Fishing in the Smoky Mountains
A woman enjoys fishing in a Smoky Mountain stream.
Fishing can often be a forgotten option of the Smoky Mountain experience. The mountainous areas of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina provide some of the best quality fishing in the United States.
Popular fishing sites in the Smoky Mountain area include Fontana Lake, Douglas Lake, Pigeon River, and the numerous creeks located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself.
Here you'll find information regarding fishing in the park, as well as in outside communities such as Gatlinburg and Cherokee that require special permits. Smoky Mountain fishing guides are also available for hire as well.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Fishing is permitted year-round within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes before official sunset.
There are over 2,900 miles of streams within the park with approximately 580 of those miles that are fishable trout. The park offers a variety of angling experiences including remote headwater trout streams and smallmouth bass streams.
For best results, try fishing in deeper creeks below elevations of 3,000 feet. The time to fish is from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
A fishing permit or license from the state of Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish within the park. Permits and licenses are available for purchase in any local town or at the states' websites. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not sell permits or licenses. Tennessee requires everyone 13 years of age or older to purchase a permit or license, while in North Carolina the minimum age is 16.
Over 60 different species of fish call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park home. The brook trout was actually brought back from being threatened in the 1970s. The most common catches in the park are various types of trout and small mouth bass.
Daily possession limits are five fish total. If you keep more than that, you're breaking the law. The only exception is the rock bass - you may catch up to 20 of them. The fish must be at least seven inches in length to keep; anything smaller must be released. Rock bass has no minimum.
Artificial lures are the only kind of bait allowed to be used within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dropper flies may be used. Up to two flies on a leader. Worms, crickets, minnows, corn, cheese, bread, salmon eggs, pork rinds, liquid scents, and any natural/living bait found along the stream banks are illegal to use when fishing. Artificial lures are the only kind that are acceptable to use.
These must have only a single hook - no double hooks or triple hooks. The reason for this policy is so that no new species get introduced to the current environment or disrupt the natural balance or carrying capacity of the stream(s). Flipping over rocks or moving them to make dams is also illegal; this is to protect the environment, because some fish lay eggs under rocks and some rare bugs thrive under moist rocks.
Remember, this is a national park, and their duty is to preserve the environment the way it is. Any fishing equipment, from lures to rods - even the fish kept - are searchable at any time by a government official.
Additional information can be found on the official park website.
Fishing is allowed within the town of Gatlinburg except on Thursdays, when the city restocks the streams. There are several restrictions to trout fishing in the city limits, most notably you'll have to be a resident or intended resident of Tennessee. Find out more here.
Cherokee Indian Reservation (North Carolina)
Fishing is also allowed in the Cherokee Indian Reservation, located in North Carolina, on the park's boundary. Permits are required, however. Get more details here.
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