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  #21  
Old 10-14-2009, 10:54 AM
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I know that there used to be a lot more big bows in the Park than what I have been seeing lately...some of that may have to do with age since I no longer frequent some of the higher water of my youth.....I have pulled one 16" bow from Park waters and have lost at least one that was larger....I know that many of these big fish have been targeted by bait fishermen in the past and removed....these fish are still there but they don't get that big by showing themselves and going after every feathered presentation sent their way.
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  #22  
Old 10-14-2009, 10:57 AM
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Default big bow

I would agree as to the coloration of the fish pictured, but also know that every fish is different. My observation is that park bows are vibrantly colored and often have spots well below the lateral line, and a broad pink stripe. The Biggest that i caught certaintly matched that description. But they are very rare. I landed a 14 inch bow the other day in the east prong and have pulled several of the 12" range out this year as well. These decent size bows seem to come with some regularity for me, however a brown of any size is eluding me much to my dismay.
Jim I have not much of a clue as to why the bows arent growing to their full potential and have had many a discussion on the same topic. I went out head hunting last night for the first time this year and was suprised at the number of really decent sized bows I saw on the east prong. In fact i only put a stalk on one Big brown, which I succesfully spooked.
Anyway my big bow came about 3 miles up on the little river trail. I had no idea it was there and caught it on 100% luck. I snuck up behind a small water fall so that the water was at about chest hieght. Landed a dry up stream and the big beauty took the fly about 4' away from me. Had to go downtstream a few holes with it but landed it and had a buddy take a picture that has been lost somewhere in one of my 2.5 million pictures.
They are out there.

Last edited by highstick; 10-14-2009 at 10:58 AM.. Reason: I cant spell
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  #23  
Old 10-14-2009, 12:28 PM
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Default Bigger Fish in the past...

First off - Brad - awesome fish! I would love to catch a fish like that from a mountain stream. Great work!! I have it from semi reliable sources that you are a helluva fisherman so the success backs up that statement...

Now then, something that people say on the this forum from time-to-time has me scratching my head. The assertion that fish were bigger in the 50s, 60s and 70s than they are now.

Of course they were!! The streams used to be continually stocked! From 1910 to 1975 Rainbows, Browns and Northern Strain Brookies were stocked in the streams of the Park, especially in those areas surrounding campgrounds (Elkmont-LR, Cades Code-Abrams, Deep Creel-Deep Creek, Chimneys-WPLP, etc). No doubt fish raised in hatcheries started off bigger than most of the fish end up today. With that headstart they of course would be bigger on average than the fish today.

They also used to designate WPLP as a sportman's stream, where they would regularly release brood stock in to the stream. Fish that would never be able to naturally reproduce in the streams of the park today (or then, for that matter)

Here's another thought: Perhaps the farming activities of the past made the streams much more fertile than they are today. I'm constantly amazed at how large the fish are in very small western streams that run through national forests that allow cattle to graze. Do I like the cattle polluting? No, but the fish do grow larger...once cattle were all over the park and on many of the balds. No doubt their nutrients fed the streams, which led to more abundant aquatic life and in turn larger fish.

A final thought: Yes there used to be Brookies of much larger size than today. But that was before logging wiped out most of the spec habitat and much of the forests. And before 9M people a year (in cars) began visiting the area.

While I would love to catch larger fish in the Park, I realize what limitations are (and what the exceptions can be) and still prefer to fish in wild mtn streams.

The old days weren't always that great...

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  #24  
Old 10-14-2009, 02:29 PM
MBB MBB is offline
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I also have wondered about the decrease in size of Park rainbows. The stockings pre 1975 would explain it to a large degree, but it also seems that the rainbows have become smaller since 1978, which was post stocking. As a teenager, I remember catching wild rainbows up to 11" in the West Prong of the Pigeon in 1978 and my fly fishing skills much more limited then.

To date, my largest rainbows in the Park were 11 1/2". I understand that the Tennessee side produces bigger rainbows and generally has a higher PH in certain streams. Any rainbow over 10" in the NC side is a noteworthy fish these days.

I would guess that acid rain has had an effect. Rainbows are more sensitive to decreased PH than browns or bows and lowered PH also negatively affects insect life. In Gasque's book concerning fishing in the Smokies in the 1940s, he talks about a rainbow in Cataloochee going four pounds. It might have been a stocked fish, but I can also see larger fish in the Park streams where terrestials abounded after many of the trees were just beginning to grow back from extensive timber activities.
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  #25  
Old 10-14-2009, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MBB View Post
I can also see larger fish in the Park streams where terrestials abounded after many of the trees were just beginning to grow back from extensive timber activities.
Another excellent point. In other words some of the past abuses of the land led to larger fish (cattle grazing, timbering, etc)...but I don't think we want to go back in that direction...

