Fly Fishing in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountain Range
Smoky Mountain Fishing Regulations (short version):
Before casting your line in any stream throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll need to purchase a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license. Though licenses can't be purchased in the park, they can be obtained from various sources close to the park. A non-residents 1-day permit runs $11.50 and can be purchased in Gatlinburg at city hall, and the chamber of commerce. A daily permit for Gatlinburg is only $2.50, and a 3-day Gatlinburg permit is $9.50. In the Smokies fishing is permitted year round from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. But be sure to know your fish before stepping in the stream, possession of Brook trout (speckled) is prohibited. There is a limit of a combination of five Brown and Rainbow trout per day (minimum 7 inches). In the park only artificial flies and lures may be utilized, and only one hand-held rod is allowed per person. In order to protect and study the threatened Brook trout there are some streams that are closed to fishing. If you have any questions while in the park just stop by a ranger's station. You can also obtain maps at ranger stations. For more detailed information, read on.
The following information was printed in an official park publication. The official publication for all park regulations is Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations. A copy of the Code can be obtained at most ranger stations and visitor centers.
You must have in your possession a valid Tennessee or North Carolina state fishing license to fish all open park waters. Licenses must be presented at the request of a park ranger.
Fishing License Tennessee: Residents and nonresidents age 13 and older are required to have a license. The exception is residents who were 65 prior to March 1, 1990. These persons require only proof of age and Tennessee residence.
North Carolina License Requirements: Residents and nonresidents age 16 and older are required to have a license. Residents age 70 and older may obtain a special license from the state.
Persons age 16 and under in North Carolina and age 13 and under in Tennessee are entitled to the same limits as adults and are subject to all other regulations.
Fishing licenses may not be purchased from the park. However, they may be purchased in surrounding towns (see license cost in "short version" above.)
Fishing is permitted in open waters year round.
Fishing may take place from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.
Daily Possession Limits
Due to an aggressive program formed to protect and restore Brook trout to a self sustaining level the possession of Brook trout is prohibited in the park. Formative logging operations in the early 1900s all but eliminated the Brook trout from its natural range.
The park precludes fishermen from keeping no more than five (5) Brown or Rainbow trout, Small Mouth bass, or a combination of these (7 inch minimum), each day or in their possession. Any Brook trout that are caught must be returned immediately to the stream unharmed.
Lures, Bait, and Equipment
(a) One hand-held rod per person in the park.
(b) Fishermen may only use artificial lures or flies with a single hook.
(c) Fishing equipment and tackle, including creels and fish in possession are subject to inspection by authorized personnel.
Park Fish Restoration Efforts
In most streams above 2000 feet in elevation the native Brook trout (speckled) was originally present. Though that was before extensive logging operations began in the early 1900s and caused contamination in over 160 miles of clear mountain streams. These logging excavations eventually eliminated the Brook trout from about 50% of its original range.
Rainbow trout were also stocked during that same time period in every major stream for recreational fishing. Though stocked only once in the Smokies, non-native Brown trout migrated from waters downstream in North Carolina and Tennessee. These exotic game fish grew to larger sizes in park waters and the native Brook trout were found to be displaced.
Though the Park's primary purpose is to perpetuate and protect native species and their natural environments so that visitors may get an up close glimpse of the park's majestic wildlife, the recreational aspects of fishing are important as well. Hence, the park's focus on preservation of native species like the Brook trout, and the closure of streams.
Whereas many of the park's streams are managed for self-perpetuating populations like these game fish there are currently no plans to eliminate Rainbows and Browns. However, restrictive regulations like the use of artificial flies and lures are enforced so that no non-native species are introduced into the streams.
Currently, research has begun to determine if there is a distinct Southern Appalachian genetic strain of Brook trout. If so, efforts to restore their habitat will continue at a greater pace.
Work is ongoing to study and convert many lost streams back to waters in which Brook trout can flourish. Some of the park's native brook trout species are even protected from invasion of exotic trout species by barriers like waterfalls. So far, park biologists know that of the 120 miles of pure Brook trout streams 40 miles of those streams are protected by functional barriers. In order to prevent Browns and Rainbow trout from migrating upstream, some waterfalls are being studied to determine how high a falls must be to prevent fish from swimming over them.
