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Cherokee National Forest Stocked Waters

leah kirk

Stocked trout streams provide opportunities for anglers who catch and release as well as those who wish to harvest trout for consumption. Rainbow trout averaging 8 to 12 inches are stocked in many streams, typically between March and September. The most popular stocked trout streams include Tellico River, Citico Creek, Paint Creek and Beaverdam Creek.  Wild trout, rainbow, brown and native brookies are present in most of the mountain streams above 1000 feet in elevation.

River and Stream Fishing Areas

Bald Mountain

Horse Creek Recreation Area

Old Forge Recreation Area

Big Frog Mountain

Citico Creek Zone Citico Creek

Jake Best Campground

French Broad River

Paint Creek

Moses Turn

Overlook Picnic

Hiwassee River Gorge area description

Apalachia Powerhouse

Big Bend

Childers Creek Trailhead

Hiwassee River Picnic Area

Lost Creek Campground

Holston Mountain Zone

Iron Mountain Zone

Backbone Rock Recreation Area

Pigeon River Zone

Pigeon River

Tellico River

Holly Flats

McNabb Group Camp

Big Oak Cove Campground

Birch Branch Campground

Davis Branch Campground

Holder Cove Campground

Rough Ridge Campground

Unaka Mountain Zone

Chestoa Recreation Area

Limestone Cove Day Use Area

Watauga Lake Zone

Dennis Cove Recreation Area

Smokies Trout Farmer Pioneers Sustainable Feeding Program

leah kirk

Smokies Trout Farmer Pioneers Sustainable Feeding Program.jpg

John McCoy, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and owner of Smoky Mountain Trout Farm, is the only American Indian trout farmer in North Carolina — the third highest producer of trout across the United States. McCoy has been experimenting with new and innovative sustainable trout farming techniques that he hopes could transform the industry and help increase profits for farmers. For his first season, coming to a close soon, he utilized solar energy and natural food sources at his trout farm.

McCoy was able to experiment with these green techniques thanks to a grant award from WNC AgOptions and a business loan from Sequoyah Fund, a community loan fund, to convert his farm energy supply from electric to solar. He equipped his farm with solar fish feeders for daytime feeding and installed solar powered bug zappers that supply his fish with insects, a naturally high protein source, for night feeding.

 “The way John combined funding sources demonstrates his ingenuity and resourcefulness. We are happy that funds from our lending program could be combined with grant funds to make a significant bottom line impact in John’s business,” says Seagle.

With McCoy’s approach he is not only incorporating sustainable farming methods, but he is also increasing his bottom line. His energy bill has decreased by an average of $120 per month, and the addition of the insects into the fish’s diet has decreased the amount of feed he is using. He estimates that the bugs will offset his feed expenses by $5,000 annually.

He initially purchased 5,000 pounds of fish in April, and with his monthly weigh counts, he estimates that he will sell 20,000 pounds of fish at the end of October.  And, buyers are already lining up. There is a high demand from processors, but he could also sell to a stocking program. Both options would be beneficial to the state’s economy, either by supporting the food or tourism industry.

But, McCoy also hopes these new techniques will be beneficial for trout farmers. During his time in the U.S. Trout Farmers Association, he advocated for reasonable resale prices to help expand the market and support the trout farmers.

“We see a lot of mark up, but it’s not the farmers that are making all of that,” says McCoy. With more competitive prices at the grocery store, he feels more people would buy trout more often.

After he sells this batch of fish, McCoy will make his final calculations and determine exactly how profitable the new techniques have been. While his sustainable cost- savings model can be replicated by other trout growers, McCoy says other types of farms, such as chicken or pig, can also use it.

Got Trout?

leah kirk

Got Trout? That is the word this week from Gatlinburg where city officials opened bids from companies seeking to provide goods and services ranging from 7,000 pounds of trout to 200 pairs of pants. The city's bid period for three contracts ends on December 7: the sale of rainbow trout for one year, the sale of Gatlinburg Police Department uniforms for two years, and the provision of security services for a two-year period at the Gatlinburg Convention Center and W.L. Mills Conference Center.

According to the invitation to bidders, the city seeks the delivery of 7,000 pounds of rainbow trout on four dates in 2018 to the Gatlinburg Trout Rearing Facility. Located at Herbert Holt Park near the Spur, the property suffered damages - and the loss of fish life - during the November 2016 fires.

North Carolina Annual Fly-Fishing Clinics Start Jan. 6

leah kirk

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is offering anglers in the eastern part of the state an opportunity to catch trout in the winter at clinics being held at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. The annual winter fly-fishing clinics for novice and intermediate anglers start on January 6. Additionally, two fly-fishing merit badge workshops for Boy Scouts will be held in March and April. The commission will stock more than 1,000 catchable-sized brook, brown and rainbow trout into the center’s ponds on December 13. Loaner rods, reels and tackle will be provided for all fly-fishing clinic participants.

