on-line book icon

table of contents

National Park
NPS logo


Over 600 miles of some of the finest wild trout streams in the southern Appalachians are found within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These fast-flowing, boulder-strewn watercourses with their intermittent pools and numerous cascades, are among the park's most attractive natural features. A total of more than 70 forms of fishes live in these waters.

Native to the park and still common in headwaters is the colorful eastern brook trout. Before the park was established, factors such as logging, the introduction of the exotic rainbow trout, and inadequately regulated fishing changed the original conditions, bringing about the reduction in numbers and distribution of this brilliant native trout. In cooperation with biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service is attempting to reestablish the original Appalachian strain of eastern brook trout in some of its former haunts. Results from the initial experiments are encouraging.

Hundreds of miles of trout streams—fast-flowing, clear, and cold—drain the slopes of the Smokies. Rosebay rhododendrons thrive along the banks of these watercourses. Courtesy, Tennessee Conservation Department.

The brook trout of park streams is relatively small, rarely exceeding 12 inches in length. Notwithstanding this, it is highly prized by fishermen because of its beauty, its willingness to take a lure, and its delicate flavor when fried.

Around the turn of the century, the adaptable rainbow trout was introduced into the major streams of the Great Smoky Mountains. Now firmly established with self-sustaining populations, this western trout is the most abundant sport fish found in the park. Specimens as large as 20 inches are occasionally taken by the active angler.

The brown trout, introduced into this country from Europe, is occassionally found in a few park streams. It is assumed that this species has moved into the park from waters farther downstream.

In the lower sections of several streams, below elevations of 1,600 feet, the native smallmouth bass is found in limited numbers. The largemouth bass is present in the lower part of Hazel Creek.

Principal among the fishes found in the park is a minnow, the stoneroller, or "hornyhead," which is abundant and widely distributed. Although small, rarely over 8 inches, it is favored as a table fish by many residents of this vicinity. Among the 2 dozen other members of the minnow family found in park waters are the bright-hued warpaint shiner, the emerald shiner, and the rosy dace.

Three species of brook lampreys, the eel-like forms of primitive fishes, inhabit park streams. In contrast to the large parasitic sea lampreys of the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, these brook lampreys are small and harmless, spending most of their lives in burrows in the bottoms of the larger streams.

Of the 11 darters present, some are very common. These spectacularly colored little fishes have been called "the warblers of the water world of fishes."

Among the other park fishes are 6 kinds of suckers, 9 sunfishes and basses, 6 bullheads and catfishes, the long-nosed gar, the freshwater drum, and two sculpins.

Although extensive collections of fishes have been made, the exact number of species or subspecies which occur within the park has not been determined. More than 70 forms have been identified. The classification of the fishes of this region is especially difficult because of the inrergradations which have occurred between forms from the south and the north and from the Atlantic slope and the Mississippi Valley. It is possible that a number of new forms still remain to be described from park waters. This, in addition to the known variety of park fishes, makes this fish fauna of great interest to naturalists, biologists, and sportsmen.

Fishing in the park is a particularly enjoyable and rewarding recreational activity. The waters are not overcrowded with anglers, and the streams and surrounding forests are beautiful and generally undisturbed. Most of the trout taken by the angler are vigorous and colorful wild fish. Only limited numbers of trout are stocked from hatcheries operated by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. These plantings are made only in streams where natural reproduction is inadequate.

Several selected streams in the park are open to year-round sport angling on a fishing-for-fun-only basis. The angler uses artificial lures and catches as many fish as he desires, or can, but he returns them to the water unharmed. This experimental program affords more high-quality sport for more anglers in a manner that does not impair the fishery resources.

You may secure a copy of current fishing regulations at any park ranger station or visitor center or by writing to the Supeintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tenn. You may also secure from the superintendent a list of fishes known to occur in park streams.

Previous Next

top of page

NPS History  |   History & Culture  |   National Park Service  |   Contact

Last Modified: Sat, Nov 4 2006 10:00:00 pm PST

ParkNet Home