View Full Version : Big Park fish

08-10-2009, 10:31 AM
I have been working for the GSMNP fisheries biologists lately shocking streams for I & M (Inventory and monitoring) purposes. This is basically done to keep tabs on population numbers. Here is a nice one we shocked up the other day on a fairly small stream. Thought ya'll might enjoy.

Here's the fish with my ugly mug in the pic...


What a fatty! A true trophy for such a stream.


David Knapp
08-10-2009, 11:00 AM
Nice fish...now we just a good wide angle shot so I can figure out where I'm going on my next fishing trip...:rolleyes::biggrin:

08-10-2009, 11:11 AM
Nice fish...now we just a good wide angle shot so I can figure out where I'm going on my next fishing trip...:rolleyes::biggrin:

Hahaha! That would be nice of me wouldn't it...I'll give ya a hint, its on the NC side of the park and not all that tough to access.

David Knapp
08-10-2009, 11:37 AM
I figured as much...I think its one of two streams and I'm pretty sure which one of those two it is... Suppose I'll have to fish there more often...:cool:

08-10-2009, 11:43 AM

How much would the name of that stream cost me?

08-10-2009, 11:56 AM

How much would the name of that stream cost me?

Haha...now there's a business opportunity I haven't considered...:rolleyes:

My advice, just fish streams that have a good brown trout population with the usual tactics and hope to get lucky. Having said that, I know where they're at and still can't catch 'em, so take it for what its worth...:biggrin:

08-10-2009, 12:00 PM
I figured as much...I think its one of two streams and I'm pretty sure which one of those two it is... Suppose I'll have to fish there more often...:cool:

Another hint...its not one of the better known brown trout streams in the Smokies, but holds a pretty good population none the less.

08-13-2009, 09:34 AM
Bugg, that is a truly nice fish. I helped Steve and Matt shock Cataloochee last September and even they were suprised at how few larger fish we found. Only one or two over 13" in two days of electrofishing. Good to see some big boys still around. I hope to be able to volunteer to help again soon. It was very educational and I enjoyed working with both Steve and Matt.
Jedidiah Green

Jim Casada
08-13-2009, 10:43 AM
Jedidiah--I'm not overly surprised you didn't find many big fish. The drought really took a toll on big fish. The browns are gone, apparently totally gone, from Abrams Creek, and I'm seeing far fewer in most streams. However, there's another part of the equation I doubt that the fisheries biologists mentioned, although I have recently talked with Matt about it. I'm convinced, and my opinion is based on personal observation along with input from a number of other folks who spend a lot of time fishing Park waters, that otters are wreaking havoc. Big browns are the easiest of all fish for them to catch, and comparatively slow moving water (such as you find at Cataloochee in most places) makes them even more vulnerable.
I think restoration of otters has created a problem which will expand a great deal in coming years, and it will be interesting to see what happens when they start working on specs which the Park has spent so much effort restoring.
I'd be curious as to what others think, since this whole thing has been pretty much under the radar. Jim Casada

08-13-2009, 11:39 AM
What did Matt have to say about it? I've watched them in the Stones River along the greenway, and they sure are good at catching fish. I watched one chomp down on what appeared to be a bass about 15 inches long this week. They do have an appetite. I can see where a family could go through a lot of fish.

08-13-2009, 12:25 PM
Bugg, that is a beautiful brown! We see big fish up in the park regularly, but rarely out of the water ;-) Thanks for sharing your great photos.

Jim Casada
08-13-2009, 01:56 PM
Silvercreek--Matt was quite receiptive to my concerns, and I have found him to be a good listener on a consistent basis. I don't think he had given the matter much thought, but the correlation between the fact that the first (andultimately, the heaviest) stocking of otters taking place on Abrams Creek and the complete disappearance of browns there did strike a responsive note with him. The same was true of my relaying to him the fact that the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission lost thousands of trout at their Armstrong Creek hatchery thanks to otter depredations. There's no doubt about their efficiency, and a family can kill huge numbers of fish. Jim Casada

Rog 1
08-13-2009, 02:39 PM
Otters are not just partial to trout...a family showed up in the small lake at my Dad's retirement village and the bass population took a major hit....years later the size and number has yet to recover....eventually the gators took care of the otters....the circle of life.

