Parks have good trout fishing

A day’s catch from the delayed-tarvest section of the East Prong of the Roaring River at Stone Mountain State Park.

From the banks of the Atlantic to the top of Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s 29 state parks showcase some of the best and most unusual natural resources the state has to offer.

Included in these parks are the highest mountain in the Eastern United States, the highest sand dune on the Atlantic coast, unique rock formations, one of the oldest rivers in Eastern America, pocosins, shallow oval natural lakes of the coastal plain called bays, man-made reservoirs, rivers, creeks, estuaries, rare plants, endangered wildlife, and some aquatic life found no other place in the world.

All but three (Jockey’s Ridge. Mount Mitchell, Mount Jefferson) offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Three of the parks (Stone Mountain, South Mountains and Gorges) have excellent trout streams.

Two of the parks — Stone Mountain in Wilkes and Alleghany counties and South Mountains in Burke County — are accessible to trout fishers in the piedmont. Gorges Park in Transylvania County is the most distant.

Stone Mountain has more than 17 miles of trout streams, including a trophy catch-and release stream that holds rainbow and brown trout that run 30 inches and longer. Two streams are delayed-harvest waters; remaining streams are wild trout waters.

Bullhead Creek, the trophy stream, is patterned after the old English “beat” system. An angler pays to fish one of the eight beats or sections of the stream and is guaranteed exclusivity to that particular section. If the fisher wants to move to another section, he pays an additional fee and is again guaranteed exclusivity. Beats cannot be reserved; they’re all first-come, first-served.

The trophy fish aren’t stockers; they’re all wild trout.

They’re big because of regular supplemental feedings. While the majority of the trout in Bullhead run 5 to 8 pounds, anglers can expect to see a few small trout since the stream is self-sustaining.

The Rich Mountain Creek section, which is one of the eight beats, is a small stream with “normal” size trout. Trout in this section do not get supplemental feedings.

Anglers are required to carry and use a net to reduce stress on big trout when they are landed. Additional restrictions stipulate barbless hooks, nothing larger than a No. 6 fly. Any fly resembling a trout pellet is prohibited.

Anglers must sign in and pay at a kiosk at the trailhead to the stream. Fishing hours are 8:30 a.m. to one hour before closing. Best fishing seasons are spring and fall.

Bullhead Creek is only one of several trout streams inside the park. Harris Creek, on the far western edge, is a wild trout stream managed under catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only regulations. Most of the trout in Harris Creek are in the 4- to 8-inch range.

As a result of the no-harvest regulation, Harris Creek has trout in the 10- to 12-inch range. Getting to Harris Creek requires a bit of a hike because it’s remote.

Big Sandy Creek, Garden Creek and Widow’s Creek are typical wild trout streams, dominated by 4- to 8-inch trout. Lower sections of the stream are open enough for fly fishing; upper sections have dense cover.

The East Prong of the Roaring River, from the mouth of Bullhead Creek to the park boundary, and Stone Mountain Creek, from the falls at the Alleghany County line to its confluence with East Prong and Bullhead Creek, are delayed-harvest streams.

Stone Mountain Park’s campground is open year-round. The campground has 37 sites for family camping with tent pads, tables, grills and a washhouse with hot showers and laundry tubs.

Stone Mountain is 7 miles southwest of Roaring Gap. From 1-77 north of Statesville take U.S. 21 (Exit 83), go north for about 10 miles to SR 1002 (Stone Mountain Road), turn left, go 4 ½ miles and turn right at the John P. Frank parkway, the main entrance road to the park. The park is about a two-hour drive from Charlotte, and an hour’s drive from Winston-Salem and Hickory.

South Mountains State Park in Burke County has 12 miles of wild trout waters, including Henry Fork, which is a catch-and-release, artificial lures only stream; and Jacob Fork from Shinny Creek to the lower park boundary, which is a delayed-harvest stream.

Shinny Creek, Murray Branch, Jacob Branch, Nettle Branch and smaller tributaries are wild trout waters.

South Mountains State Park has a family campground and camping areas for backpackers. Family sites have picnic tables, fire grills and pit toilets.

The park is approximately 18 miles south of Morganton. From I-40 take N.C. 18 to SR 1913, turn left onto Old N.C. 18, and go to SR 1901. The park is off 1901 on SR 1904.

Gorges State Park near Sapphire in Transylvania County is the least accessible of the three parks. Vehicles aren’t allowed in the park, and about a 2-mile hike is required to get to the trout streams.

All streams in the park are wild trout waters.

Primary streams are Bearwallow Creek and the Toxaway River. These two streams are noted for big rainbows and brown trout. Small streams include Jake’s Branch, Maple Spring Branch, Toxaway Creek and Auger Fork Creek.

Gorges State Park is the newest park in the system and is still in the early stages of development. The Ray Fisher Place campground is 2.7 miles from the Grassy Ridge Access Area. It has six primitive campsites with picnic tables, fire rings and pit toilets.

Gorges State Park is approximately 45 miles southwest of Asheville. From Asheville, take I-26 to Exit 9 onto N.C. 280, west toward Brevard. Turn west at U.S. 64 toward Sapphire.

To get to the Frozen Creek Access on the east side of the park, turn left on Frozen Creek Road, about 2 miles past N.C. 178. The entrance is 3 miles on the right. To get to the Grassy Ridge Access Area on the west side of the park, turn south on N.C. 281 in Sapphire. The entrance is about 7/10 mile on the left.

State park streams operate under N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission regulations with one major exception. Trout fishers aren’t required to have a game-lands permit.

Park hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during April, May and September and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in June, July and August. Parks are open year-round except on Christmas Day. Parks don’t require entrance fees, but fees are charged for camping

For additional information, call South Mountains State Park at (828) 433-4772, Stone Mountain State Park at (336) 957-8185, and Gorges State Park at (828) 966-9099.

The state park web site ( has complete information and maps of all state parks.

About Robert Satterwhite 180 Articles
Bob Satterwhite has been writing about the outdoors, particularly trout fishing, for more than 25 years. A native of Morganton, N.C., he lives in Cullowhee, N.C., close to the Tuckasegee River, Caney Fork, Moses Creek, and several other prime trout streams.

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