It may be old news to some, but newcomers are learning all the time that Newport and the surrounding countryside is an angler’s paradise.

Most local anglers are well aware how good the fishing gets when the weather is warm. But even life-long natives might be surprised to learn that some catches don’t get really hot until the colder temps have driven most people off the water for the year.

November through March is a prime stretch of calendar to bounce jigs for arguably the best-tasting fish swimming in Tennessee Valley waters.

“We are getting close to being in some of the best walleye and sauger fishing of the year,” Derek Kinsler, who runs Smoky Mountain Fishing Co. guide service, said as October drew to a close. “And that lasts all the way until April.”

Walleye and sauger are both prehistoric-looking members of the perch family, and are arguably more prized for their plump, delectable filets than any game fish lurking in the waters of North America.

Elusive and wily, walleye and sauger possess darkness-piercing vision that enables them to mercilessly hunt the cold, dark depths of moving and still waters alike. When Smoky Mountain bears start getting sleepy, these fearsome-toothed predators are wide awake and on the prowl all winter long.

Adding to the angling excitement during the season of shorter days is improved trout fishing. Falling water temperatures often stimulate trout feeding activity, and they also start venturing down into lower elevations, making it a choice time of year for fly-casting enthusiasts.

The waters in all directions surrounding the Cocke County seat are renowned for their catches — but what about Newport proper?

“Oh, Lord yeah! We catch a lot of big fish right through downtown Newport,” reveals Kinsler, a born-and-raised East Tennessee lunker hunter who keeps otherwise tight-lipped about the especially fishy places he slips in his boat.

Kinsler is based in Jefferson City and ventures with clients throughout the Volunteer State’s Appalachian mountains and valleys — using either traditional tackle or fly gear. He feels especially at home on the French Broad, Pigeon and Nolichucky Rivers, as well as Douglas Lake.

“We go all over the area,” he said. “I float water all the way from Del Rio to Cosby to Newport to Johnson City, Bristol and Knoxville.”

The vibrant Tennessee Valley guide industry not only plays a vital role in enhancing the experience of visiting anglers, these personal fishing scouts and trainers also nudge clients to sink some dollars in locally owned businesses, especially food and beverage and lodging establishments.

While Kinsler might not reveal his favorite places to put fish in the net, he freely communicates precise destination-coordinates to fellow fisher-folks (or anybody else) angling for a good meal in Cocke County.

Forget for a bit about casting flies or flipping baits and go fox hunting instead, he advises: try tracking down the Fox and Hound in Newport or Del Rio’s Fox Den, which serves “by far the best breakfast in East Tennessee,” Kinsler reports.

Kinsler also counsels hungry clients to take a growling stomach out to The Woodshed in Newport — and when in need of a bite in Bybee, he often gets reeled into CJ Papadops.

To book an unforgettable angling trip with Derek, visit or call 865-310-4076.

Complete your day of angling with a meal and at any of these restaurants.


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