Oconaluftee River

Categories: Play, Fishing, Fishing for Wild Trout, Great Smoky Mountains National Park... NC


  •  Fantastic "free stone" stream for fishing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park-NC 
  •  Catch wild Rainbow and Brown trout 
  •  Each angler must possess a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing permit 
  •  Limit of 5 Trout with a minimum length of 7 inches 
  •  One of the most gorgeous streams in the park 
  •  Nearby Cherokee NC w/ easy access along U.S. Hwy-441 pull-offs
  •  Nice population of Rainbow trout 
  •  Minimal fishing "pressure" 

The Local Scoop

This sometimes overlooked section of the Ocunaluftee River just outside of Cherokee NC is some of the best water in the park to fish. There is a good population of both Brown and Rainbow trout here. The access is very easy and U.S. Hwy-441 offers multiple spots for accessing the river by roadside pull-offs. It really couldn't be any easier to access such gorgeous water. You'll find that the fish here tend to be on the smaller side at around 5-10 inches in length. However, this is about average for the GSMNP. What the fish lack in size they make up for in fight and beauty. Being from this area, I usually keep my pole in my car just in case I'm going into the park for a hike or for some other adventure.  I make sure that every opportunity is met with pole in hand.  Every time I have stopped to fish the Oconaluftee (North of Cherokee and in the Park boundaries), I have caught at least one fish.  It doesn't matter the amount of time spent trying. If I have ten minutes, I usually catch one. If I have an hour, I catch several. But as always, I try to practice catch & release methods unless I have hurt the fish beyond it's chances of survival. I would like to suggest you do the same unless you plan on having some sort of fish fry with your family. You can keep up to 5 trout per angler in the park with a minimum length of 7 inches. The park is heavily patroled by Park Rangers so be aware of the exact size of each fish you decide to kill. They will measure and they will fine you if caught breaking the law.
I have had success with both fly fishing equipment and spinning equipment in park waters. You really can't go wrong if you have some fishing experience and know how to make a decent lure presentation. Good Luck!

The Local Directions

From downtown Cherokee, NC take U.S. Hwy-441 North towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park for approx. 6.1 miles (crossing into the Park) to a single-lane parking area on your Right, directly beside the Ocunaluftee River. If you don't like the looks of this one, you can continue on up the highway for another 2.2 miles to where you'll have a bigger parking area, right beside the tumbling Oconaluftee River.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Fishing2/7What's this?
Nearest City
Swain County
Easy via US Hwy-441 roadside pull-offs
Distance From
Cherokee, 6.1 miles
35.545636, -83.304917