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Accessible Fishing Opportunities Abound in National Forests

National Fishing and Boating Week, a part of the June celebration of Great Outdoors Month, will be celebrated again this year June 2 – 10. It’s a time when fishing fanatics and amateur anglers will visit national forests and grasslands across the country to try their hands at landing the big one.

On the National Forests in North Carolina, anglers with physical disabilities who visit the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, and Croatan National Forests will have a number of accessible piers to choose from. Some of these piers provide access to premier trout fishing destinations.

“For more than 20 years, the National Forests in North Carolina and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have been committed to providing anglers of all abilities with the opportunity to go fishing on public lands,” said Sheryl Bryan, the forests’ fisheries and wildlife biologist.

Some of these piers provide access to premier trout fishing destinations.

“During this time, forest and district biologists, engineers, landscape architects and recreation proponents have worked together to create a comprehensive network of accessible fishing opportunities across a diversity or resources,” added Delce Dyer, the forests’ developed recreation program manager.

Today, there are close to 20 barrier-free fishing piers in the four national forests. Through careful planning, design and construction — in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission — accessible fishing facilities have been constructed from the mountains to the sea. The facilities provide fishing opportunities in warm-water reservoirs and small ponds, as well as cold-water streams and rivers.

“Designs of fishing piers that extend over waterways have been refined over the years and have been adopted for use by the Wildlife Resources Commission throughout the state,” said Lynn Hicks, engineer and heritage and recreation staff officer. ”Site-specific designs have provided accessible parking and routes to these water-based sites, and most of the fishing piers include areas for both seated and standing fishing.”

Recent piers include a metal mesh water-viewing component into a portion of the pier’s flooring.

Accessible facilities on majestic Cherokee Lake in Nantahala National Forest include picnic tables and a pavilion, all connected along an accessible route. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

Accessible facilities on majestic Cherokee Lake in Nantahala National Forest include picnic tables and a pavilion, all connected along an accessible route. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

In addition to tourists, a number of local residents regularly use the accessible piers. In many communities, the piers have become centers for frequent outdoor recreation. For example, Boone Fork Pond pier, near the communities of Lenoir and Hudson, is commonly used as an outdoor destination for the mentally and physically challenged. Chapters of Wounded Warriors have assisted with projects, particularly on the Croatan National Forest. Other partners who have provided funding or assistance in constructing these facilities include Trout Unlimited, the Muskie Club, and Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society. The two piers near Robbinsville — one on a small pond, the other on Santeetlah Lake — provide community fishing opportunities. Many of these accessible fishing facilities are used during National Fishing Week activities, including sites for Special Needs Fishing Days.

Great Outdoors Month is a time for all Americans to get outside and take part in a number of national events that encourage people to hike, fish, boat and/or camp at locations all across the country.  June 9 is also a fee free day for public lands including national forests.  So join friends and family and take time to celebrate our national heritage and enjoy the wonders of our national landscape.

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