The Problem With Trout Stream Classification In North Carolina

Have you ever found yourself asking what is the goal of the trout stocking program in North Carolina? I have asked myself this question for years now, and I haven’t been able to find any information out. There are some easy assumptions one could make however. This post is purely my own problems with the system, and I will offer some solutions for these problems. In this post we will go over Hatchery Supported, Delayed Harvest, and Wild Waters in North Carolina. First we will go over some questions then get into the real issues. Then we will go over facts about these trout stream classifications. After, we will move into some solutions that could help with these issues.

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1.) Are they stocking trout to repopulate the diminishing trout population? This answer is simple. No they are not because they trout they stock are unable to reproduce. They are hybrid trout. The hybrid trout are mixed between 2 different kinds of there respective partners. Hybrid trout are suppose to live longer and be healthier.

2.) Does stocking hurt wild trouts population? In a sense yes it does effect what little wild trout we still have left. The stocked trout come into the streams, and eat what food the wild trout can eat. The stocked fish are bigger than the wild trout meaning they need more food to survive and be healthy. Wild trout like cold streams, but what we do to the environment effects the wild trout more. The main culprit for the wild trouts demise is deforestation, building next to creeks, farms, silting of creeks, chemical runoff, over fishing, and much more. This can lead to warmer creeks, pollution of the streams, and unhealthy fish.

3.) What is the main objective of the stocking program in North Carolina? With this question there isn’t any clear answer. I was unable to find out any information about the stocking program other than dates of expected stocking. My guess is to allow people to be able to go into streams and catch fish. Fishing licenses are also a huge profit for the State. So the more people you have fishing the more money they will make.

Wild Waters:


Wild Waters- Wild Waters is open all year round. Lure restrictions are you can only use single hook artificial lures only. You are only allowed to keep 4 fish a day. The size restrictions are the fish you keep have to be 7 inches or larger. There is no stocking in Wild Waters.

Problem- The main problem I see with Wild Waters is you are actually allowed to keep some fish. This has always baffled me in a way. If we are going to all of these lengths to help stock creeks to help with the decreasing fish population, then why are we allowing people to keep fish out of the Wild Waters. Fish in the Wild Waters can reproduce unlike stocked fish. They have adapted and overcame the environment surrounding them. Of course if they couldn’t adapt them would die off, and the streams that they once were in would be fish less. We are just increasing the rate that these wild fish species will become obsolete other than where they are stocked. I mean sure there is size restrictions and limits, but this still doesn’t help the decreasing trout population.

Solution- The main solution I see is for them to stop allowing any fish to be kept from these Wild Waters. This would stop any decrease in the population other than natural predators, and other environmental changes. Trout Streams in North Carolina have a healthy population of streams that are listed as Wild Waters. Let’s have these streams thrive without human interference other than wildlife biologist track the progress of these streams.

Hatchery Supported:


Hatchery Supported-  Hatchery Supported is open from the first weekend in April until the last day in February. There are no restrictions on lures. You are also able to harvest 7 fish a day with no size limitations. Stocking of these fish are only from March until June in most streams, and sometimes go into July. This leaves 7-8 Months out of the year when fish are not stocked. Also each month only 300-1,200 trout are stocked. This may vary from county to county, but for this post we will base the stocking report for Ashe County.

Problem- Hatchery Supported streams are not the biggest problem. However, when the fish stocked here are able to access the Wild Water Streams than this can become a problem. Hatchery Supported streams shouldn’t be right beside these streams. Other than that I am all for Hatchery Supported streams. They help share the experience of nature and fishing with future generations.

Solution-  If Hatchery Supported streams are next to Wild Waters they should change the classification. They should implement a new stocking method. This however, could cause problems in its own. My idea is that if they are going to stock near Wild Waters they should use wild fish that can reproduce from the local area, and start new trout farms. These would have to be local species so no new viruses or bacteria can infect the thriving wild trout population. These fish would be able to reproduce, and increase the trout population. They would have to keep the fish to the native species in North Carolina the Brook trout. I say this because Brown trout and Rainbow trout are the main threat to the Brook trout.

Delayed Harvest:


Delayed Harvest- Delayed Harvest is open all year. However, Delayed Harvest runs from October until June. You are not allowed to keep any fish during this time. Lure restrictions are single hook artificial lures only. They stock fish from March until November excluding June, August, and September. They also do not stock December, January, and February. During this time they stock around 1,500 to 3,750 trout per month. In June is switches to Hatchery Supported. Hatchery Supported last from June until October. During this time there is no lure restrictions. You are also allowed to keep 7 fish a day without any size restrictions.

Problem- Delayed Harvest is great in theory. However, if you already have a Hatchery Supported designation why do we need a delayed harvest. They should use this to implement the above suggestion in the Hatchery Supported solutions.

Solution- A total re-haul of the Delayed Harvest classification. They could remain this Restricted catch and release only. Now I understand that there is already a Catch and Release designation, but they are very limited. They could implement the above suggestion in the Hatchery Supported solutions. However, they would need to breed larges wild trout in order to make up for this loss of large stocked trout. The could then open up a trophy section in on of the large streams of the Hatchery Supported streams. That way people would be able to catch and keep these larger stocked trout. In this new classification keeping fish would be prohibited. Lure restrictions would remain single hook artificial lure only.

Final Thought:

If we are wanting to keep the wild trout population thriving we need to rethink the way our stocking programs, and stream classifications work. This would take massive amount of forethought though before any changes could be implemented. You would have to take into consideration of the fishing audiences. There is the sport fisher, the trophy fisher, the weekender, the avid fisher which is more of an addict than the sport fisher, the keep everything fisher, the spinner fisher, the fly fisher, and the fisher that keeps fish to put food on the table. There would have to be meetings with each one of these categories in order to come up with a solution to make everyone happy. I understand this will take time.

If anyone has any suggestions to add or thoughts about this matter please leave them in the comments, or email

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