License Information
Do I need a special fishing license to fish in Cherokee (NC)?

Cherokee Enterprise Waters are managed by the EBCI Fisheries and Wildlife Management Program. Tribal fishing permits are required to fish all Cherokee Enterprise Waters on the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee reservation). No other permit or license is required or accepted. Permits may be purchased on the website or from a local fish permit vendor. 

Fishing outside the Qualla Boundary requires a State License.

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 trophy trout waters, catch-and-release only): 1-3 day $25 | annual permit $75 | must be purchased with a general Tribal fishing permit

What is a catch-and-release special use permit?

This permit allows holders to use the designated 2.2 miles of trophy trout area on Raven Fork. This area is fly-fishing, catch and release only and is open year round.  The cost is $25 for one to three days, or $75 per year. Please note that this section of fishing waters requires both a general fishing permit and a special use permit. 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.
What is the refund policy?

Fish Permit Refund Policy (Cherokee NC)

Anglers are responsible for purchasing the correct permit to fish Cherokee Enterprise Waters. Incorrect purchasing procedures that result in duplicates and/or incorrect dates, may result in additional charges to angler.  For duplicate charges, angler is responsible for contacting his/her bank or credit card company to ask for the duplicated charge to be removed.

Refunds are allowed for:
(1) Fish permit system errors
(2) Cancelled EBCI Tournaments, which include:
a. $15 registration fee, and
b. $17 2-day permit covering both tournament days
c. Total $32

Refunds are not issued for:
1) Purchaser error (includes duplicate permits & incorrect dates entered by purchaser)
2) Processing fees

Route refund requests to:
EBCI Fisheries & Wildlife
Attention: Fish Permit Refund
PO Box 1747
Cherokee, NC 28719

Documentation required for refund:
(1) A written request for a refund,
(2) The permit,
(3) Sportsman contact information for vendor setup,
a. Legal Name
b. Mailing Address
c. Telephone Number
d. Email Address
(3) a signed W-9 Form

(4) Denial of refund notice from bank or card institute.

Refund Request Review:
Refund requests will be review for compliance and notice of approval or denial issued to requestor.

Allow 4-6 weeks for authorized refunds. Follows the EBCI Fiscal Management purchase order process. Refund policy updates may occur without notice. Every effort will be made to keep anglers informed of changes.

Fishing Regulations
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.

All enterprise waters are a shared resource.

When does the fishing season start, and when does it end?

The last Saturday in March is designated as opening day for all general fishing enterprise waters and the fishing season is closed to everyone two weeks prior to that date. The 2.2 miles of trophy trout fly-fishing waters on Raven Fork remain open year round.

What are the fishing hours?

Fishing hours are from one hour prior to sunrise until one hour after sunset.

What is the daily fish limit?

There is a ten (10) fish, per day, per permit holder limit in the general fishing waters (includes catch of children ages 11 and under fishing under a supervising adult’s permit).

Re-releasing fish into ponds is prohibited.

Is anything forbidden inside the catch-and-release fly-fishing 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 hosts four tagged fishing tournaments each year within the enterprise waters on the Qualla Boudnary. Many tournament anglers are familiar with the tagging system, in which colored tags are placed just under the fish's dorsal fin. The tags contain the month and year of the respective tournament and once a tagged fish is caught the tags may be redeemed for a cash prize at the Natural Resources Enforcement Office, 517 Sequoyah Trail, Cherokee, NC 28719. The redemption period for prizes is 2:00-4:00 p.m. each tournament day. Tags are not accepted outside the respective tournament tag turn in dates and times. Follow us on our Fish Cherokee Facebook page to get updates during fish tournaments and throughout the year.

Before receiving your tournament payout, potential prize winners must:

  1. Turn in a valid tag (fish not required).
  2. Present a valid fishing permit covering both tournament days.
  3. Provide proof of tournament registration.
  4. Sign a W-9 form. This requires a social security number. One form, per winner, per tournament. Parents may sign for minor children. Forms available on site.
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:

Infractions §113-5(c)
NumberOffenseFine for Violation
1.Exceeding creel limit (violation)$100.00
2.Fishing without a permit100.00
3.Snagging of fish100.00
4.Grabbing of fish100.00
5.Chumming of fish100.00
6.Fishing with more than one line100.00
7.Setting of trotline200.00
8.Fishing in closed streams, ponds, or waters100.00
9.Fishing before or after legal fishing hours100.00
10.Failure to keep individual’s catch separate50.00
11.Failure to retain all trout caught, when fishing Tribally managed ponds100.00
12.Illegally caught trout50.00
13.An additional fine for each fish caught in violation of statutes50.00
14.Camping in unauthorized areas100.00
15.Failure to report a bait site, per bait site100.00
16.Illegal cutting of wood or timber75.00
17.Hunting on Sunday75.00
18.Hunting or fishing without the proper license100.00
19.Failure to produce valid license and/or permit25.00
20.Failure to wear hunter orange while hunting (does not apply to fishing)25.00
21.Use or possession of illegal bait100.00
22.Use of improper equipment100.00
23.Running dogs out of season100.00
24.Failure to report to NREO100.00
25.Bribing or attempted bribery of a Natural Resources Enforcement Officer100.00
26.Removing and/or destroying tracking devices or identification collars from dogs100.00

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?

General fishing enterprise waters' opening day is always the last Saturday in March. All general fishing enterprise waters are closed to everyone two weeks prior to opening day. Cherokee’s Annual Opening Day Fishing Tournament is held during opening day 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 during the fishing season?

The EBCI Fisheries & Wildlife Management program hosts a variety of special events and fish tournaments throughout the year, including several tagged tournaments with individual cash prizes ranging from $25 all the way up to $1,000 or $5,000 per respective tournament. The program also hosts and sponsors a number of other selective groups and activities throughout the fishing season, including outreach activities for young anglers and cancer support groups. Visit the website for additional information and follow us on our Fish Cherokee Facebook page for more frequent informational updates. 

EBCI Enterprise waters are a shared resource.

When does stocking take place?

The Cherokee Tribal Trout Hatchery stocks all enterprise waters on a weekly basis with no set date throughout the year. Different sections of enteprise waters are stocked over the course of a 5-day period, except during tribal holidays and closures. Stocking takes place prior to and after any such closure.

Stocking requires optimal water conditions for the good health and longevity of the fish, therefore stocking may be suspended if water conditions would adversely affect the life of the fish upon release. Follow Fish Cherokee on our Facebook page for updates as they are received from the tribal hatchery staff.

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 Island Park on Acquoni Road; another on Hwy 441 across from Paul’s Family Restaurant; and the last is located at the Big Cove ponds outside the KOA campground (Big Cove Road).

Another easily accessible fishing location is the downtown Oconaluftee Island Park area.

Where can I find the latest fishing news and information for Cherokee (NC)?

Follow us on Facebook.

Log on to and search for Fish Cherokee, to keep abreast of the latest Fish Cherokee news and information.  The website provides stationary information that is updated less frequently.

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