Fishing’s more fun when you follow the rules.
Fishing in Cherokee, or within what’s known as the Qualla Boundary, is infinitely more fun when you do it the right way. Please review our Code of Ordinances Section 113, which provides an in-depth review of the rules and regulations that must be followed.
What if I have questions?
Hopefully, the answers below in our Frequently Asked Questions will help you have a great time fishing.
What are Enterprise Waters?
Enterprise Waters include most of the main stems of Raven Fork, the Oconaluftee River, and Soco Creek. All remaining waters on Cherokee’s Qualla Boundary may only be fished by members of the Tribe and are off-limits to the general public.
When do I need a Tribal permit?
- Permits are required to fish all Cherokee Enterprise Waters on the Qualla Boundary (the Cherokee reservation).
- Only a Tribal permit is required to fish within the Boundary.
- If you are fishing outside the Boundary you must have a valid state fishing license.
- Many local businesses in Cherokee are authorized outlets for fishing permits.
- The permit applies to Enterprise Waters only, which are managed by the Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management Program.
How much is a Tribal permit?
A Tribal fishing permit is required for each person 12 years of age and over, and applies to rivers, streams, and ponds. No other fishing permit or license is accepted. Children under 12 are allowed to fish free of charge when accompanied by a permitted adult.
Daily permits (catch-and-keep): 1-day $10 | 2-day $17 | 3-day $27 | 5-day $47 | annual permit $250
Tribal special use permit (2.2 miles of catch-and-release): 1-3 day $25 | annual permit $75 | must be purchased with a general Tribal fishing permit
When does the fishing season start, and when does it end?
Catch-and-keep fishing has an opening day this year of March 27. (Moving forward, the last Saturday in March will always be opening day, and the fishing season will be closed two weeks prior to that date.) Catch-and-release fishing areas (consisting of 2.2 miles of fly-fishing waters) remain open year round.
What are the fishing hours?
Fishing hours are from one hour prior to sunrise until one hour after sunset.
Is there a limit in terms of how many fish I can catch?
The daily catch-and-keep fishing limit is ten (10) fish per permit holder (includes catch of children fishing under a supervising adult’s permit).
What is a catch-and-release special use permit?
This permit allows holders to use the designated (2.2 miles) catch-and-release trophy water area on Raven Fork. The cost is $25 for one to three days, or $75 per year. Please note that this section of fishing waters requires both daily Tribal fishing and special use permits. All general fishing regulations apply to the special use permit, as do the following special use regulations within the catch-and-release area:
- 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.
- Fishing with multiple flies attached to a single line (droppers) is permitted.
Is anything forbidden inside the catch-and-release area on Raven Fork?
- Catching and removing any live fish.
- Killing trout and/or keeping in your possession.
- Use of any spin-and-bait casting rods, reels, lures, or tackle.
- The use or possession of any natural bait, fish bait, bait paste, and similar substances; fish eggs (natural or molded); or any other edible substance.
- Fishing without a valid Tribal fishing permit.
- Snagging of fish.
- Grabbing of fish.
- Chumming of fish.
- Failure to produce a valid license and/or permit(s).
What should I do when I catch a tagged fish during a tournament?
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians currently hosts four annual tagged fishing tournaments each year. Many tournament anglers are familiar with this system, in which colored tags are used that contain the month and year, and are placed just under the fish’s dorsal fin. Once a fish is caught and the tags are claimed, the tags may be redeemed for cash at the Natural Resources Enforcement Office, 517 Sequoyah Trail, Cherokee, NC 28719. Please note that the redemption period for prizes is 4:00-6:00 p.m. each tournament day. Fish are not required at the tag turn-in location at this time. And please note that tags are not accepted outside tournament dates and times.
Before receiving your tournament payout, potential prize winners must:
- Turn in a valid tag (fish not required).
- Present a valid fishing permit.
- Provide your proof of tournament registration.
- Sign a W-9 form. (This requires a social security number. One form, per winner, per tournament. Parents may sign for minor children.)
Where can I find the fishing rules and regulations for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians?
Do you have a list of fishing penalties?
