View Full Version : Illegal fishing in park

04-13-2006, 12:03 AM
Hey all, I hope I don't start a war here or bring any animosity towards me, but I was just wondering how you all would resolve someone you see fishing illegally in the park. I fly fish and have fished the park for more than 5 years now, and I repepeatedly see spin fisherman using corn, worms, and often times spoons with treble hooks. In the five years I have fished, I have never once been checked by Park Rangers, nor have I seen any of them stop these "tourons" as a fellow LRO member stated. I am not one to start an argument with anyone over issues such as this, but I used to work for TWRA on Fort Loudon and had to deal with a lot of problems with fisherman without licenses or illegal sizes and creels. Since I got out of that line of work I don't feel I really have any jursidiction or any ability to request another fisherman cease their actions. Just wondering how the rest of you feel on this subject. I know that this weekend will bring the redneck corn chuckers out of hiding for the brookies and I hate to see this go on unchecked or unannounced. I don't mind paying the prices for fishing licenses, trout stamps, donations to TU and the like, but to see some tourist or worse a native fisherman violate the rules just burns me up. Just so you know, what turned over my soap box, I found a treble hooked spoon hanging from a tree in Metcalfe bottoms over the weekend, and the hooks did not show even the slightest sign of rust. I know that as the summer approaches this sort of thing will only get worse. Tell me if I am wrong for saying anything or if I should just keep my mouth shut on the streams. Thanks again guys, and good luck this weekend. Gas prices may have me stuck at home so catch one for me.

04-13-2006, 12:29 AM
Interesting post! I came up to the park from NE Florida and fished the park a year ago last March. On that trip I was fishing along Treemont and over in Elkmont. In both places the fish had never been more scarase. I stopped at the "Crusher Pool" in Elkmont and usually there are numerous trout along that wall, but I only saw one or two. I noticed as I drove up that a couple was already fishing the pool with spinning tackle and as I was watching the man was throwing a nice 18 or so inch bow back in. I commented on what a nice fish it was and he said, "We kept the big one!". He walked over and picked up a creel that he opened to show me a 20 plus inch Brown.

I want back to my car to gear up and as I was putting my rod together I noticed the man pull out a container of night crawlers to bait his rig. I then walked back over and explained that I hated to "rain on their parade" but wondered if they understood what they were doing is/was illegal? The man looked at me in disbelief and said they had no idea, he explained that when they bought their license, they also bought baith and asked about fishing in the park. They said no one ever indicated that bait fishing was not legal. I told him it was and that if they were caught the fines were quite large along with possible confiscation of their gear. I walked of and a few minutes later his wife walked over to their SUV which was parked 50 or 60 yards away. She drove it back over to where he was and exited while holding a fishing regulation brocure. I could hear her tell him, "He's right, it says in here that no live bait may be used in the park!" A few seconds later they drove off.

The fishing on that trip sucked for me and I started noticing corn cans, worm tubs, and even a found a plasrtic work with a treble in it caught in some brush. I saw this debree along Treemont as well as in Elkmont and it disgusted me.

I also noticed and recalled that not once have I ever been checked out by any park personel while fishing the park waters. I'd love to have them ask for my license and check my box to make sure I am legal...cause that might mean they were checing on some of these other folks who aren't.

You know what, the truth be told I don't want folks to suffer great penalties for ignorance but would like for some educational type of enforcement. Maybe they could assign them a couple of days of public service like picking up their empty beer and worm cans out of the streams or off the trails. Then if they are caught repeatedly offending or breaking the laws, sock it to them.


04-13-2006, 09:11 AM
Had a similar incident in southern missouri two or three years ago where people were hauling out undersized and illegally caught trout from trophy trout water. To make matters worse, one person was running his pickup through a feeder spring. Several of us in different groups were frustrated and noone had cell phone service to call a park ranger (national park) at the time. After returning home, called the NPS and let them know what we witnessed. Said that they were severely understaffed and that stretch of the river was not regularly controlled anymore due to budget cuts. Ouch!

On a brighter side though, I have been watched on that particular stretch of river many times in the past, and have had my license checked by a ranger. Said they do "stealth" checking regularly (of course, that was 6 plus years ago) on everyone. We had complained at the time that we were seeing the occasional empty jar of trout bait, etc. as we were fishing. The ranger indicated that they do there best to clamp down on illegal use but they also had a tendency to be lenient on the locals that had always fished the stream, prior to it becoming fly only. To some extent, at least on THAT day, I was ok with that.

He did caution against being confrontational when we witness something like that happening, for obvious reasons. The best advice is to certainly let the park rangers know, and leave it to them to do their job. I doubt they have a similar issue in GSMNP, but I think its good safety advice for all of us.

