AccessWest of Bryson City below Fontana Dam on NC 28. Easy access.
SpeciesBrook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Muskie
License Requirements NC fishing license with a trout stamp
Cheoah Lake was formed in 1919 and is the oldest dam on the Little Tennessee River. Cheoah is 644 acres and 9.5 miles long. At the time it was built, it was the world’s tallest overflow dam at 225 feet and had the largest turbines in the world. Cheoah Dam was made famous in the 1993 movie “The Fugitive” in which Harrison Ford "jumped" from the top of the dam to avoid capture by Tommy Lee Jones. Today the dam is referred to as the “Fugitive Dam”.
Cheoah is fed largely by the tailrace of Fontana Dam, which provides a constant flow of clear, cold water that remains at consistent temperatures year around. Rainbow, brown, and brook trout call Cheoah home, with some trout reaching several pounds. Rainbows and muskie are stocked by the state of North Carolina. With plenty of trout to feed upon, the muskie are growing at rapid rates.
Bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Forest Service, Cheoah Lake's shores remain undeveloped and pristine. There is only one boat access ramp – Llewellyn Branch – at the upstream end of the lake, just below Fontana Dam. This ramp and adjacent fishing pier are both handicapped accessible. Because the lake is fairly narrow you won't see much in the way of pleasure boat or jet ski traffic, only the occasional fisherman in search of trout and muskie.
The upper stretch of the lake fishes much like a tailwater river, and a close eye on generation schedules from Fontana Dam is highly advisable.