View Full Version : Big Park Rainbow!!

10-11-2009, 09:13 PM
Hey all, i don't post much on here, but visit regularly. I only make it to the mountains about twice a year if im lucky so i kinda feel like i don't have much that i can share, but when i do, i do share.

I came down on wed. night for what was supposed to be a 4 day camping/fishing trip that got cut short. When i called home to check in with the misses friday evening she informed me that both she and my daughter had gotten the swine flu, so i packed up camp and headed back to KY. They are better now, and somehow, ive yet to get it, knock on wood.

I did get in two good days of fishing, and thursday being the best. I was fishing this certain creek and came to a huge pool. I cast my #12 orange stimi w/ green copperjohn dropper up stream and it landed exactly where I wanted it. I mend the line, and all of a sudden I see this big, dark shadow come out from under a rock and sip that stimi right off the top. I set the hook and the fight was on. As i got the fish in close i reached and grabbed my small trout net off my back and quickly realized, How the **** am i supposed to fit this thing in here. It was a 17" rainbow. I couldn't believe it. Man talk about a rush. Once i got it in the net i let out a loud WWWOOOOO. So if anyone heard such nonsense about 11:45 thursday morning, it was me, and for good reason :biggrin:. I quickly got to the bank and laid my rod down, very carefully held the fish and net in the water and grabbed my cell phone. I had to take a picture of this if nothing else but for proof. The pictures are horrible, but like i said, i just wanted proof. I quickly snapped a couple and got her back in the water. She was a beautiful fish, the pics don't do her justice. I thanked her for giving me the pleasure and gladly watched her scurry away back to the dark hole she came from. I did a little happy dance and about fell face first into that cold water. Needless to say I walked around with a **** eatin grin on my face the rest of the day:biggrin:. Then about 3 casts later i caught an 11-12" brown in the same hole. It was a great day of fishing with about 25 fish brought to hand. Then the next day on deep creek i missed a big brown that was as big or bigger, just got a little ansy and set the hook too quick, man was that upsetting. All in all it was a great trip, and i got a park fish of a lifetime.

Like i said, the pics are horrible, sorry. I took them more for proof than anything. I don't have a waterproof digi yet and the boss won't let me take the good camera for fear ill drop, and i probably would. But christmas is coming.


http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh259/kybowhunter930/PIC-0034-1.jpg This pic i just snapped it and threw my phone up on the bank so i could get her back in the water. When ever you need a buddy there to snap the hero shot, they're never there right.... Oh well, i have a vivid memory of her and ever since when i close my eyes i see her rise up and sip that fly right off the top, and thats what counts. (side note-the copper john dropper was caught in my net, not her gut as it appears)

10-11-2009, 09:18 PM
just to add, i did mark her length on my rod,scrathed it with a rock, and measured it as soon as i let her go, And she measured 17".

10-11-2009, 09:54 PM
Nicely done, bredmon. Beautiful fish. Not a lot of those buggers caught in the park.

BTW, if there was swine flu in my house, I believe I would be spending a few extra days fishing instead of driving back. You're a good man.

10-12-2009, 02:10 AM
Nice fish but I am not where "certain creek" is haha

10-12-2009, 11:02 AM
Beautiful Bredmon!! Thanks for bragging, I mean sharing:biggrin::biggrin:. I would be telling everybody if I ever landed one that size up there, nice!!!!! Congrats!

Hal M
10-12-2009, 12:22 PM
Super nice!! That will definitely keep you coming back.

Hal M

10-12-2009, 12:32 PM
Nice fish! One of these days...

Scott H.
10-12-2009, 02:10 PM
Nice fish. I was curious where you caught it.

The reason for my curiosity is the size of the fish. I haven't seen a wild rainbow that big since I was in Montana.

If you don't want to tell, that's fine, but there aren't really any secret creeks in the park are there?


David Knapp
10-12-2009, 02:19 PM
Lots of secrets in the park....:biggrin:

Scott H.
10-12-2009, 06:30 PM
You're right.
And most of those the average man won't put forth the effort to get to.

