Fishing in the Little River above Elkmont.

Warren Bielenberg Photo


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.

Didymo is a non-native, single-celled algae species that ruins stream and river beds. It has been found in the streams of 16 states, including Tennessee. Protect park streams by not spreading "Rock Snot."

Done fishing? Use our Angler Creel Survey form to tell us about your experience while fishing in the park. This will provide the park with information on the numbers and sizes of fish caught and harvested here. The results will be used to help park biologists determine angler use patterns, catch and harvest rates, and seasonal patterns. Whether you just caught a few or caught a bunch, please take a minute to fill out a creel survey and let us know about your trip.


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. Special permits are required for fishing in Gatlinburg and Cherokee.

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.

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.


Additional Information


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.

  • 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.

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.

A animated hellbender salamander below text that says, "Thank You for Not Moving Rocks." Circles with a slash through each say, "please don't build dams, stack rocks, or channelize." "Hellbenders live and nest under rocks." Leave No Trace.

NPS Graphic

Please Do Not Move Rocks

Disturbing and moving rocks to form channels and rock dams is illegal in the park.

Moving rocks is harmful to both fish and aquatic insects that live in the streams. Many fish species that live in the park spawn between April and August. Some of these fish build their nests in small cavities under rocks and even guard the nests. When people move rocks, the nests are destroyed and the eggs and/or young fish die.

Aquatic insects need rocks for cover as well. Some aquatic insects can drift off or move when disturbed, but many species attach themselves to rocks and cannot move. When a rock is moved, aquatic insects fall, are crushed by the movement, or dry out and die when the rock is placed out of water.

One of the fundamental policies of the National Park Service is to preserve natural resources in an unaltered state. It is against the law to move rocks in streams. Please abide by these rules so that future generations may enjoy the park as well.


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

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107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738



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