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tnflyguy
09-20-2010, 07:24 PM
I guess this is more of an opinionated question, but I would like to hear everyone's input. What is considered an average sized catch, a great catch, and a trophy catch for all three species of trout in the GSMNP. I'm interested to see what everyone comes up with.

Trip
09-20-2010, 07:36 PM
I'm just hoping for 7" right now. :biggrin:

ifish4wildtrout
09-20-2010, 08:03 PM
I really have no idea, but I was quite proud of the 14 inch brown I caught in a small GSMNP stream in April.

BlueRaiderFan
09-20-2010, 08:08 PM
To me: Most all would be average at around 8" Brookies might be a touch smaller on average. Nice for me would be 10" and anything in the 12-14 inch range is a humdinger.;)

Jim Casada
09-20-2010, 09:25 PM
tnflyguy--Obviously a trophy is in the eye of the beholder, and the "biggest" trout I ever caught was my first one on a fly. That being noted, here's my breakdown in the trophy category, and I'm speaking strictly of Park waters:
1. Speck--10 inches
2. Rainbow--13 inches
3. Brown--18 inches
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)
P. S. I think you are more likely to catch a trophy brown, based on my standards, than the other two.

tnflyguy
09-20-2010, 09:38 PM
Thanks for all of the replies so far. One of the reasons for starting this thread is based upon a fish a caught recently. Last week I went fishing in the park and had only caught one small rainbow in a couple hours. Right before calling it quits, I pulled the old well let me fish this last hole before I leave. Wouldn't you know, I caught my best fish in the park in that last hole. It was a beautiful 13 inch rainbow. It wasn't just skinny either, it had some girth to it. It came out of a pretty deep hole out from under a rock ledge in some swift water. I figured this was a pretty good fish for the park, so I was curious to hear others opinions.

David Knapp
09-20-2010, 11:50 PM
P. S. I think you are more likely to catch a trophy brown, based on my standards, than the other two.

Interesting that you say that. I have personally had much better luck with larger rainbows as compared to the larger browns (at least some of which were definitely wild fish). I have caught plenty of browns up to the 18"-19" range but just can't break 20". I've caught wild rainbows up to 16". The funny thing about the rainbows is that they just sort of happen, but with the browns, I'm usually trying for nice fish (although not always).

Rog 1
09-21-2010, 09:03 AM
According to Jim's measurements I am 2/3 of the way to having trophy fish in all categories...have caught a 10" spec, a 16" rainbow and have only managed a 14" brown...think the overall lack of a consistent food base and low harvest rate has an overall effect on the size....

Jim Casada
09-21-2010, 09:28 AM
Plateau Angler--Maybe I should have said I think there are more trophy-class browns, by my standards, than there are either specks or rainbows. I'm going strictly on personal observations, but in my fishing I see far more trophy browns than either rainbows or specks (again, I'm speaking strictly of Park waters).

Interestingly, had this question been posed to me 30 or 40 years ago, my size for browns would have been smaller and that for rainbows larger. There were far more big 'bows in the Park in the 1960s and 1970s than there are today, and of that I am certain.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

Rog 1
09-21-2010, 11:07 AM
Plateau Angler--Maybe I should have said I think there are more trophy-class browns, by my standards, than there are either specks or rainbows. I'm going strictly on personal observations, but in my fishing I see far more trophy browns than either rainbows or specks (again, I'm speaking strictly of Park waters).

Interestingly, had this question been posed to me 30 or 40 years ago, my size for browns would have been smaller and that for rainbows larger. There were far more big 'bows in the Park in the 1960s and 1970s than there are today, and of that I am certain.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

I will back up that last statement....in the late 60s and early 70s there were some rainbows in the large plunge pools up Fish Camp Prong that would make your knees go weak...you could see them from the trail and would just look at them in awe.

NDuncan
09-21-2010, 11:18 AM
I will back up that last statement....in the late 60s and early 70s there were some rainbows in the large plunge pools up Fish Camp Prong that would make your knees go weak...you could see them from the trail and would just look at them in awe.

So is overpopulation the main driving factor in this observed shrinkage? (trying not to make a cold water joke here) or is it that plus the other factors (otters, etc?)

2weightfavorite
09-21-2010, 11:55 AM
you also cannot forget that the streams in the park were stocked in the 60's and 70's. The days of the 16 inch bows are gone... Gone unless you are fishing low on the Little, below the chimneys on the WB, or below the picinic area on Greenbriar. In thos eareas you can still catch some big bows but they too are stocked fish. A stocker will swim rediculously far up stream at times.

BlueRaiderFan
09-21-2010, 12:04 PM
Any chance it's because people kept more fish then? I know when I was a kid in the 70's, people (at least in the South) were very poor compared to now (in general).

Jim Casada
09-21-2010, 01:01 PM
NDuncan--I think it is a combination of a number of factors. As someone has pointed out, there was some stocking, although precious few of those rainbows were really big ones. I can assure you that there were a lot of wild 'bows in the 16-inch plus category 40 years ago. I'm a better fisherman now than I was then, and in the last decade I have caught precisely one wild rainbow over 15 inches in the Park. In the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s I caught several a year and hooked many more. For a time Bradley Fork (and maybe a stream of the Tenn. side) was a catch-and-release situation unless a fish was over 16 inches, and an impressive number of keepers came out of it.

