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Cherokee Trout Season Kicks Off With Prizes March 31

For most of North Carolina’s hatchery-supported trout waters, trout season begins the first Saturday on April. But in Cherokee, where trout fishing is now permitted year’round, the traditional “opening day” will be celebrated a week earlier, with a special tournament on Saturday, March 31.

The Second Annual Cherokee Opening Day Trout Fishing Tournament will give participants a chance to catch $10,000 worth of tagged trout in the rivers of the Cherokee reservation (excluding the 2.2 miles of catch and release waters). Hundreds of specially tagged fish will be stocked in the Cherokee public fishing waters, and when a tagged fish is caught it can be redeemed for cash prizes ranging from $20 to $500 based on the color of the tag. The tournament is open to all ages and for all legal fishing methods.

The entry fee is just $5 – available everywhere Cherokee fishing permits are sold. Of course, registration is necessary to redeem prizes.

You’ll find more information about fishing on the Cherokee reservation at FishCherokee.com. And for information about fishing throughout the Smokies, go to the fishing page on GreatSmokies.com.

Photo courtesy Eugene Shuler, Fly Fishing in the Smokies

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The Nation’s Best Fly Fishermen Are Drawn to Cherokee

An angler nets a large trout during the “Rumble in the Rhododendron” fly fishing tournament held in late October. With $10,000 in prize money, the event was one of two major fishing competitions held in Cherokee’s tribal waters last year. The largest event was the U.S. National Fly Fishing Championship held in Cherokee last May — the first time the National event had been held in the Southeast.

This year, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Fish and Wildlife Management division and the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce have scheduled a total of eight major fishing events, beginning with the Shiver in the River Fly Fishing Tournament on Feb 3, 4 and 5. Held on the 2.2 miles of trophy, catch-and-release water on the Cherokee Reservation, the tournament has a $225 entry fee with $10,000 in prize money. Click for more information about all eight Cherokee fishing tournaments.

Each year, the EBCI Fish and Wildlife Management division stocks nearly 400,000 trout in the tribal waters, a stream system connecting 30 miles of freestone streams that include secluded forest settings, suburban road side areas as well as the center of the town of Cherokee.

Fishing in most of the Cherokee tribal streams requires a $10/day tribal permit for each person 12 years of age and over. No other fishing permit or license is accepted. Fishing in the “Trophy Waters” catch-and-release section of Ravens Fork requires an additional special use permit. Details, including information on multi-day and special use permits, can be found here.

For more information on fishing in the Smokies, including area fishing guides and outfitters, visit the fishing page at GreatSmokies.com.

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What do fishing guides do in their spare time? Some go fishing.

Two local fishing guides — Ken Kastorff of Endless River Adventures and Nick Johnson of Rivers Edge Outfitters — fish the scenic Little Tennessee River which flows north out of Macon County into Swain County before entering Fontana Lake.

Ken calls the “Little T” one of the easiest places to catch fish. He adds “and you never know what you’re going to catch” While the river may be best known for small mouth bass, there’s also redeye, redhorse, crappie, walleye, carp and even muskie. And in the springtime, there’s a run of trout.

The water is exceptionally clean with no commercial development to spoil the scenery. Wildlife sightings are commonplace, including deer, bald eagles and osprey.

The future is bright for the continued health of the Little Tennessee thanks to the efforts of the Little Tennessee Watershed Association and the Little Tennessee Land Trust, owners of the 4400-acre Needmore Game Lands, which encompasses a 27-mile stretch of the Little Tennessee.  The game lands are managed by NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

To learn more about fishing in the North Carolina Smokies go here.

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It’s Not Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel, But The Odds Are Improved

Each Fall, in order to provide a catch-basin for heavy Spring rains, the Tennessee Valley Authority begins its annual 56-foot winter drawdown of Fontana Lake. And while some may find exposed rocky shoreline less attractive, fishermen view it differently — with less water in the lake, there’s a greater concentration of fish. Do the math.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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Cherokee Children Learn To Fish Like Their Ancestors

For centuries, the Cherokee built their villages near the streams and rivers that flow out of the Smokies, largely for the bountiful supply of fish that the waterways provided. And to harvest large quantities of fish, they built fish weirs — “V”shaped constructions of rock that start from the banks on either side of the river and come to a point downstream. Men would line up across the river above the weir and roll bundles of river cane downstream, gradually forcing the fish into the apex of the weir. Nets or traps caught the fish, which were dried or smoked as a food supply for their nearby village.

Even though weir fishing is no longer practiced, many of these rock structures still remain. And a group of Cherokee youngsters from the Birdtown Day Camp recently had an opportunity to learn the “old way” of fishing in a demonstration conducted by WATR — the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River — with help from Blue Welch (foreground, above) of Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management.