04-13-2006, 12:34 PM
These post remind me of an incident I had in Michigan a few ago. I had just landed and released a Steelhead on the St. Joseph river. When I stood up and turned around a Michigan CO was watching the whole thing from just a few feet away. I said to him that I supposed he would like to see my license. He said "no" and I suppose some unknown inner part of me needed to prove I was legal. I asked him if the fact I was a non-resident would warrant him seeing the license. His next words may not be exact but they are darn close, "it's not you guys with the expensive rods and in the waders I am watching, it's the guys in sneakers and jeans running up and down the bank I look for". Not to imply that everyone in jeans and sneakers is a law breaker but my guess is he has learned from experience who to keep an eye on.

I have never been checked in the park either and I guess that same inner part of me would like to be just to prove I am legal. A couple weeks ago we saw 2 rangers driving as we walked along the rod and neither bothered to stop. They probably know the same thing the guy in Michigan knows.

If I saw someone breaking the law I might casually let them know. I suppose it might depend on the circumstances. Maybe the phone call is the best solution. I'm sure funding for law enforcement is a problem everywhere.

gary <*))))><

04-13-2006, 02:10 PM
It's even harder to explain these occurrences to your children. I took my son who recently picked up flyfishing to Tremont two weekends ago. Needless to say, we encountered numerous "fishermen" only a handful that were actually flyfishing or even using artificial bait. It is unfortunate that this is not limited to the Smokies as I come across it in the streams of SE Kentucky at Bark Camp and Rock Creek repeatedly where these same quality of sportsman are using live bait and not practicing catch-and-release as required by law.

We can only try to make a difference since it is impossible to change these type of people and the park personnel are already overwhelmed.

David Knapp
04-13-2006, 02:19 PM
I fish a lot in the park and I've been checked probably 4 or 5 times out of maybe 75-100 days over the last 2-3 years. Not a particularly great percentage but the park rangers have a lot to do other than checking licenses. Whenever I do get checked, I make it a point to let them know how much I appreciate them being out there enforcing the regulations.

It really is sad how much illegal fishing goes on. I wish that handing out regulations would be a good solution, but in reality the people that are doing this mostly wouldn't even bother reading them in the first place. I don't think it really crosses their minds or else they are of the "I should be able to catch them however I want" mentality. >:(

David Knapp

04-13-2006, 06:28 PM
I appreciate your suggestions, and I suppose if I see this becoming a problem this summer I may just keep my cell phone handy with the local NPS office. I am not out looking to get anyone in trouble, but if I start to see creels full of fish from live bait fishing, I will probably not hold back. I want to have fun and fist fights or scuffles over confrontations are not my idea of an enjoyable outing on the river. I am not a member of the LR chapter of TU, but I wonder what their feelings are on this and if maybe if they could sponsor a training session possibly during trout fest to inform tourists and locals. I would even be willing to assist them in any training or dispersal of brochures at local campgrounds. I know it will not stop everyone, but maybe we can slow it down.

04-13-2006, 08:53 PM
I figure that this is the best place to ask this question - so my son turns 14 this year does he need a trout stamp in TN?

I couldn't get the salesperson to sell us one for him when we bought his license this spring.


04-14-2006, 07:49 AM
I very honestly think many people who are fishing DON'T KNOW the PARK RULES ARE DIFFERENT than Tennessee. I've been stopped and had people asking me questions about fishing while walking in or out. I always make it a point to mention License, artifical and single hook, wild Trout, Catch and Release. The park service needs more LARGER SIGNS along the road and at trailheads. When I mentioned to folks walking dogs, riding bikes, etc that their activity could result in fines, they say they were not aware it was. Having taught schools for 33 years, I can read people fairly well and believe most infractions are not deliberate. The small signs are easy to miss and should be more prominent.


04-14-2006, 07:54 AM
A SUGGESTION-- Would a TU chapter, or similar group contact the Park Service and volunteer to post more EASILY VISIBLE SIGNS??? The local chapters have a rapport with the NPS.

04-14-2006, 09:01 AM
Call it "profiling" but if I was a Wildlife official I believe I would target those with spin reels and a bucket o worms before anyone with a fly-rod in their hand. I'm no elitist but you've got to start somewhere.....Last fall I went fishing on the Davidson River, which is in the Pisgah National Forest, it took a Ranger about 15 minutes to find me and ask to see my NC fishing license, which I glady displayed. This guy actually wanted to know if I had seen anyone else fishing nearby

Also, although it was just outside of the GSMNP boundary, I once saw a guy "chumming" with a bucket of corn.

Furthermore, I'd be willing to donate to get some HUGE signs posted with GSMNP regulations posted


Jack M.
04-14-2006, 09:48 AM
Just a thought: many people go to the park to enjoy the natural surroundings and they may not appreciate fishing regulation billboards on every third tree. *I am pretty sure that anyone who wants to know the regulations can learn them. *While I agree that many are ignorant of the regs, they are so willfully. *

Also: it is rather unbecoming to refer to tourists as "tourons." *It is a NATIONAL Park afterall, and the economies of the various towns surrounding the Park are supported heavily by "touron" dollars. *Beside that, I would bet 90 percent of the poaching is from locals. *Or should I say locidiots?