10-12-2009, 08:36 PM
Scott H.
The creek isn't the secret, its just I don't want to disclose it and that stream get pounded from now on because a big bow was caught there, you know what i mean?? I can tell you if you read Jim Casada's book it'll give you a good idea, and i bet he has a good idea which one, and i will tell you its not Deep Creek.

Sharing-Bragging, its a fine line that seperates the two :biggrin:. I don't like to brag, thats one reason i don't post a bunch of pics or take them for that matter. I have a perfect picture in my head and in my memories, and for me thats what counts, and thats why im out there for me and to get out there, and eventually my kids when/if they want to join me. My main reason for this one is because ive never seen a pic. of a wild, big park bow on here and figured that people would want to see, even if they aren't that great.

Thanks, Let me tell you, i didn't want to come home, i kinda felt like i was walking the Green Mile, know what i mean. Plus ive been trying to get this trip in all year, but atleast i got half of it in, gotta do what ya gotta do. And somehow ive managed not to get it, yet atleast. Ill be back next may i hope.

10-12-2009, 10:25 PM
Big bows do exist in the park. Few and far between. I have yet to land a big brown but have landed a 16 inch bow. In a stream that was very much inside the park. Only one though. They are there.

Scott H.
10-12-2009, 11:18 PM

It is a beauty of a fish!

10-13-2009, 08:53 AM
Nice to see what is out there. Maybe one day I'll get that lucky.

10-13-2009, 04:18 PM
You caught the "bigfoot" of trout. Seldom seen, rarely photographed or caught! You will relive that catch the rest of your life. Fantastic fish !

Jim Casada
10-13-2009, 05:39 PM
Highstick (and Bredmon)--It is intriguing that the larger rainbows are few and far between (more in Abrams Creek than anywhere else, and that's likely because of stream fertility and the absence of browns, IMO).
I don't know for sure what has happened, but that wasn't always the case. In the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s there were lots of bigger 'bows. My theory is that as browns became more prevalent, they took prime habitat and in general through their presence mitigated against 'bows growing big. It's also possible that increasing levels of acidity are a factor.
Whatever the explanation, 'bows in excess of 12 inches are rare, in excess of 14 inches very rare, and 16 inches or larger scarce indeed.
You obviously don't want to share the whereabouts of your fine catch Bredmon, but based on the two photos you provide I have to wonder a bit if it was a fish stocked in state water which migrated upstream and was a holdover. The color and markings are suggestive in that regard, and the last two large 'bows I caught (one in Luftee and one in the West Prong of the Little Pigeon) almost certainly were of that derivation, having moved upstream from tribal waters in one case and Gatlinburg in the other.
This doesn't necessarily lessen the appeal of your catch, but it does address the matter of just how difficlut it is for a 'bow to become a "teenincher" in Park waters.
I've talked with Matt Kulp a bit about this but like me, he just has theories, as opposed to hard proof. The differences are he's a scientist and I'm not, but I've had a lifetime of observing Park fish.
Anyway, congrats on the fish and the whole matter intrigues me. Jim Casada

10-13-2009, 07:18 PM
I wondered that myself, if maybe it migragted up stream, but if it did, let me tell you it had one heck of journey getting there. I mean it wasn't remote backcountry, but backcountry and it is a very long way from a stocked stream. I would like to email you to discuss this further and get your take on it.

brad redmon

10-13-2009, 08:20 PM
I hope you know I was just funnin', I am really glad you posted that. I had no idea a bow could get that big in park water. I've got Mr. Casada's book beside my chair, I've been reading a couple of chapters each night but you're gonna make me jump it up to 3 or 4!!!

10-13-2009, 09:48 PM
Yeah I know, just explaining my purpose.....:biggrin:

10-13-2009, 10:12 PM
Brad, that is one awesome fish! what a rush that must have been congrats and thanks for sharing the story!

Rog 1
10-14-2009, 10:54 AM
I know that there used to be a lot more big bows in the Park than what I have been seeing lately...some of that may have to do with age since I no longer frequent some of the higher water of my youth.....I have pulled one 16" bow from Park waters and have lost at least one that was larger....I know that many of these big fish have been targeted by bait fishermen in the past and removed....these fish are still there but they don't get that big by showing themselves and going after every feathered presentation sent their way.

