An Insider’s Guide to Fishing in Cherokee4.1.2015
In 2011, the US National Fly Fishing Championship was held in Cherokee, attracting the top anglers in the nation and putting Cherokee on the map as the best fishing destination in the Southeast. But you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy fishing in Cherokee. Beginners love it for the same reason as the pros: the waters in Cherokee are heavily stocked with trout, including rainbow, brook, and brown varieties, as well as other kinds of fish.
Each year, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Fish (EBCI) and Wildlife Management Department raise and stock 400,000 trout, including trophy-sized catches, in 30 miles of stream. Compare that to the state of North Carolina, which puts approximately 800,000 trout in 1,000 miles of stream, and you can see why fishing Cherokee is a unique and rewarding experience.
Just make sure you purchase a permit first, either online or at one of the shops in town.
The Best Places to Fish in Cherokee
The EBCI Fisheries and Wildlife Management program stocks fish twice a week in over 150 spots on the Qualla Boundary, making it the most heavily stocked waters in the region, if not the country.
“They’re spread everywhere,” said Mike LaVoie, a biologist for the EBCI Fisheries and Wildlife Management team. “We stock three different rivers, and they each have their own character.”
Soco Creek is the smallest and most wade-able of the stocked waters. The access is a little more limited than the other areas, which is perfect if you’re looking for a quiet, private spot.
Raven Fork is one of the larger stream systems, which is very pretty and well known, and with easy drive-up access. The Parkway Haven is a portion set aside for catch-and-release fishing, offering deep inviting pools, riffles, runs, and pocket waters.
Oconaluftee River is in and below town, and is the biggest river system with the greatest diversity of fish. Here, you can catch some larger fish and different species including small mouth bass and sun fish.
As for the best place to fish, it all depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s peace and quiet you’re after, LaVoie recommends wading up the creek. If your main goal is to catch as many fish as possible—10 is the limit— then local tipsters say the best place to go is where the stocking is easiest: by bridges and other places with easy roadside access. If you’re looking for catch and release fly fishing, Raven Fork is the place to be. For adults with kids in town, children under 12 are allowed to fish when accompanied by a permitted adult, at no extra charge.
Fishing Tournaments in Cherokee
If you’re feeling particularly lucky, enter one of the many fishing tournaments in Cherokee. Spring kicks of the tourney season, where you can stand to win thousands of dollars in tagged fish. If you catch the big one, you can win big money, with some tournaments featuring a $20,000 purse. Last year’s big winner caught a $5,000 tagged trout!
And just for kids, there’s the popular annual Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby, a free, two-day event for kids with $20,000 worth of prizes given away. Last year, grand prizes included a camper and a four-wheeler. Thousands of children attend with their families and enjoy the festivities, including music, animal exhibits, and special performances—all for free.