A fisherman's paradise, the streams, rivers, and lakes in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are home to an impressive diversity of fish. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout, bass, crappie, shiners, and more call the streams and tributaries in the Smokies home. People of all ages can fish in open waters year-round, and as of March 2015 – when the Lynn Camp Prong was reopened – all of the streams within the park's boundaries are open to fishing! That means that anglers have access to hundreds of miles of streams (among the almost 3,000) that are able to support trout populations in the Great Smoky Mountains.
In the Great Smoky Mountains, where most seasons are relatively mild, fishing is almost a year-round activity. Along with great fishing in the many streams, lakes, ponds, and rivers in the Smokies, anglers will get the stunning scenery that attracts millions of visitors to the area each year. In fact, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. And with 57 other national parks to contend with in the National Park Service, that’s saying something!
Spring + Summer Fishing
Spring will offer blooming wildflowers, lush green trees, and flowering bushes and plants. Summer means flowing waterfalls, warmer waters for splashing around in swimming holes or along the banks, and lots of wildlife out and about.
Fall boasts a whole new perspective, with the landscape transforming with the changing of the leaves. Rich reds, vibrant golds, and deep oranges paint the mountains for a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Each season brings something new to the Smokies, so a day fishing in the area could be a brand new experience each time you come. Whether you’re getting away for some time to yourself, planning a special father-son trip, coming to test your skills at the ever-popular Smoky Mountain Trout Tournaments, or having an outdoorsman’s bachelor party, you’re sure to enjoy your time fishing in the Smoky Mountains.
Feel at peace, cast a line, and soak in the serenity and beauty of the Smokies. Below is a Smoky Mountains fishing guide to help you get the most of your fishing experience in the Great Smoky Mountains. Along with some of the most popular fishing spots, you’ll find helpful information about fishing in the area, the conservation efforts of area groups, and the types of fish you can expect to find in the cool waters of the mountains.
Conservation Efforts in the Smokies
A lot of work goes into keeping the Great Smoky Mountains great. The waters in the Smokies – whether lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, or small tributaries – are no exception. In 2015, a 7-year conservation project finished after successfully restoring native brook trout to the area. Logging, a major part of the Smokies’ economy in the past, did a great deal of damage to the native brook trout population in the 1900s. About 75% of the brook trout population was lost because of less and less room for the fish to live. This and other restoration projects have helped the Smokies continue to thrive, and many more conservation efforts will no doubt be put in place in the future. It was the work of local volunteers, Federation of Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited, and Friends of the Smokies – just to name a few – that made the native brook trout project possible.
What can you do?
Contact the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more information about volunteering in the park. If you can’t volunteer, one way you can help keep the park beautiful and safe for the wildlife and for future generations is to follow the “Leave no trace” philosophy. It’s an idea perfectly summed up with a quote by legendary Chief Seattle: “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.” Never leave trash along the trails, don’t disturb wildlife, and always stay on trails to keep from damaging the land.
Fish Species in the Smokies
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a huge diversity of fish – 67 species covering more than 12 families. On a fishing excursion to the Smokies, you may find: minnows, suckers, bass, trout, darters, lampreys, redhorses (river, golden, and sicklefin), brook silverside, sunfish, warmouth, bluegill, walleye, and crappie to name a few.
While conservation efforts are in place, some fish have become endangered or threatened over the years. The endangered and threatened fish cover 4 species – spotfin chub, yellowfin madtom, smoky madtom, and duskytail – and all are federally protected and live in the lower part of Abrams creek.
Top Fishing Spots
There are lots of great spots for fishing in the Smokies, and because most of the streams within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park stay at max capacity a majority of the time, anglers will have plenty of options. Of course, the best fishing really depends on what time of year you’ll be here and what type of fishing you’ll be doing, but some of the best fishing spots include:
Because of its great water chemistry, Abrams Creek is a favorite of anglers in the park. The chemistry comes from the water flowing through limestone beneath Cades Cove, giving it more nutrients and thus producing higher quality fish. You can access the creek at the Cades Cove area or from the Abrams Creek Campground.
Little Pigeon River | West Prong
Stocked with rainbow trout by the City of Gatlinburg, the West Prong of Little Pigeon River offers some great Smoky Mountain fishing. It’s a wide stream that’s easy to wade in several parts, particularly when access via the Sugarland area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Little Pigeon River | Middle Prong
The Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River (Greenbriar) is near the road for its first 5 miles, so access is fairly easy. It’s also considered one of the most beautiful streams because of its river rocks, flowing waters, and beautiful wooded surroundings. Here you’ll find mainly rainbow trout, but some brown trout and brook trout live here as well.
Smokies Angling Adventures
Whether you’re new to fishing or just want to up your game with an experienced guide, a fishing trip with Smokies Angling Adventures Guide Service is a great way to go. The seasoned anglers specialize in crappie, bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, trout, and striper fish trips, and they’re always happy to pass on their years of Smoky Mountains fishing knowledge to you!
Captain David Berry boasts 24+ years of fishing experience in East Tennessee, with wins and placings in many tournaments. They can take you out for a fun day of family fishing or give you instruction on casting techniques, locating fish, reading electronics, and more!
Rules, Regulations & Licenses
For more information about fishing on the waterways of the Smokies, be sure to visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). As of 2020, fishing licenses go on sale February 18 each year, and you can buy most from sporting goods stores, county clerk offices, hardware stores, docks, TWRA offices, or online. Be sure to check online for water safety, size requirements and possession limits, and fishing times in the park before heading out for a day of fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Where should I stay?
At Cabins For You, we have a huge family of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge cabins for your fishing retreat. We have some beautiful cabins on the water or cabins just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you’ll be close to some of the best fishing spots in the area. Or you can browse our cabins and choose a mountain view for a break from the water after a long day of fishing. However you like to relax after fishing – playing games, soaking in the hot tub, climbing into a soft bed, watching movies, or enjoying mountain views – we can make it happen!