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Commissioners Agree To Designate One-Mile Portion of Watauga River as Delayed Harvest Trout Waters

By Jesse Wood

Update: At Tuesday’s meeting, Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved N.C. Wildlife Resources Commissions request to designate a one-mile portion of the Watauga River at the canoe access near the Watauga River bridge at U.S. 321.

The commissioners said they saw no downside to the proposal from the commission. Under the proposal, NCWRC Fisheries Biologist Kevin Hining said the commission would take care of upkeep of the property if the waters were to be designated. Hining said the designation wasn’t finalized, but the first step in the process would be to seek commissioners approval. 

Commissioner Billy Kennedy said, “This is a great idea.” 

For more information, read an article about the issue leading up to Tuesday’s meeting.

Originally Published March 18, 2013. After recently losing a delayed harvest-location near the swimming dam on N.C. 105, a staff member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will request permission to designate another portion of the Watauga River as Delayed Harvest Trout Waters at Tuesday’s Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting.

A man fishes on the Watauga River in Valle Crucis. Photo by Jesse Wood
A man fishes on the Watauga River in Valle Crucis. Photo by Jesse Wood

Portions of the Watauga in Valle Crucis already have the designation, and the one-mile portion up for request is located adjacent to the newly-created Watauga Gorge River Access stationed at the Watauga River Bridge on U.S. 321 in Sugar Grove.

County Manager Deron Geouque noted in a memo in the meeting’s packet that the designation requires no water quality or property restrictions and no cost to the county to participate in the program, where by the NCWRC would stock several thousand catchable trout from October to May in that one-mile portion of the river.

In a letter to county officials leading up to tomorrow’s meeting, Kevin Hining, a fisheries biologist with the commission, wrote that the delayed harvest program was “purely a recreational” program.

During the October to May months, catch and release is required and only single-hook artificial lures may be used. Starting on the first Saturday in June, anglers may use any type of bait and keep seven trout per day, Hining noted in the letter. 

While the Watauga River has historically been a fishing destination, developments – such as Twin Rivers in Foscoe – have lessened the amount of places where folks can fish in the High Country.

A portion of the Watauga River along N.C. 105 at the dam in between Foscoe and Boone used to have the designation, but landowners posted no trespassing signs, so this led the NCWRC to seek an alternative location for the program.

Hining also noted the economical benefits of such a program.

“Studies have shown that the program also provides significant economic input to local communities. According to a 2009 study, nearly 93,000 trout anglers fished in North Carolina in 2008, and the total economic impact of their fishing-related expenditures was $174 million,” Hining wrote. “While it was not possible to directly determine what proportion of these expenditures occurred in Watauga County, the study did indicate that Watauga County was one of the most popular trout fishing destinations in the state.”

For more details about this program, check out the fishing page of the NCWRC at http://www.ncwildlife.org/Fishing.aspx.