Public access closed to part of trout water on Watauga River

Press release

from N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

A popular section of Delayed Harvest trout water on the Watauga River west of Boone in Watauga County where private landowners have allowed anglers to access the river in the past has closed to public access due to landowner concerns about activities other than fishing.

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, where the caboose was formerly located. Landowners have posted “no trespass” 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. Because this section of the river is no longer accessible to the public, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will not stock it with trout this fall.

“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 said that Commission staff continues to explore options to restore angler access to this highly valued section of the Watauga River; however, until staff can find a suitable solution, Hodges 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 will open on 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. According to Hodges, this latest closure is particularly disappointing because it was a popular trout fishing destination. “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.”
To help prevent future closures of trout waters, Hodges reminds anglers to:
Respect private property and landowners;
Remove all trash and litter from fishing and parking areas;
Park only in designated areas and leaving driveways open for pass-through traffic;
Close and/or locking gates after use;
Report wildlife violations by calling 1-800-662-7137.

Find additional fishing opportunities for trout and other species across the state by visiting the Commission’s new N.C. Interactive Fishing Map. For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities. To learn more, visit


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