North Carolina Department of Wildlife Resources Fisheries Biologist Kin Hodges will not be fishing for complements at The Womens League of Mount Airy Fly Fishing Expo Dinner and Silent Auction on Oct. 20. His presentation will be about fly fishing and outdoor opportunities.
“Giving people information that keeps them generally aware of opportunities we have is the role of the commission,” said Hodges.
The event is scheduled to conclude with the dinner and auction set for 6:30 p.m. at Old North State Winery. Hodges said his program will highlight trout fishing and trout habitat management in North Carolina. He also will briefly discuss the Becoming an Outdoor Woman program.
BOW is an all-encompassing state program that seeks to spark interest in women in outdoor activities including fly fishing, firearm safety, wilderness survival, muzzle loading, canoeing and backpacking.
“Most attendees’ response has been good to this program,” said Hodges. “It has proved extremely popular.” He said that overall the demographics of those involved in outdoor sports has changed. Hodges said the state population has become more urban. He added that many do not have a father or grandfather to serve as a mentor for outdoor activities.
“This is especially the case with women who do not get a lot of exposure to hunting and fishing,” added Hodges. “A great deal of my presentation will also be educating the public concerning protecting the environment for trout.” He said the department can review and comment on building permits for projects that could affect streams, but the majority of action on this front is handled by the State Division of Water Quality.
Hodges said that in addition to projects to improve trout stream habitat, the department concentrates on growing fish in hatcheries for what is termed hatchery supported streams. These are streams where fish are stocked to be harvested quickly by anglers. The department also operates delayed harvest streams, such as the Ararat River, where the emphasis is on catch and release and the area is more recreation oriented.
One example of the second project is the Ararat River Greenway and Restoration Project. Improvements to a 2.2-mile stretch from Riverside Park to U.S. 52 included a canoe launch, two soccer fields and the H.B. Rowe Environmental Park.
He added that trout can only tolerate streams where the temperature does not get above 70 degrees. Many such streams have been made available to the public through agreements with landowners.
“The cornerstone of our programs is to provide good public access,” said Hodges. “It’s a partnership many landowners don’t participate in because they want to maintain more control over their property.”
Hodges said that there has been a loss of miles of streams where land has been closed off to the public by landowners leaving the program and by development around streams. He added that many of the properties affecting streams are owned by farmers. In the past few years, farmers have retired and land is sold and subdivided to new landowners who do not participate in the program.
“We do as much as we can to help landowners make the situation work,” added Hodges. “It’s a lot of work but we have really generous people that just want to give back to the community.”
His educational program also will be geared to showcasing outdoor sportsman etiquette, which also impacts stream availability.
“A big thing in the loss of fishing opportunities is the misuse of property by the public,” said Hodges. “Trash left behind and running cars across fields sometimes creates an unintended open invitation to use property. We try to put signs up to remind people of proper behavior. They must understand they are a guest.”
Hodges said that nationwide there has been a decrease in interest in fishing and hunting. He pointed out the number of hunting and fishing licenses in the state has remained steady but the population has doubled. His display also will include fiberglass models of fish to help teach the public to better identify fish species.
“Anything we do to help people be exposed to the opportunities is the future,” concluded Hodges. “Without license sales we cannot support the programs we do.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.