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Western NC Delayed Harvest Quick Start - by Aaron Sago

Q: What is the Delayed Harvest Program?

A: The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's delayed harvest program is one of the more popular trout programs in the state. By delaying harvest of trout stocked in certain bodies of water, the Commission provides anglers with high quality, catch-and-release fishing opportunities in the spring and fall.

Q: How did delayed harvest trout fishing originate?

A: This is a program that was instituted through the regulations process with substantial public input in the early 1990s. Four streams were opened for the delayed harvest program for spring fishing only in 1992. The program was then expanded to fall and spring fishing in 1996. The number of streams in the program has continued to grow through the regulations process, primarily due to strong public interest and support.

Q: Who makes the decisions about which streams and rivers are designated as delayed harvest waters?

A: Proposals for changing fishing regulations, including putting new streams in the delayed harvest program, are accepted from the public by letter or at public hearings. The Commission's fish biologists also can make proposals where they see opportunities or biological needs. All of the proposals are given consideration and public input is solicited at the annual public hearings. The Commissioners make the final determination on regulations proposals after considering the input.

Q: How does stocking differ for a delayed harvest stream versus a hatchery supported stream?

A: We stock delayed harvest program streams in the fall and spring, but we stock hatchery supported streams in the spring and summer. Also, we stock delayed harvest streams with higher densities of trout than the hatchery supported streams. This effectively provides anglers places to fish where they have greater chances of catching stocked trout. During March, delayed harvest streams provide fishing opportunities for stocked trout when hatchery supported streams are closed, emphasizing catch-and-release fishing for trout instead of trout harvest.

Q: Why is delayed harvest scheduled so the harvest occurs in the summer?

A: In early summer, when some streams begin to get too warm for the trout to survive, the Commission opens the streams to harvest under hatchery supported regulations. This keeps fish populations more in line with stream conditions and allows for better population management from year to year.

Q: Has the delayed harvest program been well received and is it expanding?

A: The popularity of delayed harvest is evidenced by the program's growth to include 18 waters covering more than 50 miles of streams. About 25 percent of North Carolina's trout hatchery production is now dedicated to the delayed harvest program. The expanded trout stocking program was made possible through increased production capabilities at the Commission's three coldwater hatcheries - Armstrong, Marion and Pisgah Forest.

Q: What are fishing regulations for delayed harvest waters?

A: Under delayed-harvest regulations, no fish can be harvested or possessed from these waters between Oct. 1, 2007 and one half-hour after sunset on June 6, 2008. No natural bait is allowed, and anglers can fish only with single-hook, artificial lures.

At 6 a.m. on June 7, 2008, delayed-harvest waters open to fishing under hatchery-supported regulations, which means no bait restrictions, no minimum length limit and a seven-trout-per-day creel limit. Hatchery-supported regulations remain in force until Oct. 1 each year.

Delayed-harvest waters, posted with black-and-white signs, create high-quality fishing opportunities where anglers can fish densely stocked trout streams on a catch-and-release basis fall through spring.

You might also like my Georgia Delayed Harvest "Quick Start"

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