Cherokee Fishing Updates: Stocking Schedule, Safety Guidelines for Anglers, and Tournaments | Cherokee, NC

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Cherokee Fishing Updates: Stocking Schedule, Safety Guidelines for Anglers, and Tournaments

The 2020 fishing season in Cherokee got a late start this year, but anglers have been catching some beautiful trout since the official opening day on May 15th. We reached out to Tribal Hatchery Supervisor Doug Reed and other local fishing organizations to find out the latest information to help you plan your fishing trip to Cherokee this summer. 

The 2020 Cherokee Stocking Schedule

Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management stocks nearly 250,000 Rainbow, Brook, and Brown trout in Cherokee fishing waters during a typical year. Hatchery Supervisor Doug Reed assures anglers that “we’re right where we’re supposed to be” with stocking right now. 

Though the Tribal Hatchery was unable to stock fish during the shutdown, Reed said “as the season goes on we’re going to try to cover that.” To make up for the late start, they have made some shifts in their projected stockings and he thinks it will all balance out by the end of the season. 

Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management does not publicly release the stocking schedule. Reed explained that things can change quickly because of factors out of their control, such as rain storms and equipment issues, so they need “a little bit of leeway.” Instead of producing a schedule for the whole season, they project how many fish they will stock on a weekly basis. Even those weekly projections can fluctuate. Reed said, “we keep an eye on the weather and if something comes up we have to adjust to that.” 

And what about the rumors that the fish are bigger this season because of the shutdown? Reed says that one of their biggest concerns during the shutdown was that the fish at the Hatchery were going to get too big. Typically the Hatchery targets one lbs. as the weight for stocked trout. He said that before Qualla Boundary was closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “we were set to open the season so we actually had quite a bit of fish. During the shutdown those fish did get a little bit on the bigger end.” In response, the Hatchery adjusted their feeding schedule and made some changes to ensure those bigger fish got stocked first. 

The Latest on Cherokee Fishing Tournaments 

EBCI Natural Resources officials have announced a few updates about upcoming fishing tournaments in Cherokee. Unfortunately, the 2020 Rumble in the Rhododendron Fly-Fishing Tournament has been cancelled. The good news is that, as of right now, the following tagged fish tournaments are still happening in Cherokee Enterprise Waters this season. 

Please note that Natural Resources officials have made some changes to the process to protect the health of anglers and staff alike, so visit the pages for these events to learn the procedures for this year:   

The Tim Hill Memorial Fish Tournament will happen Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, July 12, 2020. Register for the chance to go after tagged fish that can be redeemed for cash prizes. The total purse is $10,000 this year! Register by Friday, July 10.

The Qualla Country Trout Tournament will take place Saturday, September 5 to Sunday, September 6, 2020. Anglers are invited to catch as many tagged fish as possible, specially stocked for this event, to compete for a total of $20,000 in cash prizes. Register by Friday, September 4.

You can register for both of these tournaments at or anywhere that Cherokee fishing licenses are sold. 

A Few Things You Should Know Before Your Fishing Trip to Cherokee 

Local government officials in Cherokee are keeping a close eye on the coronavirus situation and may issue new rules or guidelines to help keep our community safe. Before coming to Cherokee for a fishing trip, please check for updates and visit, the official government website for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to learn the latest news. 

Please be aware that on June 23 EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed issued an Executive Order requiring all people age 12 and older to wear a face mask while in public on the Qualla Boundary (including all indoor facilities and shared common areas in campgrounds and other lodging places). This order does not currently apply to shared outdoor spaces, so anglers are not required to wear masks while fishing. However, everyone should maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus–whether you are in the water or on the land. This order is effective until further notice. Everyone is being asked to do their part to be safe and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

For anglers who are planning fishing trips to Cherokee right now, Doug Reed offers one piece of advice, “Just be patient and be flexible.” The good news is that there are a lot of fish in Cherokee, but there are also a lot of folks trying to catch them. He suggests that maintaining social distancing requirements while fishing may mean you’ll have to move away from some of the most popular spots. 

As always, remember to pick up your fishing permit before heading out to one of Cherokee’s famous freestone streams. Permits are available online at and from many stores located on the Qualla Boundary. For more information about fishing in Cherokee, North Carolina, this season, here is a guide that can catch you up on the basics

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