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.
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. 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.
Fishing is permitted year-round in open waters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Be a Clean Angler
If there's a tangle of line or an empty can at your feet, clean up after your fellow angler. It is unlawful to dispose of fish remains on land or water within 200 feet of a campsite. The National Park Service recommends disposing of fish entrails in a deep pool downstream for the campsite.
Brook Trout Fishing
In 2006, park management opened brook trout fishing and harvest park-wide for the first time since 1976, from the results of recent fisheries research and the success of the park's brook trout restoration effort. The results of a recent three-year brook trout fishing study indicate there was no decline in adult brook trout density or reproductive potential in any of the eight streams opened to fishing during the experimental period compared to eight streams closed to fishing during the same time period.
Please Do Not Move Rocks
Disturbing and moving rocks to form channels and rock dams is illegal in the park.
Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Smokies Life, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.
Last updated: February 10, 2024