Tucked away in the Northwest corner of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake stands as a testament to the enhancing beauty that nature can bestow upon a landscape. Created from the seismic activity of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes, Reelfoot Lake is a serene haven for wildlife and a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts. So, when is the best time to visit Reelfoot Lake? Continue reading as we navigate the seasons and reveal the best time to experience Reelfoot Lake.

Overview of Reelfoot Lake’s Seasons/Climate

reelfoot lake

Typical Weather Patterns

At Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, you’ll notice that the seasons have a significant impact on both the weather and the fishing conditions. In spring, which usually starts in March, the water temperature begins to warm up, making it an ideal time for bass fishing. You might prefer to visit in April or May when the weather is consistently warmer.

As the seasons progress, you’ll find that summer offers the ideal conditions for enjoying water activities and spending time outside. The fall months bring cooler temperatures, with the foliage in the surrounding areas offering a stunning backdrop for your outdoor adventures.

The winter months can be quite cold, with ice forming on the lake, so it’s important to keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared before planning outdoor activities. To help decide the best time for your visit, consider what type of activities you’d like to engage in while at Reelfoot Lake.

Significant Weather Events

While Reelfoot Lake experiences the typical seasonal weather patterns of Tennessee, there are some notable weather events that occasionally occur. Storms can pass through the area, bringing rain and sometimes even snow during the colder months.

Keep an eye on the local forecast and be prepared for potential weather changes. With a bit of planning and knowledge of the typical weather patterns, you’ll have a great time visiting and exploring Reelfoot Lake during your preferred season.

Best Time to Visit Reelfoot Lake: Peak Season

crappie fish

Time Frame

The optimal time to plan your visit to Reelfoot Lake varies depending on your interests. If you’re an avid crappie angler, early to mid-March is ideal for catching white crappie in deep water stumps, while black crappie typically become active around shoreline structures during early April. Fall crappie fishing is also fruitful in September and October. However, if observing wildlife is more your style, the winter season is perfect for witnessing the American bald eagles soar over the lake.


Visiting Reelfoot Lake in its peak season offers numerous advantages, particularly for enthusiasts of outdoor activities. Noteworthy benefits include:


Reelfoot Lake is well-known for its crappie fishing, and water temperature plays a key role in determining the best times to fish. So, fishing during peak season increases your chances of landing a memorable catch.

Wildlife watching:

A visit during the winter months allows you to witness the majestic American bald eagles as they inhabit the area. Pelicans and a wide array of other bird species can also be spotted in this time frame.


With its unique cypress trees and captivating history, there’s no shortage of adventures to embark on during your visit. Be sure to explore the shoreline and take in the scenic landscape, or pay a visit to the local museum to immerse yourself in regional history.


While visiting during peak season ensures the best experience, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:


Summer months can be quite hot and humid, which may be uncomfortable for some visitors. Dress appropriately and remember to stay hydrated.


Given the popularity of Reelfoot Lake State Park, particularly during peak fishing and wildlife-watching seasons, expect a higher number of visitors during these times.

Fishing regulations:

A fishing license is required, and certain size restrictions, such as a 10-inch minimum length limit for crappie, may dampen your fishing experience if not prepared for these regulations.

Reelfoot Lake offers a diverse range of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy throughout the year. Plan your trip with your interests and these factors in mind, and you’re sure to make the most out of your time at this unique destination.

Off-Peak or Shoulder Season at Reelfoot Lake

reelfoot lake shoulder season

Time Frame

The off-peak or shoulder season at Reelfoot Lake typically occurs during the cooler months. Although the specific time frame may vary each year, visiting Reelfoot Lake State Park between late fall and early spring (such as November to February) can offer a unique experience.


During the off-peak season, you’ll enjoy several benefits, including less crowded hiking trails and campgrounds, making it easier to connect with nature. This time of year is also ideal for bird watching, as you may spot bald eagles and other migratory birds.

Furthermore, Reelfoot Lake’s scenery takes on a different beauty during the cooler months, with the cypress trees displaying impressive colors, providing lovely photo opportunities.

Here are more benefits of visiting during the off-peak season:

Better fishing:

Anglers looking to catch crappie may find the best experience in March. The lake’s white crappie tend to prefer deeper water and may be more active during this time.

Lower prices:

Some resorts or fishing packages may offer lower prices during the shoulder season, making it an affordable time to visit.


But, of course, visiting Reelfoot Lake during the shoulder season comes with a few drawbacks. The colder weather might not be suitable for activities like swimming and some boating experiences. While the off-peak season is perfect for catching crappie, anglers looking for other species, such as catfish and bluegill, may find them less active in cooler temperatures.

Here are some of the challenges you might face during the off-season:

Limited facilities:

As the crowds thin out, there might be limited services available at the park, like reduced campground and boating options.

Wildlife encounters:

While the forest’s beauty is undoubtedly a plus, you might encounter snakes and other wildlife during your hikes – so make sure to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

Low or Off-Season: What to Expect at Reelfoot Lake

reelfoot lake off season

Time Frame

The low or off-season at Reelfoot Lake typically falls during the colder months of January and February. During this time, the Mississippi River can be at its highest, making boat access more challenging. However, it’s still a great time to visit if you’re looking for a more peaceful experience at one of Tennessee’s unique state parks.


There are several benefits to visiting Reelfoot Lake during the low season. For one, you’ll be able to enjoy the park’s ecosystem, which consists of a flooded forest with fewer crowds, making wildlife watching or hiking more enjoyable. The Eagle Festival, which takes place each year, offers fantastic opportunities to observe bald and golden eagles, as well as various other migratory bird species.