08-14-2009, 09:23 PM
I'm with you on the otters, they are fish killing machines. I saw three on Snowbird last time I was over, apparently mom, dad and pup. I bet mom and pop weighed 20+ lbs. They make a really destinctive chirp to communicate, or maybe sound an alarm. It almost sounds like the call of a little green heron, wish I could describe it.... high pitched, sharp, sort of a whistle. I ended up between them; mom and pop upstream and the pup downstream, a lot of that chirping was going on until they reunited. They continued down the creek. I saw video footage of one chasing down a rainbow one time, the trout never had a chance. Then while in florida a couple of years ago, I saw one drag a catfish up on the bank and eat it. The cat was easily 5 lb.
A few pics, sorry they aren't the best, they just won't stay still!


Hope those come out alright.


08-16-2009, 12:22 PM
there is certainly no doubt that otters can catch and eat a ton of fish, but i dont think we need to worry about fish populations in the park because the otters and trout have coexisted for a million years up there. I do know one thing, when im fishing and i see an otter, i go to a new spot

Jim Casada
08-16-2009, 12:29 PM
Elikhaircaddis--I have to take issue with your statement that otters and trout have always coexisted in the Park. There are two inaccuracies in that statement. First, there were no trout in what is now the Park until a century or so ago when rainbows and browns wer first stocked (specks are a char, not a trout). Second, otters were, according to all available evidence, totally extirpated by settlers before the Park was created.
If you take that information one additional step, it is rainbows and browns, far more than specks, which are suffering from the ravages of otters. I hope you are right but I greatly fear coming years will see the situation worsen appreciably. It already has as regards big browns, although drought is doubtless a factor as well. Jim Casada

08-16-2009, 05:54 PM
Being originally from Sweden, where otters have been present since beginning of time. The nutrient poor lakes are choke full of yellow perch among other fish, and guess what I saw otters all the time. If anything they might help the population to recover from stunted growth. Would be a good thing if they eat all the 5 inch bows in my opinion.

Jim Casada
08-16-2009, 07:56 PM
Hans--I'll have to disagree, and disagree strongly, with your sentiments about five-inch rainbows. While I'll acknowledge some Park streams have at times been overpopulated with smaller fish (a good argument for creeling fish when you want to enjoy some trout), right now I think those smaller fish are particularly important. Why? Because from my observations this summer, and In recent months I've done more fishing in the Park than I have at any time for 20 years (almost every day in the latter part of May, all of June, all of July, and up to the 9th of August), and on all streams I've fished I've found a dearth of the seven- to 10-inch class of rainbows. I think the explanation is drought the past two summers, but I know for sure the recruitment is need.
Also, from all I can learn and what N. C. biologists tell me, it isn't the little trout but the trophy-sized ones which form the first or primary prey of otters. I'm betting, if you fish regularly, that you've been seeing fewer big browns in the last three or four years. I know for a fact that I am, and in one formerly wonderful N. C. trout stream (although it is outside the Park), Big Santeetlah, large wild browns are simply gone. Ask any veteran angler in Graham County and they'll readily confirm this. Jim Casada

08-16-2009, 09:06 PM

I don't know you in person but I do know of you. I respect your experience and your standing in the outdoor media world. With that said, I'm not sure I believe that the otters are such a threat to bigger fish. I don't have any data to back it up but I have fished several high altitude streams at the same time as you (although not as many times as you), I caught many rainbows smaller than your bracket of 7-10 inch fish. In fact the streams I fished seem to have the same amount of bows in the fingerling classes as always. Of course this is on the TN side.

I saw otters back in 1994 on Abrams when I first moved here and the browns were gone at about that time. I don't believe the otters are discriminating against the bows. There seem to be the same amount of 10-12 inch bows on Abrams as always.

As for Browns being gone. I can't argue with your evidence on that one, although I'm not sure it's all simple as saying it's the Otter. I guess I'll just have to accept that we agree to disagree on that one.


Hans Ahlstedt

08-17-2009, 08:46 AM
Why were otters brought back in the first place?
I know years ago some were released in Harpeth River at the Narrows,but I don't know if they reproduced,since I don't get on that river much anymore I wonder.

08-17-2009, 10:16 AM

Do you regard the otters that have been reintroduced to some of the local tailwater, such as the Clinch, to be as much of a nuisance as they are in the park? Obviously, there are many more trout since they stock so many on the Clinch, yet there are very very many large browns still in those waters.

