Fishing in the Smokies is a sport, but it is also an opportunity to view wildlife and experience the rich ecosystem of mountain streams. Anglers, especially those who venture away from roads and into more remote areas of the park, will enjoy the sounds of running water and the sights of salamanders, insects, mammals, and wildflowers.
All streams in the Smokies  originate as mountain springs, burbling up along the high mountain ridge. At high elevations they flow quickly over steep, rocky beds. As more streams flow into one another, and the elevation drops, the streams widen and flow more slowly. They are no longer sheltered entirely by the forest canopy, and they become warmer. By the time they reach the park boundaries, they are rivers.
The diversity of the Smokies ’ streams and rivers means a diversity of fish. The fast-moving headwaters at high elevations are the native habitat of brook trout, also called brookies, or speckled trout. As streams reach elevations lower than 3,000 feet, other types of trout begin to appear, such as non-native rainbow and brown trout. Near the park boundaries, where waters are warmer and move more slowly, you will find these plus bass, shiners, minnows, shuckers, and darters.
Get helpful local knowledge or brush up on your technique with a fishing guide. Smoky Mountain Anglers (376 E. Parkway, aka Hwy. 321, Gatlinburg, 865/436-8746, www.smokymountainangler.com ) offers full- and half-day guided fishing trips starting at $135. They also sell hand-tied and commercial flies, plus all the other gear an angler would need.
Fishing is governed by rules that have been established to protect species and the environment. It is up to individual anglers to takes these rules to heart so that the fishery remains strong and the surrounding environment remains in balance.
Fishing is allowed in almost all streams and rivers in the park. The park service closes one or two each season due to active brook trout restoration activities; call ahead or check the NPS website to find out which streams are closed.
Anglers must be in possession of a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license, depending on where in the park they are fishing. The park service does not sell these licenses, but they are available online and at outfitters in Townsend , Gatlinburg , Cosby , and other gateway communities.
Live bait may not be used, and only single hooks are allowed. Fishing is allowed 30 minutes after official sunrise and must cease 30 minutes before official sunset.
The daily bag limit is five fish, although up to 20 rock bass is allowed. Anglers must stop fishing as soon as they reach their bag limit. Smallmount bass and brook, rainbow, and brown trout must be at least seven inches long to be kept. There is no size limit for rock bass.
As you fish, be a good park citizen. Pick up any trash you may find and don’t move or disrupt rocks, which are where many fish lay their eggs.