10-14-2009, 10:57 AM
I would agree as to the coloration of the fish pictured, but also know that every fish is different. My observation is that park bows are vibrantly colored and often have spots well below the lateral line, and a broad pink stripe. The Biggest that i caught certaintly matched that description. But they are very rare. I landed a 14 inch bow the other day in the east prong and have pulled several of the 12" range out this year as well. These decent size bows seem to come with some regularity for me, however a brown of any size is eluding me much to my dismay.
Jim I have not much of a clue as to why the bows arent growing to their full potential and have had many a discussion on the same topic. I went out head hunting last night for the first time this year and was suprised at the number of really decent sized bows I saw on the east prong. In fact i only put a stalk on one Big brown, which I succesfully spooked.
Anyway my big bow came about 3 miles up on the little river trail. I had no idea it was there and caught it on 100% luck. I snuck up behind a small water fall so that the water was at about chest hieght. Landed a dry up stream and the big beauty took the fly about 4' away from me. Had to go downtstream a few holes with it but landed it and had a buddy take a picture that has been lost somewhere in one of my 2.5 million pictures.
They are out there.

10-14-2009, 12:28 PM
First off - Brad - awesome fish! I would love to catch a fish like that from a mountain stream. Great work!! I have it from semi reliable sources that you are a helluva fisherman so the success backs up that statement...

Now then, something that people say on the this forum from time-to-time has me scratching my head. The assertion that fish were bigger in the 50s, 60s and 70s than they are now.

Of course they were!! The streams used to be continually stocked! From 1910 to 1975 Rainbows, Browns and Northern Strain Brookies were stocked in the streams of the Park, especially in those areas surrounding campgrounds (Elkmont-LR, Cades Code-Abrams, Deep Creel-Deep Creek, Chimneys-WPLP, etc). No doubt fish raised in hatcheries started off bigger than most of the fish end up today. With that headstart they of course would be bigger on average than the fish today.

They also used to designate WPLP as a sportman's stream, where they would regularly release brood stock in to the stream. Fish that would never be able to naturally reproduce in the streams of the park today (or then, for that matter)

Here's another thought: Perhaps the farming activities of the past made the streams much more fertile than they are today. I'm constantly amazed at how large the fish are in very small western streams that run through national forests that allow cattle to graze. Do I like the cattle polluting? No, but the fish do grow larger...once cattle were all over the park and on many of the balds. No doubt their nutrients fed the streams, which led to more abundant aquatic life and in turn larger fish.

A final thought: Yes there used to be Brookies of much larger size than today. But that was before logging wiped out most of the spec habitat and much of the forests. And before 9M people a year (in cars) began visiting the area.

While I would love to catch larger fish in the Park, I realize what limitations are (and what the exceptions can be) and still prefer to fish in wild mtn streams.

The old days weren't always that great...


10-14-2009, 02:29 PM
I also have wondered about the decrease in size of Park rainbows. The stockings pre 1975 would explain it to a large degree, but it also seems that the rainbows have become smaller since 1978, which was post stocking. As a teenager, I remember catching wild rainbows up to 11" in the West Prong of the Pigeon in 1978 and my fly fishing skills much more limited then.

To date, my largest rainbows in the Park were 11 1/2". I understand that the Tennessee side produces bigger rainbows and generally has a higher PH in certain streams. Any rainbow over 10" in the NC side is a noteworthy fish these days.

I would guess that acid rain has had an effect. Rainbows are more sensitive to decreased PH than browns or bows and lowered PH also negatively affects insect life. In Gasque's book concerning fishing in the Smokies in the 1940s, he talks about a rainbow in Cataloochee going four pounds. It might have been a stocked fish, but I can also see larger fish in the Park streams where terrestials abounded after many of the trees were just beginning to grow back from extensive timber activities.

10-14-2009, 03:07 PM
I can also see larger fish in the Park streams where terrestials abounded after many of the trees were just beginning to grow back from extensive timber activities.

