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WNC's 2005 Trout Season Is Open; Grab Your Fly Rod!

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission opened approximately 1,120 miles of “Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters” in 25 western North Carolina counties at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 2. The season will run until one-half hour after sunset on Feb. 28, 2006.

This is the green light trout fishing aficionados have been waiting for, the day trout fishing officially opens in WNC. While fishing Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, anglers can harvest a maximum of seven trout per day, with no minimum size limits or bait restrictions.

Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters, identifiable by green-and-white signs, are stocked repeatedly from March until August every year. Many of these waters are stocked monthly, although some heavily fished waters are stocked more frequently.

This year, the Wildlife Commission will stock more than 730,000 catchable-sized trout in streams designated as Hatchery-Supported Trout Waters. The ratio of stocked fish for most streams is 40 percent brook trout, 40 percent rainbow trout and 20 percent brown trout. Ninety-six percent of the stocked fish average 10 inches in length while the remaining fish exceed 14 inches in length.

The trout are grown in four mountain region fish hatcheries operated by the Wildlife Commission. Fish are distributed along hatchery-supported streams wherever public access for fishing is available, according to Carl Kittel, coldwater production coordinator with the Commission method.

According to the NC Wildlife Commission, "Western North Carolina offers anglers a variety of trout fishing opportunities. The state contains more streams capable of supporting brook, brown and rainbow trout than any other state in the southeastern United States - roughly 4,000 miles. All of these streams are located in the 25 westernmost counties. These waters, occurring at elevations greater than 1,400 feet, maintain stream temperatures cool enough to support mountain trout."

Many of the state's trout waters are found in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Names like Rough Butt, Rattlesnake Ridge, Hogback Mountain and Santeetlah conjure up visions of solitude, days goneby, long difficult climbs and breathtaking views. Those willing to undertake a fishing adventure to such waters will enjoy a truly unique experience.

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, "The Delayed Harvest trout regulation was instituted in 1992 as an addition to the hatchery supported trout program. It allows only catch-and-release fishing for stocked trout with single hook artificial lures during the cool months of the year. In early summer, when these streams begin to get too warm for the trout to survive, they are opened to harvest under hatchery supported regulations. The purpose of the program is to provide anglers places to fish where they would have higher than normal chances to catch stocked trout, provide fishing opportunities for stocked trout during March when most stocked trout streams are closed, and to emphasize the catch, not harvest, of trout. By 1995, there were 10 waters in the program and there was still interest in enhancing the program. Rather than add additional streams, the catch-and-release period was expanded in 1996 to include the October through February period."

The following waters are included in the Delayed Harvest program:

Ashe County
Trout Lake
Helton Creek (Virginia state line to New River)

Burke County
Jacob Fork - Shinny Creek to lower South Mountains State Park boundary

Haywood County
Richland Creek - Russ Avenue bridge to US 19A-23 bridge

Henderson County
North Fork Mills River - game land portion below the Hendersonville watershed dam

Jackson County
Tuckaseegee River - NC 107 bridge at Love Field to the Dillsboro dam

Macon County
Nantahala River - White Oak Creek to CP&L powerhouse discharge canal

Madison County
Big Laurel Creek - NC 208 bridge to the US 25-70 bridge
Shelton Laurel Creek - NC 208 bridge at Belva to the confluence with Big Laurel Creek

McDowell County
Curtis Creek - game lands portion downstream of U.S. Forest Service boundary at Deep Branch

Mitchell County
Cane Creek - NC 226 bridge to NC 80 bridge

Polk County
Green River - Fishtop Falls Access Area to confluence with Cove Creek

Surry County
Ararat River - SR 1727 downstream to Business US 52 bridge
Mitchell River - 0.6 mile upstream of the end of SR 1333 to Kapps Mill Dam

Watauga County
Watauga River - Confluence of Boone Fork and Watauga River to NC 105 bridge

Wilkes County
East Prong Roaring River - mouth of Bullhead Creek downstream to Stone Mountain State Park boundary
Stone Mountain Creek - from falls at Alleghany County line to confluence with East Prong Roaring River and Bullhead Creek

Delayed Harvest Regulations.
Here are the seasonal restrictions:

October 1 to following first Friday in June:

Fishing restricted to artificial lures having one single hook
No trout may be harvested or possessed
No natural bait may be possessed

First Saturday in June (6:00 a.m.) until September 30:

7 trout daily creel limit
No size limit
No bait restrictions

Please consult the North Carolina Hunting and Fishing Regulations digest for additional details. These waters are closed to fishing between one-half hour after sunset on the Friday before the first Saturday in June and 6:00 a.m. on the first Saturday in June.

Fish Handling Guidelines.
The North Carolina Wildlife Commission recommends the following catch and release handling policy:

    "Because trout in Delayed Harvest waters will be caught and released several times, minimizing injury to fish is something anglers can do to help maintain the quality of fishing over the entire season. Simply keep the following rules in mind to ensure the successful release of trout. When a fish is hooked you should enjoy the fight, but don't play the fish too long to prevent the fish from being exhausted. This is particularly true during warmer weather. When landing a fish it is best not to remove it from the water. If possible, remove the hook using small long-nose pliers or forceps while the fish is still in the water. If the fish is hooked deeply, cut the leader or snip off the hook. Use a landing net with larger fish to keep them from flopping in shallow water or on rocks, but be careful in handling the fish as fish nets will remove the protective slime from fish. To revive an exhausted fish, hold it gently with its head into the current until it is able to swim off on its own."

The North Carolina Wildlife Commission will continue to stock streams each month throughout the trout fishing season, so the fishing should remain good all season. The Pisgah State Fish Hatchery had an outstanding winter raising trout and the stocked mountain streams currently have an ample supply of trout. Information on stream stocking schedules can be found on the Wildlife Commission's website,

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