Basic Fly-Fishing Clinics

These clinics, designed for anglers with limited or no fly-fishing experience, will be offered on January 6, January 20 and February 3 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Trained volunteers will provide instruction in the Joan Wulff method of fly-casting, as well as instruction in fly-fishing equipment and knot tying. During the afternoon on-the-water portion of the course, participants will learn how to land a fish using a fly-rod. Basic clinics are suitable for participants 13 years and older; however, participants 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Each clinic is limited to 25 participants on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to space limitations, participants are asked to register for one clinic only.

Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic

An Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic will be held on February 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This clinic will take participants beyond the basics and introduce them to using the line-hand, false casting, casting on all planes and the shooting line. Participants will also learn how to develop power application and cast accurately.  Because this course is based on the Wulff method used in the basic classes, participants must have completed a Basic Fly-Fishing Clinic or Discovery Course offered in 2015 or 2016, or the Basic Fly-Fishing Clinic in 2017. The clinic is suitable for participants 13 and older; however, participants 15 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult. This clinic is limited to the first 25 registrants.

Boy Scout Fly-Fishing Merit Badge Clinics

For active Boy Scouts ages 11 and older, the Pechmann Center is offering 2-day Fly-Fishing Merit Badge Clinics on March 24-25 and April 21-22. Topics will include fly tying, knots, fly-casting, fish identification, first aid, fishing regulations, cleaning and cooking. Overnight camping is available for scouts, but campers should plan to arrive at the Pechmann Center no later than 8:30 p.m. the night before the clinic. Interested Scoutmasters should contact Tom Carpenter at 910-868-5003 to register their scouts. The clinic is limited to 30 scouts with a maximum of 10 scouts from each troop.

Pre-registration is required for all clinics. Registration is now open for the two basic fly-fishing clinics in January, and registration for the February 3 clinic will open on December 21. Registration for the Intermediate Fly-Fishing Clinic will open on January 2.1 Registration for the 2-Day Fly-Fishing Merit Badge Clinics for active Boy Scouts will open on February 7 for the March clinic and on March 6 for the April clinic. To register, visit the calendar view on the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center’s webpage and select the clinic you’re interested in to begin the registration process.

Oklahoma Fly Fishing at Illinois River

leah kirk

okie fly fishing.jpg

Enrollment is under way for the Illinois River Fly Fishing School, which has become one of the most popular fishing education workshops held each year in Oklahoma. The 2018 session will be Feb. 23-24 at Tenkiller State Park and on the banks of the Illinois River. This will be the 30th year that Patton Fly Fishing has offered this course. Early registration is suggested to ensure a spot.

This basic course includes sessions on tackle and gear, knots, flies, fly selection and casting techniques. On Saturday afternoon, participants receive on-stream instruction. Fly rods will be available for loan on Saturday. A state fishing license is not required for students during course instruction. Participants should bring a hat, sunglasses, rain gear, flashlight, alarm clock and appropriate clothing for Saturday's outdoor session. If available, participants are urged to also bring their own equipment including rod and reel, flies, 3X leader and waders.

A welcome session and orientation will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, with indoor training from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by actual fishing instruction on the Illinois River. A fly selection and discussion session will begin at 7 p.m. after dinner break.  Course fee is $175, with a $50 deposit due at the time of enrollment. For more information call (405) 613-6520.  Lodging is available separately through Tenkiller State Park. Students may book lodging by calling (918) 489-5643.

Got Logperch?

leah kirk


A new species of fish, a six-inch darter, has been identified in the Tennessee River System. The Tennessee Logperch was discovered by Tennessee Valley Authority biologist Jeff Simmons and confirmed as a new species by Yale professor Tom Near. The published findings are found in the October 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History titled “New Species of Logperch Endemic to Tennessee”.

In 2013 Simmons was researching mussels in the Big South Fork when he spotted what appeared to be a Blotchsided Logperch, a darter not seen since 1890. The discovery was confirmed, and this led to a larger study of logperches in Tennessee. This new fish is closely related to the Blotchsided. Logperch. The unique features of the Tennessee Logperch that Simmons and Near noted include small, round and flattened splotches on the sides of its body.

Simmons commented, “With new techniques in molecular study, we are starting to see a lot more diversity than we thought. Once you investigate and start getting enough data and using DNA testing, you start seeing that there are a lot of differences in fish. I think there is still a wide-open realm of discovery out there.”

The scientific name chosen for the Tennessee Logperch is percina apina. Simmons explained, “I was snorkeling one day at Hurricane Creek [in Humphreys County] with this new species and the water was so clear and clean, and the visibility was excellent, and I thought, ‘This fish needs a name that reflects these qualities.' So we gave it the name apina, which in Greek describes things that are clean or without dirt.”

The Tennessee River System is one of the most diverse aquatic wildlife systems in the world, including fish, mussels and marine life. Simmons and Near believe that the Tennessee Logperch won't be the last new fish discovered in this area.

