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Originally published: 2012-10-11 14:14:21
Last modified: 2012-10-11 14:14:21

Delayed-harvest season opens in WNC

Justin Grimes / (

Each year, anglers from all over the Southeast, locals and professional guides celebrate the opening season of delayed-harvest trout waters in the High Country; the season began Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Western North Carolina. 

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stocks delayed-harvest trout waters from fall through spring with high densities of trout to increase anglers’ chances of catching fish. Twenty-nine delayed-harvest trout waters in 16 Western North Carolina counties are stocked with brown, brook and rainbow trout. Before Oct. 1, hatchery-supported regulations apply to these waters. 

Under delayed-harvest regulations, no trout can be harvested or possessed from these waters between Oct. 1, 2012, and one half-hour after sunset on May 31, 2013. No natural bait is allowed, and anglers can fish only with single-hook, artificial lures. An artificial lure is defined as a fishing lure that neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell. 

More than 30 professional fly-fishing guides in the High Country utilize the delayed-harvest water’s seasonal abundance of fish to entertain and teach their guests. 

Unfortunately, many of the designated waters will not support large populations of trout during the hot summer months. This is due mostly to pollution; in particular, silt from construction run-off, the loss of riparian cover and the lack of oxygenated water. 

Delayed-harvest trout waters are posted with diamond-shaped, black-and-white signs. 

Avery County does not have a delayed-harvest section of trout water but surrounding counties do. The two delayed-harvest sections of the Watauga River, close to the Avery County line, are among the most popular delayed-harvest streams in the state, providing easy access to anglers of all ages.

This year, four new waters were classified as delayed harvest in the High Country:

• Alleghany County — Little River (from Whitehead to 275 yards downstream of the intersection of S.R. 1128 and S.R. 1129) in Alleghany County 

• Ashe County — Big Horse Creek (from S.R. 1324 to North Fork River)

• McDowell County — Catawba River (portion adjacent to Marion Greenway)
• Wilkes County – upper Elk Creek (from Watauga County line to lower boundary of Blue Ridge Mountain Club 

A significant amount of trout fishing opportunities in Western North Carolina are located on private property. These landowners have generously allowed for public access for fishing. Please respect their property.

A complete list of delayed-harvest trout waters, along with stocking dates, is available by clicking to For additional information on delayed-harvest regulations, weekly stocking updates and trout fishing maps, click to the commission’s fishing page at

Remember to catch-and-release.