Another excellent point. In other words some of the past abuses of the land led to larger fish (cattle grazing, timbering, etc)...but I don't think we want to go back in that direction...

BTW, I have had some pretty good success on WPLP in the last two years (I've caught 4 at/above 11 inches). The drought has thinned out a good number of fish but the ones that are left have been eating well...fewer but larger...

Jim Casada
10-14-2009, 03:14 PM
PeteCz--While it is indeed accurate to say that a number of Park streams were stocked with big fish in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, that should not suggest that as the sole (or even primary) explanation of today's smaller rainbows. Basically, only those streams accessible by vehicle were stocked with large fish, yet there were big rainbows far from the nearest gravel road a Park vehicle could travel. I can assure you I can tell the difference between a stocked fish and a wild one, and it was even easier back then because the dough bellies had terrible coloration. I hooked scores of big rainbows (and landed the occasional one) miles away from any convenient means of stocking.
In other words, I firmly believe (revise that, I know) that there were far more big, WILD rainbows in yesteryear than there are today.
I'm also curious about your statement that browns were stocked in the Park. Other than a single instance, I have never been able to find any evidence suggesting that was the case. If you have documented evidence of other stockings, I would really like to know about it. I'm also going to ask Steve Moore about it, but after lots of times with documents, I only found evidence of one stocking of browns (in lower Luftee).
That brings us pretty much back to square one. Yes, some of the big 'bows from yesteryear were stockers, as you rightly suggest, but a lot more of them weren't. Why have the big, wild rainbows largely vanished?
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

10-14-2009, 04:10 PM
Logging companies stocked the streams before the National Park service took over in 1934. Stocking activities occurred as early at 1910 (if not earlier).

While I don't have the actual stocking information on the Brown trout, the fact is that they had to get into the streams from somewhere, because as you know, Brown Trout are not native to North America, let alone the Smokies. Perhaps it was before the formation of the Park by Loggers or Game enthusiasts, but the fact is, they were not here on their own.

I'm not suggesting that the only reason there were larger fish was due to stocking. The deforestation of parts of the Park would make it a better habitat for terrestrials (and not so for birds etc). Obviously fish that feast on terrestrials are going to grow larger. And the nutrient runoff from cattle grazing probably assisted in more abundance of aquatic life, as well. But I don't think either of those activities would be welcome as a way to increase the size of the fish in the Park.

My main point is that I really don't get the "everything was better in the past" sentiment. There were reasons why we had to pass legislation in the 70s to attempt to clean up the water and air, and why we feel compelled to not kill every fish we catch...the sins of the past century had caught up with us...perhaps we acted too late...

It is also possible that the groundswell of preference toward C&R fishing in the Park is actually having an adverse affect on the fish. Since the streams are not overly fertile and since fewer fish are being harvested, most of the streams were running at their carrying limits (prior to the drought) and were overly competitive for the limited food supply. My own limited experience is that the fishing has actually been better this year than I expected. While I have caught fewer fish this year, on average the fish I have caught have been considerably larger than in years past (both in averages and largest). Perhaps our own C&R habits have an unintended impact on the rainbow population, as well.

Jim Casada
10-14-2009, 04:37 PM
PeteCz--I'm guessing, from the content of your reply, that you haven't read my recently published book on fishing in the Park. I touch on most of your points (logging, pre-Park stocking, deforestation, etc.) in considerable detail.
I got all excited when I saw your mention of browns being stocked, because I thought maybe you had some hard information on stocking within the Park. The generally accepted knowledge here is that they migrated upstream from state waters in N. C. and Tennessee.
I agree with your thoughts on anglers keeping fewer fish possibly having an impact. My personal view is that many Park streams would actually benefit from appreciably more release to grease.
I've fished Park waters for 60 years and I do see changes--fewer big 'bows, far more browns large and small, possibly more specks, and little change in the quality of fishing in many streams.
My experiences in the Park in recent months, and I've fished a great deal, show two things. Really great numbers of fish 7 inches and under, relatively few (compared to other years) in the 7-9-inch range, and goodly numbers of 'bows in the 9-11-inch range. Basically I think many streams lost an age class thanks to drought.
Jim Casada