Breaking News: Who’s Going to Win the Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods

leah kirk


The great TU Shootout will soon draw to conclusion. Up for grab are five new Thomas & Thomas fly rods. The winning TU chapter in each of the zones (TN/KY, GA/SC, VA, NC, and WV/MD) will receive one fly rod. The contest ends in a couple of weeks.

Now about those Thomas & Thomas fly rods, they’re pretty sweet, and make a lovely chapter fundraiser. Wanna look over the prize room? Go to Lots and lots of nice stuff, eh? Vote for your TU chapter or the one closest to you. You don’t want to let this opportunity to pass you by.

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

leah kirk

Trout are not natural inhabitants of Missouri lakes and streams. The water is too warm for them, but Table Rock Dam created the perfect conditions. The water at the lowest level in the lake stays at 44 to 52 degrees, too cold for other Missouri fish but perfect for the development of trout.

At the visitors’ center, you can watch a film giving the details of how fish were bred, fed and raised in the tanks covering the area at the base of the dam. The trout used for breeding are bigger than those released for fishing.

You can see males be milked for their sperm, which could happen anytime because the males are always ready.The females needed to have developed eggs, something that happens in the right season. The staff, who can tell when the female fish are ready to spawn, make the process less stressful, anesthetize them and inject oxygen to prepare them for the squeezing. The eggs are then placed in a tank with sperm to be fertilized.

The baby fish have a bag attached to their stomach that provides all the food they need for the first period of their lives. After 30 days they are hand fed. As they grow they are moved from tank to tank as the food is changed to meet their needs. Finally, at about 12 inches long, they are released into Lake Taneycomo and other Missouri managed streams for public trout fishing.

None of the 1 million fish released each year go into the commercial market. If you want Missouri-raised trout, you need to get yourself a license and pole and come down to Branson. Because the release of water from Table Rock Dam creates unstable conditions trout do not usually reproduce in Lake Taneycomo.

Chasing Rainbows Time in Tennessee

leah kirk

by Larry Woody

The TWRA this weekend begins stocking 100,000 rainbow trout in 40 locations across the state. The stockings will continue through Jan. 28. A list of trout-stocking dates and locations is listed in the Tennessee Fishing Guide.

This year as a special bonus 150 albino trout weighing up to three pounds will be included among the 8-12 inch rainbows.

There is a daily limit of seven trout, no size limit, except on certain waters such as the Caney Fork River. Detailed trout regulations are listed in the Fishing Guide.

A special trout license is required except for holders of a Sportsman’s License or Lifetime License. Anyone fishing for trout has to have the trout license even if no trout are kept.

The stocked trout are intended to be caught and kept for eating since few of the cold-water fish will survive once the waters begin to warm in the spring.

 “Culling” fish – replacing a small trout on a stringer with a bigger one – is discouraged because the released fish probably will not survive and will be wasted. Like most kinds of fishing, angling for trout can be as simple or as complicated as the individual angler chooses. Stocked trout can be caught on fly rods with flies and streamers, or on spinning tackle with a wide range of lures and baits.

Popular spinning lures include anything that flashes or flutters, including RoadRunners, miniature crank-baits, and Trout Magnets. The latter are small plastic grubs stuck on a lead-head hook and fished below a float. The flow of the current or riffle of a breeze on the surface imparts enough movement to the dangling lure to entice a strike.

In terms of baits, one of the earliest used by trout fishermen was canned yellow corn – two or three kernels impaled on a hook, weighted down with a split shot, and bounced along the bottom. Yellow corn remains an inexpensive and effective trout bait.

Another standard trout bait is salmon eggs, fished the same way as the corn kernels. Salmon eggs are more expensive than can corn, and harder to keep on a hook.

In recent years an array of commercial trout baits has hit the shelves of sporting goods stores. Some of the most popular are little marshmallow-shaped nuggets of various colors and flavors.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency restocked the pond at Shelby Park with some 3,000 trout. It is the prime time to do so as the fish thrive in cooler temperatures, and it also gives both seasoned and first-time anglers a unique opportunity.

"That utilizes the wintertime fishing holes that we stock and it gets the people out of the house and gets them acclimated and accustomed to catching trout, something, a species, they normally wouldn't be going after in this area," said Darrell Bernd.

There is a daily limit of seven, and fishers will have to get a license before heading out. The final day of the stocking is March 16.

GSMNP Wetland Inventory Growing

leah kirk

Wetlands in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) are uniquely valuable ecosystems. Open marshes, mountain fens, and high-elevation seeps are just a few of the wetland types found in the park.

            The rarity of wetlands in the park coupled with their biological importance has led park managers to make their identification and inventory a focus of resource management activity. To fulfill this need, a park-wide wetlands inventory project was started in 2010. Fieldwork conducted since then has provided a more comprehensive understanding of existing wetland resources in the park.

