Make way for elk (and trout): Haywood, Jackson counties seek designation as state’s elk and trout capitals

If you want to see an elk, the Elk Capital of North Carolina would probably be a good place to look. Pretty soon, that could mean a trip to Haywood County. 

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to promote unique things in our area, our national parks and our beautiful mountains in general,” said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville. “It’s a way to use really a symbol of North Carolina to promote our region.”

Stocking the Pigeon: Trout stocking a team effort in Haywood

It’s a sunny Friday morning on the Pigeon River when the bucket brigade assembles, five-gallon containers in hand. The stock truck has just arrived, making its way up windy U.S. 276 and down the equally squirrely N.C. 215, tanks loaded with fish and water.

A pair of fish culturists from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission stands atop the truck as a line of bucket-bearers forms leading up to it, and the work begins. Each bucket received a splash of water and a dollop of flipping, fighting trout — rainbow, brown and brook all mixed together in one writhing mass.

Anticipated Trout Capital designation likely to spur fly fishing tourism

If all goes according to plan, by this time next year Jackson County will have been declared the trout capital of North Carolina, and county commissioners are already starting to talk about how to plan for the resulting increase they anticipate in angling tourism. 

Trout Capital, North Carolina: Jackson County pushes to land unique designation

out frJackson County is on its way to becoming the trout capital of North Carolina after county leaders unveiled a plan last week that’s been in the works since last summer. 

“Anything that we can do to encourage tourists to come to Jackson County we ought to try to do, and I think we already recognize that we have this remarkable resource in Jackson County — the public waterways. It’s already being utilized and is such a treasure in Jackson County,” said County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan, who spearheaded the effort with Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Director Julie Spiro. “It just makes sense to try to do what we can to further enhance it and to promote it.”

Students learn about chemistry, fish and water quality through trout raising project

out frWhen the holidays wind down and schools go back in session, kids in some Western North Carolina classrooms will have more to look forward to than just books and lessons. For some, the first day back at school will also be a reunion with the tank full of trout sitting in their classroom. 

“It’s just pretty cool to have a tank of fish to watch grow over the course of the year,” said Ben Davis, a science teacher at Robbinsville High School who’s in his fourth year participating in Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program.

Putting the squeeze on trout: Study says that acid and warming waters could make life harder for trout

out frFrom habitat destruction to competition with non-native trout, Southern Appalachian brook trout have met their share of challenges over the past century. A new study illuminates another issue that trout — and not just brookies — might have to contend with in the years ahead.

Actually, a pair of issues — acidity and warming water temperatures. Neither of these are newly identified problems, but the study looks at their combined effect. The verdict?

Cherokee to move away from year-round fishing

Cherokee will institute a two-week fishing season closure each March beginning in 2016 after operating under a year-round season since 2011. 

“We decided to open it up to year-round just to provide more fishing opportunities during March when the state fishing waters were closed, but we decided to go back to a compromise with a two-week closure in March to allow our operations to catch up for the opening day and allow a new level of excitement for the opener, knowing the waters haven’t been fished for two weeks,” explained Mike Lavoie, fisheries and wildlife program manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

On the way to Trout City: Bryson City trout waters to get some cred

out frBryson City will soon have another feather in the cap proving its worth as an outdoors Mecca. If all goes well, the town will get its name added as a Mountain Heritage Trout Water City by the time summer rolls around again. 

“Trout fishermen come and they stay a while,” said N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, who filed the original bill calling for the trout city designation. “They stay in your bed and breakfast, they eat at your restaurants and often they bring their other family members.”

Reeling in Appalachia

tg troutA seemingly dead-end situation became a life-changing moment for Alex Bell.

“We came back to school from a tournament and they said our program had been cut,” he said.

Plans unfold for fly fishing museum

out frBy Colby Dunn • Correspondent 

Each year, an estimated 50,000 people visit Cherokee looking to hit it big, but instead of casting lots at Harrah’s, they’re casting lines into the miles of stocked and protected streams that flow through the Qualla Boundary. 

While the casino remains the dominant moneymaker in town, the town’s reputation as a fly fishing destination is gaining an economic toehold in the tourism business here. With fishing waters open year round, tournaments and derbies to choose from in every season of the year, and a stock of 400,000 trout poured into the ponds and streams annually, Cherokee can offer more than a few incentives to entice a fisherman seeking a new venue. 

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