Immediate Release Contact: Bob
Date: March 21, 2006
Smokies Opens Park Streams to Brook Trout Fishing
For the first time in over 30 years anglers at Great Smoky
National Park will be allowed to catch and keep brook trout under new
experimental Park fishing regulations that take affect April 15.
Since 1976 the National Park Service has allowed anglers to fish
non-native rainbow and brown trout, but they have been prohibited from
possessing the Park's native brook, or "speckled" trout, or from
over 150 miles of Park streams where "brookies" predominate. Rainbows
browns were stocked in the Park in the early 20th century after
logging practices nearly wiped out the native brook trout.
Biologists in the early '70's were convinced that brook trout
systematically losing range to the non-native fish and predicted that,
unless measures were taken, the brook trout would only be found
natural barriers by the year 2000. Park managers also believed that
fishing pressure was further reducing brook trout densities. In
to these concerns managers closed the Park to brook trout fishing in
and initiated brook trout restoration projects in select streams.
Thirty years later Park fisheries biologists have found that
"brookies" are able to co-exist with the non-native trout in 69 miles
Park streams. Park fisheries managers have successfully restored 17
of stream to pure brook trout population using a combination of
electro-fishing and through the use of chemicals to remove non-native
from steam segments that lie above waterfalls and other barriers that
prevent upstream movement of fish.
Brook Trout Fishing – page 2 of 3
After over 25 years of monitoring trout and non-game populations
fished vs. closed streams, Park biologists had observed that natural
occurrences such as floods and droughts were the major force behind
in fish populations in both open and closed streams. They suspected
allowing angling for brook trout would have no measurable impact on
their numbers or their average size.
In 2002 Park biologists tested that hypothesis by experimentally
opening eight streams (4 in TN, 4 in NC) to fishing and harvest for 3
under the normal GRSM fishing regulations (i.e. 5 fish per day limit,
7-inch minimum size, and single hook artificial lures only). Each
that was open had a nearby control stream which remained closed.
Biologists analyzed population data within each stream (both open and
closed) for three years prior to and three years after brook trout
The study found there were no significant differences in brook
density or the number of legal brook trout brook trout in any stream
to brook trout fishing during the study period. Variation which did
was attributed to natural variation and was not related to open vs.
In interviews conducted during the experiment over 84% of anglers
said they were moderately to extremely pleased with the brook trout
opportunity. The largest segment of the anglers (25-27%) cited the
opportunity to catch a brook trout as the main reason for fishing that
particular stream that day. Anglers caught an average of 5-11 fish per
trip, but less than 33% of anglers kept the legal brook trout they
"Given that we could find no ecological benefit to prohibiting
anglers from taking brook trout," said Park Supervisory Fisheries
Biologist, Steve Moore, "and the opportunity to offer anglers a very
enjoyable experience, Park management has decided to open nearly all
streams to fishing."
"So on April 15," Moore concluded, "All but a handful of the
700 miles of Park streams will be opened to fishing as part of an
experimental regulation to allow additional time to monitor impacts of
Brook Trout Fishing – page 3 of 3
"A few short stream segments will still be closed during
brook trout restoration projects. This spring, for example, parts of
Creek, Bear Creek, and Indian Flats Prong Streams, which have been
restored, will remain closed while those populations continue to
carrying capacity. Once these streams reach carrying capacity, they
be reopened to fishing as well."
Park managers say that the experimental monitoring period will
provide them additional time to be sure that the changes in use do not
unexpected and negative affects on brook trout. Managers will also need
time to complete a required federal rule-making process needed to
current provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations which do not
brook trout fishing in the Smokies. In the near future the Park also
to release an Environmental Assessment for public review of the
* * * NPS * * *