The program — a partnership between WATR, US Fish and Wildlife and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation — focused on the river ecosystem and the importance of water quality. Roger Clapp, executive director of WATR, sat the children on the riverbank to eat their lunch, and gave them a lesson on what he calls “mudology.” Runoff of soil disturbed by developments, road building and bad streamside planting practices, creates sediment in the river, which is unhealthy for fish, insects and other wildlife which depend on the river.

Photo by Bill Lee

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Indian Creek Was The Legendary Angler Mark Cathey’s Home


Mark Cathey (1871-1944) once ‘owned’ Indian Creek. It was where he lived — a short distance above these falls — and it was where he mastered the art of fly fishing. Cathey was a colorful character who would modestly admit “I have been accused of being the best fisherman in the Smokies.”

Today, most visitors to the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park take the short one-mile walk to admire Indian Creek’s beautiful falls. But after learning more about legendary angler, you may want to continue your walk northward through what was once “Cathey’s Place”.

Bryson City naturalist George Ellison related two classic Mark Cathey stories in his Smoky Mountain News “Mountain Views” column in 2001. Ellison wrote, ‘He earned his living as a lumber-herder, trapper, and hunting or fishing guide. When the splash dams on the creeks in the Smokies were released, lumber-herders ran along the banks to clear jams. Some few, like Cathey, had the agility and courage to ride the logs down the creek, ducking branches and risking sure death in the event of a miscue.” Read entire article.

In his new book Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Jim Casada writes about Indian Creek and it’s most famous resident. When fishing Indian Creek, Casada writes, “…you can take quiet comfort in knowing that you are wading and casting in the footsteps of Uncle Mark Cathey.” Download a PDF excerpt from Jim Casada’s new book and read chapter 23 “Indian Creek”.

Download a PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.

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Smokies’ Summer Stillwater Fishing Season Starts Saturday


With Fontana Lake filling up right on schedule, the season’s first big fishing event gets underway at 7 a.m Saturday May 2 at the Almond Boat and RV Park near Bryson City, NC. The 16th Annual Bass Tournament and Barbecue will feature music, food, raffle prizes, and huge cash prizes for the tournament winners! All proceeds benefit the West Swain Volunteer Fire Department. To register, contact Jim at Almond Boat and RV Park 828-488-6423; Casey at Smoky Mountain Lakes and Marine 828-488-2424; or stop by Clampitt Ace Hardware in downtown Bryson City 828-488-2782.

Fontana Lake boasts one of the most diverse fish populations anywhere in the country, including Large and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Bream, Muskie, Catfish, Steelhead Trout and White Bass. The website GreatSmokies.com has more information about Fontana Lake and fishing in the NC Smokies.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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Can’t Wait For Trout Season to Begin? Go to Cherokee This Weekend.


The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opens its hatchery-supported tribal waters for fishing on March 28, one week ahead of the North Carolina state trout season. Cherokee’s “Enterprise Waters” include more than thirty miles of clear, stocked streams and three easily accessed ponds. The Fisheries & Wildlife Management program, which manages the tribal trout hatchery, will have stocked 20,000 pounds of rainbow, brook, brown and some golden trout for opening day.

The cost of a tribal fishing license, which is all you need to fish tribal waters, is $7 per day, $14 for two days, $20 for three days and $28 for five days. A $200 annual permit is good March 28, 2009 through February 28, 2010. The daily creel limit is 10 for adult anglers and a parent/guardian with a child or children.

The tribe offers three handicapped fishing piers which can accommodate wheelchairs. One is located at the fishing ponds in Big Cove and two are along the Oconaluftee River in downtown Cherokee.

Cherokee also features a catch & release fly fishing only section — more than two miles long — which begins at the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge on Big Cove Road and ends at the River Valley Campround. This section of stream requires a catch & release special use permit for $20 which is good for a 365 days from the date of purchase and at least a daily tribal fishing permit.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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The Cool Fall Weather Brings Out the Trout …and the Fishermen

Trout fishing on Deep Creek near Bryson City

Trout love cold water and that makes Fall a great time for fly fishing in Smoky Mountain streams like Deep Creek (above). To fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you must have either a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license. No license is required to fish in Cherokee Reservation waters, however a tribal permit is required. The cost is $7 per day with a creel limit of ten.

You can purchase a basic North Carolina license for a period of one day, three days or one year. The one-day cost for a resident is $5 (one year is $15); for a non-resident is $10, two days $15, one year $30. If you plan to fish for trout outside the National Park, an additional “trout stamp” is required at a cost of $10. Some of the trout streams are strictly catch-and-release.

For more information about North Carolina fishing, go to Online Fishing Regulations.

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Four-year-old Removes Eleven Fish From Fontana Lake

Gaige Jones (4) wins Fontana Kids Fishing Tourney

With eleven fish on his stringer, four-year-old Gaige Jones walked away with top honors at the Sixth Annual Kids Fishing Tournament, sponsored by the Fontana Lake Users Association. The tournament was held June 7 at the public boat ramp at the Old 288 Riverside Park, two miles west of downtown Bryson City, NC.

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