The first step in the GRSM wetlands inventory process is developing detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) maps. The rarity of wetlands in the park coupled with their biological importance has led park managers to make their identification and inventory a focus of resource management activity. To fulfill this need, a park-wide wetlands inventory project was started in 2010. Fieldwork conducted since then has provided a more comprehensive understanding of existing wetland resources in the park.

The first step in the GRSM wetlands inventory process is developing detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that assist field scouting efforts to locate wetlands. The next step involves using advanced GPS technology and wetland “field indicators” to map (delineate) wetland boundaries, while simultaneously collecting biological information on each site. Finally, these new data are systematically being added to the GRSM wetlands database and several data sets that are publically available including the National Park Service Data Store, the USFWS National Wetlands Inventory database, and ESRI ArcGIS Online.

 This GRSM Wetlands Story Board provides broad information on wetlands and highlights biologically unique wetland types in the park. To help ensure wetlands protection in the Smokies, GRSM Inventory & Monitoring staff started a park-wide wetlands inventory project in 2010. The project is still on-going, with over 450 wetlands inventoried and mapped to date. Fieldwork conducted since the start of the project has provided us with an improved understanding of the current extent of wetlands throughout the park, the diversity of these wetlands types, and the information needed to direct wetlands protection.

The next step involves using advanced GPS technology and wetland “field indicators” to map (delineate) wetland boundaries, while simultaneously collecting biological information on each site. Finally, these new data are systematically being added to the GRSM wetlands database and several data sets that are publically available including the National Park Service Data Store, the USFWS National Wetlands Inventory database, and ESRI ArcGIS Online.

This GRSM Wetlands Story Board provides broad information on wetlands and highlights biologically unique wetland types in the park. 

To help ensure wetlands protection in the Smokies, GRSM Inventory & Monitoring staff started a park-wide wetlands inventory project in 2010. The project is still on-going, with over 450 wetlands inventoried and mapped to date.

Fieldwork conducted since the start of the project has provided us with an improved understanding of the current extent of wetlands throughout the park, the diversity of these wetlands types, and the information needed to direct wetlands protection. 

Nantahala Brewing Launches Open-Air Taproom

leah kirk

Surrounded by piles of debris, old wood, and gravel, Joe Rowland sees opportunity. “This is the inevitable next step for us,” he said.

Co-owner of Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City, Rowland wanders around a four-acre lot at the end of Depot Street, less than a block from the flagship brewery. Purchased by Rowland in early 2016, the property consisted of an abandoned warehouse (formerly the RC Cola bottling company) and large open field. Initially, the 11,000-square-foot building was going to be used for Nantahala’s equipment storage, barrel aging program and bottling line.

But, as time went along, an idea for the remaining 3,200 square feet of unused space crept into the minds of Rowland and Co. — a restaurant and indoor/outdoor brewpub.

“We’ve always wanted to be able to serve food, but didn’t have enough space in the brewery,” Rowland said. “And when we looked at using part of the warehouse for a kitchen, we figured if we’re going to build that kitchen, we might as well construct a full-on brewpub.” 

Currently, the general manager for Nantahala, Al Parsons previously ran the popular Brio Tuscan Grille at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and also spent many years working within the corporate managing areas of Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Ohio. 

“We wanted to make sure we had the right person to lead this next chapter, and also not lose sight of our culture and brand at the brewery — Al is that person,” Rowland said. “The kitchen features an ‘upscale southern’ menu, with meat and produce being sourced from local farms within 60 miles of the brewery,” Rowland said.

Nantahala is also increasing its brand outside of Western North Carolina. With products found on shelves and on taps from Swain County all the way to Raleigh, Nantahala also launched in Tennessee, covering upwards of 87 percent of the state. Their craft beer can also be found during Carolina Panthers football games at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

With the restaurant now open, it’s all hands on deck for Rowland and Co. as they ready themselves for the change on the horizon.

“It’s great because we’ve spent the last few years tying up all the loose ends of what our customers wanted,” Rowland said. “And now that we’ve done that, this was the last gap we’d yet to fill — the next step is here, and we’re ready for it.”

NC Offers Two Free Fly-Tying Workshops

leah kirk

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is offering two free workshops in December. Online registration is required for the workshops, which are open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dec. 5­-7 – Beginning Fly-tying Course from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. This three-night course is open to the first 25 registrants ages 12 and older, though participants between the ages of 12 and 15 must be accompanied by an adult. The course is designed to provide basic knowledge of fly-tying tools, materials, patterns and tying techniques. Students will complete six fly patterns over approximately eight hours of instruction. All tools, materials and a fly-tying handbook will be provided.

Dec. 28 – Fly-tying Forum from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Open to ages 10 and up, but participants under 16 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The forum provides attendees the opportunity to improve their fly-tying skills. Participants are encouraged to use their own equipment, but limited equipment and materials are available upon request.

