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Brook Trout Restoration

The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout is small…so small in fact that a trophy fish is only nine inches long. This beautiful fish, vibrant with shimmery, bright colors is considered a prize catch, largley because the brook trout is a rare and elusive resident of Tennessee waters. It’s the only trout native to our state and the TWRA and others are trying to make sure it doesn’t dissappear. Wild Side Guide Alan Griggs takes us to the Cherokee National Forest near Tellico Plains, where some young brook trout are returning home after nearly being wiped out in their mountain habitat.

One of the main goals of the restoration project is to create a guide for other states to follow when growing their own population of the tiny fish. Biologists believe that brook trout occupy only fifteen percent of their original range across the eastern U.S. Here in Tennessee, about seventy percent of the brook trout habitat is located in the Cherokee National Forest. As with any restoration project, the effort will take time, but hopes are high that the fish will eventually approach its former numbers.

Brook trout are native to Tennessee’s cold headwater streams at elevations over 3,000 feet. Brook trout prefer water temperatures less than 68o F. They spawn in the fall and juveniles emerge from the gravel in the spring. In wild trout streams brook trout rarely live longer than 5 years of age.

At one time all trout water in Tennessee was inhabited by brook trout. In the late 1800s many populations were lost due to primitive logging techniques and several of their populations were replaced with stocked rainbow trout. TWRA biologists, in cooperation with the US Forest Service and Great Smoky Mountain National Park biologists have recently expanded the range of brook trout by stocking native strains of brook trout back into their native waters. Today, we have about 150 brook trout streams in Tennessee.

An angler’s typical catch ranges from 4 to 8 inches in length and brook trout rarely exceed 12 inches in mountain streams. The statewide minimum length limit is 6 inches.

To learn more about Tennessee trout and fishing in our state, visit the TWRA website at

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