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Fishing in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on August 03, 2017

The Appalachian Mountains were formed 200 million years ago when the North American continent collided with the African continent.  Due to their north-east, south-east lineage they were able to escape the last ice age 10,000 years ago, making them the perfect environment for plants, animals and humans.  Because of their moist, humid, conditions and the location of the various rivers, lakes, and streams, is it any wonder why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts some of the best fishing in the country?

With numerous lakes stretching from Tennessee to North Carolina, over 2115 miles of streams and brooks, and the Little Tennessee River a 135 mile tributary of the Tennessee River, running through the Appalachian Mountains, millions of anglers flock to the park every year in hopes of trying their luck on the many bass, trout, and other aquatic species.  Due to a successful ‘Brook trout’ restoration program, anglers, can now fish for brook trout for the first time in 30 years and most streams and lakes are kept at or near their carrying capacity so as to insure the best opportunities of a life time. Throughout the year the National Park offers a wide variety of fishing experiences from remote, headwater trout streams, to large smallmouth bass streams and the park protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States.
Bass Fishing in the SMoky MountainsFishing in the park is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The park allows fishing in all streams EXCEPT the following and their upstream tributaries from the points indicated:

North Carolina
Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek.

Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.

Detailed maps and a list of park rules and regulations are available at all visitor centers and ranger stations.  You must have a valid fishing permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina in order to fish within the borders of the National Park. No permits are for sell within the park, but they can be purchased in many of the local communities, or online. Gatlinburg and Cherokee require special fishing permits.

Daily limits
Five (5 total fish) brook, rainbow, or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of fresh or stored fish.
Twenty (20 total fish) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above daily limit
A person must stop fishing immediately when they reach their daily limit, so count carefully.

Size Limits
Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum
Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum
Rockbass: no minimum
Trout or smallmouth bass caught smaller than legal size need to be safely released back into the water they were taken from.

Lures, Bait, and Equipment
The use of only ONE hand held fishing pole is permitted.

Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used.  
Only the use of artificial bait is allowed within the boundaries of the National Park. The use or possession of any type of fish bait or liquid scent other than artificial flies or lures on or along any park stream while in possession of fishing tackle is strictly prohibited. Prohibited baits include, but are not limited to, minnows (live or preserved), worms, corn, cheese, bread, salmon eggs, pork rinds, liquid scents and natural baits found along streams.  

Fishing tackle and equipment, including creels and fish in possession, are subject to inspection by park rangers.

Standing and wading in streams, lakes, and rivers can drain your body heat and lead to hypothermia.  Pay attention to what your body is saying and take frequent breaks to allow your limbs time to warm up.  Rising water levels resulting from sudden mountain storms occur frequently, so constantly monitor the water level. Water currents are usually much swifter than they appear and footing can be very dangerous on wet and moss covered rocks.  If you have children with you, remember it only takes a moment for a child to be swept away and even the best swimmers can struggle in cold, swift waters.

Be A Clean Fisherman
Just like with all outdoor activities: pack out what you pack in and if someone else has been a jerk, teach your kids respect and clean up the mess. Let’s keep our park beautiful.
Animals and fish get caught in the left over tangles of fishing lines and just imagine the pain if one of those forgotten lines still had a hook attached. We would never think of leaving our trash lying around someone’s house, well it may not have four walls or a ceiling, but a lot of inhabitants live there.

Disturbing Rocks Is Illegal And Harmful
Moving rocks is harmful to both the fish and the insects that are living in the streams. Many of the fish that live in the park spawn between the months of April and August. The vast majority of these fish build their nests in small cavities under and around the   rocks.  When people move the rocks, the nests are destroyed and the eggs and/or young fish and insects die.

Some aquatic insects attach themselves to rocks and cannot move.  When the rocks are moved they are loosened and allowed to drift free. They fall and become crushed, or dry out and die when the rocks are removed from the water.  The insects need the rocks for cover as much as the fish do and the fish need the insects for food.  It’s a perfect system.  It has worked well for thousands of years.  Let’s try not to muck it up too bad.

The National Park Service takes great pride in preserving our natural resources in an unaltered state. Again, it is unlawful to move rocks from and around streams, lakes, and rivers.  There are other rules concerning the moving of deadfall, logs and other natural objects as well. A good rule of thumb is: Ask before you touch!

So whether you’re looking to fish one of the thousands of miles of quietly bubbling streams, wade in the swift currents of the Little Tennessee River, or float lazily on one of the many peaceful lakes, you are sure to find the perfect fishing adventure just waiting for you in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.


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