Cherokee Enterprise Waters. What are they?
The Enterprise Waters include most of the main stems of Raven Fork, the Oconaluftee River, and Soco Creek. They run through secluded forest settings, suburban roadside areas, and even Cherokee town center.
When will the fishing season open in 2024?
This year, Cherokee’s catch-and-keep Enterprise Waters open on Saturday, March 30, and will be closed to everyone two weeks prior to that date. Cherokee’s Annual Opening Day Fishing Tournament is held during this weekend—two days of fishing fun and competition.
The 2.2 mile catch-and-release Enterprise Waters are open year round.
Is there a limit to how many fish I can catch?
The daily catch-and-keep fishing limit is ten (10) fish per permit holder (includes catch of children fishing under a supervising adult’s permit).
What types of fish are there? Meet your adversaries:
Regular stocking of the streams is the responsibility of Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management, which each year adds nearly 250,000 trout to an existing population of fish swimming in our crystal-clear mountain waters. That’s the highest density of fish in stocked waters in the east. These supplemental stockings include rainbow, brook, and brown trout of various sizes ranging up to trophy size.
The only native trout found in these mountain waters, the Brookie ranges between 6–18” when fully grown. It’s found in cold waters (bring your hip waders!), like those running through narrow streams. You’ll know it by its red spots and light red fins with white edges.
Don’t let the name fool you. This trout variety can be brown, but also olive, and often has green, orange, and red spots encircled in yellow or white. They like to live near fallen trees or boulders in large pools, and can be found under shaded banks. The big ones can reach 18–26”, weighing as much as 6–16 lbs.
The newest neighbor to our waters, Goldens were spawned in 1954 and are uniquely prized as a trophy fish. Known for their unmistakable bright golden hue, they’re similar in size and behavior to large browns and Rainbows.
The most commonly found stocked fish in these waters, the Rainbow displays a wide lateral pink to red stripe on its side, dark olive on its back, light colors on its belly, and is speckled overall. It’s predominantly found in riffles and swift runs, as well as in open waters.
This stream-bred game fish can be found throughout the lower Oconaluftee River on Cherokee lands. Also known as “bronzebacks,” these wild fish are quick to take a lure or bait and are always ready to give you a very fun fight.
Where can I fish?
To learn about the areas where you can fish, please visit the Cherokee Fishing MAP.
What can I expect for the 2024 fishing season?
Currently, the EBCI Natural Resources Department plans to host a variety of special events and tournaments throughout the year. Those plans include several tagged tournaments, with individual cash prizes ranging from $25 all the way up to $5,000. There are also plans for fly-fishing events, events for kids, and more. Please check the Events page for full schedules, news, and details as they become available.
What should I do when I catch a tagged fish during a tournament?
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians currently hosts four annual tagged fishing tournaments each year. Many tournament anglers are familiar with this system, in which colored tags are used that contain the month and year, and are placed just under the fish’s dorsal fin. Once a fish is caught and the tags are claimed, the tags may be redeemed for cash at the Natural Resources Enforcement Office, 517 Sequoyah Trail, Cherokee, NC 28719. Please note that the redemption period for prizes is 4:00-6:00 p.m. each tournament day. Fish are not required at the tag turn-in location at this time. And please note that tags are not accepted outside tournament dates and times.
Before receiving your tournament payout, potential prize winners must:
1. Turn in a valid tag (fish not required).
2. Present a valid fishing permit.
3. Provide your proof of tournament registration.
4. Sign a W-9 form. (This requires a social security number. One form, per winner, per tournament. Parents may sign for minor children.)
Do you have a list of fishing penalties?
Fair warning, this is where things start to sound a little more technical and legal—well, because fishing penalties are. The following isn’t a complete list of violations and their corresponding penalties. (Please see the Cherokee Code for additional information, Appendix A, Schedule of civil penalties.)
Violations of the provisions enumerated here shall subject the offender to a civil penalty upon the issuance of a citation for such violation as provided in this Section. The civil penalty, if not paid to the Cherokee Tribal Court prior to the court date designated on the citation issued, may be recovered by the Tribe in a civil action in the nature of Tribal debt. Unless otherwise provided by a specific provision of this Code, such civil penalties shall be in the amount of $100.00 for each violation, and each day any single violation continues shall be a separate violation. The following civil penalties are hereby established:
Number Offense Fine for Violation
1. Exceeding creel limit (violation) $100.00
2. Fishing without a permit 100.00
3. Snagging of fish 100.00
4. Grabbing of fish 100.00
5. Chumming of fish 100.00
6. Fishing with more than one line 100.00
7. Setting of trotline 200.00
8. Fishing in closed streams, ponds, or waters 100.00
9. Fishing before or after legal fishing hours 100.00
10. Failure to keep individual’s catch separate 50.00
11. Failure to retain all trout caught, when fishing Tribally managed ponds 100.00
12. Illegally caught trout 50.00
13. An additional fine for each fish caught in violation of statutes 50.00
14. Camping in unauthorized areas 100.00
15. Failure to report a bait site, per bait site 100.00
16. Illegal cutting of wood or timber 75.00
17. Hunting on Sunday 75.00
18. Hunting or fishing without the proper license 100.00
19. Failure to produce valid license and/or permit 25.00
20. Failure to wear hunter orange while hunting (does not apply to fishing) 25.00
21. Use or possession of illegal bait 100.00
22. Use of improper equipment 100.00
23. Running dogs out of season 100.00
24. Failure to report to NREO 100.00
25. Bribing or attempted bribery of a Natural Resources Enforcement Officer 100.00
26. Removing and/or destroying tracking devices or identification collars from dogs 100.00
Note: In addition to all fines, court costs shall be assessed and added in amounts determined by the courts. All other offenses are criminal violations, and offenders within the criminal jurisdiction will be charged in Tribal Court; those outside the Tribe’s jurisdiction will be referred to the United States for prosecution. (Ord. No. 277, 5-12-2008; Ord. No. 427, 12-10-2010)
What about fish stocking? When does that happen?
Regular stocking takes place weekly and throughout the year, provided water conditions are optimal for the good health and longevity of the fish. You can learn more about stocking at FishCherokee.com.
Are there handicapped-accessible areas to fish?
Cherokee offers three handicapped-accessible ramps conveniently located in Enterprise Waters. You can find the first ramp in Cherokee’s Downtown, near Oconaluftee Islands Park on Acquoni Road; another on Hwy 441 across from Paul’s Restaurant; and the last is located at the Big Cove ponds on Big Cove Road.