If a bad day’s fishing is better than a good day’s work, Richard Simms has found himself a great way to make a living.
“I’ve built a thriving business,” says Simms, whose Scenic City Fishing Charters team led approximately 450 trips last year. “When I was growing up in Chattanooga, the river was basically seen as a hindrance in trying to figure out how to cross. Now I am endlessly excited to see how people have come to regard the Tennessee River as a tremendous natural resource it is. . “
Simms was never interested in working in an office, and after earning a degree in wildlife management from Tennessee Technological University, he spent the first nine years of his career at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. He worked as a game warden in Marion County, then as a photographer based in the Nashville office, but eventually returned home to Chattanooga to work for NewsChannel 9 as a photographer and digital editor.
In 2006, Simms started his business as a fishing guide, working weekends on the water and switching from Monday to Friday to his day job.
“It didn’t take long for me to realize that this niche was definitely there,” he says. “I did it part time for many years, but in 2014 I decided I was ready to start guiding full time, and I met other passionate people, great anglers. and who slowly but surely began to add guides. “
Now Simms is one of seven guides on his team who take clients on water 15-20 miles upstream from Chickamauga Dam to Chickamauga Lake 15-20 miles downstream to Nickajack Reservoir and everywhere in between.
“Largemouth bass guides stay around Chickamauga Lake proper,” says Simms. “Those who catch catfish mix it up a bit.”
The pandemic put a temporary cramp on his business and forced a wave of cancellations in the spring of 2020, but once the closures were lifted the floodgates opened, Simms says.
“The river has always been a great place to get away from it all, but last year it got crazy,” he says. “People were desperately looking for something to do and they couldn’t go to the movies or to a restaurant. You and your family going fishing was a perfect opportunity.”
But while 2020 has been a banner year for life on the water, business has always been booming, he adds. Chickamauga Lake has become a nationally recognized bass fishing hotspot since the inception of a TWRA stocking program 20 years ago, and cat fishing has a lot more character. than previously.
“A lot of times we fish right in the middle of downtown Chattanooga, and I always love taking pictures of big catfish in front of the Tennessee Aquarium,” says Simms. “It’s a really cool thing to see a monster blue catfish in the Tennessee aquarium, but quite another to see one on the end of your line.”
Picturesque town fishing charters
* Founded: 2006
* Staff: Seven guides, including owner Richard Simms
* Cost: Costs vary depending on the number of people and the length of the trip, but a trip for two people typically costs $ 250 for four hours.
* In line: sceniccityfishing.com
Most fishing expeditions are catch and release, especially on the bass fishing side of the house, and the business attracts clients ranging from locals looking to learn more about the waters from their hometown to international travelers exploring entirely new countries, says Simms.
“I guided a man from China once, and we have a few local people calling on us,” Simms says. “A lot of the local business we get is from people with family who come from out of town and want to keep them entertained.”
As the temperatures heat up, Simms knows he can expect to see familiar faces, and it’s become one of the best parts of the business, he says.
“We have people who will get off the ship in March and April from a trip and book next year’s trip,” he says. “I have clients who have fished with me or one of our guides once a year since we started in 2006.”