Fishing Club hooked on pastime

David Berger, Tellico Village Fishing Club president, casts near his dock on Tellico Lake.

For more than a decade, the Tellico Village Fishing Club has been one of the most popular clubs in the Village and Loudon County thanks to a large membership with welcoming arms.

Started in 2008 by the late Ed Ziobro, the local club was founded to promote local fishing and educate anglers on techniques.

“The club itself was formed by a handful of fishermen, one of which was Ed Ziobro who has now passed away, but he was a member of the club and was active up until a couple of years ago until he passed,” Pete Young, former TVFC president, said. “... It was just eight or 10 individuals at the start or inception, just informally going out and fishing and talking about fishing.”

The club quickly grew in numbers and enhanced the overall experience by adding guest speakers and notable fishermen for tips and advice. Membership is now more than 200 men and women.

“Those early days, I guess, really changed and evolved over time into guests speakers and guides and more of a formal program, instruction and a website, a lot of the things that make it run more like a professional business or a professional club,” Young said. “It laid the foundation for what it’s evolved to, and the present day club membership is 215 or 220 members. In terms of size, it’s grown consecutively every year since inception.”

Young joined the club nearly 3 1/2 years ago after retiring and immediately found his niche in the fishing community.

“I had lived in the Village prior but didn’t have the time due to work for some of the clubs and organizations,” he said. “I had always had an interest in fishing but not had the time to join the club or be a regular member, so about 3 1/2 years ago I attended a meeting at the Yacht Club. They always had good programs, guest speakers, area guides, local experts.”

David Berger replaced Young as president in January after moving into the area from Katy, Texas, nearly two years ago.

“I had just heard about it and wanted to get involved because I just love to bass fish,” Berger said. “The first tournament, everyone was really welcoming and everything. I signed up as a driver. I didn’t know where to go, so I said, ‘Please put somebody on the boat with me that knows the lake.’ They put Ed Walinski on the boat with me, and I did pretty good for my first time. I just kept getting more involved.”

Berger noticed an immediate difference in fishing between Loudon County and Texas lakes.

“In Texas, I was fishing shallow water, deep water would’ve been about 25 feet for me, and here on this lake (Tellico), it’ll get down to 90, 100 feet and drops off pretty fast, so I had to redo, basically, everything I was doing to catch any fish here,” he said. “I did a lot of worm fishing, lizard fishing. ... In Texas you can usually fish any type of wacky worm or lizard just about anytime and catch them, but up here I’ve started using Ned Rig a lot. I still use wacky worm in the summer.”

The club primarily consists of Tellico Village and Rarity Bay residents but is open to anyone from Loudon and surrounding counties, Berger said.

Although fishing is the basis for the club, Berger wants to reinforce the group does more than get on a boat and cast a line.

“I think it’s more fellowship than fishing, you know, that’s how you get to know the guys is with fishing and everything — it’s just not all about fishing,” he said.

Many anglers and property owners are concerned about a potential Asian carp invasion into the county’s lakes, which has led several members to take action.

Members are encouraging Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and local and state officials through letters, phone calls and personal meetings to take preventative measures to keep Asian carp out of the area.

“What I’d hate to see, with the Asian carp coming in, they’re an invasive species ... they come in and take over the environment and push out the native species,” Young said. “I don’t want to take a 50 percent hit because we’ve not done a good job managing a natural resource when there are possibilities to prevent the spread of the Asian carp, most notably there are barriers available. ... My sense is the club is going to continue to push on our legislators and the folks that are doing the environmental studies to be expedient about this.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has developed into another issue for the club, forcing the indefinite cancellation of monthly meetings and events. Despite limitations, anglers are still encouraged to hit the water and stay in touch with other club members while practicing safe social distancing.

“Participating in club activities, you acknowledge that you are required to possess a level of fitness and health to participate,” Berger said. “With the coronavirus going on, really consider what you want to do. ... I just don’t want anybody getting into any trouble.”

The club holds a friendly tournament the third Wednesday of the month and an outing every fourth Wednesday. For more information, visit www.tellico villagefishinggroup.com or email tellicovillage fishinggroup@gmail.com.