The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is located at 7489 Raeford Road in Fayetteville, across from Lake Rim. Commission staff at the Pechmann Center conducts fishing workshops, events and clinics throughout the year. Most programs are free and open to the public. For more information on the Commission’s four wildlife education centers and other activities and events, visit

Dave & Emily Whitlock Named ST’s Editors Emeritus

leah kirk


                This week Dave and Emily Whitlock announced the decision to join Southern Trout “Ozark Edition” as the Editor Emeritus. The biggest name in trout fishing in the South. The Oklahoma-based pair bring a heretofore unachievable level to the publication.

                ‘When ST “Ozark Edition” Magazine called to tell me good news, I was overwhelmed,” says Don Kirk, publisher of the parent company, Southern Unlimited. “I cut my teeth on readings about Dave Whitlock, often thinking that I wished I was him. This is a big deal for us, and we are happy to share the news with you.”

                Dave and Emily have been writing on the subject of fly fishing for trout and bass for decades. Additionally, Dave is an extraordinarily talented artist and has created countless drawings and pieces of fly fishing art.

                “Dave and Emily Whitlock bring something really special to ST “Ozark Edition” Magazine,” says Terry Wilson, co-editor of one-year-old publication. “Roxanne and I have regarded Dave and Emily Whitlock as dear friends for a number of years. I’m overjoyed at the chance for us to enter into this arrangement.”

Foothills Parkway ‘Missing Link’Open

leah kirk

The Foothills Parkway’s ‘Missing Link’ is now complete. Lane Construction Company of Charlotte, NC recently completed a seven-year project to design and build five bridges at a cost of $48.5 million. This marks the first time that vehicles can travel the entire 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway extending from Walland to Wears Valley, TN.

“We are excited to mark another milestone in the completion of this spectacular section of the Foothills Parkway,” said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan. “With the missing link now bridged, we look forward to finishing the final paving and then opening the roadway to the public by the end of next year.”

Construction of this 16-mile section began in 1966 when two men with shovels and a wheel barrel. Unlike much promised Northshore Road (i.e., the road to nowhere, construction continued. Most of the roadway was completed by 1989 when the project came to a halt due to slope failures and erosion during construction of the last 1.65 miles – known as the ‘Missing Link.’ The engineering solution included the construction of nine bridges to connect the roadway in an environmentally sustainable manner. These last five bridges mark an important milestone by completing the ‘Missing Link.’ Since 1966, $178 million has been invested in this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway spanning parts of Blount and Sevier Counties.

“The Lane Construction Corporation is proud to have completed this complex signature project safely with significant support from the local community,” said Lane Construction Corporation District Manager Tom Meador. Since 2010, approximately 250 Lane Construction Corporation and subcontract team members have worked on the project.

Federal Highway Administration’s Eastern Federal Lands Division Engineer Melisa Ridenour and Lane Construction Corporation District Manager Tom Meador joined National Park Service representatives to commemorate this monumental achievement.

As of this writing, the Road to nowhere remains in limbo.

Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing Museum Expanding

leah kirk

In its two years of existence, the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians has shown a willingness to travel.

First, from the mind of fly fishing enthusiast Alen Baker to the wood-paneled space of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce. Then to the sunny Swain County Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Bryson City. And, soon, to a new building on Bryson City’s Island Street, just across the road from the trout-stocked waters of the Tuckasegee River.

To be clear, the existing museum exhibits will remain at the Chamber of Commerce. But the new building will house aquariums and learning centers in addition to new exhibits that take the experience to a whole new level.

“It doubles the capacity of the museum,” Baker said.

The expansion will allow the museum to do what Baker had dreamed it would since he first conceptualized the project in 2012 and opened its doors in Cherokee in 2015.

“When we were in Cherokee, from day one the vision was that we would have aquariums as part of the museum,” he said. “Part of the reason being that people need to see the fish you can go fly fishing for in the Southern Appalachians.”

There was even a room set aside to one day house the aquariums in Cherokee, but when the tribal government abruptly decided to cancel the lease that allowed the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce — and, by extension, the fly fishing museum — to occupy the space, the fly-fishing museum moved next door to Bryson City, where it was welcomed into the Swain County Chamber of Commerce building. However, that location has no space for aquariums.

Now, county government and the Swain County Tourism Development Authority are teaming up to give the fly-fishing museum the space it’s been dreaming of. The 1,000-square-foot building is currently under construction a stone’s throw from the heritage barn on Island Drive, where the Swain County Farmers Market is held during the warmer months. Walls are up with a roof soon to come — Baker hopes to hold a soft opening in June, to align with the date that the museum originally opened in Cherokee in 2015, but it’s possible the museum won’t be ready until later in the summer.

Regardless of the exact opening date, Swain County Chamber of Commerce Director Karen Wilmot is excited about the upcoming expansion.

“We are looking forward to the next phase of the fly fishing museum expansion with the aquarium and learning center opening next year,” Wilmot said. “Swain County, with its miles of streams, rivers and lakes, is the perfect location for the museum and aquarium, and these projects are a wonderful example of how well partnerships can work with private, public and governmental entities.”

