Townsend, Tennessee - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It was 80 degrees when I drove to work at 8:30 am.  I stopped to take the water temperature at the swinging bridge, it was 76.  Last evening I left the store at 5:45 to go look at the tubing problem I heard we have.  My truck swore it was 103 degrees in our parking lot.  Tourists are everywhere in town.  I stopped at the IGA to pick up the Sunday paper this morning.  I got behind some bicycle riders and had to creep out of the shopping center.  We are at the end of tourist season.

The water in Little River is extremely low.  Flow is currently 54 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 157 cfs.  The slack water below the bridge had a strange color to it.  The water was similar to what you see in a stagnant pond.  It was not a pretty sight.  That will change soon.  We have plenty of opportunities for rain over the next few days starting this afternoon.  I don’t think there is any doubt we’ll get rain and maybe plenty of it.  Paula and I are planning to fish Wednesday and Thursday so you can be assured it will rain both of those days.

Fishing is slow down low even early in the mornings.  Brian has been going every morning.  He did well four days ago but he has seen the fishing in the Park’s lower elevation streams drop off even early in the morning.  He has been going over to the West Prong of the Little Pigeon and higher up on the river.  There the conditions are better and he’s been catching trout.  Fish the riffles, try to stay in the shade, I would use a beetle pattern and use light tippet.  That should work in the higher, cooler streams.

We’ve got trouble, right here in the River City.  Residents are upset, especially those who live on the river.  Outraged people attended the City Commission meeting last week.  There was name calling and outbursts.  I think it’s going to get worse.  The problem is with the masses of people tubing and trespassing issues.

I heard that 1,700 people pay to tube Little River on a good day or a bad day depending on how you look at it.  I drove around town and looked yesterday after work.  I was really amazed at the number of people in the river and cars parked at the tubing rental businesses. 

Here is the problem.  People rent tubes, float down the river and stop at people’s homes and get out on their yards.  I don’t blame the landowners.  I’d be mad too, especially since most of them have “No Trespassing” signs on their property. 

Problem #2, landowners own the river bottom.  It is on their surveys and in their deeds.  They pay taxes on that property.  If a tuber (or fisherman) steps on the river bottom, technically they are trespassing, I think.  The property taxes on both sides of the river bottom are paid to the County. 

Problem #3, half of Little River is in Townsend.  The other side is in the County.  Townsend only has jurisdiction on one half of the river.

One of the concerned citizens, who complained about tubers exiting on his property where he lives is the owner of a tubing company operating downstream from Townsend.  He asked that a policeman be stationed on his property to protect it.  That is interesting. 

So, what should be done and by whom?  I hope it doesn’t get placed in the planning commission’s lap.  That would be partially mine.  Whatever affects tubing will also affect fishing.  I don’t see how you can separate the two.  A fisherman was asked to leave Little River a couple of years ago.  The police told him he was trespassing.

Some people are calling for the banning of commercial tubing in the river.  What would that do to tourism?  Would that be fair to the tubing company owners?  Some people claim that tubing is degrading our water quality. 

I don’t have an opinion or an answer to the problem.  If fishermen were banned from the river in Townsend that probably wouldn’t affect our business.  Most of our customers fish in the Park except maybe during the off-season.  If we have trespassing issues that get out of hand Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will stop stocking the river.  I have already been told that by them.  That would bring the angler trespassing issue to a halt immediately.  No fish, no fishermen.  That would hurt the campgrounds and motels located on the river.  I don’t want that to happen.  I doubt it would hurt us at all.  I guess we wouldn’t have to tell bait-fishing customers how to thread a worm on a hook or where to buy corn.

So, since I don’t live on the river and our business is not at risk, I can sit back and look at this problem with a fairly clear and un-biased perspective.  I am a business person and I am very protective of business owners.  Voting to put someone out of business would be hard or maybe impossible for me to do.  I don’t like the idea of renting tubes to people when the water in the river is high and dangerous.  We have had many rescues over the years.  Luckily, not one tuber has died in the city limits.  I don’t want to see that happen. These rescues are expensive too and the tab has been picked up by the city and county so far.  Is that fair? 

This is a tough one and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Yesterday I was visited by a tubing company owner and briefed by the Mayor, on a Saturday.  I spoke to our Police Chief on Friday about the situation.  Iva Butler, a friend of mine who writes for the Daily Times was in town yesterday working on an article that I thought would be in the paper today.  It wasn’t.  I bet we’ll see it tomorrow.

We’ve got trouble.

Have a great day and thank you for being here with us.

Byron Begley
July 25, 2010

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