Explore Streams in the National Park

Fishing In The Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain stream surrounded by greenery

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to about 2,900 miles of streams and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. If you love to fish, this is one of the best places to visit. About 20 percent of the park’s streams are large enough to support trout populations. There is a variety of angling experiences in the park, from remote headwater trout streams to large coolwater smallmouth bass streams.

When can you go fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Fishing is allowed year round in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. You can fish in all streams.

Is a fishing license required to fish in the park?

man fly fishing in Smoky Mountain river

Yes, you must have a valid fishing license or permit from Tennessee or North Carolina. Either state license is valid throughout the entire park, and no trout stamp is required. Licenses and permits can be purchased in nearby towns or online. If you plan to go fishing in Gatlinburg or Cherokee, special permits are required.

Tennessee requirements: Residents and nonresidents 13 years or older must have a valid license. Residents 65 years or older can get a special license from the state.

North Carolina requirements: Residents and nonresidents 16 years and older need a valid license. Residents 70 years and older may get a special license from the state.

Those younger than 16 in North Carolina and younger than 13 in Tennessee are entitled to the adult daily bag and possession limits and are subject to all other regulations.

Daily Limits

There is a daily possession limit when fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Five brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass or a combination of these are allowed each day, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total of fish must not exceed 5.

brook trout

Twenty rock bass may be kept in addition to the above. You must stop fishing immediately once you reach the daily limit.

There is also a size limit for fish. Brook, rainbow and brown trout, along with smallmouth bass, have a 7 inch minimum. There is no minimum for rock bass. Any trout or smallmouth bass that is caught and is less than the legal length should immediately be returned to the water.