Baker’s hopes are high. There’s currently an expert working on designs for an aquarium system that will feature about five tanks of 300 gallons or more, five smaller tanks of 125-200 gallons and an indoor stream flowing through three smaller tanks, home to all kinds of trout. However, trout won’t be the only native fish swimming through the aquariums. The museum will also display musky, sunfish, bass, sicklefin redhorse, and possibly even a hellbender salamander.

“We’re not talking about exotic species like tropical fish or anything,” Baker said. “We’re talking about species of the Southern Appalachians that are pretty much available to us.”

Even so, many people who live in or often visit the area have never seen a live trout or a mess of sunfish. The museum will soon make those experiences easier to come by, and the trout filling the tanks will be the same trout that swim in the river just outside the museum. The museum board has been collaborating with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to secure the permits necessary to collect and release fish in the wild.

Learning will be a heavy emphasis for the new space, which will include a classroom with wireless internet and a regional center for Trout in the Classroom. A program of Trout Unlimited, Trout in the Classroom allows teachers to obtain trout eggs from the state fish hatchery and raise them into small fish over the course of the school year, involving students in the experience throughout the way.

The program teaches aquatic ecology, fish life cycles, water chemistry, math skills and more, but it requires commitment from already overworked teachers and money to get the setup going. The center to be housed at the expanded fly fishing museum will help teachers successfully manage these projects, and Baker also hopes to provide small grants for teachers wanting to participate.

“That’s a struggle in all schools, to find the money to set it up,” he said. “We’ll do that one way or another. We may have loaner equipment or we’ll do grants to help them buy equipment.”

None of this — the building, the aquariums, staff to run them — comes free, but the community of Swain County and Bryson City has wrapped its arms around the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, with multiple entities coming together to ensure its success.

Overall, the expansion is expected to cost about $100,000, with Swain County government covering the construction and maintenance of the building, about $20,000 to $25,000. They’re looking for grants to cover as much of that as possible, said Economic Development Director Ken Mills, but will cover it one way or another. It’s hard to argue with the fact that the museum will be nothing but good for Bryson City, Mills said.

“The best phrase is its value added,” Mills said. “If we already have people wanting to come here and coming here, if we can increase a good experience, that’s good. On this one we cover a lot of bases. We’re covering science, we’re covering nature, people understanding what it takes to live in a balance. There’s a lot going for that.”

The remainder of the funds will come from the Swain County TDA, with Baker and the rest of the museum board working to raise some of the money from donations and fundraising events. Due to increased operational cost at the new building, the museum will begin charging a small admission fee as well, likely $5 or less. TDA money comes from a tax visitors pay when they book a hotel room in the county, so the idea is that if the museum causes more people to travel to Bryson City or entices those already planning trips to extend their stay, the investment could eventually pay for itself.

“I don’t really see things going anywhere but better,” Baker said, “because with the new building there will be probably more interest in the aquariums than in some cases the museum items.”


 Bryson City is making its fish-friendliness known with the installation of three fiberglass fish sculptures throughout town. Located in front of the Swain County Chamber of Commerce building, at the town square and by the railroad depot, these jumping trout are brightly painted to represent the fish species swimming through Western North Carolina streams — brook, brown and rainbow trout.

The sculptures cost $6,000, including painting and installation, and were paid for by the Swain County Tourism Development Authority using a $1,200 donation from the Tuckaseegee Fly Shop. The sculptures were bought from Minnesota-based Fiber Stock and painted by Ed Ciociolla and Phil Watford. Plaques identifying the type of fish and offering a brief description of the species will be installed this week.

Donate to the cause

The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians relies on donations and volunteer support to run, and with the upcoming expansion those contributions will be more vital than ever before.

Information about becoming a member of the museum or making a donation is available at

Cottonmouth Dance Time?

leah kirk

Mating season for Cottonmouths in the South is typically in late spring and early summer, but no one told these male Cottonmouths at Back Bay area of Maryland. In October male Cottonmouths will often engage in a “combat dance” ritual for mating rites. No biting is involved, just a good ol’ fashion wrestling match, which ends when the larger male has pinned the smaller challenger to the ground. After mating, females will give live birth (average litter size is 7) the following year in late summer or early fall. Although Cottonmouths are venomous and put on a good defensive show by opening their mouths to display the cotton white interior of their mouths, stories of them “chasing” people and their aggressiveness is mostly folklore or a misunderstanding of their behavior.
Learn more about the facts and fiction surrounding Cottonmouths and other snakes, you can obtain a copy of A Guide to the Snakes and Lizards of Virginia at 


New Trout Regulations for Bull Shoals & Norfork Tailwaters

leah kirk

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On Nov. 21, 2017, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission accepted five changes to trout fishing regulations proposed for the Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters at a special meeting via teleconference today at the AGFC Headquarters in Little Rock. The proposals are part of ongoing revisions to the formal trout management plans for the two tailwaters. During the last year, biologists have collected creel surveys, biological samples and mail-in surveys as well as held public focus group meetings to determine the best course of action for the trout fishery to meet the desires and expectations of the public. The regulations were presented to the Commission in October, and have been open to public comment for the last 30 days.

