Trout Fishing & Stockings
Trout Fishing During the Winter
Any combination of trout species:
• Daily Limit: 7
• Minimum Length Limit: None
• Only 2 trout in a creel may be lake trout
• See the following specific regulations
Delayed Harvest Areas
In the areas listed below, the harvest or possession of trout is prohibited during the catch-and-release season. During the catch-and-release season, only artificial lures are permitted and the use or possession of bait is prohibited.
Big Soddy Creek: Upstream of Back Valley Road
• Catch-and-release season Oct. 1 through the last day of Feb.
Buffalo Creek: Mill dam downstream to Buffalo Springs WMA boundary.
• Catch-and-release season Oct. 1–Jan. 31.
Doe River: Roan Mountain State Park boundaries.
• Catch-and-release season is Oct. 1–last day of Feb.
Hiwassee River: Appalachian Powerhouse downstream to L&N Railroad Bridge
Catch-and-release season is Oct. 1 through last day of Feb.
• From March 1 through Sept. 30, trout creel limit is 7 trout of all species combined and only 2 may be brown trout.
Paint Creek: Paint Creek Campground downstream to mouth at French Broad River
• Catch-and-release season is Oct. 1 through last day of Feb.
Piney River: Cumberland Trail State Park downstream to Highway 27 Bridge
• Catch-and-release season is Nov. 1 through last day of Feb.
Tellico River: Mouth of North River upstream to the Tennessee - North Carolina state line
• Catch-and-release season is Oct. 1 through the last day of February.
Special Trout Regulations
Caney Fork River: Center Hill Dam to Cumberland River, including tributaries
• Total daily creel of all trout (rainbow, brown and brook) in combination is 5 fish.
• Rainbow Trout: 5 per day, 14–20 inch PLR, only one fish over 20 inches may be harvested.
• Brook Trout: 5 per day, 14–20 inch PLR, only one fish over 20 inches may be harvested.
• Brown Trout: 1 per day, 24 inch minimum length limit.
• Cutthroat Trout: 5 per day, 14–20 inch PLR, only one fish over 20 inches may be harvested.
Elk River: Tims Ford Dam to I-65 bridge, including tributaries.
• Brown Trout: 20 inch minimum length limit, 1 per day.
• Total daily creel limit of all trout species in combination is 7 trout.
Clinch River: Norris Dam. downstream to Hwy. 61 bridge, including tributaries
• 14–20 inch PLR on all trout.
• 7 trout creel limit, only one trout may be greater than 20 inches.
Clear Creek: tributary to Clinch River—Anderson Co.
• Closed to fishing and minnow seining from Hwy. 441 upstream to the second dam (ad- jacent to the city of Norris water tower), as posted from Nov. 1–Mar. 31.
Hiwassee River: Appalachian Powerhouse downstream to L&N Railroad Bridge
• March 1 through Sept. 30: 7 trout creel limit, only 2 may be brown trout.
• Oct. 1 through last day of February: see de- layed harvest areas.
South Fork Holston River
South Holston Dam to Hwy. 390 Bridge at Bluff City
• 16–22 inch PLR on all trout.
• 7 trout creel limit, only one trout may be greater than 22 inches.
• Closed to all fishing Nov. 1–Jan. 31 in the following areas:
» Hickory Tree Bridge upstream to the confluence with Bottom Creek.
» Downstream point of Boy’s Island (first island downstream of Weaver Pike Bridge) upstream to the top of the first island above Webb Road Bridge.
Watauga River: Quality Trout Fishing Area Smallings bridge downstream to CSX railroad bridges
• 14 inch minimum length limit.
• 2 trout creel limit.
• Use or possession of any bait is prohibited.
• Trout less than 14 inches may not be in possession.
Horse Creek: Greene County, U.S. Forest Service Boundary Line upstream to the junction of Squibb Creek
• Daily limit: 7 trout per day, except from May 1– Sep. 30 daily limit is 2 trout.
Slickrock Creek: That portion of Slickrock Creek which constitutes the boundary between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina.
• Appropriate licenses from TN or NC are valid.
• Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout: Daily limit of 4 in combination with a 7 inch minimum length limit.
• Only single-hook artificial lures are permitted. Use or possession of bait or multiple hook lures is prohibited. One single-hook artificial lure separated from a legal lure by a length of line (for example, a dropper fly) is also permitted
• 4 trout per day.
