Fishing for Trout in North Carolina

With thousands of miles of coldwater and warmwater streams, our state offers abundant opportunities for anglers to pursue diverse species of freshwater fish, including three major species of trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, catfish, carp, muskie and too many others to mention.  Along with those opportunities come the necessary regulations to ensure healthy, sustainable fisheries and an equal opportunity for all to enjoy North Carolina’s waters.

Our trout streams have three major classifications – Catch and Release Only, Delayed Harvest and Hatchery Supported –  each with restrictions varying by season, types of flies/lures/bait that may be used, and other things you need to be aware of to avoid a wasted trip and to make your time on the water more enjoyable.

Catch and Release is just what you’d think – you may not possess fish in catch-and-release only waters; even if they were taken legally elsewhere.  A great example of the need to understand the rules is on the Davidson River, where you might literally have one foot in catch and release only water and one foot in Hatchery Supported water, where possession of fish is legal most months of the year.

Our Hatchery Supported waters are open most of the year, except during the spring.  The hatchery supported waters are stocked regularly on a schedule published by the Wildlife Resources Commission.  They offer an excellent opportunity for anglers of all skill levels to experience a successful day of catching fish.  Fish may be harvested in hatchery supported waters, subject to limits and seasons.

The Delayed Harvest streams have been described as a “brilliant compromise.”  They are stocked in October, November, March, April and May.  From October 1 until the first Saturday in June, they are catch-and-release only waters.  On or after the first Saturday of June until the last day of September, fish may be harvested using a variety of baits, flies and lures.

An Excellent Investment

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) conducted a study in 2014 to determine the overall financial impact of mountain trout fishing on our economy.  The results were incredible.

We see a nearly $300 yearly return for every $1 spent on hatchery fish.

Estimates are that the return has grown substantially since then, perhaps topping $400,000,000 today.