On The Fly South April 2021
We now are full-bore into the spring season and fishing is picking up all over the southland. The opportunities in the region are almost limitless, but w’ve picked out a few to profile that should whet your appetite for some fly casting.
Claude Preston gives you an insiders look at the saltwater action at Belize’s Turneffe Atoll, while we also profile the trout fishing on South Carolina’s Whitewater River. Additonally, we inspect the cold water action on Georgia’s original delayed-harvest stream, Smith Creek. Rounding out the coveragte is a field test of the new Penn Battle saltwater fly fishing combos, along with resort and fly tying features.
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Around the South:
West Virginia “Gold Rush” Runs Through April 3
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
On March 16, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the West Virginia Gold Rush is returning for its fourth year. For the first time, Gold Rush will include 12 days of trout stockings at some of the state’s most popular fishing lakes and streams.
“Every year through our incredible Gold Rush program, more and more people are discovering the thrill of fishing in West Virginia’s pristine waters, surrounded by the awe-inspiring nature we are blessed to enjoy in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Many are creating memories and family bonds that will last a lifetime,” Gov. Justice said.
From March 23 to April 3, the WVDNR will stock 50,000 golden rainbow trout at 62 lakes and streams, including waters in or near 15 state parks and forests. Stockings are scheduled to run through April 3. Stocking locations can be found at GoldRushWV.com.
“The golden rainbow trout is a really unique fish and a little more difficult to catch than a regular rainbow trout, which makes them a trophy for many anglers,” said WVDNR Hatchery Program Manager Jim Hedrick. “Once you see their unmistakable, bright-yellow color in the water, you can’t help but get excited and we hope folks are able to get out this year and enjoy this exciting event.”
WV State Parks Discount
A discount associated with Gold Rush is also available at several state parks and forests. Those interested in booking a stay can checkout using the discount code “GOLD” online at WVstateparks.com for 15% off their entire lodge or cabin reservation. Exclusions apply and details can be found at WVstateparks.com/deals.
“Gold Rush is an exciting event that encourages anglers and their families to visit our lakes, streams and wonderful parks and forests all throughout the state,” said West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel. “Not only is this event great for tourism, it provides exciting opportunities for kids and new anglers to enjoy trout fishing.”
Gold Rush Giveaways
In addition to extending Gold Rush to 12 days, the WVDNR is increasing the number of prizes anglers can win for catching a tagged trout. This year, 100 trout will receive a special numbered tag, which can be entered to win one of four prizes. The grand prize is a three-night cabin stay at Blackwater Falls State Park. Other prizes include one-night cabin stays at a state park or forest, West Virginia State Parks gift cards and exclusive Gold Rush merchandise.
For those who don’t reel in one of the 100 golden rainbow trout with a tag, there are still chances to win prizes by signing up to receive travel tips and information from the WVDNR at GoldRushWV.com.
Texas Fish Kill
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Winter weather the week of Feb. 14, 2021 led to fish kill events on the entire Texas coast. If fish do not make it to a refuge in deeper, more temperature stable water during cold weather, they may die when water temperatures reach a certain threshold. After the first fish kill was reported in the Lower Laguna Madre, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) biologists began the process of assessing kills across multiple bay systems on the coast.
Impacts to Fish from Feb. 2021 Event
An estimated minimum of 3.8 million fish were killed on the Texas coast during the Feb. 2021 freeze event. This fish kill consisted of at least 61 species. Non-recreational species contributed to 91% of the total mortality in numbers of fish. This includes species like Silver Perch, Hardhead Catfish, Pinfish, Bay Anchovy and Striped Mullet. While not sought after by most anglers, non-game fish are ecologically important, providing food for larger game fish as well as adding to the overall diversity of Texas Bays. Recreationally important game species accounted for the other 9% of the total. Of that 9%, the dominant species included Spotted Seatrout (48%), Black Drum (31%), Sheepshead (8%), Sand Seatrout (7%), Red Drum (3%), Gray Snapper (2%), and Red Snapper (<1%).
Both the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre bay systems were hit particularly hard by this event. The Lower Laguna Madre had the highest mortality of Spotted Seatrout with an
estimated 104,000 fish killed. That comprised 65% of the total estimated Spotted Seatrout killed and when combined with the Upper Laguna Madre, it comprised 89% of the total estimated Spotted Seatrout mortality along the Texas coast. Similarly, the Upper Laguna Madre had experienced Black Drum mortality at an estimated 82,600 fish and comprised 78% of the coastwide Black Drum killed.
“While some areas of the coast and some species of fish were clearly impacted more than others, overall this is the worst freeze related coastal fish kill we have experienced since the 1980’s.
