Trout Stockings & Information
Wild trout are generally limited to East Tennessee’s mountain streams, so most anglers rely on stocking for their trout fishing opportunities. For over 50 years, managers have addressed this demand by stocking tailwaters, rivers, reservoirs and small lakes from Memphis to Mountain City.
TWRA operates four coldwater hatcheries that stock over a million trout into about 125 different waterbodies across the state of Tennessee each year. An additional 1 million are produced by the Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish Hatcheries annually.
Each year 80 streams and small lakes are stocked to provide a trout fishery. These streams have low abundance of wild trout, or no trout at all. TWRA stocks about 325,000 9-12 inch trout between February and October.
While trout fishing is allowed year-round on most of these streams, many of these waters are too warm for trout by mid summer. For this reason, we limit most of the trout stocking to the spring and the best fishing is from the first stocking week until the midsummer when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees F.
Stocking frequency varies depending on the yearly temperatures of the particular waterbody, so check out the annual fishing guide to find out approximate stocking times and locations.
Many of the stocked trout streams flow through private property. To assure the future of these fisheries, respect landowner's rights by obtaining permission before wading through the property and leave the area cleaner than you found it.
The winter trout program is designed to provide trout fishing opportunities in urban areas, particularly where there are few or no trout fisheries.
The program began in 1999 in Nashville but has expanded to 34 locations from Memphis to Chattanooga with nearly 100,000 trout stocked during the 2015/2016 season. Winter fishing events are typically held near town centers on public property with ample parking.
Higher stocking rates are used to assure high catch rates.
Stocking dates are published in advance of each event and are provided in the: Winter Stocked Trout Listing.
Note: A trout fishing license is required at these stocked locations.
Several stocked streams are closed to harvest during specific periods and then opened to harvest later in the year. The objective of this regulation is to provide a catch-and-release fishery for trout during the winter months using relatively low numbers of stocked trout. Then later in the year, after these fish have grown some, they may be harvested.
Regulations and boundaries vary for each creek so please consult TWRA’s Fishing Guide.
The following areas have delayed harvest regulations:
- Paint Creek (Green County)
- Tellico River (Monroe County)
- Gatlinburg Trout streams (Sevier County):
*West Prong Little River
- Hiwassee River (Polk County)
- Piney River (Rhea County)
The list below identifies where adult Brook, Brown, or Rainbow trout were recently stocked into Tennessee waters.
Note: The stocking report is updated weekly. 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. For more information on where you can find these stocked waterbodies, visit the Map of Stocking Location (interactive map).
Rivers below dams are commonly referred to as tailwaters or tailraces. Many hydropower and flood control dams operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release cold water into the tailwaters.
The cold water eliminated the habitat for native fishes that formerly occurred downstream, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TWRA stock trout to provide a quality fishery in these altered habitats.
TWRA currently manages 13 tailwaters located in Middle and East Tennessee. These fisheries are maintained by stocking both fingerling and adult trout at various times of the year. TWRA, in cooperation with Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery stocks approximately 1.5 million trout into Tennessee tailwaters each year.
Each year TWRA biologist 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.
Tennessee is fortunate to have an abundant wild trout resource. The Appalachian Mountain range in East Tennessee has approximately 845 miles of stream that support wild populations of Brook, Rainbow, and Brown trout. Most of these streams can be found on public land within the Cherokee National Forest (420 miles of stream) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (245 miles of stream). The remainder occurs on private property.
A wild trout can be generally defined as having spent its entire life cycle (egg through adult) in the wild. Since trout are abundant and can naturally reproduce in these streams, stocking is not needed to provide year-round fishing opportunities . Wild trout are typically found in soft-water (lack dissolved minerals) streams, causing them to be naturally infertile. Consequently, fish don’t get very big. Rainbow and Brook trout rarely live longer than 5 years of age and stay relatively small (<10 inches). However, wild Brown Trout in Tennessee streams can have been found to live up to 12 years, occasionally reaching over 20 inches in length. The statewide regulation for trout is a daily creel of 7 fish with no length limit. Several streams have exceptions to these limits so refer to TWRA's Fishing Guide to get the latest information for special regulations on the water you plan to fish.
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 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 of this episode of Tennessee’s Wild Side.
Identification: Yellow or reddish-orange spots on sides and belly. Light wormlike markings on the upper body. Leading edge of lower fins white with 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).
Rainbow Trout are native to the Pacific drainages of the western United States, but through extensive trout management during much of the 20th century has 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 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 temperature slightly warmer than Brook Trout, preferring water temperatures below 70° F.
Identification: Body olive to silver in color. Small black spots throughout the body that extend into the bottom of the tail. Pink streak along 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, wet and dry flies can be effective. Spinning and bait casting 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 offer 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 slightly larger tackle may help catch trophy sized fish.