Jackson County moved one step closer to becoming the N.C. Trout Capital on Wednesday, June 1 in Raleigh, as members of the state legislature recognized the county as the state’s Premier Trout Fishing Destination.
N.C. Senator Jim Davis and N.C. House Representative Joe Sam Queen both participated and spoke before the legislature in support of bestowing this honor upon Jackson County. Also in attendance in support of the hearing in Raleigh were Julie Spiro, Executive Director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce; Brian McMahan, Chairman of the Jackson County Commissioners; Jackson County fly fishing guide and co-founder of the WNC Fly Fishing Trail Alex Bell; Jackson County fly fishing guide Shannon Messer; and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Assistant Director Kelly Donaldson.
The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce in Sylva and Jackson County Commissioners requested from the North Carolina General Assembly to proclaim Jackson County the official Trout Capital of North Carolina on April 21.
The General Assembly recognized the county’s immense natural resources and its place in history as home to the first fly fishing trail in the United States.
Rep. Joe Sam Queen, who presented the Member Statement on the House floor June 1 said, “It’s part of our heritage and it’s key to our economy. I’m all for supporting it.”
Queen said the possibilities for economic growth are endless.
“There are crafts, there is clothing, hats, creels, the making of the flies, there is a good fly fishing club at WCU, it’s just endless,” said Rep. Queen.
Later that afternoon, Sen. Davis presented a Senatorial Statement on the Senate floor as well.
Jackson County contains 4,600 miles of trout streams and receives an annual stocking of 92,800 trout, which is the most of any county in the state. It also features the state’s longest contiguous stretch of NC Mountain Heritage Trout Waters. Three of the 13 towns designated with Mountain Heritage Trout Waters are in Jackson County: Sylva, Dillsboro and Webster.
A recent N.C. Fish and Wildlife study found that trout fishing opportunities have a $174 million economic impact to Western North Carolina.
The designation will move forward through the state House and Senate for a vote, potentially designating Jackson County as the official N.C. Trout Capital, which could occur in early 2017 during the state’s long session.
Jackson County Commission Chair Brian McMahan said, “We are very excited that Jackson County has support among the members of the N.C. General Assembly in proclaiming Jackson County as the Premier Trout Fishing Destination in the state.
“We will continue to campaign on behalf of the official Trout Capital designation that may come early in the 2017 long session of the N.C. General Assembly, with the filing of the bill,” McMahan added.
In 2009, Jackson County Chamber Director Julie Spiro co-founded the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, a first of its kind in the industry that directs anglers to 15 prime spots to catch trout in the county. She knows the trail’s positive impact on Jackson County and hopes this designation brings similar results. The Chamber has spearheaded the official designation efforts.
“We are pleased our legislators have been supportive of our efforts to increase the visibility of fishing industry in Western North Carolina,” Spiro said. “We’re excited and optimistic, and look forward to branding Jackson County as the Premier Trout Fishing Destination in the State, and ultimately the Trout Capital. This adds credibility to the success of the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, and provides additional opportunities for fishing and accommodation packages, retailers and outfitters expansion of offerings, and potentially a new festival for our region.”
For more information on trout fishing in Jackson County, or to receive a free guide to the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, call (828) 586-2155, or go to www.NCTroutCapital.com.