Rog 1
10-14-2009, 05:34 PM
When I first started fishing in the Park I experienced an overall size of fish larger than what I am seeing today. I can remember in the 70s and early 80s walking up the Fish Camp Prong and in some of the larger pools seeing rainbows that had to go 20"...these fish were hard to get to and wise beyond their years....eventually they disappeared...my guess is to hardware chuckers or worm fishermen....I have pulled many a 12" bow and some over 13" in this watershed....the biggest fish I ever hooked in the park was up the right hand fork of the LR beyond Goshen Prong....a bow as long as my lower arm....all these years most of the fishermen I met in the Park were practicing Jim's "release to the grease" and it never seemed to have much of an impact on the size of the fish from year to year....I recently had several foot longs come up to my fly over in Greenbrier and have in the past brought to hand a 13" bow from Porter's Creek....I was on the WPLP a couple of weeks ago and caught more fish there than in years but they were all in the 6-7" range....this area has in the past produced consistently some of the large fish on average....I am sure it could benefit from some local harvesting.

10-14-2009, 05:43 PM
I have to add my two cents for what it worth (about 2 cents!). Pete I am pretty much in agreement with the first part of you statement. They used to (a) stock larger fish..... and also that the streams had a lot more in the way of nutrients when (b) there were people living in the watersheds, contributing "bacteria" to the water causing more food availability. A lot of the streams flow with nearly distilled water these days. Pick up rocks in the smokies and you don't see a lot of bugs or moss. Rainbows don't tend to eat other fish the way browns will. A brown over 14" (more like 12") is a true predator and cannibal(sp?), whereas the bows tend to stick with bugs, takes alot of bugs to grow bones. I've caught bows to 13" in Little river that were mostly head, caught a fat 15" bow in Abrams once (female ready to spawn), and have heard of large bows (rarely) above Elkmont. Rainbows can travel several miles in a day (more likely a night, during a full moon), even clearing waterfalls to 5 feet, as long as there is a relatively deep plunge pool at the base.
Nice fish though in any case!

Jim Casada
10-14-2009, 06:09 PM
When I first started fishing in the Park I experienced an overall size of fish larger than what I am seeing today. I can remember in the 70s and early 80s walking up the Fish Camp Prong and in some of the larger pools seeing rainbows that had to go 20"...these fish were hard to get to and wise beyond their years....eventually they disappeared...my guess is to hardware chuckers or worm fishermen....I have pulled many a 12" bow and some over 13" in this watershed....the biggest fish I ever hooked in the park was up the right hand fork of the LR beyond Goshen Prong....a bow as long as my lower arm....all these years most of the fishermen I met in the Park were practicing Jim's "release to the grease" and it never seemed to have much of an impact on the size of the fish from year to year....I recently had several foot longs come up to my fly over in Greenbrier and have in the past brought to hand a 13" bow from Porter's Creek....I was on the WPLP a couple of weeks ago and caught more fish there than in years but they were all in the 6-7" range....this area has in the past produced consistently some of the large fish on average....I am sure it could benefit from some local harvesting.
Rog 1--Your experiences and recollections almost exactly mirror mine (with the one exception being that mine go back a good bit farther). Illegal bait fishing was much worse in my boyhood and young manhood than it is now, and there were a lot more folks who ate fish then than do today. Still, the fishery took that licking and kept on ticking.

I actually believe that today some streams would benefit from enough folks keeping fish, and sort of tacit suport for that view is given by the decision by Park biologists to allow the creeling of specks after many years when it was verboten.

That still leaves the mystery of fewer big rainbows, and my number one theory is more competition from browns. Of course that doesn't hold in some watersheds. I don't believe I've ever caught brown in the WPLP, for example, and come to think of it, the biggest 'bow I've caught in the last decade came from that stream.