Visiting the during off-season also gives you a chance to appreciate the park’s history, with the museum and nature center providing ample knowledge about the local area, particularly the earthquakes that formed the lake.

Additionally, you’ll likely benefit from lower prices on accommodations, campsites, and guided tours, saving some money while still enjoying a fun-filled trip.


Of course, there are a few drawbacks to visiting Reelfoot Lake during the off-season. One is that cooler temperatures make activities like swimming less inviting.

Furthermore, crappie anglers may find the colder months not as conducive to their preferred fishing technique, as crappies typically move to deeper water during this time. In response, obtaining a fishing license and finding a knowledgeable guide might be more difficult.

Lastly, certain facilities, such as restaurants, may close or have limited hours, requiring advance planning when it comes to meals.

But overall, don’t let these drawbacks deter you from exploring Reelfoot Lake. During the low season, you’ll still have access to enjoy the unique ecosystem, state park attractions, and the serenity the lake offers when you make your way down the boardwalk or cozy up next to a fire pit at a campsite with picnic tables.

Events, Festivals and Attractions at Reelfoot Lake

If you’re looking to plan your trip to Reelfoot Lake, you might be wondering what events and attractions are in store for you. From eagle-watching to canoe trips, Reelfoot Lake has a variety of activities for nature enthusiasts and families alike.

Annual Highlights

Reelfoot Lake is renowned for its Eagle and Waterfowl Tours that run from January through the end of February, with daily tours at 10:00 am and additional afternoon tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 pm. If you want to witness the majestic American bald eagles, this is a prime opportunity!

In addition to the eagle tours, the Annual Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival takes place in February, while the Pelican Festival offers a family-friendly weekend filled with activities such as canoe floats, face painting, and crafts.

Tips for Attendees

If you’re attending these events and festivals, here are some tips and facilities available at Reelfoot Lake:

  • The Nature Center offers educational programming and a chance to learn about the local flora and fauna.
  • Bring your own canoes and kayaks, or rent them at the park to explore the shallow waters of the lake.
  • Enjoy a leisurely walk along the walking trails to take in the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
  • Reelfoot Lake offers convenient picnic tables for an outdoor meal and a fire pit for warming up on colder days.
  • Check out nearby attractions like Center Hill Reservoir, Boone Lake, Watauga Lake, and Kentucky Lake for more exploration opportunities.

When planning your trip, be mindful of the area’s specific rules, such as a 20 per day size limit for crappie fishing. Bring appropriate gear for fishing, such as a bream hook and minnows, but remember to avoid alligators.

Travelers’ Tips: Making the Most of Your Reelfoot Lake Visit


If you’re looking to save some money while visiting Reelfoot Lake, consider taking advantage of the park’s numerous campsites. Equipped with amenities, they provide an affordable lodging option. For those interested in fishing, crappie and bass are popular species to catch – just make sure to adhere to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s regulations, including size limits when it comes to your catch.

To enjoy a serene experience, consider visiting Reelfoot Lake during the Eagle Festival. This annual event offers the opportunity to witness magnificent bald and golden eagles in their natural habitat. The nature center on site provides an excellent spot for birdwatching and learning about the unique ecosystem.

  • For better birdwatching:
    • Check the migration season
    • Bring binoculars and a camera

Reelfoot Lake is not just for those seeking tranquility. Adventure seekers will enjoy exploring the 15,000-acre lake by boat or kayak, taking in the stunning scenery and getting up close to water-dwelling bald cypress trees. Remember, while alligators are not common residents, keep your eyes peeled for other captivating wildlife.

General Recommendations

To make your visit to Reelfoot Lake even more memorable, here are a few general tips:

  1. Fishing: While crappie and bass fishing are popular, don’t forget about bream. For the best results, use minnow as bait.
  2. Safety: Always follow safety guidelines when engaging in water-based activities or exploring the park.
  3. Local insights: Embrace the friendly atmosphere and engage with locals to get insider tips on the best spots to visit or fish.
  4. Pack right: Bring appropriate clothing, footwear, and gear for outdoor activities, especially during the hot summer months.

With these tips in mind, your visit to Reelfoot Lake State Park in northwest Tennessee will be an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.

Recommendations for Visiting Reelfoot Lake

If you’re planning a trip to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, you’re in for a treat. This unique ecosystem offers fantastic opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing, and enjoying the natural beauty of its cypress trees. But when is the best time to visit?

Summary of Recommendations

Spring: This is a great time for fishing, especially for crappie. They start biting in early to mid-March in the deep water stumps and move to shallow water in early April. The pre-spawn period offers excellent fishing opportunities. Cypress trees are also a beautiful sight during this time.

Summer: Although it can get quite hot during the summer months, Reelfoot Lake is still a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. Just make sure to plan your fishing trips during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon.

Fall: In addition to the beautiful fall colors that envelop the lake and its surrounding trees, fall is an excellent time to observe wildlife, particularly white pelicans. Make sure to take a scenic drive around the lake and along the Mississippi River’s Great River Road.

Winter: While the fishing may not be as plentiful during the winter, this is the prime time for eagle watching at Reelfoot Lake State Park. During this time of year, you can more easily spot American bald eagles in large numbers, making it a unique and exciting experience.

Whenever you choose to visit Reelfoot Lake, make sure to take your time and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of this remarkable ecosystem. Enjoy your trip, and happy exploring!

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