Jackson towns tout new ‘trout city’ status
More than a third of the tourists who come knocking at the Jackson County visitor center these days have trout fishing on their mind.
A push in recent years to market the county as trout paradise is clearly paying off, and now the string of towns in Jackson County that claim the Tuckasegee River as their backyard have yet another tool to lure fishing aficionados.
A new discounted trout fishing license gives anglers of all sorts — be it beginners or pros, locals or tourists — the chance to test out some of the best trout fishing in the region at a reduced cost.
The deal offers a $5 license good for three days of trout fishing on designated sections of the Tuckasegee River and Scotts Creek in Dillsboro, Sylva and Webster.
As both trout season and tourist season ramp up, Julie Spiro, executive director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, is hoping that so will interest in the new fishing license deal.
“It’s a great opportunity to introduce novice fly fisherman to the sport,” she said.
Jackson County has already leveraged trout fishing as a major tourist attraction in the area with the advent of its WNC Flyfishing Trail. Spiro said the new license will give tourists another attraction during their stay and another excuse to head to the local tackle shop.
The discounted, three-day license is part of program called Mountain Heritage Trout Waters. It is a cooperative effort between the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and local governments looking to capitalize on passing tourists or beginning anglers who might not want to commit to a 10-day fishing license for $20 to $25, or an even more expensive annual permit.
“To fish those sections of water all an angler needs is that cheap license,” said Doug Besler, the wildlife commission’s mountain region fisheries supervisor. “The intent was that, perhaps, the cost of a regular trout license might be prohibitive to tourists and anglers.”
Besler said the stretches of water where the special licenses can be used have already been marked with signs. You can buy the licenses online or over the phone.
Part of the program includes a loaner rod, reel and tackle kit, all the fishing necessities, that is available for checkout for the day from local businesses. Beginning in April those kits will be placed at three stores in the county: Hookers Fly Shop in Sylva, Caney Fork General Store in Cullowhee and Brookings’ Cashiers Village Anglers.
While 75 percent of the kits’ cost is covered by the state, Spiro said the chamber of commerce will help subsidize the remainder. Also, the chamber is planning a kickoff event for the designation at its upcoming fly fishing festival in June.
“We felt like, as the chamber of commerce, this would be a great enhancement to the existing fly fishing trail and possibly bring new customers to local stores,” Spiro said.
Other ‘trout towns’ in the region
Dillsboro, Sylva and Webster are merely the latest towns in Western North Carolina to receive the designation as a “Mountain Heritage Trout Water City.” Now, there are a total of 11; Waynesville and Maggie Valley have had the designation since 2008.
To qualify a town has to provide public access to a nearby trout stream. Once they are part of the program, towns are prompted by the state to expand public access to local streams.
“The town, having the designation, will be encouraged to build new access points along the river,” said Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson. “It’s just a great designation for Sylva and all three towns together.”
The idea for “Mountain Heritage Trout Water” towns can be traced back Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville. He pushed for creation of the program while serving as a state senator years ago.
He has met with the Jackson chamber and state officials as the three towns moved through the process and is happy to see the designation is still sought by the region’s small towns. Next, he said he wants to work with Bryson City business and town leaders to enter the program.
Furthermore, Queen said he is supporting legislation for a new specialty trout license plate, which would help fund trout habitat creation and restoration. He claimed an investment in trout fishing and trout habitat is something that is not only good for recreational opportunities and the environment, but also local economies.
Queen said economic development studies show trout fishing creates a $200 million annual impact in Western North Carolina.
“Western North Carolina could be the trout capital of the eastern United States,” he said.
Cast a line
Want to fish for cheap in a local trout stream? The Mountain Heritage Trout Waters Program provides three-day passes for $5 in participating towns in Western North Carolina. The list includes: Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Dillsboro, Webster, Sylva and Hot Springs. Anglers without the necessary gear can also take advantage of the loaner rod, reel and tackle program at participating town outfitters. Licenses can be bought with a credit card over the phone or online through the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
888.248.6834 or www.ncwildlife.org