General Mountain Trout Regulations
North Carolina Hunting & Fishing
Brook, brown and rainbow trout require cold, clean water and are therefore generally restricted to mountain streams and lakes. Those mountain waters that support trout and are open to public fishing are designated as “Public Mountain Trout Waters” by the Wildlife Resources Commission and are managed for public trout fishing. A significant number of trout fishing opportunities in western North Carolina are located on private property. These landowners have generously allowed public access for fishing. Please respect their property. Your cooperation is needed
to protect fishing opportunities for future generations. The Commission conspicuously marks Public Mountain Trout Waters with regulation signs that indicate locations for public access. When anglers encounter “posted against trespass” signs along these designated sections on private lands, they should respect the property owner’s rights and choose another location along that stream to fish. Maps of trout water and their classifications may be viewed at ncwildlife.org/trout.
Daily Creel Limit*
|HATCHERY SUPPORTED TROUT WATERS|
|Aug. 1, 2020 – Feb. 28, 2021 |
7 a.m. April 3, 2021 – July 31, 2021
|March 1, 2021 – April 2, 2021 |
**No fishing allowed
|No closed season ||None||7||None|
|WILD TROUT WATERS|
|No closed season||7 inches||4||Artificial lures with a single hook.|
|WILD TROUT NATURAL BAIT WATERS|
|No closed season||7 inches||4||Artificial lures or natural bait with a single hook. No live fish allowed as bait.|
|DELAYED HARVEST TROUT WATERS|
|Oct. 1, 2020 – June 4, 2021 |
**No trout may be possessed
**No fishing allowed from ½ hour after sunset on June 4, 2021, to 6 a.m. on June 5, 2021
|**||**||Artificial lures with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed. |
|Aug 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2020 |
June 5, 2021 – July 31, 2021
(Note: youth under 18 years old only fishing from 6 a.m. until noon on June 5, 2021)
|CATCH AND RELEASE / ARTIFICIAL LURES ONLY TROUT WATERS|
|No closed season |
**No trout may be possessed
|**||**||Artificial lures with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed.|
|CATCH AND RELEASE / ARTIFICIAL FLIES ONLY TROUT WATERS|
|No closed season |
**No trout may be possessed
|**||**||Artificial flies with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed.|
|SPECIAL REGULATION TROUT WATERS|
|No closed season ||14 inches||2||None|
| ||None but only one trout may be greater than 14 inches||3 including only one trout greater than 14 inches||None|
|UNDESIGNATED TROUT WATERS|
|No closed season||None||7||None|
Fishing in Public Mountain Trout Waters
- Fishing is limited to hook and line only.
- An artificial lure is defined as a fishing lure that neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell.
- An artificial fly is defined as one single hook dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel, rubber, or any similar material to which no additional hook, spinner, spoon or similar device is added.
- Natural bait is defined as any living or dead organism (plant or animal), or parts thereof, or prepared substances designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell.
- A single hook is defined as a fish hook with only one point.
- It is unlawful to take fish bait or bait fish from Public Mountain Trout Waters.
- It is unlawful to possess natural bait while fishing Wild Trout and Catch and Release waters, unless those waters are also specifically classified for use of natural bait.
- Dropper flies may be used when fishing any Public Mountain Trout Waters.
- Fishing is not allowed in Hatchery Supported Trout Waters during the closed season except in the Linville River and tributaries within Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and on power reservoirs and municipal water supply reservoirs designated as trout waters (Bear Creek Lake, Buckeye Creek Reservoir, Calderwood Reservoir, Cedar Cliff Lake, Cheoah Reservoir, Cliffside Lake, Tanassee Creek Lake, Queens Creek Lake, and Wolf Lake).
- Non-trout species may be harvested from Delayed Harvest Trout Waters during the catch-and-release only trout season under applicable size and creel limits.
- It is unlawful to place hatchery-reared fish into Wild Trout Waters or move wild fish from one stream to another on game lands without prior written authorization.
- Information and regulations about trout fishing on game lands are listed on Nongame Fish Size & Creel Limits.
Trout Fishing in Undesignated Waters
Some waters that are not designated as Public Mountain Trout Waters contain mountain trout. When fishing in undesignated waters, there is no size limit or bait restrictions and the creel limit is seven trout per day, with no closed season.
Public Mountain Trout Waters
Some Public Mountain Trout Waters are managed for self-sustaining trout populations, while others have to be stocked periodically to provide a fishery. Public Mountain Trout Waters are as follows:
- “Catch and Release/Artificial Flies Only Trout Waters”
- “Catch and Release/Artificial Lures Only Trout Waters”
- “Delayed Harvest Trout Waters”
- “Hatchery Supported Trout Waters”
- “Special Regulation Trout Waters”
- “Wild Trout Waters”
- “Wild Trout/Natural Bait Waters”
Some of these public trout waters are also classified as Mountain Heritage Trout Waters and are identified on Nongame Fish Size & Creel Limits.
Catch and Release/Artificial Flies Only Trout Waters
These waters and their tributaries, except as noted, may be fished only with artificial flies having one single hook. No trout may be harvested or possessed while fishing these streams. These streams are marked with red-and-yellow signs.
Catch and Release/Artificial Lures Only Trout Waters
These waters and their tributaries, except as noted, may be fished only with artificial lures having one single hook. No trout may be harvested or possessed while fishing these streams. These streams are marked with purple-and-yellow signs.
Delayed Harvest Trout Waters
Delayed Harvest Trout Waters, excluding tributaries except as noted, may be fished only with artificial lures with one single hook, no natural bait may be possessed, and no trout may be harvested or possessed while fishing these waters between Oct. 1 and 30 minutes after sunset on the Friday before the first Saturday of the following June. These waters are closed to fishing from 30 minutes after sunset on the Friday before the first Saturday of June to 6 a.m. on the first Saturday of June. At 6 a.m. on the first Saturday of June, these waters open to fishing for youths under 18 years old under Hatchery Supported Trout Waters regulations—no bait restriction, no minimum length limit and seven-trout-per-day creel limit. At 12 p.m. on the first Saturday of June, these waters open for all anglers under Hatchery Supported Trout Waters regulations. These waters are marked with black-and-white signs.
Hatchery Supported Trout Waters
In Hatchery Supported Trout Waters there is no size limit or bait restriction, and the creel limit is seven trout per day. These waters are marked with green-and-white signs.
Special Regulation Trout Waters
These portions of Public Mountain Trout Waters, excluding tributaries except as noted, are subject to watercourse-specific, special regulations. These streams are marked with white-and-red signs.
Wild Trout Waters
In all Wild Trout Waters, the minimum length limit is seven inches and the creel limit is four trout per day. Only artificial lures with one single hook may be used. All Public Mountain Trout Waters located on game lands are Wild Trout Waters unless classified and posted otherwise. Wild Trout Waters are marked with blue-and-yellow signs.
Wild Trout/Natural Bait Waters
These waters and their tributaries, except as noted, may be fished with artificial lures or natural bait, except live fish. Lures and natural baits are restricted to one single hook. The minimum length limit is seven inches, and the daily creel limit is four trout. These streams are marked with brown-and-yellow signs.