Things are finally looking up for the Catawba River Tailwater (Tailrace) below lake James. Duke-Energy has a new powerhouse in place and the water is flowing. The upside to the new powerhouse is the new turbines modulate dissolved oxygen, which means more O2 for our finned friends. In addition there has been new minimum flow instated which is will be extremely helpful to the trout during periods of non-generation. The NCWRC restocked the special regulation zone with 10,000 (7-8 inch)brown trout in Fall of 2011. The recent stocking was to help re-establish a population of trout in the river. However, there are still holdover trout being caught!
So here is the skinny on the Catawba River below Lake James. If you are looking to fish the river the information below may be useful. The most important thing to pay attention to is the generation schedules and the USGS gauge.
Scheduled Flows: http://www.duke-energy.com/lakes/scheduled-flow-releases.asp
Wading access is very limited on the Catawba River below Lake James. There are only two access points along the river. If you access the river be mindful of private property and stay below the high water mark. Check the flow schedule before you wade! The two access points are at the Watermill access located of Watermill Rd in Glen Alpine and the Bridgewater access located below the Bridgewater Hydro Station on Lake James. The Bridge water access point is under Hatchery Supported regulations, so it will be closed from the last day of February thru the first Saturday in April.
If you are looking to float the river you will want to launch at the Bridgewater access which is located below the Bridgewater Hydro Station. A boat ramp is located just below the public fishing pier. Your take out point will be 8 miles down stream at the Watermill access, which is located off Watermill Rd in Glenn Alpine, NC. The boat ramp is located on the right just below the bridge. The town of Glen Alpine maintains the parking area and ramp. In the event the gate is locked at the access, call the Glen Alpine Police, they will unlock it for you. You can still launch at the Bridgewater access when the Hatchery Supported section is closed, just don’t fish it.
The next float option is to launch at the Watermill access and float to the City of Morganton. Keep in mind there are no boat ramps to take out at. The best place to take out at is the park next to Judges on Hwy 70 in Morganton. There is a low water dam (City of Morganton Water Intake) on this section and you will need to portage your watercraft around the dam, DO NOT attempt to float over it on high water flow because there is a nasty hydraulic that can swamp a watercraft. I recommend this section to those in rafts, canoes, etc. Leave the drift boats at home. This is a half day float
One generator flows are the best flows for floating this river. Minimum flow (no generators) equals a long day and lots of rowing/paddling. Two generators means the river is rocking, so use caution if you choose to float this flow.
Inexperienced boaters need to steer clear of one or two generator flows!
The Catawba River below Lake James is regulated under Hatchery Supported Regulations and Special Trout Regulations.
Hatchery Supported Regulations: From the Dam at Lake James to Muddy Creek
Special Trout Regulations: From Muddy Creek to the City of Morganton intake Dam.