Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 2,115 miles of streams within its boundaries, and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. The park offers a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year.
Fishing is permitted year-round in the park, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. The park allows fishing in most streams. Certain posted streams are closed to fishing, to protect threatened fishes. Detailed information, including a complete list of regulations and a map of fishable park waters, is available at any visitor center or ranger station.
You must possess a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns. Special permits are required for fishing in Gatlinburg and Cherokee.
Tennessee License Requirements
Residents and nonresidents age 13 and older must have a valid license. Residents age 65 and older may obtain a special license from the state.
North Carolina License Requirements
Residents and nonresidents age 16 and older need a license. Residents age 70 and older may obtain a special license from the state.
Persons under 16 in North Carolina and under 13 in Tennessee are entitled to the adult daily bag and possession limits and are subject to all other regulations.
Any combination of rainbow trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass totaling 5 20 rockbass A person must stop fishing once reaching the limit
Rainbow and brown trout: 7in. minimum Smallmouth bass: 7in. minimum Rockbass: no minimum Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used. Up to two flies on a leader. Use or possession of any form 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 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.
Use or possession of double, treble, or gang hooks is prohibited. Fishing tackle and equipment, including creels and fish in possession, are subject to inspection by authorized personnel.
Please report violators to nearest ranger or to (865) 436-1294.
Standing and wading in streams can drain body heat and lead to hypothermia. Rising water levels resulting from sudden mountain storms occur quite frequently, so monitor water level. Water currents are swifter than they appear and footing is treacherous on wet and moss covered rocks. Additional information about water safety .
If there's a tangle of line, or an empty can at your feet, clean up after your fellow angler.
Brook trout are the only native salmonid in the park. Since the turn of the century, the brook trout has lost about 75% of its range in the park due to logging and the introduction of the non-native rainbow trout.
The park has had an active brook trout restoration program since 1987. The primary objective of this program is to restore native brook trout populations to streams with natural barriers such as waterfalls that prevent invasion of non-native trout species. To date, this program has restored nine streams, and the restoration of eight additional streams at mid-to-low elevations is planned. The park's brook trout restoration efforts have restored 11.1 miles of stream or 11% of the 97.5 miles of stream exclusively occupied by brook trout.
Stream acidity has increased 5-fold in high elevation streams in the last 20 years due to pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels. These data add urgency to the need to restore brook trout to streams at lower elevations with more stable water chemistry.
Because of the results of recent fisheries research and the success of the park's brook trout restoration effort, park management has opened sections of eight streams to brook trout fishing and harvest on an experimental basis. Four of the stream segments are in North Carolina and four are in Tennessee. The same possession and minimum size restrictions apply to brook trout in these streams that apply to trout fishing in other open park waters (maximum possession five total fish, minimum length seven inches). The eight streams open to brook trout fishing are shown on the map side of this folder in yellow. The three-year experimental opening begins July 1, 2002.
The eight open streams will be monitored annually and anglers catch and harvest success will be periodically checked. At the conclusion of the experiment, biologists will evaluate the data and make recommendations for the future of brook trout fishing in the park.
The mission of the National Park Service is to protect and preserve naturally functioning ecosystems. Research has shown that intentionally or accidentally introduced non-native species of fish, animals, and plants can have very serious negative impacts on native species. In fact, non-native animals and fish now threaten many native fish species in national parks.
Bait fishing is prohibited to prevent accidental introductions of non-native aquatic organisms. Anglers often release unused bait at the end of a day of fishing without realizing their bait can may be filled with non-native organisms that may harm native fish. The collection of naturally occurring bait is also prohibited because it may upset natural ecological balances in habitats where collection occurs.
Historic information shows that fish caught with corn or bread suffer higher hooking mortality, which may alter the natural age and size structure within the fish community. Chumming with corn or bread is illegal under National Park Service regulations.
Fishing has been a part of the historic use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park since its creation. From 1934 to 1974 the fishery management program stocked fish for recreational angling. Non-native rainbow trout and northern strains of brook trout were stocked in most of the park's major stream systems through the early 1950s. From then until 1975, stocking occurred only in heavily fished streams and in stream segments adjacent to campgrounds and picnic areas. During this latter period, park managers realized that stocking non-native fish was inconsistent with National Park Service policies and this practice was eliminated in 1975.
National Park Service policies state that in natural areas like the Smokies stocking is only permitted to re-establish native species. The only stocking practiced today seeks to restore endangered and threatened native species like the Smoky Mountain madtom and the spotfin chub to waters where they once thrived.
Fisheries monitoring activities in the park have clearly shown that stocking is not needed. This information shows that many park streams have 2,000-4,000 trout per mile. Many of these are 4-8 rainbow trout, but in some streams brown trout 8-20 are commonly found.
Many of the fish which anglers catch do not meet the park's size limits and must be released. Current fisheries research indicates treble hooks cause higher hooking mortality rates than single hook lures.
The park offers a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year. So the reality is that the best place to fish depends on the type of experience each angler desires. Remember, fishing pressure tends to be highest nearest the roads.