State of the Fishery


The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is the state government agency created by the General Assembly in 1947 to conserve and sustain the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The purpose of the Commission’s fish management program is to use science-based decision making and biologically sound management principles to enhance the quality and quantity of fish within Lake James and its watershed as well as support other North Carolina waters.

Lake James and its tributaries are stocked with fish such as Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, White Bass and Muskellunge populations for continued and varied angling opportunities. These fish need to be restocked due to environmental conditions that reduce their chance of reproducing naturally in their environments. These threats include aquatic invasive species, reduced natural habitats due to the 100 year old lake and urban development, and water quality and habitat degradation in the tributaries where they spawn.

Wildlife-associated recreation is a billion dollar industry in North Carolina. Trout fishing in particular contributes close to $150 million in direct spending to the economy. Keeping all the streams in the Lake James watershed in good conditions that support trout fishing and other wildlife-associated recreation, such as birding or other wildlife watching, directly supports the local and state economy.

The residents and visitors to the Lake James watershed are fortunate to have a ecosystem that is in good condition as compared to many other areas across North Carolina and the nation.  If it is to remain that way for coming generations, it is necessary to effectively address a number of current, and growing, threats including:

  • Increased development and deforestation and the resulting water quality degradation
  • Agricultural, industrial, and municipal pollution
  • Livestock operations and the possibility of the development of Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs) in the watershed
  • Atmospheric deposition of mercury and other toxins, as well as the increased acidity of precipitation
  • Invasive species – both animal and plant species that can harm both wildlife and humans.

The remainder of this section provides background on the Lake James watershed’s fishery, the role of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in sustaining and improving the fishery, some of the threats, and some of the measures being taken by LJEA and other organizations to protect the watershed and its human and wild residents.

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