Recently the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission voted on proposed rule changes to 39 agency regulations related to wildlife management, fisheries, game lands, and law enforcement for the 2017-18 seasons. Several of the changes impact hunting and fishing in Watauga County. Below are the impacts to Watauga starting with trout water modifications. The effective date for these regulations is Aug. 1, 2017. Highlights of the statewide modifications can be found here. The entire PDF version of all rule changes can be found here.
- Modify the lower boundary of Hatchery Supported Trout Waters on Cove Creek in Watauga County adding approximately 1.8 miles of stream to Public Mountain Trout Waters. The designated reach will be from the S.R. 1233 bridge at Zionville to the S.R. 1214 bridge at Sherwood.
Justification: The landowner immediately downstream of the existing Hatchery Supported Trout Waters reach of Cove Creek requested that the designated reach 9 be extended to include the section adjacent to his property. The proposed change will provide additional angling opportunities on Cove Creek under Hatchery Supported Trout Waters classification.
- Modify the upper boundary of Hatchery Supported Trout Waters on Middle Fork New River in Watauga County removing approximately 1.0 mile of stream from Public Mountain Trout Waters. The designated reach will be from adjacent to the intersection of S.R. 1539 and U.S. 321 to the South Fork New River.
Justification: The proposed change will clarify the upper boundary of Hatchery Supported Trout Waters on Middle Fork New River, while more accurately reflecting the portion of the stream that is actually stocked and accessible to the public. The proposal will also eliminate possible angler confusion regarding the adjacent section of Middle Fork New River located on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Modify the upper boundary of Catch and Release/Artificial Lures Only Trout Waters on Laurel Creek in Watauga County and exclude all tributaries removing approximately 9.5 miles of stream from Public Mountain Trout Waters. The designated reach will be from the confluence of North and South Fork Laurel creeks to Elk Creek, excluding tributaries.
Justification: The landowners surrounding the upper reach of Laurel Creek no longer wish to allow public fishing access and have requested that the section be removed from Public Mountain Trout Waters.
- Remove 7.4 miles of Dugger Creek in Watauga and Wilkes counties from Public Mountain Trout Waters.
Justification: The landowners surrounding Dugger Creek no longer wish to allow public fishing access and have requested that the stream be removed from Public Mountain Trout Waters.
Other noteworthy items for Watauga, which also has statewide impacts:
- Create a third archery season segment in the Western deer season to open the Sunday immediately following the last day of gun season and close January 1 for antlered bucks only.
Justification: This proposal would add about three weeks of additional archery hunting opportunity in the Western deer season and was requested by local hunters. A biological evaluation shows negligible impacts of this proposed change to the deer population in the Western deer season.
- Amend the definition of Delayed Harvest Trout Waters to more clearly indicate that only lures having one single hook may be used.
Justification: The proposed change will address confusion over the type of
hook that can be used in Delayed Harvest Trout Waters and make the definition
consistent with the wording used in all other Public Mountain Trout Waters
classifications where only single hook lures can be used.
- Define youth as a person under 18 years of age.
Justification: New federal rules enable states to define youth as persons under 18 years of age for the purpose of allowing youth to hunt on Youth Waterfowl Days. The Commission has chosen to adopt this change which will now allow 16 and 17 year olds to hunt on Youth Waterfowl Days, in addition to youth 15 years of age and under. In order to be consistent and expand youth opportunities, the Commission is proposing to raise the age of youth allowed to fish during the Youth-only Delayed Harvest Trout Water Season to under 18. Currently youth must be under 16 to fish during this season. Under this proposal, licensing requirements do not change.