Trying to Catch Rainbow Trout in Gatlinburg, Tennessee


Trying to Catch Rainbow Trout in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

So right before Thanksgiving, I had a short little trip with the better half up in the Smokey Mountains up in the Gatlinburg – Pigeon Forge area. Fun little towns in the heart of the Smokies in the eastern part of Tennessee. There’s a bunch of things to do, sights to see, and places to eat. And surprisingly rainbow trout to catch in the middle of the towns. Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have stocked trout streams running all through them. These are for the most part open for the public to fish.

Streetview of the Gatlinburg Parkway

The city of Gatlingburg actively advertises and promotes trout fishing around the city. So don’t be surprised when if you’re walking around the Margaritaville resort and see an angler with a stringer of rainbow trout. They actually have an active trout farm in Herbert Holt Park to make sure they never run out. They use the trout farm to keep the rivers and streams around Gatlinburg full of rainbow trout all year round. Every Thursday they put the hatchery rainbow trout into the rivers, making sure there are plenty of fish for the weekend anglers. Because they are stocking on Thursday to give the fish a chance to acclimate to the rivers, all trout fishing is closed on Thursdays inside the city limits.

Trout Hatchery in Gatlinburg

There are some special rules that do apply though because of this unique situation. Gatlinburg itself has its own fishing license that you need even if you have a Tenessee Fishing license with a supplemental trout license. So to fish inside the city limits as a resident of the state of Tenessee you need the following three licenses a Annual Hunting and Fishing Combination (Type 001) plus Annual Trout (Type 022) and a Gatlinburg Three-Day Trout Permit (Type 096) or Gatlinburg Trout-Daily (Type 099) For a non-resident of Tenessee, you need these a combination of these two licenses. A Gatlinburg Trout-Daily (Type 099) or Gatlinburg 3-Day Trout (Type 096) plus any of the nonresident fishing licenses; 3-Day Fish All Species (Type 078), 10-Day Fish All Species (Type 080), or Annual Fish All Species (Type 081)

Or if you’re only going to fish for a short while like I was you can just buy a Gatlinburg One-Day Trout Permit (Type 097) for about $14.50ish to fish the whole day. But this license only is valid inside the city limits, if you’re wanting to fish in Pigeon Forge of the National Park you need the other fishing licenses. Also for buying the fishing licenses you need, just do it online on your phone it’s much easier that way. Yeah, honestly it’s a lot more complicated than I had expected when I first looked into it.

The general regulations for trout fishing is a Catch and Release Season: December 1 through March 31 and Open Season: April 1 through November 30. During the open season, you can keep up to 5 trout a day, and can only have 5 trout in your possession, so no storing a previous days catch in your cooler in the car or something like that.  During the closed season, you can’t use any scented or natural baits, so plastics and flys only. Single hooks only as well along with the obvious all fish have to be released back into the river.  There are three Children’s streams inside the city as well where only kids 12 years and younger are allowed to fish.

  • West Prong Little Pigeon River from the Herbert Holt Park entrance bridge downstream to the Gatlinburg By-Pass Bridge.
  • Dudley Creek from the Highway 441 Bridge downstream to the West Prong Little Pigeon River.
  • LeConte Creek from Painters Branch upstream to National Park Boundary.
Trying to Catch Trout in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Runs full of rainbow trout

Like I said earlier, you can fish just about anywhere inside the city limits except the Children’s streams. For anyone who wants to take a peak at the trout hatchery, it is in Herbert Holt Park I parked near the Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery and just walked down the street to the Cliff Branch Stream. This is smack dab in the middle of town, within walking distance from the main parkway of town. But unfortunately for me, the geese were fighting up and down the stream. The water was gin clear though, and from seeing online other anglers with more time than me have had success there.

Trying to Catch Trout in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Even running right next to one of the main roads of Gatlinburg the Streams are gorgeous

There was another location that I had a tiny bit of time to try. We had to cross back over the mountains before sunset, and with the skies going overcast it put us on a time crunch. This spot is over on the north side of town right near the city limits, Herbert Holt Park, and the Parkway Bypass. This location is about 15 minutes from the town center with no traffic and is a completely different feel from the first location. Even though the park and city are just a quarter mile upstream.

To access this location you have to be driving southbound on 73, there is a ramp that goes to the Parkway Bypass that you have to take. The gravel parking lot is located on that ramp on the right. From there you can walk down and fish the river from the south side of the Parkway Bypass bridge down to the city limits. If you have the Tenessee all species fishing license with trout stamp you can just keep going downstream as far as you want.

View of the parking lot from the woods coming up from the river
A short walk down to the river through some woods, super scenic

We parked and started walking down, I was hoping to really put this new St. Croix Trout series rod to the test but, yeahhhhh it didn’t happen. I had about 25 minutes to fish and tried about 5 different lures from darters, spinners, and soft plastics. Eventually breaking down and trying some salmon eggs but no luck. To make things even worse I saw a decent size rainbow come up and eat something off the top right in the eddy I was working.

I feel like if I had another day or two to really fish I could have had some results considering these are stocker trout. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and having an hour to fish between two spots just wasn’t conducive for me to catch trout. I’ll have to go back up there another time and try again and hopefully do a Catch and Cook, especially with how tasty trout are. For anyone interested in going up to Gatlinburg just for a trip I highly recommend taking a trout combo with you, the trout are there. I just suck at trout fishing. If you have any questions when you go up the folks over at The Smokey Mountain Angler are super helpful and will point you in the right direction.

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Fishing Writer for An avid angler since I was little, based out of the South East United States.

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