by By Rima Austin, contributor SPARTA LIVE | April 12, 2018 8:05 AM
Pictures by: Misty Walker
Every Saturday, there is a bass fishing tournament at Cotten’s Marina, in Rock Island. Men and women alike come from all over the country to see who can catch the most poundage of fish in the least amount of time. Located just off of Rock Island Road, it is a tight squeeze trying to get a full size truck pulling a bass boat into the parking lot of the marina. The lot is lined with trailers backed up onto the grassy knoll that line one side of the lot. On the opposite side is a concrete pad that disappears down into the murky green water of the Caney Fork River. Even at 10 a.m., the graveled lot is eerily void of people; empty trucks attached to lonely boat trailers are the only indication that, just a few hours earlier, Cotten’s Marina was bustling with activity.
Inside the office of the marina, Greg and Sherry Cotten, along with their son Rudy Cotten, prepare to receive the boaters that will be pulling back into the dock with their freshly caught fish. The office is brightly lit and in sharp contrast to the rainy gloominess of the morning. On one wall there is a mounted fish that is abundant in the local waters of White County. It is called a muskellunge, and Greg Cotten explains how popular this particular fish is in the Caney Fork River.
“We have a guy here from Wisconsin fishing for musky,” says Greg Cotten. “They have to be at 36 inches in order to keep them, which is [how long] this one is. Mostly they catch them for sport, but they are eatable.”
Just to the right of the cash register sits the Island Grill Restaurant. The upturned chairs mounted on the tables are a clear indication that the restaurant is closed for the season. However, Sherry Cotten says that within a few short weeks that will all change, and this restaurant will be alive with fresh fish dinners and live music.
“We have a band on Saturday nights when we open up,” says Sherry Cotten, as she describes a normal season. “We don’t get busy until school’s out, Memorial Day weekend. We have a boat parade, on July 4th. Some of them decorate their boats and go all out.”
Sherry Cotten explains that between the boat parade, Rock Island Farms shooting off thousands of dollars’ worth of fireworks, the restaurant, live music, and bass tournaments, the marina bustles during the summer months. This is a long way from their humble roots that began back in 1938.
“This place started out as a covered wagon,” says Greg Cotten. “They used to ice down the covered wagon for the horseback people to ride by and get them a cold one. They would sit up there next to the highway and sell beer.”
From selling beer out of the back of a wagon to selling $4 ramp fees, Greg and Sherry Cotten have seen a lot through the years, and they plan on seeing much more in the years to come. They are eager to see what this summer will bring and look forward to the visitors.
The Island Grill will officially open April 13 and will host different genres of live music every weekend. For patrons who want some excitement with their fishing, they can find a bass tournament open every Saturday. For any questions call Cotten’s Marina at (931) 686-2373 or go and visit them at 1967 Rock Island Rd., in Rock Island, Tennessee.