Anglers on selected streams
within Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be able to fish for and
keep brook trout for the first time in over 25 years as part of a 3-year
experimental project set to begin at noon on July 1, 2002. Park managers
at the Smokies have identified eight streams – four each in Tennessee
and North Carolina - where anglers will be allowed to fish for brookies
for the first time since 1975.
Brook trout are the only trout species
native to the Smokies and were historically found in nearly every
watershed from their high-elevation headwaters down to about the
2,000-foot elevation. However, in the decades just prior to the Park’s
creation in 1934, the brook, or "speckled" trout, was
eliminated from much of its range by the siltation and other effects of
the heavy-handed logging practices of that period.
To provide for a continued sport fishery,
individuals, logging companies, and later, the Park, stocked the streams
with non-native rainbow trout which originated in the Sierras. Early
Park managers hoped that as the forest recovered, brook trout would
naturally spread back down from their high-elevation refuge streams, but
this did not occur because the non-natives grew faster and out-competed
By the mid-1970’s biologists were
concerned about losing the brook trout altogether and imposed a ban on
fishing for them under the assumption that angling pressure was
contributing to their decline. After decades of annual fish surveys in
streams throughout the Smokies, Park biologists have come to doubt that
barring angling has had any benefit in protecting fish populations. The
surveys have shown that the density and size of fish in streams where
fishing is permitted, versus those where it is prohibited, are virtually
Fisheries Biologist Steve Moore said,
"The Park has two central goals in managing its fishery: to protect
and restore native species and to provide for an enjoyable angling
experience for visitors. This 3-year experimental program will allow us
to find out if we can do both."
The experiment will allow angling in
eight streams that are currently closed to fishing, while continuing to
prohibit fishing in eight adjacent, and very similar, streams.
Biologists will sample fish populations through electro-fishing, and at
the end of the experiment, will compare the fish populations in the
fished versus un-fished streams. If it can be shown that the populations
are statistically about the same, Park managers will decide which other
brook trout streams may be opened to fishing.
At 12:00 noon on July 1, only the
following streams will reopen to fishing for all the species that
anglers are currently allowed to take as well as for brook trout:
In North Carolina: Beech Flats Creek
above Kanati Branch confluence, all of Bunches Creek within the Park,
Hazel Creek upstream of Proctor Creek, and Lost Bottom Creek upstream of
In Tennessee: Cosby Creek above Rock
Creek confluence, all of Indian Camp Creek inside the Park, Walker Prong
upstream of Alum Cave, and Fish Camp Prong upstream of Goshen Prong.
Park managers emphasized that all other
streams currently closed to fishing remain closed, and that taking brook
trout anywhere in the Park except for those eight experimental streams
remains strictly prohibited. Signs are being posted at the appropriate
locations to help anglers identify which streams are being reopened
under this experiment. All other Park
fishing regulations, including the 7" minimum size limit on
trout, remain in effect.