Coal Creek Health Day

You just need to use
the right bait!!

25 October 2017

The 17th annual event!!

Click for story by Ken Leinart
in The Courier News

Over 600 pictures posted here!

Imagine the surprise of the second grader who came to Briceville School just two weeks ago being told she had to hold a fish at the annual Coal Creek Health Day. 

Her initial response was, “No.”  She continued to decline the offer to hold a fish after repeated encouragement from her teachers and fellow students.  Not even a bribe of a quarter could get her to change her mind.

Then, Ken Leinart from the Clinton Courier News showed up.  The second grader was told that if she held a fish, Ken might take her picture and put it in the newspaper.  Not surprisingly, she changed her mind and agreed to let Ken take her picture holding a fish. 

Students from Briceville Elementary School have been assessing the health of Coal Creek by documenting what lives in it for 17 years. As in the past, this year’s event was led by world-class experts from TVA, UT, and Clinch River Chapter Trout Unlimited.  Now offspring of Coal Creek Scholars—now students at Briceville School—participate in the event.  Teachers Jenny Lindsay and Jessica McKinney, both Coal Creek Scholars, told how they assessed the health of the creek when they were students at Briceville School.     

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 16 different species of fish collected today, along with an assortment of aquatic insects displayed in separate trays.  We also saw a beaver and a snake during the collection activities.   Inside the gymnasium, students participated in fly tying and casting instructions. 

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. 

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!!


Over 600 pictures posted here!

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

Bigeye Chub

Bluntnose Minnow

Striped Shiner
Redline Darter

Rainbow Darter

Largescale Stoneroller

Spotfin Shiner

Northern Hogsucker

Blacknose Dace

Northern Studfish

Rock Bass

Snubnose Darter

Smallmouth Bass

Redbreast Sunfish

Black Redhorse

Scarlet Shiner



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

List of Volunteers:

Alford, Brian – UT Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries
Brown, Steve – Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Buffington, Buzz – Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Coombs, Joyce – UT - Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries
Douglas, Terry – Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Ferguson, Jim --- Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Geiger, Dick – Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Moore, Carol – Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
Oates, Frances – Clinch River Trout Unlimited
Saylor, Charlie – Retired TVA Genius
Thacker, Barry – Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
Wolbert, Justin – UT Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries

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