Cherokee Enterprise Waters. What are they?
The tribe’s Enterprise Waters, overseen by Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management, is sort of a fancy name for a precious natural resource consisting of 30 miles of freestone streams connected to one another. They run through secluded forest settings, suburban roadside areas, and even the center of the town of Cherokee.
When can I fish?
Throughout the year, fishing is allowed from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Creek limit is ten trout per day per permit holder. For those who are interested in experiencing fishing on the Reservation but wish to avoid the streams, three well-stocked ponds are located on Big Cove Road in front of the KOA Campground. A tribal permit is required to fish in the ponds and the same hours apply as for the streams.
Please note: Starting in 2016 the catch and keep enterprise waters will have an opening day again. The last Saturday in March will be opening day. The season will be closed two weeks prior to this date. The catch and release fishing area will be open year around still.
What’s this about a permit?
A $10.00 tribal permit for each person 12 years of age and over is required to fish in Cherokee streams and ponds. Children under 12 are allowed to fish, free of charge, with a permitted adult. Two-, three-, and five-day permits are available at a reduced rate and a season’s permit costs $250.00. No other type of fishing license is required nor accepted on the Reservation. Many businesses in Cherokee are authorized outlets for fishing permits.
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 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 and 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?
I've caught a tagged fish at one of the tournaments. What do I do next?
For Tribally hosted fishing tournaments, colored tags may be turned in at the Beetle Stage Pavilion next to the Cherokee Welcome Center from 4:00pm until 6:00pm, unless otherwise noted. All potential winners must:
(1) Turn in tag from fish. Colored tags are numerated with the tournament month and year. Colors vary from tournament to tournament. The actual fish does not need to be turned in along with tag. However, we love to take pictures of winners and their catch for submission to our website and Facebook pages.
(2) Present valid fishing permit.
(3) Provide proof of tournament registration.
(3) Sign a W-9 Form prior to receiving prize money. This requires a social security number. One form, per winner, per tournament. Parents may sign for minor children.