Great comments by all and very good reading. Great general information PeteCz. I think that much of the decline in utilization of our outdoor resources are do to increasing costs, access issues, and the vilification of hunting/fishing in the media.
On the main topic I agree. I really believe that one of the reasons for the size of the trout in the smokies being small is that not enough people keep fish. When I think about warmwater ponds that I have fished I realize that I knew if I went to this pond I would catch 20-30 small bass and a fish over 1 lb was a really nice fish for the pond. If I wanted to catch bigger fish I went to a different pond. I might only get 4 or 5 fish fishing for the same amount of time, but had a real chance at a 5lb plus bass. Do not take this the wrong way, I think it needs to be managed close, I don't want to see it overfished either, but I think that the lack of people keeping fish has changed the fishing in the smokies.
I myself have just changed my habits this fall. I used to never keep any wild fish. Now the fish that I do keep are wild. This is not to say that I am pulling lots of fish out, but the last two day trip I took with a buddy we ended up keeping 4 or 5 fish in two days.
I too have seen some really great/healthy looking fish in the park recently. This more than anything is what has really convinced me that it is really an overpopulation issue, as far as the size of the fish are concerned.
On the issue of sharing/not sharing fishing spots, I tend to lean towards the fact that the vast majority of the people out there are not going to go to the effort to get to most of the out of reach areas. Even I, who have no problem hiking to get to a fishing spot, have probably 15-20 spots that I want to fish from posts that I have read. So far this year I have gotten to a sum total of just one of them. I hope to eventually get to more of them, but know that I will have limitted opportunity to go. Part of the reason for this is distance I know, and I envy all that are so close to the park.
Just a few scattered thoughts from a Marine.