Aquatic Life - Great Smoky Mountains
Most anglers appreciate the statement -- there's more to a stream than just the fish. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the events of life underwater happen with all the diversity and drama seen on land. In the slightly acidic waters of the Smokies, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, salamanders, and algae are as significant a part of the picture as the fish. From microscopic plants to top predators like bass, each life form represents an equally vital link in the food chain. Take time to learn about the underwater wilderness of the Smokies. It might even improve your success as an angler.
Fish of the Smokies
The Smokies protect one of the last wild trout habitats in the Eastern U.S. The variety of habitats represented support a diverse spectrum of aquatic insects and invertebrates, plus over 40 species of fish--including darters, suckers, dace, shiners, chubs, sculpins, bass, the non-native rainbow and brown trout, and the native brook trout.
Rainbow Trout is the most sought after game fish within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Due to the mass stocking of this non-native species in the past, rainbow trout are found in all but a few of the streams of the Smokies. The fastwater rainbow is the most adaptable of all members of the trout family.
Fishing has been a part of the historic use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park since its creation. First time anglers to the Smokies should stop by a ranger station or visitor center to ask advice. Sporting goods stores in surrounding communities often house some of the Park's most avid fishermen.
Brown Trout attain the largest size of any of the game species in the Park. This non-native has a reputation for hardiness and adaptability. Brown trout usually inhabit the lower elevation streams and prefer slower waters and areas with good cover.
Brook Trout is the only species of trout native to the Smokies. Known as "spec" or "speckled trout" by the mountain folk, the brook is not a true trout, but a "char."
The brook trout cannot tolerate high temperatures, environmental abuses like pollution or heavy angling pressure. Due to its smaller size, the brook trout is at a competitive disadvantage when it occurs with rainbow trout and retreats upstream to avoid competition. One hundred and twenty miles of stream have been given special protection as the last stronghold of the brook trout.
Smallmouth Bass and Rock Bass are found in the lower elevation streams of the Park. Both species put up vigorous fights when hooked. These fish usually inhabit deep pools or shaded areas along the bank.