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Old 01-15-2013, 05:51 PM
HuskerFlyFisher HuskerFlyFisher is offline
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Default Are the fish in the Smokies getting smaller?

Is it just me, or does it seem like all of the fish in the Smokies have been reduced to fingerlings?

I'm not expecting whoppers, but my goodness, most of these things there's about 1 bite of meat on.

I believe I read in Don Kirk's book that the brook trout used to be a lot bigger. If that's so, what made them smaller? Is there not enough food in the Smokies for these "minnows" to eat or what?
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Old 01-15-2013, 06:33 PM
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NDuncan NDuncan is offline
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I noticed several of them being skinnier than usual for their length. That being said, there were some who were still pretty chunky. I imagine come spring, they will be fattening up again. As far as average length, I haven't noticed the average size going down.
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Old 01-15-2013, 06:35 PM
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I'm guessing that you didn't get to fish the park much last season?? If you did, then you may need to possibly re-evaluate your techniques, or just tag along with the right guys to see what some nice fish look like...

If anything, I would say that the size of the fish in the park here lately has been very good. Not only did I land my largest rainbow this past spring but I also had an even larger 14-15" bow break me off and for a wild GSMNP bow, I don't think it gets much better than that...

Tight Lines,
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Old 01-15-2013, 07:01 PM
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IMO, the fish have actually gotten larger over the past 3 years. I think the drought had quite a bit to do with this. They also used to stock the Park until the early 70's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HuskerFlyFisher View Post
If that's so, what made them smaller?
Catch and release is what keeps them from getting larger. Again, this is just my opinion.
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Old 01-15-2013, 07:27 PM
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BlueRaiderFan BlueRaiderFan is offline
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My experience has also been that they have gotten smaller but I don't disregard others opinions...maybe it is me.
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Old 01-16-2013, 12:04 AM
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David Knapp David Knapp is offline
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Fish size in the Park is definitely cyclical to some extent but I would say we are still in a big fish cycle. The rainbows were averaging a good size for me as well and there are plenty of big browns. Now, stream to stream the size can vary quite a bit depending on various factors so your mileage may vary..
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Old 01-16-2013, 12:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Knapp View Post
Fish size in the Park is definitely cyclical to some extent but I would say we are still in a big fish cycle. The rainbows were averaging a good size for me as well and there are plenty of big browns. Now, stream to stream the size can vary quite a bit depending on various factors so your mileage may vary..

Go on...
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:45 AM
Don Kirk Don Kirk is offline
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Default I'd love to talk about it

Several years ago when the FFF had it’s first conclave in Gatlinburg, I was the opening speaker. I made the comment that when Little River had a 14”size limit (prior to 1975), that most of the trout I caught there were around 12”. When it changed to a 12” size limit, most of the trout I caught were 10”. When it changed to 9” size limit, most of the trout I caught were 7”. My comments were in response to a fellow in the audience of who asked my “opinion.” That was an honest appraisal on my part—the opinion of a simple fisherman.

Right in the middle of the presentation I was accosted by an NPS biologist who demanded over and over to see “my data.” I kept telling the fellow it was the opinion of a fisherman, that I was not a government paid biologist (and that he had a program later that afternoon to refute me). I will not name the fellow, but he harangued me while I was at the podium, then came up to me afterwards and threatened to arrest me for possession of slide of illegally caught brook trout.

Here’s the deal from a biological prospective on the trout in the GSMNP. All bodies of water, be they lakes or streams, generally speaking have the ability to carry “x” number of pounds of fish per surface acre. This number varies greatly from water to water, and is based on factors such as available nutrients, fertility and over all water quality. These factors can be enhanced or degraded, however, when left constant, a stream or lake will more or less consistently support “x” pounds of fish per surface acre. For example, because it is more fertile, Abrams Creek has almost twice as many pounds of fish per surface acre as other streams in the GSMNP.

Many time modern fishery management techniques can manipulate the structure of fish populations in specific bodies of water both in terms of species, percentages of species and the size of fish found there. Actually, its pretty simple stuff. For example, salt water striped bass are stocked in Tennessee lakes to convert “x” number of pounds of otherwise useless, opening water dwelling gizzard shad into highly valued “x” pounds of striped bass. Look at the success of the delayed harvest program as another example of manipulating fisheries.

The same is true of the generally infertile streams of the GSMNP, but here political considerations gum up the works. Little River can support “x” number of pounds of fish. Let’s say that number is 100 pounds of fish per surface acre, of which 50 pounds is trout. That 50 pounds of trout can be made up of mostly 4-oz fish, or can be manipulated by minimum creel size restrictions to be biased to fish of one pounds or greater. While it is true that only a small percentage of the trout will reach one pounds or greater due to mortality, what you have a choice between is a pool full of little trout or a pool with a couple of big trout.

In the GSMNP the choice is to not provide a quality fishery, but rather, begrudgingly offer fishing as the park’s charter requires. There is a lot of truth in the saying that figures don’t lie, but liars figure. You can spent millions of dollars covering up a questionable management policy, but lipstick on a pig still leaves you with a pig. Now you know the rest of the story.
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Old 01-16-2013, 09:16 AM
HuskerFlyFisher HuskerFlyFisher is offline
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Wow, interesting stuff!

I asked Ian Rutter a similar question years ago, and he said something to the effect that the creel policy - 5 fishes 7" or larger - tends to mean that there are more fingerlings in the stream. Were the policy the opposite - keep up to 7 fish 5 inches or less (I am paraphrasing - Ian feel free to correct me), then there would be more room in the streams for bigger (albeit fewer) fishes.
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Old 01-16-2013, 09:42 AM
Corbo Corbo is offline
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Well guys; Greenbriar is howling high right now, where it flows behind my house (backyard on a very high bank) it is about to jump the bank into a road on the opposite side.... so perhaps there will be NO fish left in the river after this flood.
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