There are some important lessons from those historical events that we need to draw upon as we work to accelerate the recovery of our fish stocks, particularly speckled trout along the mid and lower coast,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD. “The most obvious, and immediate one for speckled trout is conservation, a practice where every Texas coastal angler can make a contribution right now. Practicing catch and release and/or keeping fewer fish to take home in areas like the Laguna Madre will only give us that many more fish to rebuild from as we augment populations through our hatchery efforts, and we carefully evaluate what regulation changes may be needed to foster a quicker recovery for our bays.”
What can you do to help? As fish stocks recover from this freeze event, anglers are encouraged to practice conservation by choosing to catch and release fish or to harvest only those fish they feel they need to take home to eat. Conserving fish now can only aid in a quicker recovery.
Tennesse Fly Fishing Sweepstakes
Safari Club International
Enter today for a chance to win a Tennessee Fly Fishing Experience Package. The sweepstakes winner will receive a full-day fly fishing float trip for two guests on the Elk River near Lynchburg, Tennessee donated by Southern Pines Guide Service, two special edition SCIF fly rods from Walters Fly Rods, a one-night cabin stay with At River’s Edge Tennessee, fly fishing starter pack, breakfast from The Dutch Maid Bakery & Café, and a grilled shore lunch on the day of the trip.
Proceeds go to support the Safari Club International.
Entries available for $10 each.
Entries close April 30, 2021 with drawing to be held on May 3, 2021.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Trout Stocking
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
In February 2021, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, Fish & Aquatic Conservation program stocked 444,650 rainbow, brook, and brown trout, weighing 124,129 pounds in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. These fish fulfilled mitigation obligations and provided recreational fishing opportunities across the southeast.
In addition, Erwin National Fish Hatchery shipped 777,816 Rainbow trout eggs to production facilities across the country.
The six National Fish Hatcheries that provided these fish are Greers Ferry (AR), Norfork (AR), Dale Hollow (TN), Erwin (TN), Wolf Creek (KY) and Chattahoochee Forest (GA).
More Access to Texas Rivers
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Anglers and paddlers have some new options for their next fishing and paddling trips. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is pleased to announce two new opportunities to hit the water on the Brazos and San Marcos rivers while reopening public access at a former leased site on the Llano River.
The three public leased river access sites secured by the TPWD River Access and Conservation Areas Program include the new locations of Brazos Outdoor Center and Spencer Canoes and Shady Grove Campground along with a renewed lease at the Kingsland Slab RV Camp.
“Texas has over 40,000 miles of perennial rivers and creeks, and with 95% of the land held in private ownership, it can be a real challenge finding safe legal access for paddling and fishing.” said John Botros, TPWD River Access Coordinator. “These three newest leased access areas are great locations for bank, wade, and kayak fishing and paddling opportunities for the public.”
The Brazos Outdoor Center is downstream from Lake Granbury and provides a third public access site along the Brazos River. The site features 200 feet of river frontage for bank and wade fishing. Canoes and kayaks can be rented, and shuttle services are available for various lengths of paddle experiences depending on the time of year and river flow conditions. Additional amenities include restrooms, outdoor shower, and boat washing station. Access at the site is open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset for bank angling and launching non-motorized boats, canoes, or other floatable devices for the purpose of fishing.
Spencer Canoes and Shady Grove Campground is located near Martindale and is one of two access sites along the San Marcos River. The site boasts 200 feet of river frontage for bank or wade fishing and provides very different paddling / fishing experiences depending on the direction one floats to/from Spencer Canoes. The 5-mile float from the San Marcos River Retreat to Spencer Canoes offers swift water river sections such as Cottonseed Rapids as well as a portage around Martindale dam. The 5.25-mile section downstream of Spencer Canoes offers excellent fishing opportunities in the slower backwaters of the San Marcos River down to Staples dam. In addition, camping is available at the Shady Grove Campground for an extra charge.
The Kingsland Slab RV Camp is one of five public access sites established on the main stem of the Llano River. The site has 750 feet of river frontage for bank or wade fishing along with RV camping that includes electric, water, and sewer available throughout the campground. Kingsland Slab is an excellent place to catch White Bass when they are running upriver in the early spring. When rains provide flow and water temperatures reach 55 to 60°F, White Bass gather in the upper ends of Lake LBJ and begin migrating into the Llano River. White bass spawn over gravel or rock in 2 to 8 feet of flowing water.
The objective for TPWD is to establish lease agreements with landowners, resulting in increased river access for both anglers and paddlers. Since 2012, more than 20 public river access leases have been established with cooperating landowners. These agreements for leased access areas enabled or enhanced paddling and river fishing on more than 211 miles of 10 different rivers across Texas. A map, area descriptions and special conditions on public use for each site can be found on the TPWD River Access and Conservation Areas webpage.
River Access and Conservation Areas are funded by a combination of sources including donations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, sales of the Texas Rivers Conservation License Plate, and grant awards through the U.S. Farm Bill and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Find out more information about other river access initiatives including our Texas Paddling Trails Program by visiting the TPWD River Fishing page.