DAN KIBLER COLUMN: Wildlife Commission proposes fishing, hunting rule changes, schedules public meetings

Published 11:18 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

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The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has announced a series of public hearings across the state next month to discuss proposed changes to hunting and fishing regulations for the 2024-25 season.

Dan Kibler

Meetings will be as follows:

Piedmont Region, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m., Southwest Randolph H.S. auditorium, Asheboro;

Mountain Region, Thursday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Haywood C.C. auditorium, Clyde;

Coastal Region, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Craven County Courthouse, New Bern;

Virtual Zoom, Thursday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m. Pre-registion required at  https://ncwildlife-org.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_JQp6XDn8QSCXBrvDJJf3Bg#/registration or by calling 877-853-5247 or 888-788-0999, Webinar ID 161 386 3150.

Sportsman can also comment on proposals online at https://ncwildlife.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_d7mDopIMdeyGSBU, by emailing regulatdions@ncwildlife.org, or by mail to Rule-Making Coordinator, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701.

The majority or regulation changes affect mountain trout, simply because of the number of streams involved. Primary among those is removing sections  of the Little River in Alleghany County, Helton Creek in Ashe County and the East Prong Roaring River in Wilkes County.

The Commission proposes to remove the delayed-harvest section of the Little River in Alleghany County and reclassify the lower 1.2-mile section to hatchery supported watts. The result is removing 1.3 miles of water from public fishing because access to private land has been restricted. It proposes removing .7 miles of water on Helton Creek because the private property through which the stream runs has been posted.

The Commission also proposes removing .7 miles of the East Prong Roaring River from the public trout waters program, making the lower boundary the Low Meadows Lane bridge below Stone Mountain State Park. Again, posted private property is forcing the Commission’s hand.

The Commission proposes changing the size limit on striped bass and its hybrids on Kerr (Buggs Island) Lake, prohibiting the possession of fish larger than 26 inches from Oct. 1-May 31. The size minimum will remain 20 inches. This proposal matches one made public by Virginia, which handles the lead management role on the 49,500-acre border reservoir.

The Commission wants to eliminate the 16-inch size minimum for striped bass and hybrids on Mountain Island Reservoir and Lake Thom-A-Lex. Stripers and hybrids are no longer being stocked on these two reservoirs.

One proposal targeting largemouth bass basically tells anglers they have been correct in complaining about the decline of the bass fishery on Shearon Harris Reservoir between Raleigh and Charlotte. Instead of a 16- to 20-inch slot limit, the daily 5-fish limit will allow two fish less than 14 inches.

The Commission proposes eliminating harvest of American shad on the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin upstream of Blewett Falls Dam and prohibiting harvest in the Roanoke River upstream from Roanoke Rapids Dam.

A final freshwater proposed rule change would remove the daily creel limit of 20 fish and minimum size limit of 8 inches for crappie in Ramseur Lake because the population has become stunted.

The Commission proposes reducing the daily creel limit for flounder from four fish to one fish, with a Sept. 1-14 season open in Joint and Inland waters. This makes regulations in those waters match those in Coastal waters.

As far as proposed changes to hunting regulations go, the Commission wants to move the antler-less season on the portion of the Yadkin River Game Land in Montgomery County from moderate to maximum. This allows those lands to have the same regulations as the rest of the game lands and surrounding private lands.

The Commission also wants to shift the blackpowder and gun deer seasons in the Western region so blackpowder hunting begins on the second Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs until gun season opens the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It would also move the one-week and one-day antlerless seasons to Thanksgiving week.

Last, the Commission wants to designate a 4,830-acre portion of the R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands as the Caswell Small Game Focal Area, which will require hunters to draw permits for all quail and woodcock hunting and point-of-sale permit hunting only for rabbit and squirrels outside the usual three-days-per-week format.

Dan Kibler has covered the outdoors since 1985 as outdoors editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and later as managing editor of Carolina Sportsman until his retirement in 2021.