Oklahoma Winter Trout Stocking Under Way

leah kirk

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Anglers needn’t hang up their gear just because winter’s getting near. There’s still plenty of fishing fun to be found at Oklahoma’s seasonal and year-round trout fishing areas! Each year the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stocks trout at six seasonal trout fishing areas across the state, beginning Nov. 1 and continuing into March or April. Those areas are Perry CCC/Lake Perry Park, Robbers Cave, Blue River, Lake Watonga, Medicine Creek and Lake Carl Etling. For more information, go to

In addition to these “cold weather” trout fisheries, the Department also operates two year-round trout fisheries in the Lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow dam and in the Lower Illinois River below Tenkiller Ferry Dam. Trout are normally stocked in these areas every week or two, as long as water conditions are conducive to trout survival.

Anglers on the Lower Mountain Fork are currently seeing lower flows of water in the river because of unscheduled repairs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to a release valve at the Broken Bow Lake spillway. The low flows are not due to bridge repairs. Don Groom, Southeast Region Fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department, said trout stocking will continue despite the lower flows, but most stocking will take place in downstream areas rather than in upper areas closer to the dam until repairs to the spillway valve are completed.

Trout, both rainbows and browns, are introduced species to Oklahoma. They thrive in colder waters and make excellent table fare. Using ultralight fishing gear with 4- to 6-pound test line and small hooks can lead to some thrilling action. But anyone can catch trout using regular angling gear with small jigs or spinners, prepared bait or live bait.

Trout fishing is also available from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 at two Close to Home Fishinglocations in major urban areas: Oklahoma City's Dolese Youth Park Pond and Jenks' Veterans Park Pond.

Trout anglers must carry a resident or nonresident fishing license while fishing. In addition, trout anglers at Dolese Youth Park Pond must have an Oklahoma City fishing permit.

The Wildlife Department's winter trout fishing areas are:

·         Blue River: This river flows through the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area near Tishomingo. Trout stocking season runs Nov. 1 to March 31. From Tishomingo, go 4 miles east on State Highway 78 and then 6 miles north. Bank access and wade fishing is available throughout the area. Primitive camping is allowed at the Blue River campground.

·         Lake Carl Etling: This lake is at Black Mesa State Park in Cimarron County. Trout stocking season runs Nov. 1 to April 30. From Boise City, go 28 miles west on U.S. 325. Boat ramps are on the south and east sides of the lake. Primitive and developed camping facilities are available at the park.

·         Medicine Creek: This trout fishery runs through the town of Medicine Park from the Gondola Lake Dam on the north to the State Highway 49 bridge on the south. Access is easy from a sidewalk along the creek's east side. Trout stocking season runs from Nov. 1 to March 15. Camping and lodging are available nearby.

·         Perry CCC/Lake Perry Park: This 32-acre lake was built in the mid-1930s and offers ample bank access and a boat ramp on the west side of the lake. From Perry, go a mile south on State Highway 86. Trout stocking season runs Nov. 1 to March 31. Lodging is available in Perry.

·         Robbers Cave: In Robbers Cave State Park, the Robbers Cave trout fishery is in the Fourche Maline River directly below Carlton Dam to the south boundary of the park. Trout stocking season runs Nov. 1 to March 15. From Wilburton, go 5 miles north on State Highway 2. Bank access and wade fishing is available anywhere within state park boundaries. Camping facilities and cabins are available at the park.

·         Lake Watonga: This 55-acre lake is in Roman Nose State Park. Trout stocking season runs Nov. 1 to March 31. From Watonga, go 7 miles north on State Highway 8A. Bank access and a boat ramp are on the west side of the lake. Camping and lodging are available at the park.

Trout fishing regulations, including daily and size limits, restricted areas and maps, can be found in the current Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide, available at, in the "OK Fishing and Hunting Guide" mobile app for Apple and Android, or free in print from license dealers statewide

Rare McCloud Rainbows in Crane Creek

leah kirk


By Wes Johnson

It might not seem like a significant change — replacing a tired old bridge with a new one over a small Missouri creek. But lifelong fly fisherman Tim Homesley likes the look of it, especially where the cool, clear water flows underneath.

"Look at all those small pebbles down there," he says, eyeing the gravel bottom through sparkling water. "That's just what these rainbows need to lay their eggs when they do their spawning run."

He's talking about the fascinating McCloud rainbow trout that thrive in Stone County's Crane Creek, having been put there in the late 1800s by a train crew carrying the live fish from California's McCloud River.

Spring-fed Crane Creek remains cool enough, and the habitat provides just the right kind of food, for the fish to survive year-round and more significantly to also reproduce, laying their eggs in gravel deposits. It's one of the few places in Missouri where wild trout are able to reproduce naturally.

