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Thread: Fewer but Bigger fish this year in the Park?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Question Fewer but Bigger fish this year in the Park?

    I fished below the Chimneys Picnic Area again this Saturday. Water level and flow were way down from last weekend. Its amazing how much difference a hot rainless week makes.

    I only managed 8 rainbows in about 3 hours of fishing. However, all but one were 6" or larger and two were over 10". The lower count but larger size question has puzzled me the last two months. I'm wondering what other folks are experiencing compared to the past couple of years. In that same stretch I could usually catch about twice that number last year. In fact most of the places I've fished this year I caught about half the fish I did last year in the same or similar areas/conditions. But the flip side is that I've caught 15-20 rainbows this year that were as good or better than the two best fish I caught all of last year. I have a couple of theories:
    1) the hardiest fish survived the drought last year and have grown quickly with reduced competition
    2) in addition to killing off rainbows alot of the food source died as well and so normally wary trout are much more aggressive (less selective) since they are hungrier this year
    3) most of the fish that died from the drought last year were still alive into the late summer and were much easier to catch because they were all packed into a smaller area and were starving, so were less selective, with the smaller fish closer to the topwater.
    4) the numbers of fish are down due to the drought, this year, but my techniques have improved to enable me to catch the big'uns...(obviously I'd like to believe this one, but it is the least likely...)

    Anyone have similar or dissimilar experiences?

    "Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut."

  2. #2
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    May 2006
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    Hey PeteCz,

    I have had the same exp. this year. I fished from the picknick area to the Chemney trail head Sunday. Caught some nice fish not many but several bows over 8". I have mentioned this on the message board as well size is up with out a question.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2008
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    PeteCz and Redfish62,

    I visited the Smokies back in mid June, and also found the size of the bows as you described--fewer fish per run/pool, but good fish; one bow up Road Prong a little ways landed that was 10", and several in the East Prong of Little River 10-11", both above and below the Sinks, beautiful trout. Your theories make sense to me(fewer fish, more food available per fish, making for larger individuals), especially improved fishing techniques to catch the big guys!!

  4. #4
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    Jul 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeteCz View Post
    In that same stretch I could usually catch about twice that number last year. In fact most of the places I've fished this year I caught about half the fish I did last year in the same or similar areas/conditions. But the flip side is that I've caught 15-20 rainbows this year that were as good or better than the two best fish I caught all of last year. I have a couple of theories:
    1) the hardiest fish survived the drought last year and have grown quickly with reduced competition
    4) the numbers of fish are down due to the drought, this year, but my techniques have improved to enable me to catch the big'uns...(obviously I'd like to believe this one, but it is the least likely...)

    Anyone have similar or dissimilar experiences?
    In somewhat reverse order...I have no frame of reference for your techniques this year vs last year so I'll leave that to your best judgment... I do think the fish numbers are down just a bit.

    Obviously the "survival of the fittest" has come into play. The strongest to have survived from last year's incredibly low water and continuously high temperatures have not only survived, they have thrived. Everything I've caught this year in the park is by far fatter than anything I've caught previously. Which would tend to dispel the notion that the food source died off as well. In fact, as others have noted, the hatches this year have been some of the best ever. And on top of that we've had a bonus cicada "hatch", and a normal to above normal terrestrial "hatch". I think that, with less competition, this year's crop is fatter and sassier and can afford to be a bit more selective when feeding.

    I'm definitely catching more this year, but I'm going to attribute that to the quarry and not the hunter.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Romer View Post
    I'm definitely catching more this year, but I'm going to attribute that to the quarry and not the hunter.
    Nah, it's the hunter...

