The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Enterprise Waters, overseen by Fisheries & Wildlife Management, is a precious natural resource that consists of 30 miles of freestone streams connected to one another.  These streams run through secluded forest settings, suburban roadside areas, and even the center of the town of Cherokee.  Fishing opportunities exist for those interested in fishing our public fishing waters which are stocked throughout the year with various varieties of trout.  Stocking occurs when favorable conditions exist.


Throughout the year, fishing is allowed from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. The daily limit is ten fish 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: The catch and keep enterprise waters now has an opening day again.  The last Saturday in March will be opening day.  The catch and keep fishing season will be closed two weeks prior to this date.  The catch and release fly-fishing area is open year round.

A daily tribal fishing permit is required to fish in Cherokee streams and ponds for each person 12 years of age and over . Children under 12 are allowed to fish, free of charge, with a permitted adult. Catch & Release special use permits are required in addition to the daily fishing permit for the 2.2 miles of fly-fishing section of the river.  No other type of fishing license is required nor accepted on the Reservation. Many businesses in Cherokee are authorized outlets for fishing permits.

1-day permit     $10.00

2-day permit     $17.00

3-day permit     $27.00

5-day permit     $47.00

Annual Permit     $250.00

1-3 Day Catch & Release Permit    $25.00

Annual Catch & Release Permit     $75.00


Regular stocking of streams is the responsibility of Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management and occurs on a weekly basis during favorable conditions.  Stocking 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.


Brook Trout:

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.


Brown Trout:

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.


Golden Trout:

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.


Rainbow Trout:

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.


Smallmouth Bass:

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.

In designated public fishing areas.

Click here to see the map.

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 each tournament day, 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.

The daily limit is ten (10) trout per permit holder.  This includes the catch of children fishing under a supervising adult’s permit.

A Special Use Permit and a daily permit is required to fish the designated 2.2 miles of Raven Ford catch-and-release area.  The cost of the Special Use Permit is $25 for a 1-3 day, or $75 for an annual permit, along with the purchase of a general (daily) fishing permit.  All general fishing regulations apply to the Special Use Permit, as do the following regulations:

  • Tackle is limited to fly rods, reels, and line with a maximum of 18 feet of leader material or monofilament line attached.
  • Only artificial flies and streamers constructed of natural or synthetic material on a single, barbless hook are permitted.
  • Only one single hook fly per line is permitted.
  • Fishing with multiple flies attached to a single line (droppers) is permitted.
  • Taking of any live fish caught is forbidden.
  • The use of any Spin & Bait Casting Rods, Reels, Lures, or Tackle is forbidden.
  • The use of any Natural Bait, Fish Bait, or Bait Paste, including Fish Eggs or Derivatives is forbidden.