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Continuing subscribers may recall two earlier pieces I wrote on North Carolina’s innovative and popular delayed harvest program (the most recent of these articles was on pages 1-2 of the March 1995 issue). As the name suggests, the program creates a mini-catch-and-release season on certain streams during which newly stocked fish must be returned to the water. Initially disliked by many local anglers, the program has now won over so many converts that the period of delayed harvest has been expanded from its original period of March 1 through the first Saturday in June. Commencing this year, it will run all the way from October 1 through the first Saturday in June. That means the program is in effect now, in time to afford some wonderful fall angling.

In case you are wondering why delayed harvest streams aren’t simply declared catch-and-release streams year-round, the major reason is high water temperatures in the summer months. Quite simply, most stocked fish on these streams can’t survive the summer, so it makes sense to "harvest" them before they die. That doesn’t mean they all die, however, or are caught by anglers. Some recent stream surveys have revealed that a good number of browns, especially some of the bigger ones, have been making it through the summer. That means anglers who take to the streams during the delayed harvest program in October have some seasoned, savvy trophies awaiting them, as well as plenty of recently stocked rainbows, browns and brookies.

You can get a list of waters enrolled in the delayed harvest program from Fred Harris at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (*). All of these streams are marked with black and white, diamond-shaped signs designating them as delayed harvest waters.

There are two equally useful maps to choose between if you want to plan a trip focused around these streams. The first is The North Carolina Atlas & Gazetteer (*) and the second is North Carolina County Maps (*). A centrally located town to base your fishing out of is Asheville. For information on lodging and restaurants there, call the Chamber of Commerce (*).

I have not personally fished all of the delayed harvest waters, but the five streams I have fished have all provided me with pure delights. Moreover, I know of no better way for novices to get an introduction to fly fishing for trout, for the simple reason that they are almost certainly going to get strikes and catch fish. More advanced anglers will, on good days, catch and release literally dozens of trout. Those are the reasons, in a nutshell, why the delayed harvest program has enjoyed such popularity with both local and out-of-state anglers. Fortunately, with the recent season extension, this good program just got better. – Jim Casada.

(*)The North Carolina Atlas and Gazetteer can be ordered from DeLorme Mapping.

(*) North Carolina County Maps can be ordered from County Maps.

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