    It seems to me that the fish are easier to catch during low water for stealthy fisherman because they are much more concentrated. It becomes much more obvious where they are holding and where/how to fish for them...at least that's my opinion... Also with lower water, fish get a chance to see food in a wider area and for a longer period of time allowing them to come from farther away to take a fly. As far as size, the fish I've caught this year all seem about the same in general. There have been days where I've caught plenty of good sized fish but that has happened other years as well and generally with similar low water conditions. I think the low water simply concentrates the larger fish nearer the surface where they are more likely to take dries and thus get caught more often. Most of the runs I've caught better than average size fish out of usually have fish of this size but they sit down near the bottom or under fairly heavy water making catching them a bit difficult at "normal" flows... That's my theory for now (and is strictly based on the LR watershed)...interesting topic and I'll be interested to see more thoughts on this...
    "Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

    Guided Fly Fishing with David Knapp
    The Trout Zone Blog
    contact: TroutZoneAnglers at gmail dot com

  6. #6
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    I agree with David's sentiments above; low water can make things easier, provided you don't spook the fish first. Last year at this time, the drought was hitting its peak. I came up, alone, to look at (and ultimately buy) some property in Cosby. Afterwards, I fished up Cosby for about 4 hours, and took fish from just about every pool that held some water - I think I ended up with about 30. There's only a few places they can go when the water is low, and it is also easier to get a good drift at close range. I find it much more difficult fishing when the water is up - that's when I struggle with avoiding drag...however, it is definitely better for the fish, unless it's a complete blowout.

    David - how was the fishing out West? I know it's a drag that your Summer is over, but I'll bet this is one you'll never forget. We're getting one last trip in this week - thankfully, the girls don't start school until the 25th - the public schools around here have already started...it's ridiculous, IMO.

  7. #7
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    Default Big fish,Pete Cz

    Pete Cz,
    I have to agree with you on this matter. I have caught more good fish ( 12 inch plus) this year. I talked to a park ranger a couple of months ago. He told me alot of the small fish were dying due to the lack of rain. He also stated that the park had found several large fish dead. ( Over 18 inches... ) along Little River. They were all Browns. I have not caught alot of small fish this year other than at the Lynn Camp fish out. I went last Monday and fish on the West Prong Of The Little Pigeon. I started above the bridge at Sugarland Welcome Center. Fished for a coupkle of hours, Done well caught my biggest Rainbow in the park 16 1/2 inches. I was fishing with a #6 crow fly with weight. Also caught several more fish in the 10 to 12 inch range. Only 2 fish under 8 inches. When I fished this section last year I caught alot of small fish. It has been this way most of the spring and summer for me. I think alot of the fish are spooky due to the water levels and the pressure of people being in the water,( tubers, swimmers, fisherman.) You had ask me about the flies I use. I posted a reply on General Fly Tying. I was woundering if you had read it.

    May God Bless You... John 8:12

    Bill

  8. #8
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    I agree with everything plateau angler said.

  9. #9
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    Ijsouth, the trip was a blast. I'll get some pictures up soon hopefully and will have detailed reports over on my blog...

    Back to the topic of larger fish this year, any fish that you are catching in the lower few miles of stream just inside the park above a stocked stream has a decent chance of being a stocker that has run up from outside the park. In particular, the lower end of Little River (below the Sinks), the lower 3 or so miles of the Middle and West Prongs of LR, and of course many other streams all have lots of stocker fish that run up providing the chance at larger than average fish. Just another variable thrown into the game...
    "Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

    Guided Fly Fishing with David Knapp
    The Trout Zone Blog
    contact: TroutZoneAnglers at gmail dot com

  10. #10
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    I have found the opposite to be true. In fact, i have caught more smaller fish than usual and less bigger fish, although the bigger fish do seem to be a tad bigger. If i'm not mistaken, the rainbows were the ones who were hit hard by the drought and most of them that died were the larger adult fish, the smaller fish survived. From what i've heard, the browns and specs received a neglible impact from the drought. Anyways, back to the topic, it makes sense that the average fish would be a little larger since there is the same amount of food in teh water, but less fish to eat it so each fish theoretically gets more food. I think the true determination of this will be next year. After another year of very low water on average, the fish that have survived will have two years of feeding with less competition so you should really start to see it next year.

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