BTW, I have had some pretty good success on WPLP in the last two years (I've caught 4 at/above 11 inches). The drought has thinned out a good number of fish but the ones that are left have been eating well...fewer but larger...
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  #26  
Old 10-14-2009, 03:14 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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PeteCz--While it is indeed accurate to say that a number of Park streams were stocked with big fish in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, that should not suggest that as the sole (or even primary) explanation of today's smaller rainbows. Basically, only those streams accessible by vehicle were stocked with large fish, yet there were big rainbows far from the nearest gravel road a Park vehicle could travel. I can assure you I can tell the difference between a stocked fish and a wild one, and it was even easier back then because the dough bellies had terrible coloration. I hooked scores of big rainbows (and landed the occasional one) miles away from any convenient means of stocking.
In other words, I firmly believe (revise that, I know) that there were far more big, WILD rainbows in yesteryear than there are today.
I'm also curious about your statement that browns were stocked in the Park. Other than a single instance, I have never been able to find any evidence suggesting that was the case. If you have documented evidence of other stockings, I would really like to know about it. I'm also going to ask Steve Moore about it, but after lots of times with documents, I only found evidence of one stocking of browns (in lower Luftee).
That brings us pretty much back to square one. Yes, some of the big 'bows from yesteryear were stockers, as you rightly suggest, but a lot more of them weren't. Why have the big, wild rainbows largely vanished?
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  #27  
Old 10-14-2009, 04:10 PM
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Logging companies stocked the streams before the National Park service took over in 1934. Stocking activities occurred as early at 1910 (if not earlier).

While I don't have the actual stocking information on the Brown trout, the fact is that they had to get into the streams from somewhere, because as you know, Brown Trout are not native to North America, let alone the Smokies. Perhaps it was before the formation of the Park by Loggers or Game enthusiasts, but the fact is, they were not here on their own.

I'm not suggesting that the only reason there were larger fish was due to stocking. The deforestation of parts of the Park would make it a better habitat for terrestrials (and not so for birds etc). Obviously fish that feast on terrestrials are going to grow larger. And the nutrient runoff from cattle grazing probably assisted in more abundance of aquatic life, as well. But I don't think either of those activities would be welcome as a way to increase the size of the fish in the Park.

My main point is that I really don't get the "everything was better in the past" sentiment. There were reasons why we had to pass legislation in the 70s to attempt to clean up the water and air, and why we feel compelled to not kill every fish we catch...the sins of the past century had caught up with us...perhaps we acted too late...

It is also possible that the groundswell of preference toward C&R fishing in the Park is actually having an adverse affect on the fish. Since the streams are not overly fertile and since fewer fish are being harvested, most of the streams were running at their carrying limits (prior to the drought) and were overly competitive for the limited food supply. My own limited experience is that the fishing has actually been better this year than I expected. While I have caught fewer fish this year, on average the fish I have caught have been considerably larger than in years past (both in averages and largest). Perhaps our own C&R habits have an unintended impact on the rainbow population, as well.
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  #28  
Old 10-14-2009, 04:37 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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PeteCz--I'm guessing, from the content of your reply, that you haven't read my recently published book on fishing in the Park. I touch on most of your points (logging, pre-Park stocking, deforestation, etc.) in considerable detail.
I got all excited when I saw your mention of browns being stocked, because I thought maybe you had some hard information on stocking within the Park. The generally accepted knowledge here is that they migrated upstream from state waters in N. C. and Tennessee.
I agree with your thoughts on anglers keeping fewer fish possibly having an impact. My personal view is that many Park streams would actually benefit from appreciably more release to grease.
I've fished Park waters for 60 years and I do see changes--fewer big 'bows, far more browns large and small, possibly more specks, and little change in the quality of fishing in many streams.
My experiences in the Park in recent months, and I've fished a great deal, show two things. Really great numbers of fish 7 inches and under, relatively few (compared to other years) in the 7-9-inch range, and goodly numbers of 'bows in the 9-11-inch range. Basically I think many streams lost an age class thanks to drought.
Jim Casada
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  #29  
Old 10-14-2009, 05:34 PM
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When I first started fishing in the Park I experienced an overall size of fish larger than what I am seeing today. I can remember in the 70s and early 80s walking up the Fish Camp Prong and in some of the larger pools seeing rainbows that had to go 20"...these fish were hard to get to and wise beyond their years....eventually they disappeared...my guess is to hardware chuckers or worm fishermen....I have pulled many a 12" bow and some over 13" in this watershed....the biggest fish I ever hooked in the park was up the right hand fork of the LR beyond Goshen Prong....a bow as long as my lower arm....all these years most of the fishermen I met in the Park were practicing Jim's "release to the grease" and it never seemed to have much of an impact on the size of the fish from year to year....I recently had several foot longs come up to my fly over in Greenbrier and have in the past brought to hand a 13" bow from Porter's Creek....I was on the WPLP a couple of weeks ago and caught more fish there than in years but they were all in the 6-7" range....this area has in the past produced consistently some of the large fish on average....I am sure it could benefit from some local harvesting.
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  #30  
Old 10-14-2009, 05:43 PM
Jswitow Jswitow is offline
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Default Big Rainbows in the park

I have to add my two cents for what it worth (about 2 cents!). Pete I am pretty much in agreement with the first part of you statement. They used to (a) stock larger fish..... and also that the streams had a lot more in the way of nutrients when (b) there were people living in the watersheds, contributing "bacteria" to the water causing more food availability. A lot of the streams flow with nearly distilled water these days. Pick up rocks in the smokies and you don't see a lot of bugs or moss. Rainbows don't tend to eat other fish the way browns will. A brown over 14" (more like 12") is a true predator and cannibal(sp?), whereas the bows tend to stick with bugs, takes alot of bugs to grow bones. I've caught bows to 13" in Little river that were mostly head, caught a fat 15" bow in Abrams once (female ready to spawn), and have heard of large bows (rarely) above Elkmont. Rainbows can travel several miles in a day (more likely a night, during a full moon), even clearing waterfalls to 5 feet, as long as there is a relatively deep plunge pool at the base.
Nice fish though in any case!
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