By: Chris Shaffer
The general North Carolina trout opener is still a week away. However, the famed Cherokee trout opener is this Saturday March 30. Last season, more than 5,000 anglers took part in the now annual event. According to Fish Cherokee more than 36,000 trout were stocked in the last two weeks in preparation for the opener. Those join tens of thousands of trout previously stocked this winter and thousands more wild trout.
Despite poor weather this winter, Mike Lavoie, Fisheries Manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians told us he’s expecting a banner opener. He admitted streams are flowing higher than they often do, but explained that flows are retreating and conditions point to a long season complimented with good flows and cool, clean water.
“Flows have been really good. The water hasn’t been too high and we are excited about it. We’ve had nothing catastrophic in terms of flooding, but we’ve had high water all winter,” Lavoie added. “The high water adds some insurance against drought. Right now there’s springs and creeks flowing that we don’t always see. It’s been a great recharge for our lands. The better news is we haven’t had a flow this year that exceeded one of our peak flows last year.”
Even more important is that the weather for this week and weekend looks excellent. Creeks will be in great shape and loaded with mostly rainbow trout.
“This week looks great. We aren’t expecting any rain late this week and for the opener on Saturday,” Lavoie mentioned. “Our waters have been closed to fishing the last few weeks. The two-week closure allows the river to rest and our guys have been hard at stocking every day. We are stocking more than 1,000 fish per mile. It’s going to be a jam-packed and fun weekend. We have 30 miles of stocked water so that’s 30,000 fish! Keep in mind those fish are on top of weekly stockings all winter. There’s a ton of trout up here! We are stocking some big fish too. I saw some in the five-to-seven-pound range go in this week. On top of that there are a lot of wild fish that are being caught, too.”
This winter Team Pautzke spend a week fishing and filming the same public waters that are re-opening Saturday. We found fishing to be excellent and caught mostly rainbow trout, but some awesome brook trout as well. Our success came on Peach Garlic and Garlic Salmon Egg Fire Bait, Pink Shrimp Fire Balls and Silver Label and Natural Deluxe salmon eggs.
To learn more about fishing in Downtown Cherokee please watch the following episode of Pautzke Outdoors:
To learn more about fishing Bunches Creek, located on the Cherokee Reservation please watch the following episode of Pautzke Outdoors:
According to Lavoie there is a tagged trout tournament this weekend taking place in Cherokee. Anglers can purchase an additional $11 tag permit, which allows you to cash in when catching a tagged fish. Stocked fish have tags on them from $25 to $5000. More than $20,000 in total tagged fish is in the river, and it is attainable – they say. Proof came in September when a $5000 tagged fish was caught.
For more info on this weekend’s opening day schedule and events please visit http://www.fishcherokee.com.