Winter fishing in Western North Carolina can be as action-packed as skiing, as long as you know where to fish and what to target.
Trout anglers who enjoy catch-and-release fishing can cast a line in one of 26 Delayed-Harvest Trout Waters, while anglers who prefer fishing for walleye can try their luck in many of North Carolina’s mountain reservoirs, where this cool water species is typically found.
Kin Hodges, a fisheries biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, recommends a newly designated Delayed-Harvest Trout Water located in Surry County — the Ararat River in Mt. Airy, between the N.C. 103 bridge and Hwy. 52.
This 2-mile section of the river was designated as delayed-harvest in August, and opened to the public this fall. 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.
Although anglers aren’t allowed to harvest trout when fishing on delayed-harvest waters — at least not until they revert to hatchery-supported regulations on the first Saturday in June — these waters offer terrific fishing opportunities, even in the winter.
This is particularly true of the Ararat River, according to Hodges.
“Given its relatively low elevation — approximately 1,000 feet above sea level — the Ararat River should stay a bit warmer and provide good fishing further into the winter months than many other delayed-harvest streams,” Hodges said.
Mt. Airy recently completed a stream restoration project on more than two miles of river to help stabilize the banks and improve stream habitat. A greenway trail along the river was built simultaneously to improve public access. These improvements made it possible for the Commission to add the stream to its delayed-harvest program.
Anglers wanting to fish the delayed-harvest section can access the river from three designated access points along the greenway:
• Riverside Park on N.C. 103;
• H.B. Rowe Environmental Park on Hamburg Road; and,
• Tharrington Elementary School Park just upstream of Highway 52.
“Given the distance between access points, anglers may want to bring a bicycle to help reach areas further from the parking areas,” Hodges said.