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STATE: Veterans can fish Mountain Heritage Trout Waters for free

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission established the Mountain Heritage Trout Waters Program in 2008 to promote trout fishing as a heritage tourism activity on trout waters that run through 17 mountain communities in western North Carolina.

Typically, anglers 16 and older must purchase a three-day license or use any valid inland fishing license to fish these waters. However, the North Carolina General Assembly recently passed legislation that as of Oct. 1, veterans are now allowed to fish these waters for free.

The legislation states that a resident or nonresident who served as a member of the Armed Forces and who separated under honorable conditions is exempt from fishing license requirements while fishing in Mountain Heritage Trout Waters. Veterans must always have valid documentation of their service while fishing to be exempt.

When fishing public mountain trout waters classified as Hatchery Supported, anglers may keep up to seven trout per day, per angler, with no bait or lure restrictions and no size limits. The season for Hatchery Supported Trout Waters runs from the first Saturday in April until the last day of February. Hatchery Supported Trout Waters are closed to fishing from March 1 to the first Saturday in April each year.

When fishing on public mountain trout waters classified as Delayed Harvest, anglers must use single-hook artificial lures and cannot harvest or possess any trout from Oct. 1 until the first Saturday of June. At that time waters re-open at 6 a.m. to youth 15 years old and younger under Hatchery Supported regulations, with no bait restriction, no minimum length limit and a 7-trout-per-day creel limit. Waters open to all anglers that same day at noon. Hatchery Supported regulations remain in effect until Oct. 1 each year.

To purchase a Mountain Heritage Trout Waters license, call 1-888-248-6834 or purchase online at ncwildlife.org.