Pioneer Vacation Rentals

Fishing in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains

Posted by on June 30, 2017

If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you might want to bring about your fishing pole! There are plenty of places to relax and “wet your hook”.

The big concerns of many anglers coming to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains are things like:

Can you fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

There are approximately 2,900 miles of streams within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roughly 20% of the park's streams can support trout populations due to the size of those streams. Whether you’re looking for more remote headwater trout streams to the larger coolwater smallmouth bass streams you’ll find them in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fishing is allowed throughout the year inside the park. You can fish from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. Fishing is allowed in all streams throughout the park. For more of the details on fishing inside the park find it here

Do I need a fishing license to fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Yes, if you want to fish within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you are required to possess a valid fishing license or permit issued by Tennessee or North Carolina. Both state licenses are valid throughout the national park but there’s no trout stamp required.

Tennessee License Requirements
Residents and nonresidents alike who are 13 years of age and older must have a valid license. Residents who are 65 and older may obtain a special license from the state. Buy a license from the state of Tennessee here.

North Carolina License Requirements
Residents and nonresidents who are 16 years of age and older need to have a fishing license. Residents 70 years of age and older may obtain a special license from the state. Buy a license from the state of North Carolina here.

Fishing licenses and permits cannot be purchase in the National Park, but these can be purchased online or in local nearby towns.


Are there any special licenses or permits required to fish in Gatlinburg?

Maybe. It depends on whether you’re a resident of Tennessee or not. Check the city website to get these specific details


 Are there any special licenses or permits required to fish in Cherokee?

Yes! A tribal permit is required is you plan to fish with the boundaries of the reservation. You can get all of those details here.

** Individuals who are under 16 years of age in North Carolina are entitled to the same daily bag limits as adults and are also subject to all other regulations. In Tennessee, this applies to everyone under 13 years of age.


Where are some local lakes close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to fish?

East Tennessee has many lakes and all of them have some fantastic fishing! Listed below and some area lakes and some general information about those lakes.


Douglas Lake:

Fishing in the Smoky MountainsAt Douglas Lake, the bass are most active from sunset to sunrise. So if you’re interested in the bass, make sure to make a night trip! Night trips can be especially fun if you bring a lantern and your pole and set up beneath the stars. Most bass are caught along drop offs and on the flats. Make sure to use pumpkin seed worms, jigs, crank baits, and jerk baits when you’re going after bass fish.

Crappie are found in the areas of Point One to Point Three in the river channel. Change out your bait when you go after crappies and use flies, minnows, diamond shad, and small bandit lures. The best time to troll is in the early morning hours so make sure you get some coffee in you and get up with the sun!

If you’re interested in catfish, the best time is the fish at night. Use cutbait, night crawlers, and shad. Make sure you fish along the rocky banks and bluffs.


South Holston Lake:

Just like Douglas Lake, the best time to fish for bass is at night. You might also have some luck in the early mornings at South Holston Lake. For the most part, the bass seem to be moving up to shallower waters in the late evenings to feed. The smallmouths enjoy coming out in the early mornings, but if you’re after largemouths, you’re going to want to go at night. Use brown and green worms or tubes around then many fallen trees.

Trout fishing is a little slow at South Holston Lake. However, if you use Power Bait or Salmon Eggs, you might have some luck. The best time for catching rainbow trouts is early in the mornings all the way to midday. Rooster tails and flies seem to be the best for catching trout. In hot weather, they’re more likely to be found in deep waters.

Crappie fishing at South Lake Holston Lake is pretty great. They tend to be in deeper waters, gathered around trees. Some of them prefer the shallow brush, in about six to eight feet of water. However, the larger ones tend to be ten to fifteen feet down. In the back of Painter Creek, and in either Big or Little Jacobs Creek is where you’ll find most of the crappie. You can also try out the area of Little Oak.

If you’re after Walleye fish, make sure you go at night or early morning on cloudy days. They don’t tend to come out much during the sunny weather. So grab a jacket and some coffee and plan a late trip or an early one! The best way to catch Walleye is to use Long Bill Rebels right against the bank. You can also try out nightcrawler rigs.


Tellico Lake:

Unfortunately, there’s not much information about the fishing around Tellico. If you want to try it out, make sure to take a variety of bait, and let people know what you catch there! Giving information to others will help to provide a more accurate analysis of what everyone can catch at Tellico Lake!


Norris Lake:

Locating fish at Norris Lake can be difficult because of the rapid drop of the lake level. In addition to this, there have been sub-freezing temperatures that have deterred a lot of fishermen. If you’re planning on fishing here, make sure you take a jacket!

In stained areas, largemouth can be caught at about teen feet deep on steeper, rocky banks. Striped bass remain in deeper waters – all the way up to thirty feet! This can make catching striped bass a little difficult, though not impossible. Small mouth bass can be caught at Norris Lake using live minnows or crankbaits. Also, anglers have been known to catch them using live shiners on steep, rocky banks.

Crappie are a little slower at Norris Lake. Same with the Bluegill fish. However, they’re not impossible to catch: it just takes a little more time and patience. Catfish, however, are known to be caught on steep, broken rock banks on the lower half of the Lake.


Fishing at Smoky Mountain National Park:

There are plenty of places to fish, and hopefully this information will help guide you to how you want to spend your time with your fishing pole and bait. Remember to follow the timing schedule (fishing in the morning or night) for the most effective fishing. Of course, if you’re just fishing for fun, you can go at any time and use whatever bait you’re most comfortable with. This guide is purely to help you make the best choices when going fishing.

Don’t forget to bring your camera because fishing isn’t the only fun activity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! There are beautiful landscapes to take pictures of so you can record the memories of your time spent on any of these popular area lakes. Just remember: if the temperature is cold, grab a jacket. If it’s hot, bring sun screen!

Information Center


Cabin Ownership

Community Information

Points of Interest

Video Center

Live Cam
The Best Deals in the Great
Smoky Mountains
Signup for our free newsletter to get exclusive special offers and discounts!
View All Articles