natural reproduction is occurring.

With so many activities taking place at once, we always worry about having enough
volunteers.  As always, the
Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited stepped up to
the plate, along with our friends from UT and TVA.  This year, volunteers were provided with long-sleeve Coal Creek tee-shirts and red bandanas. 


Thanks so much to Briceville School Principal Travis Hutcheson, Tonya Roldan, and all the teachers for allowing us the pleasure of spending the day with their well-mannered students. And, don't forget the cafeteria ladies who fed us lunch and Bobby McCoy and Kippie Leinart whose famous shiny floors we got wet and muddy.

Coal Creek Scholars at Anderson County High School tell us that collecting fish and insects from the creek on Coal Creek Health Day remains their fondest memory of Briceville Elementary School.  Our fondest memory is seeing Briceville students excel in elementary school, middle school and high school, so they can go to college and become productive members of society. 

We call it Briceville School’s unbroken circle of success!!

Special thanks to Channel 8 News WVLT's Brittney Coggins, for sharing our adventure today with their viewing audience at

Here is the list of species found in Coal Creek this year:

Smallmouth bass
Striped shiner
Largescale stoneroller
Black redhorse
Rainbow darter
Redline darter
Rock bass
Northern hogsucker
Snubnose darter
Creek chub
White sucker
Blacknose dace
Northern studfish
Bluntnose minnow
Greenside darter
Bigeye chub
Redbreast sunfish
Blueside darter

J. Brian Alford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Fishery
Conservation & Management
The University of Tennessee
Dept. of Forestry, Wildlife,
and Fisheries


Alford, Brian – UT
Buffington, Buzz – TU
Coombs, Joyce – UT
Douglas, Terry – TU
McMahan, Denny – TU
Mollish, Jon Michael – TVA
Moore, Carol – CCWF
Oates, Frances – TU
Saylor, Charlie – TVA
Sowell, Dianne – TU
Thacker, Barry – CCWF
Walker, Dan – UT
Wolbert, Justin – UT

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