Here are some of what I think figures in the smaller size, and the things I list come pretty much in order of significance as I see them:
(1) Competition from brown trout. Streams which were once predominantly or entirely rainbows now have sizeable populations of more energy efficient browns.
(2) Catch-and-release being widely practiced. I realize it is heresy in some fly-fishing quarters to advocate release-to-grease, but biologists will tell you most mountain streams have too many fish for their ideal carrying capacity. That results in smaller fish. In truth, in the Smokies, you do the stream a favor by keeping a limit. Today probably not one in ten fisherman creels his catch.
(3) Otters--They are a factor and unfortunately seem likely to become more of one in years to come. I know of streams, although they lie outside the Park, which have virtually been ruined by otters. Even in the Park, good luck in finding a brown trout in Abrams Creek.
(4) Reduced food base. This one may seem strange, but as reforestation proceeded old fields gave way to forest, and relatively open streams became increasingly enveloped by canopy. Insect life, at least of the terrestrial type, does not do as well in these situations. Also, any leftover vestiges of positives from old farmlands (leaching into streams of fertilizer, manure, etc.) disappeared. This may seem strange to say, but I feel it is a factor.
(5) Acid rain problems. I feel confident, although I have no hard science to back me up (it may exist, I just don't know about it), that there are far fewer minnows today than there were in yesteryear. I seldom catch what we used to call silversides, catch creek warriors (war paint shiners) far less frequently than once was the case, and see far fewer schools of tiny minnows in the shallows along the edge of large pools than I once did. I think acid rain is a culprit.

Mind you, all of the above comes not from a scientist but rather from someone who has done a great deal of fishing in Park waters over the past half century. If I had to guess I figure my annual average of days in the water would be somewhere around 60. It was a lot more than that in my youth, less than that in my 30s and 40s, and there's been an upsurge since then. I've probably fished more this year than any time since I was a teenager. One thing I've always done is paid attention to the watery world around me, and that, along with plenty of conversations with fellow anglers whom I know well and trust implicitly when it comes to information, forms the basis of the above thoughts.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

NDuncan
09-21-2010, 02:04 PM
Jim-

Why would competition from brown trout be a factor now as compared to previous decades? Were there not as many brown trout in the 60's and 70's as there are now or is this mainly tied in with the overall lack of food? I got the impression that they may be decreasing in range (such as the disappearance of them from Abrams Creek, although that may just be one exception). When did stocking of Browns cease relative to stocking of rainbows? Has the average size of the trophy browns decreased as well over what you remember from previous decades?

Sorry, a lot of questions there, just hungry for knowledge and now for some trout, too, once you git me thinking about "release to the grease"

MBB
09-21-2010, 02:28 PM
My thoughts on your question:

North Carolina side
Brook Trout 7" good, 8 1/2" great, 10" trophy
Rainbow Trout 8 1/2" good, 10" great, 12" trophy
Brown Trout 9" good, 12" great, 15" trophy

For the Tennessee side, I would keep the brook trout rules the same, but add a inch on the rainbows and browns.

Jim Casada
09-21-2010, 06:38 PM
NDunca--Most of the questions you raise, if not all of them, are addressed in my book. With a single exception (Luftee) the Park never stocked browns. As for numbers, browns are far, far more numerous today than they once were. In the 1960s, at least in the N. C. Park streams in the Bryson City area where I did most of my fishing, it was rare to catch a brown at all. They were there, but not in great numbers like they are today. In some streams, they are the dominant species.
Abrams Creek is a bit of an aberration when it comes to browns. I think because it isn't as fast moving as some Park streams, and also because the otters were reintroduced there first, its browns have suffered most. Remember that they tend to prefer habitats (slower, deeper water) which makes them more vulnerable to otters.
As for average size of browns, they have always grown to impressive sizes, although the really big ones are seldom caught.
Hope this helps a bit.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

DarrinG
09-21-2010, 07:42 PM
My thoughts on your question:

North Carolina side
Brook Trout 7" good, 8 1/2" great, 10" trophy
Rainbow Trout 8 1/2" good, 10" great, 12" trophy
Brown Trout 9" good, 12" great, 15" trophy


I would concur with these estimates too.

Grampus
09-21-2010, 11:18 PM
[QUOTE=Jim Casada;86105]NDuncan-- For a time Bradley Fork (and maybe a stream of the Tenn. side) was a catch-and-release situation unless a fish was over 16 inches, and an impressive number of keepers came out of it.

From what I recall, the minimum size to keep was 16 inches on the Little River up until the mid 70's when it was reduced to 12 inches. This was in effect from the Park boundary to below Elkmont Campground.

Another factor related to species size is life span and growth rate. Rainbows rarely get beyond 3 years of age whereas some browns have been found to live up to 9 years or more. The faster growth and longer time to grow allows browns to get very large in the Park if they're able to avoid predators, etc. Also, as browns get larger their food preference changes to larger meals (minnows/crayfish), further enhancing their growth rate.

Grampus
Jim Parks

Jim Casada
09-22-2010, 07:20 AM
Grampus--I thought I had a faint recollection of one of the Tennessee streams having a trophy sort of status. Also, you are exactly right on the longer life spans of browns.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

Rog 1
09-22-2010, 10:44 AM
I don't think there ever was a restriction on size on the Little River....when I first began fishing 50 years ago the WPLP was designated a Sportsman Stream....could only keep fish there that were 16" or larger....everything else went back in....this made for some unbelieveable fishing numbers....when this designation was dropped it reverted back to the same size and number limits as all the other streams in the Park....the only fish stocked in the park were rainbows....the browns have come in from outside...

Jim Casada
09-22-2010, 11:19 AM
Rog 1--Almost all the browns came from outside the Park--just making their way up the watershed, but there was one stocking of browns in Luftee.

The situation you describe on WPLP sounds exactly like the one on Bradley Fork. It was catch and release unless you caught a fish over 16 inches. Then you could keep it.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)