The first Saturday of April every year is as good as a holiday to sportsmen throughout the mountains of Western North Carolina: The official start of trout fishing season! Fishable waters will be swarming with happy anglers trying their luck for brook, mountain, and rainbow trout.
Before you hit the great outdoors, fishing rods in hand, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, you need to be sure you get a fishing license. This can be picked up at several locations in the area, including:
- Wal-Mart sporting goods & hunting desk, in Boone
- Village Hardware, Green Street in Blowing Rock
- Appalachian Angler, Hwy 105 near Valle Crucis
There are several types of fishing licenses available, but according to an experienced fisherman friend who kindly shared his expertise with me, the best kind of license for NC state residents to get for trout fishing is the Comprehensive Inland Fishing. It’s just $20 and lasts through the entire fishing season (April-November) and can be used anywhere on inland waters without any additional permits or stamps needed. Out of state residents can get a similar license for $30. Remember to always carry this license with you while fishing, and show it upon request to any officer of the Wildlife Commission.
Once you’re duly licensed and outside casting your bait, be sure you’re doing it under the proper regulations for the waters you’re in. There are signs posted clearly at any public access points, and it’s important to read the fine print on them to stay on the right side of the law. The NC Wildlife Commission has an outstanding guide to these signs in a helpful document you can see HERE. I talked to an expert fly fisherman about these signs in great detail, and he said that out of the 7 signs, only a few pertain to this area. The last two on the list, Special Trout Regulation and Wild Natural Bait, are never seen here. STR is used in a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Commission; and WNB waters are not in these mountains- the closest WNB waters are in the Nantahala Gorge, a few hours south of here. The Catch and Release and Wild signs are harder to find, often more in the back country headwaters deeper in the forest.
Most of the time though, you’ll be fishing in waters marked by either of the first two signs on the list: Hatchery Supported and Delayed Harvest.
Delayed Harvest waters, marked by a white diamond with black bar, means that from October 1 until the first Saturday in June , fly fishing is allowed (catch & release using artificial single-hook lures.) After the first Saturday in June, there are no bait restrictions and up to 7 trout per day is permitted. A great Delayed Harvest fishing spot is the Valle Crucis Community Park, where you can wade into the Watauga River and enjoy yourself.
The other most commonly seen sign for fishing areas is Hatchery Supported, a white diamond with a green bar. From August 1 to the end of February, there are no bait restrictions and a limit of 7 trout. Fishing during March is prohibited while the waters are restocked, and after the first April all the way until the end of July, it’s back to no bait restrictions and a limit of 7 trout. You can see a list of hatchery supported waters at THIS link. The most common Hatchery Supported waters is the portion of the New River between Blowing Rock and Tweetsie, where there are a couple places on the side of the road to pull off and walk down to the riverbank; and Price Lake on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (The sign at Price Lake is square because it is Blue Ridge Parkway water.)
Fishing locations and signs on Blue Ridge Parkway waters are marked a little differently. As mentioned above, signs there are a square shape with a colored bar through them, rather than the diamond shape seen elsewhere.
The Boonefork River, accessed at Price Park picnic area near the Boonefork Trail, has a Fly Fishing Catch & Release designation, with a square sign and red bar. That means that only artificial bait can be used, and under no circumstances can fish be kept.
Bass Lake, just outside of Blowing Rock, carries a Wild designation, with a white square and blue bar. Fishing is allowed year-round and only artificial lures are allowed, with a max of 4 fish per day allowed to be kept.
If you’re ever not sure what waters you’re considering before you get out there, check out the interactive map on the North Carolina Wildlife Commission’s website HERE. It’s worth checking out the other information on the Commission’s website as well- it’s an excellent resource for fishing and hunting guidelines. And if you’re out in the field and need a tip or a hand with something, don’t hesitate to ask someone around you. Most anglers are more than happy to share their knowledge and love of the art.
The most important things to remember when you’re out fishing are to follow the rules, be safe and considerate of other anglers, and above all- have fun!
All text and photos copyright 2014 Cassandra Hartley, Blue Ridge NC Guide. No portion of this article is to be copied, saved, or otherwise distributed without express written consent. Sharing is encouraged using the designated social media sharing buttons at the bottom of this article. Photos for this post provided by our sister site Photos by Cassandra Lea. Author received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this article.
Many, many thanks to my angler friends Tim N. and Jimmy L. for letting me pick their brains for information for this article!