Winter fishing in the Smokies is not usually productive, at least not consistently. And I don’t expect this January to be an exception. In addition to the cold water temperatures that keep these wild trout fairly inactive, it looks like our wet weather will continue. Water levels will probably remain pretty high most of the month.
If water levels are cooperative, one of the best things about fishing the park in the winter is the solitude. You will likely only see a handful of other people and probably no other fishermen. Embrace the solitude and significantly lower your expectations on activity and you can have a pretty enjoyable day!
The Clinch can fish well in the winter because it’s a tailwater and its water temperatures remain pretty constant. The water temperature in January is nearly the same as it is in August. However, we are still paying for a VERY wet 2018.
The Clinch is not only releasing water all day every day, they are sluicing approximately 5900 cfs. That’s a lot of water. You definitely can’t wade it under those conditions and it’s really too much water for decent fishing from a boat.
If they relax that water release schedule, this will be a good option. But it looks like this is what we’re stuck with for a while.
The delayed harvest streams in the Cherokee National Forest are the best things going right now. Stocked fish continue feeding more regularly in winter than wild ones do. They’re not as good as they were in the fall, mainly because of poaching. But there are still plenty of fish and they should remain active through January. Assuming roads remain clear and safe to drive on, this is probably your best bet right now.