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10 Spectacular Fishing Spots in the Great Smoky Mountains

An angler’s guide to Gatlinburg

The Vacationeer
An angler fishing on the banks of a stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee with fall foliage

While the Smoky Mountains are full of outdoor adventures, from hiking to biking, you’re in luck if you prefer the thrill of reeling in a catch. There are plenty of places to fish in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 2,000 miles of streams and rivers. The park is one of the few destinations in the United States where anglers can enjoy year-round fishing.

An Appalachia brook trout underwater 

Pack your fishing poles and check out 10 places to fish near the Gatlinburg side of the Smoky Mountains.

The Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area in Wears Valley is a gorgeous rest area next to a babbling brook. Anglers will appreciate the deep pools, long rungs and large brown trout. Plan to bring a picnic or use one of the charcoal grills to cook your catches. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, follow the Little River Road to The Sinks. The deep pools and waterfalls make for a challenge, but the stunning setting is worth it.

The Little River, also in the Wears Valley, is one of the best places to fish for trout in the Smoky Mountains. Inside the park are three branches of the river: east, middle and west. Each prong has its fishing spots, and along the river are road-accessible places to pull over and cast; take your pick of waterfalls, deep pools or calm stretches. No matter which prong you take, expect scenic river views and rainbow trout.

Bridge Over Little Pigeon River in fall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Introduce young anglers to the sport along Cosby Creek, a small stream perfect for family excursions. There is plenty of rainbow trout for children to practice with, then retire at Cosby Campground. Or stay closer to Gatlinburg proper at Herbert Holt Park, a children-only fishing spot and the municipal trout farm. There’s an accessible fishing pier for wheelchair users can join the fun. Mynatt Park is another place where kids can fish from a bridge, clamber on the playground and enjoy a picnic.

Dudley Creek on Highway 73 is a hidden gem with bass, rainbow and brook trout. The creek follows Highway 73, but there is no formal access to the stream, so you will have to brave the woods to get to the river.

If you prefer established trails, Abram Creek in the Cades Cove area is ideal for waders looking to catch rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. The creek feeds from a river of spring water rather than run-off, so it’s cool and acid-free, making for quality catches. The Cades Cove area can be crowded because of its proximity to parking. However, the cove is closed during the summer on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, allowing walkers and cyclists to enjoy the loop without cars. If you’re up for a camping trip, stay overnight Tuesday or Friday night, and enjoy a quiet morning fishing session.

Stream along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Bring the whole crew to Douglas Lake to enjoy boating, fishing, swimming and camping. There are more than 60 miles of water to enjoy and a wide variety of fish, including large- and smallmouth bass, trout, crappie and bluegill. Plus, there’s plenty to do year-round. In the autumn, Douglas Lake is an ideal spot for leaf peeping the fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains, and in later winter, sauger, walleye and white bass make their way to headwaters to spawn.

For a smaller stream, head to LeConte Creek for a fishing spot that feels remote but is right outside Gatlinburg. Take Cherokee Orchard Road past the National Park office to find the stream. Here you can find rainbow and brook trout. Cataloochee Creek is another small stream with beautiful views and plenty of casting room. It’s on the park’s east side, so keep your eyes peeled for whitetail deer and even elk.

What to Know Before You Go

Review the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s rules ahead of time. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your fishing excursion.

  • A black bear cub crossing a mountain stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee 
    All visitors must possess a valid fishing license or permit. (It can be either a Tennessee or North Carolina state license.) Fellow fishers recommend stopping by City Hall or snagging a permit online.
  • Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after dusk. Be aware that trout fishing is prohibited from December 1 to March 31.
  • There are daily limits to trout and bass, and all trout fishing is catch-and-release only, as the park is one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern U.S.
  • Black bears are one of the park’s many animals. Within the park, it is illegal to approach black bears within 150 feet. Keep your distance to protect yourself and the bears, especially if you’re fishing in Cades Cove.

Read “Add These 7 Places to Your ‘Must-See in the Smoky Mountains’ List” for more things to do in the area.

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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