Saturday, June 2, 2012

Harvest Critical Part of Delayed Harvest

This morning brought an end to my favorite part of North Carolina's delayed harvest trout fishing season, and I probably won't return to favored destinations such as the DH sections of the Nantahala or Tuckasegee River until after October 1, when they revert to release regulations. Likewise, I probably won't return to to Georgia's DH waters until November.

From fall through early summer, select waters in both states are open only to catch-and-release fishing with single-hook artificial lures. On May 15 in Georgia and the first Saturday in June (today) in North Carolina, the same streams revert to general regulations, with a harvest of trout and the use of natural bait both permitted.

I prefer the "delay" period because I'm not a big fan of trout as food fish, I like fishing with artificial lures, and I enjoy the high densities of fish found in these waters during the time when only catch-and-release fishing is permitted. I'm also a fairly mobile angler. Given the choice, therefore, I'd rather not fish waters where anglers are camped out on every big hole, which happens much more frequently in heavy bait-fishing areas.

All that said, I appreciate the "harvest" season on these waters. I've heard many fellow catch-and-release anglers grumble about it, believing these waters would be even better if all the trout had to be released all the time. Beyond the fact that this would take away fine opportunities for a totally different group of fishermen, the idea that fishing would be better simply isn't true. In fact, the opposite is true.

Most waters chosen for delayed harvest designation offer good to outstanding cool-season habitat and can hold high numbers of trout from fall through spring. However, most also run low and get too warm to hold many trout during the summer. Prior to the development of the delayed harvest management concept, most were marginal put-and-take waters that got stocked with low numbers of trout early in the season and maybe a few more in the fall. If these waters were managed with a year-round catch-and-release requirement, they couldn't be stocked with nearly as many fish or most (and in some cases, all) of the trout would die of natural causes during the summer.

Fisheries divisions understandably wouldn't stock high numbers of trout that they knew would not survive through the year, so instead, these would be catch-and-release trout streams with very few trout in them, even during the winter, when they were running cool and full of water, which really wouldn't be very fun!

I'm thankful for those fishermen who are fishing all 26 of North Carlina's delayed harvest streams and lakes this morning and who are excited about the beginning of the "harvest" season. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't get to catch nearly as many fish in the fall.

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