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A section of the Watauga River downstream of Shulls Mill Road has closed to public fishing access because of “activities not related to fishing.” The area has been a popular swimming hole and hangout over the past few years.
Anna Oakes | Watauga Democrat

Originally published: 2012-10-03 11:16:18
Last modified: 2012-10-03 11:20:48

Watauga River fishing access closes

by Anna Oakes

Because of landowner concerns, a popular section of Watauga River downstream of Shulls Mill Road has closed to public fishing access.

Anglers no longer have access to the upper mile of Delayed Harvest water running from Shulls Mill Road downstream to the parking area near the intersection of N.C. 105 and Old Shulls Mill Road, according to a Sept. 28 news release from the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Landowners have posted “no trespassing” signs at all parking areas along the upper end of the Delayed Harvest water, including the roadside pull-offs along Old Shulls Mill Road and the main parking area on N.C. 105 near the Old Shulls Mill Road intersection.

“Visitors who park in these areas will be towed,” the release stated.

The commission will not stock the section with trout this fall, the release stated.

“Landowners in this section of the Watauga River have always supported access for trout angling,” said Kin Hodges, a district fisheries biologist with the commission. “But activities not related to fishing have recently escalated to the point that the landowners felt they needed to close off all parking access.”

Hodges did not return a phone call and email request for additional information as of presstime.

The section of river, which includes an old dam, is also a popular swimming hole. An article on a local real estate website listed the site among the “top 10 swimming holes around Boone,” stating, “this popular spot is sure to bring in rowdy crowds all summer long.”

In the release, Hodges said commission staff continue to explore options to restore angler access to this highly valued section of the Watauga River, but until then suggests anglers fish the lower part of this stretch of Delayed Harvest water running downstream to the N.C. 105 bridge and an additional section of water in Valle Crucis, which opened Oct. 1 under Delayed Harvest regulations and will receive its allotted stockings this fall.

Other Delayed Harvest trout fishing opportunities in the Watauga County area include two separate sections of water on Elk Creek in western Wilkes County near the Watauga County border.

Loss of public access to trout waters on private lands has been an ongoing problem for commission fisheries biologists, the release stated.

“Unfortunately, this scenario of losing fishing access to trout waters on private lands plays out all too frequently as the access provided by private landowners is used for purposes other than fishing,” Hodges said.