The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will implement a new 14-inch minimum length limit for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in most western North Carolina waters effective Aug. 1.
The daily creel limit, which is five black bass in any combination with two under the minimum length limit, will remain in effect.
The new minimum length limit will apply to all western North Carolina waters except for small portions of the New River in Alleghany County, where a special regulation conforms to Virginia regulations. The New River in that area meanders back and forth across the border of North Carolina and Virginia.
The new length limit will replace the statewide general length limit of smallmouth and spotted bass, which were managed under a 12-inch limit previously. In addition, largemouth bass in waters in and west of Madison, Buncombe, Henderson and Polk counties, as well as in Public Mountain Trout Waters, will have the same 14-inch regulation.
“We analyzed the data and found an opportunity to apply a single regulation for black bass in North Carolina,” said David Yow, warmwater fisheries research coordinator for the Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries. “In the past we believed that black bass in these western waters grew too slowly to be managed for the larger sizes, but our recent work indicates that most of our stream and reservoir bass populations will perform well under the 14-inch limit.”
Yow also hopes that simple, straight-forward bass regulations will encourage more anglers to try their luck on a mountain lake or river.
According to Yow, most anglers should welcome the increased protection for smallmouth and largemouth bass, but may be concerned about increasing protection of the spotted bass that have appeared in many mountain reservoirs. However, spotted bass had to be included in the regulation because they can interbreed with the other two species to create hybrids.
“The presence of hybrids would make it nearly impossible to identify a fish positively as a spotted bass,” Yow said. “So the only way we can protect largemouth and smallmouth bass is to protect them all.”
Anglers can remove spotted bass from their favorite smallmouth or largemouth streams and reservoirs by keeping five per day, including two of any size, as in the past.
Special black bass regulations may be applied in the future to other waters, as additional bass surveys are conducted and new data are analyzed.
“If the science suggests that a particular bass fishery needs a different regulation, we’ll consider a proposal to bring to public hearings,” Yow said.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters visit the Commission’s website, www.ncwildlife.org or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 707-0220.
Logo courtesy of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission