You can find the perfect catch in Tennessee. The lakes and waterways across the state are abundant with rainbow, brook and brown trout. Here’s where and when to reel in a big one in Tennessee.
In the South Holston River, you’ll find plenty of trout as they love the cold, deep waters. The river is said to be 85% of brown trout and 15% rainbow trout. With 18 miles of fishable water, the population of rainbow and brown trout have been estimated at 6,000 fish per mile. Anglers can catch trout up to 20 inches long.
The Little River
The Little River’s first 18 miles are in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the remaining 33 miles flow out of the mountains through Blount County to join the Tennessee River in Knox County. You’ll want to fish either the east or the middle fork of the Little River for premier Smoky Mountain trout fishing. Within the national park, fishing is permitted year-round from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
Trout also love Watauga Lake, some of the cleanest waters in the state. It’s the highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee and covers about 10 square miles and 6,400 acres, surrounded by densely forested mountains. There have been many state record lake trout caught in Watauga's waters. You can fish along the miles of shoreline or, go out in a boat. When the lake is at lower depths, trout swim around 90 feet deep; during colder months, you can expect the trout to be found closer to the surface.
Caney Fork River
Each year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocks Caney Fork River with more than 100,000 fish. Here, you’ll find rainbow, brown and brook trout swimming the cold waters. Experience kayak trout fishing for yourself to see if you can catch five or six pound trout. It’s an angler’s dream fishing spot as the Caney Fork River is about 20-30 yards wide and 143 miles long. The most popular fishing techniques are fly. Bottom and lure fishing.
Do not dump your bait into Tennessee lakes. Rather, always drain bait bucket water on land and throw away unwanted bait in the trash.
When to fish for trout in Tennessee
The fishing is always great in Tennessee. If you’re fishing for trout in or near the Smoky Mountains, late March through June will be the best times to fish. The water is warm and the trout are abundant. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stock 84 hatchery-supported streams and small lakes in Tennessee annually with approximately 330,000 rainbow trout. Brown trout are also stocked, varying between 300-62,000 annually which is based off of access, fishing pressure and trout availability.
Trout fishing regulations
You must have a valid fishing license in Tennessee to fish or assist someone else to do so. If you’re a Tennessee resident, you can qualify for a fishing license with a valid Tennessee driver’s license. A social security number is required to purchase a Tennessee hunting or fishing license. If you’re a Tennessee visitor, you can get a three-day all species fishing license for $40.50 or an annual fishing license for all species for $99. No fishing license is needed during Free Fishing Day which is always the Saturday of the first full week in June.
These are just a sampling of the locations you can fish in the state. Find your favorite fishing spot in Tennessee.
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