The park's pursuit of a restoration program has been ongoing for several years. The Brook trout program's objective is to grow the population of native Brook trout in order to produce a self-sustaining natural community. This initiative's goal is to eventually allow for fishing of the species in the park. People and organizations including Trout Unlimited, the American Fisheries Society, the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, and Land Between the Lakes have joined the National Park Service to raise funds for the restoration effort. Even a limited edition brook trout print created by artist Lee Roberson and titled "Fragile Treasure" was commissioned with proceeds going directly to the restoration fund. Now, the public will be able to contribute directly to a threatened native park species' restoration. For more information, contact Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
Found in the slightly acidic waters of the Smokies, caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies are a part of the life and food chain of the Smokies. Before fishing in the Smokies, take time to learn some of these intricacies and you're sure to improve your success as an angler here.
TROUT OF THE SMOKIES
The Brook is the only trout species native to the Smoky Mountains. Also referred to as "spec" or "speckled trout", the Brook, though not a pure trout, is referred to as a "char". The Brook trout is unable to tolerate high temperatures and environmental abuses like high angling pressure or pollution. The Brook trout is also at a competitive disadvantage, due to its smaller size, when up against Rainbow trout. Thus, the Brown trout will retreat upstream to avoid competition. At least 120 miles of stream have been marked for special protection status as the park looks to revitalize its Speckled trout population. More detailed info about the speckled.
Of the game fish found in the park, the Brown is the largest. This trout species has a reputation for adaptability and hardiness. Brown trout usually prefer slower waters and low-lying streams and stay in areas with good cover. More detailed info about the brown.
The Due partly to its size, the Rainbow is also the most sought after game fish in the park. Rainbow trout are found in most Smoky Mountain streams because of a mass stocking of this non-native species that took place years ago.More detailed info about the rainbow.
Various outdoor outfitters and sporting goods stores in adjacent towns are some of the park's biggest resources. Most avid fishermen and can offer personal advice from having fished the park and come in to contact with noted gamefish.
Closed and Excluded Waters for Trout Fishing
Lands Creek and Mingus Creek are public water supplies and are closed to fishing.
The following streams and their tributaries are closed to fishing as well, upstream, so that the native brook trout (speckled) can replenish. Consult the appropriate USGS 1:24,000 Quadrangle Map for the exact location. Maps are available at all park visitor centers.
1. Gunter Creek at the first trail crossing on Gunter at 3240' elevation.
2. Big Creek and Yellow Creek at their junction.
3. McGinty Creek at its confluence with Swallow Fork.
4. Correll Branch at the junction with Little Cataloochee Creek.
5. Lost Bottom Creek at its confluence with Palmer Creek at 3280' elevation.
6. Bunches Creek at the Park boundary.
7. Stillwell Creek at the Park boundary.
8. Straight Fork and Balsam Corner Creek at their common junction.
9. Raven Fork at Big Pool which is the confluence of Left Fork, Middle Fork and Right Fork (also known as Three Forks).
10. Enloe Creek at the junction with Raven Fork.
11. Taywa Creek at its confluence with Bradley Fork.
12. Chasm Prong and Gulf Prong at their common junction on Bradley Fork.
13. Sahlee Creek at its confluence with Deep Creek.
14. Noland Creek and Salola Branch at their confluence.
15. Huggins Creek (tributary of Forney Creek) at the cascade at 3700' elevation.
16. Hazel Creek at the cascades.
17. Walkers Creek at the falls at 3400' elevation.
18. Defeat Branch at its junction with Bone Valley Creek.
19. Gunna Creek (tributary to Eagle Creek) at trail crossing at 3080' elevation.
1. Sams Creek at the confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
2. Marks Creek at the falls at 2600'.
3. Lynn Camp Prong at campsite #28 (Mark's Cove).
4. Indian Flats Prong at the Middle Prong trail crossing.
5. Meigs Creek at its confluence with Little River.
6. Fish Camp Prong and Goshen Creek at their common junction.
7. Little River and Grouse Creek at their common junction.
8. Road Pr on at its confluence with West Prong of Little Pigeon River.
9. Buck Fork and Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River at their common junction.
10. Dunn Creek at Park boundary.
11. Indian Cam Creek at Park boundary.
12. Greenbrier River (Little Creek) at Park boundary.
13. Toms Creek at its junction with Cosby Creek.
14. Cosby Creek where Low Gap Trail crosses the stream.
15. Rock Creek at its junction with Cosby Creek .
16. Spruce Flats Creek at its confluence with Middle Prong of Little River.
17. Meigs Post Prong at its confluence with Little River.