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Smoky Mountain Fishing

Smokey Mountain Fishing

Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park can be anyone’s favorite hobby. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has almost 2,115 miles of steams within its boundaries. The Great Smoky Mountains are also known for their large trout habitat. From the remote trout streams to the large bass streams there’s definitely somewhere for everyone to fish in the Smoky Mountains. You are allowed to fish year round in the park starting at 30 minutes before sunrise and ending at 30 minutes after sunset. Most streams are open for fishing, however certain posted streams will be closed for fishing in order to protect some of the threatened fish. Complete detailed information is available at any visitor center or ranger station, this information will include a map and a list of regulations. To fish in the park you must have a valid fishing license or a valid permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the actual park but they can be purchased in various places in nearby towns. You must have a special permit to fish in Cherokee and Gatlinburg TN.

Requirements for a Fishing License in Tennessee
  • All fishers (residents and nonresidents) from age 13 and older must have a valid license.
  • Fishers 65 and older can purchase a special license from the state.
  • All fishers (residents and nonresidents) age 16 and older need a valid license.
  • Fishers 70 and older may purchase a special license from the state.
  • All fishers under 16 in North Carolina and under 13 in Tennessee are entitled to the adult daily bag limits and are subject to all other regulations.

Possession Limits per day

  • Any combination of brown trout, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass total of 5
    20 rock bass
  • A person has to stop fishing once the limit is reached

Size limits for fish

  • Rainbow and brown trout: 7 inches minimum
  • Smallmouth bass: 7 inches minimum
  • Rockbass: there is no minimum
  • If a trout of smallmouth bass is caught less than the legal length should be immediately returned to the water.

Bait and Equipment

  • You can only use one hand held rod while fishing.
  • Artificial flies or lures with a single hook may only be used. Dropper flies can be used. Use only up to two flies on a leader.
  • Use or having possession of any form of bait or liquid scent other than artificial flies or lures on any park stream while having a fishing tackle is prohibited.
  • Use or having possession of double, treble, or gang hooks is prohibited.
  • Fishing tackle and equipment are subject to inspection by authorized personnel.
  • Prohibited baits include, but not limited to, minnows, worms, corn, cheese, bread, salmon eggs, pork rinds, liquid scents and natural baits found close to streams.
  • Please report violators to nearest ranger or to (865) 436-1294.

For your safety

  • Standing and / or wading in streams can drain body heat and lead to hypothermia.
  • Be sure to monitor water level, rising water levels can result from sudden storms.
  • Currents are more dangerous than they appear so take caution if you get in the water.
  • Wet and moss covered rocks can be very hard to walk on. Take caution when stepping into the water.
  • Be a clean fisherman. If there is trash around you, please pick it up. Help keep the park beautiful.

The Smoky Mountain park has had an active brook trout restoration program since 1987 and ever since the turn of the century, the brook trout has lost about 75% of its range in the park due to logging and the introduction of the non-native rainbow trout. The main task of the program is to restore native brook trout populations to streams with natural barriers such as waterfalls that prevent invasion of non-native trout species. So far this program has restored nine streams, and the restoration of eight additional streams at mid-to-low elevations is planned. The park's brook trout restoration efforts have restored 11% of the 97.5 miles of stream exclusively occupied by brook trout. Stream acidity has increased 5-fold in high elevation streams in the last 20 years due to pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels. These data add urgency to the need to restore brook trout to streams at lower elevations with more stable water chemistry. Because of the results of recent fisheries research and the success of the park's brook trout restoration effort, park management has opened sections of eight streams to brook trout fishing and harvest on an experimental basis. Four of the stream segments are in North Carolina and four are in Tennessee. The same possession and minimum size restrictions apply to brook trout in these streams that apply to trout fishing in other open park waters (maximum possession five total fish, minimum length seven inches). The eight streams open to brook trout fishing are shown on the map side of this folder in yellow. The three-year experimental opening begins July 1, 2002. The eight open streams will be monitored annually and anglers catch and harvest success will be periodically checked. At the conclusion of the experiment, biologists will evaluate the data and make recommendations for the future of brook trout fishing in the park.

Gatlinburg Fishing FAQ’s

The mission of the National Park Service is to protect and preserve naturally functioning ecosystems. Research has shown that intentionally or accidentally introduced non-native species of fish, animals, and plants can have very serious negative impacts on native species. In fact, non-native animals and fish now threaten many native fish species in national parks. Bait fishing is prohibited to prevent accidental introductions of non-native aquatic organisms. Anglers often release unused bait at the end of a day of fishing without realizing their bait can may be filled with non-native organisms that may harm native fish. The collection of naturally occurring bait is also prohibited because it may upset natural ecological balances in habitats where collection occurs. Historic information shows that fish caught with corn or bread suffer higher hooking mortality, which may alter the natural age and size structure within the fish community. Chumming with corn or bread is illegal under National Park Service regulations.

Fishing has been a part of the historic use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park since its creation. From 1934 to 1974 the fishery management program stocked fish for recreational angling. Non-native rainbow trout and northern strains of brook trout were stocked in most of the park's major stream systems through the early 1950s. From then until 1975, stocking occurred only in heavily fished streams and in stream segments adjacent to campgrounds and picnic areas. During this latter period, park managers realized that stocking non-native fish was inconsistent with National Park Service policies and this practice was eliminated in 1975. National Park Service policies state that in natural areas like the Smokies stocking is only permitted to re-establish native species. The only stocking practiced today seeks to restore endangered and threatened native species like the Smoky Mountain madtom and the spotfin chub to waters where they once thrived. Fisheries monitoring activities in the park have clearly shown that stocking is not needed. This information shows that many park streams have 2,000-4,000 trout per mile. Many of these are 4"-8" rainbow trout, but in some streams brown trout 8"-20" are commonly found.

Many of the fish which anglers catch do not meet the park's size limits and must be released. Current fisheries research indicates treble hooks cause higher hooking mortality rates than single hook lures.

The park offers a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year. So the reality is that the best place to fish depends on the type of experience each angler desires. Remember, fishing pressure tends to be highest nearest the roads.