Across the North Carolina Piedmont, parents have sons and/or daughters who like to fish and who yearn to experience the thrill of mountain trout fishing’s opening day.
That annual celebration takes place again Saturday at 7 a.m.
But where to go?
For anglers who never have ventured to the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain counties to fish on the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s 1,100 miles of trout streams and numerous ponds, it’s undoubtedly tough to decide.
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I offer three options, all within approximately 21/2 hours driving time of the Piedmont, including Charlotte:
▪ The Rocky Broad River in Henderson and Rutherford counties. This boulder-strewn stream flows parallel to U.S. 64-74 almost its entire length west of Lake Lure. There are plentiful pulloffs for parking along the way.
This stream probably is the best choice for anglers from Charlotte and other parts of the southern Piedmont. The Rocky Broad is classified a hatchery-supported stream, meaning there is a generous creel limit of seven fish per day. There’s no size limit or bait restriction.
Hatchery-supported streams are stocked regularly by the Wildlife Commission.
▪ The South Toe River in Yancey County. Flowing from the eastern flank of Mount Mitchell, the country’s highest peak east of the Mississippi River, the South Toe carries hatchery-supported designation for miles downstream from the mouth of Clear Creek to the lower boundary of the Yancey County Recreation Park.
The river follows N.C. 80, the somewhat infamous, switchback-marked Buck Creek Gap Road, almost the length of the open trout waters. This highway is off U.S. 70 west of Marion. There are plenty of pulloffs, plus parking at the Carolina Hemlock Recreation Area.
Be sure to take a camera along. Two picturesque swinging bridges span the South Toe.
▪ Wilson Creek in Caldwell County. Among the state’s most famous and popular trout streams, Wilson Creek has a 6.5-mile stretch designated as hatchery-supported, flowing from Phillips Branch to Brown Mountain Creek.
It is the closest of the recommended streams to central and northern sections of the Piedmont. To get there, take U.S. 321 off Interstate 40 in Hickory. From just north of Lenoir, follow N.C. 90 to Colletsville, then run west on N.C. 2 and continue 3 miles to Brown Mountain Beach. Wilson Creek is on the left.
Remember to purchase appropriate fishing licenses, including one required especially for trout waters. Bear in mind all streams and ponds will be patrolled heavily on opening day by officers from the Wildlife Commission.
Have fun and tight lines! Tom Higgins
▪ As catfishing booms in popularity, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has moved to conserve blue catfish on its most famous reservoirs, the Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie. Going into effect Saturday the daily creel limit will be 25 per day. Additionally, no more than two of the 25 can be longer than 32 inches.
▪ Kep Biggs and Jamie Beck, both of Waynesville, teamed recently to win the Fontana Classic Bass Tournament with a two-day catch of mixed largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass weighing 25.15 pounds. They won $2,000 in the event, which is annually sponsored by Fontana Village Resort and contested from its marina. Second among anglers in 38 boats were Travis Hooper of Stecoah and Jeff Southards of Murphy with 22.11 pounds.
Catches of the week
▪ Mixed limits of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass on four successive days at Fontana Lake by Clarence and Henry Williams of Meadow Branch in Graham County. They also caught a brown trout of 4.4 pounds and a walleye of 2.6.
▪ Eleven hybrid bass boated and released at Lake Norman by Sam Newman of Mooresville.