Does increasing angler participation lead to better fishing? Good question. It’s kind of a double edged sword. For the way I like to fish, I would have to say yes. If I mainly fished tailwaters, I would say no.

IMO, Even a significant increase in the number of fishermen in the backcountry wouldn’t lead to a detriment in the quality of fishing. I’m not going to hike 3+ miles back, so I can keep half a dozen 7” fish, and I feel most others willing to hike that far will either. So, an increase in the number of fishermen wouldn’t lead to a real decrease in the number of fish. I also feel that there is enough room for these streams to support a larger quantity of anglers on any given day. My wife would also enjoy the piece of mind, knowing that there is someone in close proximity if anything was to happen to me (insert smiley face).

The increase in the number of fisherman would keep fly shops such as LRO open and would have prevented the closing of many other shops. If I’m wanting to go fishing, and don’t have something I can just swing by LRO and pick it up on the way to the stream. Increased participation also leads to more posts on web sites such as this. I’m as guilty as anyone at reading what is posted on here and using that information to better my fishing. With the lack of fisherman, shops such as LRO will continue to close and web sites such as this will continue to disappear.

As for the tailwater fisherman, I’ve fished the Caney Fork when you had to worry about catching another fisherman on both your backcast and your drift. So, I can’t imagine how more anglers could make that any better.

Now, how do we increase the number of fishermen?

• TWRA needs to change the minimum age for people not required to have a license from 13 to 16. I know it’s a minimal fee for the youngster license, but when you are trying to increase the number of beginner fishermen, why burden them with a license.
• The Park needs to rethink their “no bait allowed” law. People that aren’t required to have a license (young and old), should be allowed to use bait in the park. 25 years ago, when I was 13, it was about the quantity of fish that I could catch, not the quality of the experience. If someone was to hand me a fishing pool with a single hooked artificial bait and I caught 1 fish in 2 hours, I would never go on to fish again. Hand me a fishing pool and a bucket of crickets and I catch 15 fish in 2 hours, now we’re talking. I know that Gatlinburg has youth fishing areas, but why would I want to fish there when I can hit the arcade just around the corner. And exactly how much damage can a handful of kids do to the streams in the Smoky’s? When was the last time you saw a group of kids fishing in the Park?
• Places like LRO needs to make it easier for beginner fishermen. I know that I could go in there and ask someone like Daniel for help, and he would send me out of there in good shape, but they have to make it easier for someone who knows nothing about fishing to get what they need. Maybe a display by the checkout with just the essentials to get started. It wouldn’t need much more than just a real cheap combo rod and reel set, a fly box, and half a dozen popular flies. That’s all someone needs to get started. If I was a beginner reading this forum, I would think that if I didn’t have a Winston or Sage rod, I couldn’t catch fish. Just read this forum for reference, , Beginners need to know that not everyone uses a fly rod that costs hundreds of $$$.
• We each need to do our own part. I gave 2 spinning rods and 1 fly rod away to people this year. I did it by taking them fishing and letting them use it. When we were done, I let them keep it. We each need to make it priority to take someone new fishing each year.

I don’t think lowering non-resident license fees would amount to much of an increase in anglers. Just look at all the out of state licenses parked at the Caney Fork, or all the bass boats from Ohio putting in at Norris Lake. When someone intends to take a fishing vacation, they don’t consider an $81 license to be too cost prohibitive. I normally take a couple out of state big game hunts a year. The last thing I consider on any of them is what the license will cost. And I’m tight with my money!!! It’s been rumored that I can turn a piece of coal into a diamond.

Enough for now, I actually have to get some work done today.