04-14-2006, 11:43 AM
MY reference was NOT A BILLBOARD ON EVERY THIRD TREE and should NOT HAVE BEEN taken that way. The small signs now used are VERY OLD and extremely inconspicious-I can remember these same signs from when I first came to the Smokies as a student in 1968. Replacing them with a 5X7 or 8X10 with a more attention getting pattern or coloration, a "Special Regulations Apply" type heading, etc. at the major pull offs and trail heads, would be more benefical. Above Elkmont, we have had dog walkers and bike riders constantly, cars are parked in front of the poles with the small signs. I was glad to see the NPS posted a larger more visible sign up the trail. Many of these people honestly are NOT aware, even though they should be. I've had sales personnel in the stores tell me erroneous information when I've bought a Tenn, license in the past. Many people come to the park not aware of the fishing (Believe it or not with all the publications), buy a license at a store from a clerk who may never have fished a day in their life. Check out the situation in pmike's earlier post, I think is is the rule, more than the exception.

I am not an East Tennessean, although I wish I was. I have encountered locals keeping fish only two times. Both times they were fishing a green artifical worm, and in conversation with them, I could tell they were only keeping a couple legal fish. I watch two older gentlemen (in late 70's and 80's) releasing fish after killing a couple each. I have found the people of East Tennessee GENERALLY HAVE A GREATER RESPECT FOR THE PARK than many folks around parks in other parts of the country . If I were a meat fishermen, I think I would spend more time outside the park where the fish are generally larger or Cherokee. I would venture that 90% of illegal fishing is from Tourists who are NOT AWARE and 10% from deliberately illegal.

04-14-2006, 01:15 PM
Thats not a bad idea...maybe just a blaze orange highlight on a few of these signs you speak of would make a difference...youd have to think if nothing else, rangers wouldn't feel as bad about writing someone a citation or siezing their gear


04-14-2006, 03:24 PM
I guess I was a VICTIM OF PROFILING mentioned in my previous post. "Panther Martin Pam" my better 1/2 was original stopped on the hill before the Ranger came down. She is a HOOT to look at when she is fishing. Spin Cast reel, old hiking shoes for wading shoes. She must have sent red flags all over the park.(:>) Actually, She can toss a fly fairly accurately, I've tried to buy her new wading shoes, vest and other gear. I've tried to enroll her in a fly fishing school. Fly fishing isn't her thing. LOOKS CAN BE VERY DECIEVING. Last summer, near Yellowstone with 4 of us fishing she took the 2 largest fish (20+ inch bow's in the back country, released them with TLC, didn't even take them out of the water.) I have have to make her spinners- all single hook barbless- anywhere she fishes. Every fish caught is handled TLC , released with hemostat , stays in the water-even the small stunted crappies on Lake Carnico were we live. * *

;)Kytroutman- a bottle of bleach works better than worms to get ALL YOUR FISH on Rock Creek. Good advice there is don't even think about being confrontational with those boys.

04-14-2006, 09:04 PM
I hope I did not start an argument or open a can or worms (no pun intended) about the problems in the park. I myself hated to cite boaters on Fort Loudon and these were locals. Most TWRA officers and game wardens do not look for problems, but believe you me there are profiles performed. I would chase the teenagers in a ski boat well before the grandma and grandpa in the pontoon. Typically it also led to more boating under the influence. I would have to admit though. It is more common that fly fisherman would be legal in the park, it seems we are more apt to conservation than some of the spin fisherman. I don't mind people fishing with equipment other than fly rods, heck I enjoy seeing young children learning how to catch wild trout, and most children do not have the patience for fly fishing. As long as the hook is single and there is no live or processed baits at the end of the line I don't care if people use a cane pole. Rooster tails come in single hook and so do other famous trout lures for spin fisherman.

I would be all for placing larger signs in the park areas. These could be posted at the major campgrounds like Tremont and Elkmont Metcalfe, and at Sugarlands Visitors center. How hard would it be to post a sign near major pulloffs like Meigs Falls or the Sinks? These areas receive a lot of tourist traffic and the signs could be made so as to not distract from the beauty of the park surroundings. I have donated hundreds of dollars to Friends of the Smokies, TU and other wildlife organizations, so if money or time is the problem to build these signs or post them I would be willing to offer a hand if for nothing else than to educate someone. The number one excuse I got as a TWRA officer was "I didn't know that was illegal", this would at least cut out that excuse. I hate to think our national park would have to go to a pay per day use like Gatlinburg, Tellico, or Citico, but maybe it would provide more funding for wildlife and fisheries.

04-17-2006, 10:54 AM
I have been checked almost everytime I come up ;) and I always say thanks to the ranger.... now I must add that we generally start at Metcalf Bottoms where there is generally a higher patrol frequency.

I wholeheartedly endorse the bigger sign routine as well. If there is a sign at the entrance to the park at Townsend... it sure hasn't caught my attention. I would certainly recommend a simple "Special Fishing Regulations In Force" sign with details below just to catch folks attention.

Confronting some of these folks can get really dangerous. We've had some problems on the Elk River tailwaters in the past with "good ol' boys" getting very hostile while walking out with strings of 20 and 30 trout.

Ralph :o