Trout stocking schedules facing delays

The author caught this brook trout from North Mills River. (Photo by L. Woodrow Ross)

COVID, fuel prices have plagued stocking efforts

If you are planning a trout fishing outing for this spring, check the stocking schedule, or plan to fish on a stream that has natural reproduction of trout. 

The effects of fuel price increases has impacted many areas of every day life. In addition, we have seen the disruption caused by COVID-19. Not only has it affected our daily lives, but it has also caused some changes, delays and rescheduling of trout stocking programs.

Very little in the way of stocking happened in North or South Carolina during February. Fortunately, March seems to have been better. Here is an update on the latest stockings that took place in March for both states.

N.C. Stocking

March 16 –Cherokee, Stokes, Wilkes, Jackson and Haywood

March 17 – Wilkes, Graham, Madison, Jackson and Transylvania

March 18 – Yancey and Caldwell

S.C. Stocking 

March 11 – Oconee State Park, Big Eastatoe  (regular and delayed harvest areas)

March 14 – North Saluda, Middle Saluda, South Saluda, Chauga, Brasstown (regular and delayed harvest areas)

March 17 – Chattooga (regular and delayed harvest), East Fork Chattooga and Cheohee Tree Nursery

As mentioned last month, South Carolina has two tailwater trout fisheries. The waters below Lake Hartwell and Lake Murray have provided some opportunities for anglers who desire to fish close to home. At the end of this month, I will be visiting with the Saluda River TU Club. This tailwater fishery has developed into an excellent resource and offers SC mid-state anglers the chance to fly fish for trout and smallmouth bass.

Several years ago, I interviewed Chuck Dixon in Anderson, SC. He ran Centerville Specialty Fly Shop that was secondary to his primary business. He fished the Hartwell tailwaters often and had some rainbow trout mounted that were “footballs.” They feed heavily on baitfish that are shredded by the turbines and get fat and sassy. They are about as big around as they are long. 

Tailwater fishing may require some adjustment in the methods and tackle, depending on water conditions. Safety is critical on tailwater fisheries and warnings are sounded when water is to be released. But swift response may be required. Call ahead to check on release schedules.

North Carolina and South Carolina both offer delayed harvest opportunities for fly fishermen. I am particularly fond of these streams. We have fished the North Mills and the East Fork of the French Broad delayed harvest streams and had great success. 

The benefit of delayed harvest streams is that the resource is available to a wider spectrum of fly fishermen. The fish that are caught from October until June must be returned to the water and therefore provide sport for more fishermen.  

This fat rainbow trout fell victim to the author’s fly. (Photo by L. Woodrow Ross)

North Carolina Regulations and Signage

North Carolina has approximately 4,000 miles of trout water. If you fly fish in North Carolina, be aware of the different regulations that govern the taking of trout. Most streams are clearly marked with signs that denote which category applies to that stream. These categories are:

  • Catch and Release 
  • Delayed Harvest – Catch and release regulations apply between October and May. From June to September, seven fish a day are legal. Check regulations for exact date/time.
  • Hatchery Supported – Closed to fishing in April, a four-fish limit of 7-inch minimum may be kept the rest of the year.
  • Wild Trout – Artificials, single hook only, four-fish limit, must be 7-inch minimum.
  • Wild Trout Bait – Natural, live bait (except fish), single hook, four-fish limit, 7-inch minimum.
  • Special Trout Regulations – Any special regulations that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission deems as needed to protect the trout.

For good information, to book a trip, take some casting lessons or even if you are interested in a good fly-fishing guide school, contact Mac Brown Fly Fishing in Bryson City, N.C. They offer wade trips, float trips, fly fishing instruction, a fly-fishing guide school and more. They are in the heart of North Carolina’s excellent trout fishing and can be reached at macbrownflyfish@gmail.com or by telephone at 828-736-1469.

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