If you want to take a break from all the theme parks and other commercialized attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, try fishing in the many mountain streams and creeks flowing through the area. It's not exactly a secret that the fishing can be sublime here. Great Smoky Mountains National Park borders Gatlinburg and is a haven for anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts with its many streams.
Fishing in Tennessee requires a state fishing license. Licenses are available at any store in the area that sells fishing gear, at the State of Tennessee's official website, the Gatlinburg City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce. Licenses go on sale beginning on February 18, which is at the start of prime fishing season. In Tennessee kids under the age of 13, resident senior citizens and those on military leave can fish without licenses but are subject to the same rules and regulations as those who must purchase one.
Endangered Brook Trout
Throw back a brook trout if you catch one. Brook trout is the only trout native to the Smoky Mountains and is endangered. At the start of the 20th century, the booming logging industry found its way to the Great Smokies and wiped out half of the brook trout population. Other types of trout such as rainbow trout and brown trout were stocked in the area and overwhelmed the remaining brook trout population. The National Park Service has made restoring brook trout as one of its top priorities.
Aside from the streams and creeks flowing through town, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has numerous popular fishing spots. Nearby lakes include Douglas Reservoir, Cherokee Reservoir, Norris Reservoir, South Holsten Reservoir, Boone Reservoir and the Melton Hill Reservoir.
Fish you are allowed to catch include walleye, crappie, striped bass, largemouth and spotted bass, catfish, smallmouth bass and bluegill. Most of these fish roam at about 5 feet to 20 feet underwater. Some fish dwell around rocky banks at peak hours, but fish such as crappie, bass and bluegill also often stay in deep water. Full-day and half-day trips are offered by the Smoky Mountain Angler, an outfitter in Gatlinburg, where fishing experts can train beginners and even experts to maximize their catch.
Tips for Success
The best way to be successful fishing in the Great Smokies is to educate yourself about how and when to fish. Generally it is best to fish when the temperature of the water is comfortable for fish. In the summer, avoid fishing in the middle of the day when the sun is supercharging the water. Fish only with one hand-held rod and a single hook to follow Gatlinburg regulations. Also, do not surpass the five fish limit for rainbow, smallmouth or brown trout, or the 20 catch limit for rock bass. Surpassing catch limits could subject you to a large fine.