Years ago I would, in a single summer, see, hook, and occasionally catch literally scores of rainbows in the 14-20 inch range, and I'm talking about wild fish in every case. Those days are long gone and I don't for a minute think competition from browns is the only answer. I suspect changed habitat, increasing acidification, possibly reduced food supply (Pete Cz's point about old fields returning is a good one, although reforestation was already well along by the 1960s, when I first cast in Park waters on a daily basis), and other factors. I can't tell any significant impact, angler-wise, on some streams, but I'll return to a biological can of worms I've already opened once--otters. They weren't around in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when we were seeing all those big rainbow trout. After otters were restocked I began to see far fewer big fish.

It's all quite intriguing and I know, from conversations with Matt Kulp, that the Park fisheries biologists don't have any definitive answers.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

10-14-2009, 07:48 PM
All theories presented raise good points: decreasing fertility of streams, acidification, reforestation, carrying capacity, stocking, fishing pressure, etc. However, why is it then that certain few find there way into that large size class, and why is it that browns are so much more successful. After spending much time on the water I can tell you that there are quite a few large brown trout in a few of those streams. No not as many as in western fisheries, or a tailwater, but still quite a few. As previously suggested I would lean towards a browns tendency to become piscivorous. From my best understanding at around 13" in length a trouts diet has to convert to larger food sources. It's "cost benefit analysis" on the fish's part. Rainbows, however, are not as predatory as browns, and tend to be more opportunistic. (Disclaimer: I don't read much and most of what I write came from lectures over 3 years ago.)

As for fishing in days gone by it seems that all of the arguments for improved fisheries in days of farming and canopy removal make sense except for a unmentioned facts.

1) Both led to the near eradication of out native species, lending way to the thought that they may have not been ideal habitat improvements. However, reduction in brookies left streams prime for the taking.
2) Silt filling the streams is one of the number one contributors to point 1. Silt would have undoubtedly led to less bug life. Now how long it takes a stream to recover, I have no idea. But would surely have been a long process and I don't know that the curve would be reversed, in that we now have less aquatic insects than we did then.

I once had a professor say that out trout lack the genetic propensity to get larger than 12". I have not much of a clue but it sounds like no one else does either. I love these conversations because you always come out with more than you came in with.

And once again, nice fish!

Jim I have not read your book, but do own it and intend to sit down with it soon.

10-14-2009, 10:25 PM
Thanks for the kind words, thats always a nice thing to hear. Although i have to humbly say, i feel im a pretty decent fisherman, but im working my way up to the rank of "helluva" ;). Ive only been flyfishing for 3 years now, give me a couple of more years. I have a feeling one of your sources is a mutual friend from the "ville of Knox". Thanks to you too big guy, if you read this. When I first got on this board you gave me 3 great suggestions on where to fish, i managed to knock out 2 of them and had great success, thanx. I meant to say something to you and never did remember too. Shoot me an email sometime bredmon930@yahoo.com. Oh and pete, jump over to the one fish per month board and check out the brown i caught 5 days prior :biggrin:

And also thank you to all others for the kind words :smile:

Scott H.
10-14-2009, 11:37 PM
I don't think anyone was questioning whether it was a wild fish were they?

I saw one poster mention that it might have been a stocked fish that migrated upstrea, and then the topic seemed to switch to the trend of the lack of big fish compared to the past. (very informative, I thought)

If you took offense to my post, I apologize.

I was merely asking where it was caught (out of curiosity), and the fact that I have failed to catch one as large in the park. (Probably due to the fact that I am not the angler that many of you are)

Regardless, it is a good fish, and I'm sure you took great joy in catching it.
That is what is important.


10-14-2009, 11:45 PM
Scott H.
It was not directed towads you at all, and yeah i might have been out of line a little, but oh well it is what is.

10-14-2009, 11:59 PM
And I too found the discussion on the lack of bigger rainbows very informative. I tend to lean more towards the lack of release to grease. Its just like with deer, if you get to many in a herd then the good quality food source gets spread around more and the deer get smaller, in body size and rack size.

10-15-2009, 11:02 PM
Mr. Casada,

I have recently had the "stocking of brown trout in the Park" discussion with Steve Moore. I'm pretty sure that there were no, or maybe one "official" instance of brown trout being stocked. Of course, you know as well as I do, the locals didn't always worry about things being official, and so I believe the assumption is that on any stream with brout trout present, someone had to have slipped them in illegally at some point in time.

