This post is to help you understand N.C. stream regulations. It is your responsibility to know and to abide by the laws of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. All of the rules and regs can be found on ncwildlife.org or in the NCWRC Regulations Digest...
It may not be well known, nationally, but North Carolina has great opportunities for trout fishing. We are blessed to live in an area where trout can flourish and, therefore, we have great trout fishing opportunities. I can't tell you how many questions we get about trout fishing in the area each year. A lot of the questions involve where to fish, how to fish and the regulations. The one thing that confuses people most is that different streams and even different sections of streams may have different regulations. Mountain streams that are open to public fishing and support trout are designated as "Public Mountain Trout Waters" by the NCWRC. A significant amount of the fishing opportunities are on private property. Landowners have generously allowed fishing on these properties, so be sure to respect the property, the streams and the laws. We want to make sure that we keep these opportunities open for future generations. Here is a quick reference on the regulations for fishing in Public Mountain Trout Waters:
REGULATIONS FOR MOUNTAIN TROUT
LOCATION/SEASON SIZE LIMIT DAILY CREEL LURES/BAIT
HATCHERY SUPPORTED TROUT WATERS
Aug. 1, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2018 None 7 None 7 a.m. April 7, 2018 – July 31, 2018
-All Hatchery Supported Trout Waters not listed below
March 1, 2018 – April 6, 2018
**No fishing allowed ** ** ** -All Hatchery Supported Trout Waters not listed below
No closed season
-Linville River and tributaries within Linville None 7 None Gorge Wilderness Area
-Power reservoirs and municipal water
WILD TROUT WATERS
No closed season 7 inches 4 Artificial lures with a single hook.
WILD TROUT NATURAL BAIT WATERS
No closed season 7 inches 4 Artificial lures or natural bait with a single hook. No live fish allowed as bait.
DELAYED HARVEST TROUT WATERS
Oct. 1, 2017 – June 1, 2018 ** **No trout may be possessed
**No fishing allowed from 1⁄2 hour after sunset on
June 1, 2018, to 6 a.m. on June 2, 2018
** Artificial lures with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed.
** Aug. 1, 2017 – Sept. 30, 2017 None 7 None June 2, 2018 – July 31, 2018
(Note: youth under 18 years old only fishing from
6 a.m. until noon on June 2, 2018)
CATCH AND RELEASE / ARTIFICIAL LURES ONLY TROUT WATERS
No closed season ** ** Artificial lures with a single hook. **No trout may be possessed Natural bait may not be possessed.
CATCH AND RELEASE / ARTIFICIAL FLIES ONLY TROUT WATERS
No closed season ** ** Artificial flies with a single hook. **No trout may be possessed Natural bait may not be possessed
SPECIAL REGULATION TROUT WATERS
No closed season Only one fish may be 7 None -Catawba River from Muddy Creek to greater than 14 inches long
Morganton water intake dam
UNDESIGNATED TROUT WATERS
No closed season None 7 None
As you can see, the signs will tell you the regulation for that stream. All of these streams will require you to have an inland fishing license and a Trout Fishing Permit. If you are fishing a stream that is not designated as Public Mountain Trout Waters you will be required to have a fishing license, but a trout permit is not required. In these streams, there is no size limit or bait restriction, and the creel limit is seven trout per day.
Most North Carolinians associate the first Saturday in April as the opening of trout season. This is a misnomer (in a sense). You can fish for trout all year long in MOST streams. Hatchery Supported streams will be CLOSED from March 1 to the first Saturday in April. This means NO FISHING in Hatchery Supported streams (Green and White sign). Delayed Harvest streams, Wild, Catch and Release streams, etc are all open to fish.
Once again, most of the fishing opportunities are on private property and the landowners have generously allowed access for fishing. If you are fishing a designated (or undesignated) Trout Water and you encounter a "posted against trespass" (No Trespassing, Keep Out, Purple paint, etc.), respect the property owner's right and choose another location on the stream or another stream to fish. It is our responsibility to keep these waters (and the land surrounding the water) as we found it. Let's obey the rules, keep our waters clean, and respect the wildlife. It is YOUR responsibility to know the regulations and to make sure you are abiding by our laws and regulations. If we want future generations to enjoy this opportunity, we need to respect the land and our ecosystem! I hope this helps you better understand our laws and regulations. If you have any questions, give us a call or come by and we'll be happy to help! Also, we are an NCWRC licensing agent, so we can get you set up with the license that's right for you. HAPPY FISHING!