By Paul T. Choate
Jan. 10, 2013. The small town of Newland in Avery County offers one of Our State Magazine’s “Five Things Every North Carolinian Should Do in January.” Coming in at No. 3 on the list is fishing in one of the state’s Mountain Heritage Trout Water towns.
The portion of the North Toe River that runs through town is one of only eight rivers or creeks in the state that has Mountain Heritage Trout Water designation.
The Mountain Heritage Trout Waters program, formed in 2007 with the passage of Senate Bill 1303, established a partnership between the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and local governments to encourage “heritage fishing” as a tourism activity.
North Carolina residents and non-residents who want to fish in a stream that is designated as Mountain Heritage Trout Water can purchase a three-day license for $5. The license is valid only for waters that are designated as Mountain Heritage Trout Waters.
“The intent of the program was that it would be an introductory to trout fishing,” said Doug Besler, NCWRC Mountain Region fisheries supervisor. “If someone were visiting a community that had [Mountain Heritage Water], the cost of a license wouldn’t be limiting them from trying it.”
Keith Hoilman, Town of Newland public works director, said he feels the program has benefitted the town and said he has seen several people take advantage of the three-day pass. He also noted that the inexpensive license is ideal for people who might have family visiting that would only be staying a few days.
Newland Town Manger Brenda Pittman echoed Hoilman’s feelings, saying she believes a lot of people are visiting the area to fish.
“It’s a great pastime,” Pittman said.
Besler said fishing waters tend to benefit nearby communities. Referencing a 2009 survey conducted by NCWRC, he said delayed harvest waters pump an average of $2.2 million annually into local economies while hatchery-supported waters generate an average of $700,000 annually.
The Heritage Water portion of the North Toe River in Newland is under hatchery-supported regulation. This means there are no fish size restrictions nor bait or lure restrictions. However, there is a seven trout per day creel limit.
Although some anglers prefer to just strap on their waders and get in the water, there are also options for those who prefer not to get wet. There are two fishing piers in town, located off Railroad Street, that offer great spots to drop the hook in.
Besler did offer a word of caution however regarding fishing these waters, saying anglers should be careful not to venture out of the portion designated as Mountain Heritage Water without a proper license. The three-day Heritage Waters licenses are only valid within the designated boundaries.
The other seven towns with Mountain Heritage Trout Waters are Bakersville, Burnsville, Maggie Valley, Old Fort, Spring Creek, Spruce Pine and Waynesville. Newland is the northernmost of all of these towns.
Mountain Heritage Trout Waters are not stocked any differently than other waters, according to Besler. He said they base their stocking practices on public access and water quality the same as they would anywhere else.
Asked why he felt Newland was a good place for Heritage Water designation, Hoilman replied, “Newland is just a good place altogether. I think it’s one of the best places in the state if not the whole United States. It’s just got a really nice hometown feel that I think some towns have forgotten with all the glitz.”
To purchase a Mountain Heritage Trout Waters license over the phone, call the NCWRC at 888-248-6834. Phone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information, visit ncwildlife.org/Fishing.aspx.