Fair warning, this is where things start to sound a little more technical and legal—well, because fishing penalties are. The following isn’t a complete list of violations and their corresponding penalties. (Please see the Cherokee Code for additional information, Appendix A, Schedule of civil penalties.)
Violations of the provisions enumerated here shall subject the offender to a civil penalty upon the issuance of a citation for such violation as provided in this Section. The civil penalty, if not paid to the Cherokee Tribal Court prior to the court date designated on the citation issued, may be recovered by the Tribe in a civil action in the nature of Tribal debt. Unless otherwise provided by a specific provision of this Code, such civil penalties shall be in the amount of $100.00 for each violation, and each day any single violation continues shall be a separate violation. The following civil penalties are hereby established:
|Number||Offense||Fine for Violation|
|1.||Exceeding creel limit (violation)||$100.00|
|2.||Fishing without a permit||100.00|
|3.||Snagging of fish||100.00|
|4.||Grabbing of fish||100.00|
|5.||Chumming of fish||100.00|
|6.||Fishing with more than one line||100.00|
|7.||Setting of trotline||200.00|
|8.||Fishing in closed streams, ponds, or waters||100.00|
|9.||Fishing before or after legal fishing hours||100.00|
|10.||Failure to keep individual’s catch separate||50.00|
|11.||Failure to retain all trout caught, when fishing Tribally managed ponds||100.00|
|12.||Illegally caught trout||50.00|
|13.||An additional fine for each fish caught in violation of statutes||50.00|
|14.||Camping in unauthorized areas||100.00|
|15.||Failure to report a bait site, per bait site||100.00|
|16.||Illegal cutting of wood or timber||75.00|
|17.||Hunting on Sunday||75.00|
|18.||Hunting or fishing without the proper license||100.00|
|19.||Failure to produce valid license and/or permit||25.00|
|20.||Failure to wear hunter orange while hunting (does not apply to fishing)||25.00|
|21.||Use or possession of illegal bait||100.00|
|22.||Use of improper equipment||100.00|
|23.||Running dogs out of season||100.00|
|24.||Failure to report to NREO||100.00|
|25.||Bribing or attempted bribery of a Natural Resources Enforcement Officer||100.00|
|26.||Removing and/or destroying tracking devices or identification collars from dogs||100.00|
Note: In addition to all fines, court costs shall be assessed and added in amounts determined by the courts. All other offenses are criminal violations, and offenders within the criminal jurisdiction will be charged in Tribal Court; those outside the Tribe’s jurisdiction will be referred to the United States for prosecution. (Ord. No. 277, 5-12-2008; Ord. No. 427, 12-10-2010)
When and how do I report fishing violations?
We encourage everyone to immediately report sightings of fishing violations by calling 828.497.4131. All anglers are subject to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ fishing laws and regulations, so please help to keep Cherokee a great fishing environment for everyone.
When will the fishing season open in 2021?
This year, Cherokee’s catch-and-keep Enterprise Waters open on Saturday, March 27, and will be closed to everyone two weeks prior to that date. Cherokee’s Annual Opening Day Fishing Tournament is held during this weekend—two days of fishing fun and competition.
The 2.2 mile catch-and-release Enterprise Waters are open year round.
What can I expect for the 2021 fishing season?
Currently, the EBCI Natural Resources Department plans to host a variety of special events and tournaments throughout the year. Those plans include several tagged tournaments, with individual cash prizes ranging from $25 all the way up to $5,000. There are also plans for fly-fishing events, events for kids, and more. Please check the Events page for full schedules, news, and details as they become available.
What about fish stocking? When does that happen?
Regular stocking takes place weekly and throughout the year, provided water conditions are optimal for the good health and longevity of the fish. You can learn more about stocking on this page.
Are there handicapped-accessible areas to fish?
Cherokee offers three handicapped-accessible ramps conveniently located in Enterprise Waters. You can find the first ramp in Cherokee’s Downtown, near Oconaluftee Islands Park on Acquoni Road; another on Hwy 441 across from Paul’s Restaurant; and the last is located at the Big Cove ponds on Big Cove Road.