Fishing in the Smoky Mountains
There are about 2,115 miles of streams in the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making the Smokies an ideal place to cast a line and enjoy the fun and benefits of fishing in a cool mountain stream. The National Park hosts one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States, and is perfect for fishing for brook, rainbow and brown trout as well as smallmouth bass and rock bass.
There are 53 species of fish in the waters of the Great Smoky Mountains including shiners, suckers, minnows and darters.
Fishing is allowed all year in the open waters of the Smoky Mountains except for the Lynn Camp Prong during repopulation periods following restoration work. You can fish all day except for 30 minutes before official sunrise and 30 minutes after official sunset.
A valid fishing license or permit is required to fish in the streams in Tennessee or North Carolina and no trout stamp is required. Gatlinburg and Cherokee require special permits for fishing and these towns and nearby towns sell licenses and permits. They are not sold in the National Park. In Tennessee ages 13 and older need a license and in North Carolina the license requirement is for ages 16 and older. Those younger than these ages are entitled to the adult daily bag and possession limits.
The daily possession limits are five brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass or a combination of these, not to exceed five fish. Twenty rock bass may be kept and once the limit is reached a person must stop fishing. Brook, rainbow and brown trout, and smallmouth bass must be seven inches or larger. There is no limit on rock bass.
Fishermen can only use one hand-held rod with artificial flies or lures with a single hook. Dropper flies with up to two flies on a leader can be used. No worms, corn, cheese, salmon eggs, pork rinds, liquid scents and natural baits found along streams can be used as bait.
Guide services are available out of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Cherokee and Bryson City, NC, and there are several outfitters in these cities and Townsend, TN. One of the guide services and suppliers in Little River Outfitters in Townsend and here are some fishing tips from them:
If the trout sees you or your shadow he probably can’t be caught.
If your fly doesn’t move at the same rate as the current it’s in you probably won’t catch a trout.
If the trout sees your fly line or leader you probably won’t catch the trout.
If you are wading where the fish are and casting where they are not, you probably won’t catch a trout.
If the water temperature is too cold or too warm you probably won’t catch a trout.
Which fly you use is not nearly as important as the above five reasons for success or failure.
If another angler has been wading in the area where you are fishing the trout will be harder to catch for a while.
Don’t stand in the same spot and fish.
When you are fishing the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy your visit and please respect the area where you fish. Pick up your litter, don’t use rocks to dam the water into pools to trap fish, and leave the area as you found it. Don’t take souvenirs, including rocks, flowers, bushes and leaves. Let the next fisherman enjoy the beauty and great fishing of the Smoky Mountains the same way you did. And next time, bring your son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, uncle, aunt or cousin to share the wonderful experience of fishing the Great Smoky Mountains.