Jim Casada
08-17-2009, 02:46 PM
Carlito--The trout which are most vulnerable to otter depredation appear to be those in relatively confined areas (i. e., small rivers and streams). They can't escape as readily, and just like it is easier for fishermen to identify likely holding spots in smaller water, so it is easier for otters to know where trout are likely to be.
I'll give you a solid, specific example. The steelhead in Lake Santeetlah are pretty much safe until they follow ages old instincts in the fall and stack up at the mouth of feeder streams such as Big Snowbird. Then the otters have a field day. Jim Casada

08-17-2009, 03:50 PM
Stupid question. Do otters eat carp? The Stones River in Nashville is full of carp, and you would think they would be an easy catch for otters. However on the occasions when I have seen otters eating fish, it has always been shad, bass or bluegill. I watched an otter eat a bass of around 14 inches last week. Yesterday I saw five ottters in the Stones river.

08-17-2009, 10:19 PM
Stupid question. Do otters eat carp? The Stones River in Nashville is full of carp, and you would think they would be an easy catch for otters. However on the occasions when I have seen otters eating fish, it has always been shad, bass or bluegill. I watched an otter eat a bass of around 14 inches last week. Yesterday I saw five ottters in the Stones river.

I wouldn't eat those carp either!

Jim Casada
08-18-2009, 07:52 AM
Silvercreek--While I have heard biologists say, repeatedly, that otters eat "trash" fish almost exclusively, everything I have ever observed argues otherwise. What you saw simply echoes my visual experience (if I can mix sense metaphors), and to suggest that otters in a trout stream are only going to eat knottyheads, red horse, or hog suckers is nonsense.
As for another question someone else posed regarding why otters were reintroduced, the Park would say it was because they were original residents of the region. On the other hand, the Park stocked rainbows and northern strain brook trout for many years, and brown trout on at least one occasion, thereby running counter to their own "dictates" about indigenous species versus others. It's quite a conundrum, and obviously I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about otters.
I know enough about the way the Park approaches things to realize its about as likely they'll do something about otters as it is that they will cease highly destructive horse traffic on Park trails. But as someone who cherishes Park streams and wild fish, I find it extremely worrisome. Jim Casada

08-18-2009, 08:19 AM
After seeing them procrastinate action on the cabins and hotel at Elkmont until the desired effect was achieved, I don't put anything past them!

08-18-2009, 08:48 AM
As much as I love nature and most things wild,some animals that are reintroduced can become problems....just because they(otters) were there for centuries doesn't mean it's a great idea to bring them back....but try to tell that to officials.
In my 56 years I have seen many animals brought back that today are so plentiful as to be a pest.I was over 20 years old before I saw my first wild whitetail deer,and later it was wild turkeys,and we all know that they're everywhere now,and to some people they are a nuisance....and beavers....I know of a large tract of land here in this county where the beavers dammed a small drainage ditch at a culvert next to the hwy. so many times,that after tearing out dam after dam,the hwy. dept. gave up,and now there's somebody's land that has been turned into a lake and swamp and has been designated a "wetland",all in 20 years.
As far as otters in trout streams,I'm no biologist,but after observing animals in the wild for years,I know they won't be selective in their feeding to exclude trout from their diet.....common sense tells me that.

Ky Tim
08-18-2009, 10:38 AM
You have to keep in mind that years ago when otter where in the area, there were probvably people running trap lines and catching a few.

Jim Casada
08-18-2009, 12:52 PM
Kytim--Precisely, and interestingly enough, that's a part of the solution the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission is suggesting--urge trappers to get busy (and as someone who trapped in my younger days and still follows the fur market a bit, I kno otter pelts do fetch pretty good "cash money." However, trapping is out of the question in the Park and that's why I fear things might run amok and already are to a certain extent. One writer of my acquaintance commented in print, back in the early stages of introduction, to the effect that hardy mountain folks worked for a century to get rid of otters and now the Park is bringing them back. The wrath of the Feds descended on him. My concerns are both practical and selfish--on the practical side, what happens when otters work their way into headwaters, as they are beginning to do, and start making tasty snacks of the specs which have involved so much expenditure of energy and money; on the selfish side, I just hate to see fishing populations greatly diminished. That has already happened on two streams I know and cherish which lie not far outside the Park, and I fear so few folks actively trap today that even in state waters the problem will only worsen. Ideally mine will be a gross overreaction, but based on the trend I've seen the last five years I fear that's not the case. Jim Casada