• Each angler limited to one rod or pole.
• Fishing permitted from one half-hour before official sunrise to one half-hour after official sunset.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Most of the streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provide trout fishing opportunities. For detailed fishing information and regulations, contact: Park Headquarters, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; phone 865-436-1200.
Fort Campbell Military Reservation
Several streams on Fort Campbell Military Reservation including Dry Creek, Little West Fork and Fletcher’s Fork are stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Special fishing regulations apply and a Post Fishing Permit is required in addition to a valid Tennessee fishing license and trout stamp. For details, contact the Community Recreation Division, Hunting and Fishing Unit, Fort Campbell, KY 42223-5000; phone 270-798-9824. https://isportsman.net/Locations.aspx
Note: The stocking report is updated bi-weekly through stocking season. The dates listed next to the water body are representative of when the water was last stocked as information is available. There are many factors that may impact when fish can be stocked, so the scheduled stocking dates are subject to change.
Each year TWRA biologists survey trout populations in tailwaters to evaluate current fishing regulations and stocking rates. Data collected during sampling helps TWRA biologists make informed decisions and guide future management strategies.
If practicing catch and release, follow these steps to ensure the best chance of survival:
- Land the fish as quickly as possible. Do not play the fish to exhaustion.
- Use shallow landing net with soft, knotless mesh or rubber netting.
- Keep fish in water when handling & removing hooks.
- If deeply hooked, cut the line. Do not pull hook out.
- Release fish only after it has recovered. If necessary, gently hold the fish facing upstream in slow moving current.
Brook Trout are Tennessee’s only native trout species, which have been found to be genetically distinct from Brook Trout native to more northern parts of its range.
At one time, all wild trout water in Tennessee was inhabited by Brook Trout. However, in the late 1800s, many populations were lost due to primitive logging techniques and the stocking of non-native Rainbow Trout. Wild populations can now only be found in the coldest and cleanest headwater streams in the mountains of eastern Tennessee at elevations greater than 3,000 feet where water temperatures are typically below 68° F. TWRA biologists, in cooperation with the US Forest Service, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee Aquarium and Trout Unlimited have recently worked to expand the range of Brook Trout by stocking native strains back into their native waters.
Today, we have about 150 streams that support wild Brook Trout. For additional information on TWRA’s efforts to restore native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout populations across East Tennessee, check out this episode of Tennessee’s Wild Side.
Identification: Yellow or reddish-orange spots on sides and belly. Light wormlike markings on the upper body. The leading edge of the lower fins is white with a black stripe.
State Record: 4 lbs, 12 oz. (Caney Fork River)
Angler Recognition Program: minimum 10 inches
Fishing Tips: Brook Trout are aggressive feeders eating insects, crayfish, salamanders, and other fish. Food is typically in short supply in headwater streams so Brook Trout rely heavily on prey that falls into the stream (e.g., ants, caterpillars, inchworms).
Wild Side Brook Trout Restoration
Rainbow Trout are native to the Pacific drainages of the western United States, but through extensive trout management during much of the 20th century have become the most widely distributed and abundant trout species in Tennessee.
Rainbows were originally introduced into Tennessee in the late 1880s when logging practices destroyed native Brook Trout's habitat.
Wild populations are now found in about 300 streams across East Tennessee. Rainbow Trout spawn in late winter and their juvenile hatch out in early spring. They can tolerate temperatures slightly warmer than Brook Trout, preferring water temperatures below 70° F.
Identification: Body olive to silver in color. Small black spots throughout the body extend into the bottom of the tail. Pink streak along the middle of the body.
State Record: 18 lbs, 8 oz. (Private Pond)
Angler Recognition Program: minimum 24 inches
Fishing Tips: Rainbow Trout eat insects, crayfish, fish, and fish eggs. They are susceptible to a wide variety of tackle. Fly-fishing with streamers, and wet and dry flies can be effective. Spinning and baitcasting tackle includes small spinners, spoons, worms, and hellgramites.
Brown Trout are native to Europe and Asia and, like Rainbows, became naturalized in Tennessee through stocking. They are typically found in lower elevation streams, often coexisting with Rainbow Trout.