And bredmon, sir, that is a fine specimen. Congrats to you!

10-15-2009, 11:34 PM
bredmon, all of my post have been in defence of big bows in the park. I am overly sorry that my post may have read different than the way I intended. My appologies.

10-16-2009, 01:00 AM
Have you thought about switching to decaf?:biggrin:

10-20-2009, 08:57 PM
There's still a good number of bows in the Park. I've hooked at least one in the 22-23 inch range on Hazel. Landed 19 1/2 incher on upper Elkmont, lost another as big up there, and landed plenty 16 to 17 inch range on Abrams. Guess what I caught em on?

I used to try to figure these things out. I finally just accepted what's there and feel less stressed and more blessed by it all!

10-30-2009, 06:51 PM
This has been a very interesting thread. I particularly enjoyed reading Jim's and the others' recollections from the pre-1980s. One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet (with respect to the absence of larger rainbows in the park) is the effect of changes *outside* park boundaries.

On the North Carolina side, practically every drainage eventually communicates with Fontana Lake; I know rainbows from the NC lakes are capable of making astonishing runs into the mountains to spawn, and I've witnessed large holdover 'laker' fish in those streams as late as May (the spawning runs seem to kick off around late December). When were lake trout introduced to Fontana Lake? (I'm talking about squaretail (or really forked tail) lake trout from the char family, not rainbows or browns). I've heard they're in there; lakers can get big enough to swallow a 20" rainbow whole in one bite (seriously), and some loss of larger rainbows on the NC side could be due to them.

Meanwhile, on the Townsend side, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that stocking and especially 'supplementing' or feeding of rainbows was occurring in the Little River in the 1960s and 1970s there in town; with increased development has come increased runoff and that has to mean the water temps of the Little River in Townsend and heading out toward Maryville have gone up. Again, rainbows making spawning runs out of stocked or fed water would account for a lot of larger fish up high which may now be missing.

Then as most people have mentioned there's acidification. The forests have grown so in theory the water should be cooler and better for trout, but with the pH skewing so badly in recent years, that's going to counteract the effect of better tree cover. Finally, I agree 100% with Jim about the rivers being held too close to carrying capacity by well-intentioned but ultimately counterproductive catch and release.

I would be willing to bet that if the Park Service instituted a mandatory catch-and-kill policy for all (rainbow) trout caught in the Park for one year (similar to what has been done to lake trout in Yellowstone and Shoshone Lakes), we'd see much larger fish. I bet the catch rates wouldn't decline that much either - it is much easier to target and land fish in the 12-20" class than in the 4-8" class; they simply have to have more room to maneuver and thus they occupy more open lies.


10-31-2009, 07:58 AM
I can't remeber who it was, but someone hit on what I think is the main culprit; Acid rain. The high PH and general lack of limestone can hurt the fish in a bad way. I have seen it in two streams in the Shenedoah that are virtually devoid of fish now and the ones the do linger on are of a dimunitive size.

All trout to my understanding absorb a lot of the minerals i.e. calcium through osmosis in their respective waters thus adding to growth. Acid rain helps to block that process and erode those minerals from the soil and rock. It is also an inhibitor for the bugs the fish feed on.

Adding crushed limestone to stream headwaters helps, go to the St. Mary's River in Va and you will see a stream that has bounced back, but it is and expensive process.

On a side note I have only fished the Smokies the past five years and may be talking out of the side of my neck, but I am very impressed with the fishery. I have caught several 'bows from Middle Prong Little River and Greenbrier that topped ten inches. I also thought SA brookies were supposed to be smaller than their northern strain cousins and have been extremely suprised to catch brookies up to ten inches on Walker Camp, Road Prong and Cosby. Actually the average fish on my last trip in July was 6 to 7 inches.

On thing I'd like to know is why the fish inparticularily the brookies almost all but shut down in the winter. is this part of their southern strain heritage. As a kid growing up and a 37 year old man visiting his home in Va the brookies in the SNP of va will eat as long as the pools are not iced over.

Have a Good 'Urn,