Reeling in Adventure: A Guide to Smoky Mountain Fishing in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Beyond

Looking for a more chilled alternative for all the hiking and rafting you can do in the Smoky Mountain area? Maybe you should try fishing. With an abundance of lakes, rivers, and creeks, there are great fishing opportunities in the Smoky Mountains and both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are great places to cast a line.

Whether you're already a fishing expert or a beginner taking up a new hobby, the scenic beauty of the majestic Smoky Mountains and the fresh air of the great outdoors will surely make you enjoy the fishing escapade in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and beyond.

Still, there are so many fishing opportunities that it can be hard to know what to do and where to go, especially if this is your first time exploring the outdoors in the region. We're here to the rescue — in this blog, we will bring you all you need to know about Smoky Mountain Fishing in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and beyond.

Ready to explore the great outdoors?

The Smokies, a paradise for Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is quite popular in the Smokies, where anglers opt for a lighter rod, reel, and line. Instead of the usual bait, this method employs artificial flies that imitate insects or other aquatic prey—hence the name. The casting technique involves a distinctive back-and-forth motion, making use of the weight of the fly line.

The key is to captivate the fish by mimicking the movement of an insect right on the water, rather than dangling bait just below the surface. This approach is commonly linked with targeting species in clear water environments, such as trout, which flourish in colder waters.

Where to Go Fishing Near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge?

The geography of the Great Smoky Mountains creates amazing conditions for fishing. For one, the mountain terrain hides an abundance of interconnected streams and rivers that meander down the slopes with clear and cool waters, making the ideal habitat for many types of fish, including the famous trout. The elevation changes contribute to the creation of a variety of habitats that allow for rich biodiversity.

Second, the area is covered with dense forests, which contribute to the health of the aquatic ecosystems. Forests provide shade, help to regulate water temperatures and contribute organic matter that supports the food chain for fish.

Also, the terrain can get pretty rugged, which means you have many accessible fishing spots along hiking trails that can vary from easy to more difficult, ensuring everyone can find a nice spot to fish.

Finally, the outstanding scenic environment and fresh mountain air also contribute to a fabulous experience. Let's go over some of the best spots to go fishing near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge:

Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smoky Mountains National Park is a national park where fishing is permitted year-round and in all streams. Situated on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the park comprises about 2,900 miles of streams and 67 species of fish in 12 different families, including lampreys, darters, shiners, minnows, suckers, bass, and trout.

The most popular Smoky Mountain fish from an angling perspective are the trout. In 2006, park management opened brook trout fishing, as a result of their brook trout restoration effort.

Throughout the park, there is a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near the carrying capacity of fish. This means a great opportunity to catch these species all year round.

Where to fish within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

  • The trail along Abrams Creek offers lots of fishing opportunities, including plenty of spots to catch rainbow trout.

  • The Little River is easily accessible and features waterfalls along with deeper pools. Species you can catch there include southern Appalachian brook trout, brown, and rainbow trout.

  • On the North Carolina side of the park, Big Creek is famous for native brook trout, and you might even reel in a rainbow trout.

There are many other amazing spots for fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best way to discover them is by talking to locals and park staff. They will surely know the best hidden gems and provide you with the most updated tips.

Heads up! Still within the park's boundaries, you must possess a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.

Also, note that the park strictly forbids moving rocks to form channels or for any other reasons. Moving rocks is harmful to both fish and aquatic insects that live in the streams. Some of these fish build their nests in small cavities under rocks and even guard the nests. If you move the rocks, the nests are destroyed, and the eggs or young fish die. Besides, aquatic insects need rocks for cover as well.

To know more about times, rules, and regulations, head to the park's official website


Although fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is widely famous, there are also great locations external to the park situated in surrounding areas or nearby towns, such as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville, to name a few. Here are some local favorites:

Herbert Holt Park, Gatlinburg

Herbert Holt Park in Gatlinburg is home to Tennessee's only municipal trout farm. For the little ones, the park has designated the surrounding waters for children-only fishing, providing a special spot for young anglers. This is a great place for family-friendly fishing in Gatlinburg! Every Thursday, they release rainbow trout into the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River but keep in mind that fishing is not allowed on these days.

Mynatt Park, Gatlinburg

Situated right by LeConte Creek, Mynatt Park is another cool fishing spot near Gatlinburg. They've even reserved a part of the stream at Mynatt Park just for the kids to fish – it stretches from the GSMNP boundary to about a quarter-mile downstream. Not to mention, the park also boasts a picnic area right by the water, making it a relaxed and family-friendly spot for fishing and outdoor activities in the Smokies.

Big Rock Dude Ranch, Pigeon Forge

Big Rock Dude Ranch offers pond fishing near Pigeon Forge. The pond is home to bluegill, crappie, catfish, and bass. You can fish all day without worrying about a license. Grab a rod, reel, and bait from the ranch for a one-time fee, good for three days of fishing excitement. Like elsewhere in the Smokies, it's catch-and-release fun.

Douglas Lake, Sevierville

Spanning over 32 miles, this expansive lake invites anglers with a myriad of fishing opportunities. Widely acclaimed for its fantastic bass fishing, the lake is easily accessible from various points along the road, ensuring a rewarding fishing experience that remains remarkably convenient.

What's fishing like in the Smokies Mountains in every season?

Fishing is generally good year-round in the Smoky Mountain region, providing opportunities for anglers to enjoy their favorite pastime in various seasons. Whether it's the vibrant colors of fall or the fresh greens of spring, the Smokies are a picturesque backdrop for fishing adventures.

Let's explore the specifics of each season:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring is prime time for fishing, especially fly fishing, with mayflies and caddisflies emerging. As temperatures rise and nature comes alive, streams are often stocked with trout, and a variety of hatches attract fish.

  • Summer (June to August): With warmer temperatures, fishing in higher elevations can be more pleasurable. While hatches are less abundant compared to spring, terrestrial insects like ants and beetles become more common. Bass fishing also picks up in the larger rivers throughout the region.

  • Fall (September to November): Fall is a great time for both fly fishing and conventional methods. Trout are active and feeding in preparation for winter, with brown trout, in particular, becoming more aggressive. The foliage transforms into vibrant colors, creating a stunning backdrop for fishing.

  • Winter (December to February): Winter fishing can be challenging but rewarding. Trout, especially in tailwaters, remain active, and midges are a common winter hatch, making small flies effective. Additionally, delayed harvest areas may provide opportunities for catch-and-release fishing.

Are there any regulations for fishing in the Smoky Mountains?

Yes! You must carry a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina to do so. Here's an overview:

Tennessee License Requirements: Anyone aged 13 and older must have a valid license. Residents aged 65 and older may obtain a special license from the state. You can buy a license from the state government of Tennessee. For more information on these fishing regulations, refer to this official website: Tennessee Fishing Regulations.

North Carolina License Requirements: Anyone aged 16 and older needs a license. Residents aged 70 and older may obtain a special license from the state.

You can buy a license from the state government of North Carolina. For more information on North Carolina fishing regulations, refer to this official website: North Carolina Fishing Regulations.

Smoky Mountain Fishing in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Beyond

Fishing and hunting in Breckenridge not only offer thrilling adventures but will also connect you with traditions deeply rooted in American and local cultures. The best part? Enjoying the beauty of the region while fishing and hunting encourages a profound appreciation for nature.
Wondering where to Stay in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and The Smoky Mountains?

While in town, why not enhance your stay with the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains in a great rental property?

At Stony Brook, we offer an exceptional array of cabins and chalets in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Cosby, ranging from one to 16 bedrooms. As a family-owned service, we guarantee you'll have the best experience in the Smokies!

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