The trout that anglers typically catch at Bennett Spring, Lake Taneycomo, Roaring River or other Missouri trout parks are hatchery-raised fish. But an eight-mile section of Crane Creek has been designated a Blue Ribbon Trout Area by the Missouri Department of Conservation to celebrate the wild McCloud rainbow fishery. And that brings us back to the new bridge.

Because of the stream's special designation, the $240,000 bridge replacement project was able to tap some money from the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund, administrated through the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The Stream Stewardship money helps restore, enhance, and protect stream systems and associated habitats.

The previous bridge in the trout spawning areas on upper Crane Creek had a concrete floor, which trout couldn't use to lay their eggs. The new bridge spans the entire creek and has a natural bottom that according to MDC will improve the habitat for McCloud rainbows and other aquatic species.

The new bridge will also be less likely to flood because more water can pass beneath it during heavy rain events, a benefit to motorists who need to cross Crane Creek at its upper end.

Shane Bush, an MDC fisheries biologist, said he snorkels Crane Creek in the fall every three years to physically count the McCloud rainbows and gauge their health. He snorkels in the fall after the weather turns cold because Crane Creek has an unusually high population of venomous cottonmouth snakes, which disappear when the temperature falls.

"We'd prefer not to run into any of those when we're counting trout," Bush quipped. In the clear water, the rainbows are easy to spot. This spring's massive flooding didn't seem to harm the Crane Creek trout. The fish can take cover in deep pools and ride out the surging water. Bush said floods can even help the trout stream by allowing fish to move upstream or downstream and populate new areas of the creek.

"I've heard of fishermen catching them all the way down to the mouth of the James River, where Crane Creek flows into it," Bush said.

Although a lot of fish are in Crane Creek, catching them on lightweight fly rods can test even the most avid angler, both Bush and Homesley — the veteran fly fisherman — agreed.

"I fish 'em like I'm squirrel hunting — you have to sneak up on them because they're really spooky," Homesley said. "They'll move if they see you. And the creek is a difficult place to fish. Just look at all the trees and bushes along the edge. If you haven't lost six or eight flies down here you haven't fished Crane Creek."

During a recent fishing trip to inspect the new bridge, Homesley cautioned a reporter and photographer to stay back while he stalked some wary McClouds in a likely looking pool. He moved with stealth to the creek's edge and flipped a nymph fly into a small gurgling waterfall.

A few casts later — and somewhat to his surprise — he connected with an 8-inch McCloud that glowed with rainbow hues.

"I started fishing down here in 1981," Homesley said. "I had read stories about it and fished here 11 times before I even caught a trout. Every little pool usually holds at least one fish. But some of the best fishing is actually right there in town, where the creek goes through Crane."

Among trout die-hard anglers, Crane Creek has gained a reputation as being an unusual, out-of-the-way place that offers a challenging venue for catching truly wild trout in Missouri.

Homesley became so smitten with trout fishing that he opened his own fly-fishing business — Tim's Fly Shop — in Cassville, where most of his customers stop before going after the hatchery-raised rainbows at nearby Roaring River State Park. Homesley, who has fished for trout around the world, said he still enjoys stalking his brightly-colored quarry in Crane Creek.

"This is the only creek in Missouri, well, there's actually two, that has a pure strain of McCloud River rainbows, or at least as pure a strain as there is anywhere in the world," he said. "They need to be protected. They're a lot of fun to catch and they're a beautiful fish. They've overcome an awful lot of things over the years and kept up and made a home for themselves here in the Ozarks."

Breaking News…sorta: Help Wanted

leah kirk

Southern Unlimited, LLC. has been shuffling along now for six years. We are gambling that 2018 will be a big year. Hereto our biggest road block to truly aggressive growth has been a lack of having good advertising salesmen. Each of our current titles is headed by individuals with about 150 years of collective experience. Design is keeping up and growing. What we need are sales people.

We’ve never used the newsletter to solicit for this. We have a single salesman who is literally killing it on Southern Saltwater Fishing Magazine. What sales we do have in the other titles is a hodgepodge of business I have brought in between doing other projects. It is a very fertile ground waiting for the right people. So, what are we looking for?

Number one would be the ability to sell. We have 3-5 openings for people who are self-starters and are willing to help turn the ground, plant, pray for rain and willing to harvest. For now, it is straight commission, but the commission is very respectable. Paid as a “contract employee” the job will allow you to work at home with some travel involved. As is our nature, we’ll help you get started, but a truly self-starting personality is the key. I can foresee these positions being attractive to outdoorsmen and others willing to invest the time on the front end. Established customers are yours to keep.

We are a nondiscrimination employer. The potential for growth is terrific. We have two new products coming out soon, one of which has no bearing on fishing, Actually, we are quite content at this time with our four fishing titles and are ready to expand into the Southern Lifestyle market as quickly as possible.

If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, contact me at