Fishing in the Smoky Mountains

Is there anything manlier than walking outside before the noon day sun signals the start of the afternoon, walking knee or thigh-deep into freezing waters and catching your food for the day or weekend with nothing but a stick, string, a hook and something on that hook? There might be, but it’s hard to imagine what it is! Fishing is a fundamental of man’s history and culture all around the world and I’d argue it’s more of a challenging outdoor activity than traditional hunting because you typically can’t even see your mobile meal. You’re trying to attract and catch a fast and even surprisingly crafty foe completely blind and it’s a game of minds, skill and will.

Naturally, this kind of sport is a big hit here in the Smokies, and with the miles and miles and miles and miles of streams available in the National Park, all of which are open for the public to fish in, those who love to get their reel on will find quite a bit to like in East Tennessee!

From the National Park Service website:

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 2,900 miles of streams within its boundaries, and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. Approximately 20% of the park’s streams are large enough to support trout populations.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 all streams.

License Requirements
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 or online (links provided by state below). 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. Buy a license from the state government of Tennessee.

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. Buy a license from the state government of North Carolina.

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.

Season
Fishing is permitted year-round in open waters.

Time
Fishing is allowed from a half hour before official sunrise to a half hour after official sunset.

Daily Possession Limits
Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish.

Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit.

A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.

Size Limits
Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum
Smallmouth bass: 7 inch 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.

Lures, Bait, and Equipment
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.”

See more fishing information at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fishing.htm.

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