They spawn in the fall between October and November, and juveniles emerge in February or March. Common in about 25 wild streams, Brown Trout offers the best opportunity to catch a trophy trout in Tennessee. Tennessee’s wild Brown Trout can live twice as long and attain much greater sizes than either Rainbow or Brook trout.
Identification: Brown to yellowish body color. Large dark spots and reddish dots, many having halos. Slightly forked tail with no spots.
State Record: 28 lbs, 12 oz. (Clinch River)
Angler Recognition Program: minimum 26 inches
Fishing Tips: Young Brown Trout feed mostly on aquatic insects, small crayfish, and minnows. Adults will feed on fish, crayfish, rodents, and salamanders. Large browns tend to feed during low light conditions and after dark. Typical trout baits and lures work for Brown Trout, but a slightly larger tackle may help catch trophy-sized fish.
Cutthroat Trout are native to the western United States. They were originally stocked in a few of Tennessee’s tailwaters in the 1950s through the early 1960s with little success due to poor water quality prior to the Clean Water Act.
TWRA has recently partnered with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to begin stocking Cutthroat Trout in Tennessee to provide a unique fishing opportunity in some of Tennessee’s tailwater fisheries. In 2021, Cutthroat Trout were added to the stocking list in the Tims Ford Tailwater (Elk River), Appalachia Tailwater (Hiwassee River), and Boone Tailwater (Holston River) to diversify the trout fishing experience below these dams. Evaluations will be ongoing.
Identification: Similar in appearance to Rainbow Trout. Body coloration can vary from olive to silver. Small black spots throughout the body. A key identification of Cutthroat Trout is the bright orange or red coloration that appears as “slashes” or “cuts” on the underside of the jaw.
State Record: 2 lbs, 8 oz. (South Fork Holston River)
Angler Recognition Program: Currently not recognized
Fishing Tips: Cutthroat Trout are known to be fairly aggressive and are usually willing to bite a fly, lure, or bait. Typical trout baits and lures for other species will work well for Cutthroat Trout. Check out the Tailwater Trout Fishing Forecast for specific information regarding fishing tips in the tailwaters you can find Cutthroat Trout.
TWRA and the City of Gatlinburg offer a variety of trout fishing opportunities in four streams. All streams are closed on Thursday each week and a Gatlinburg permit is required (page 12). Some areas are managed especially for children 12 and under. For more information contact the Gatlin- burg Chamber of Commerce, (800) 568-4748 or the Gatlinburg trout facility at (865) 436-4558.
The taking of trout using a Gatlinburg Permit is allowed only within the designated streams, designated times, and under the restrictions listed in the following paragraphs.
• West Prong Little Pigeon River from Park Boundary to Gnatty Branch except those sections set aside as Children’s Streams.
• Dudley Creek from Park Boundary to West Prong Little Pigeon River, except those sections set aside as Children’s Streams.
• Roaring Fork from the Park Boundary to West Prong Little Pigeon River.
• Leconte Creek from Painter Branch to West Prong Little Pigeon River.
Children’s Streams (May only be fished by children 12 and under, unless otherwise posted.)
• Leconte Creek from Painters Branch upstream to Park Boundary.
• West Prong Little Pigeon River from North Park Lane Bridge (Herbert Holt Park) downstream to Gatlinburg By-pass Bridge.
• Dudley Creek from Highway 441 Bridge to West Prong Little Pigeon River.
Season and Creel Limits
Fishing permitted year-round, except on Thurs- day, from one half-hour before official sunrise to one half-hour after official sunset. Fishing is permitted with one hand-held rod and single hook only.
From December 1 through March 31 (all streams):
• Possession of any trout shall be prohibited.
• All trout caught must be immediately returned to the water.
• Use or possession of bait is prohibited. Use or possession of any artificial lures other than single hook artificial flies, spinners, and spoons is prohibited. The use of one dropper fly having a single hook which is separated from a legal lure by a length of line is permissible.
From April 1 through November 30:
• General Streams: The creel limit is five (5) trout per day. Bait and artificial lures permitted.
• Children’s Streams: The creel limit is two (2) per day.
• Total possession limit shall not exceed twice the daily creel limit.
• While fishing or when afield, possession of more than the daily creel limit shall be prohibited, regardless of whether the trout are fresh, stored in an ice chest, in a vehicle, or otherwise preserved