North Carolina launches habitat trail

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Whether you call it the Educational Fishing Trail or the BASSTrail, an innovative pilot program that takes fish habitat projects to the next level will open late this year or early next at Oak Hollow Lake.

This joint effort between the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation (NCBN), especially its youth group, will allow anglers to learn about habitat needs of bass as they fish a variety of cover placed sequentially according to season.

“One of the biggest problems we see in conservation is that amateur biologists throw in Christmas trees or logs, and much of the time they do it wrong,” said Bill Frazier, North Carolina conservation director.

Habitat on the course, however, will be placed according to what Frazier and others have learned about where bass are and what they are doing during different times of the year. He especially credits Jerod Harman and Tim Cook, conservation directors from West Virginia and Texas, for the ground-breaking projects that they have led. He said he was also inspired by the habitat work that B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott has done at his private waters in Pintlala, as well as the Alabama Bass Trail concept, a promotional program for 13 fisheries in that state.

“You will be able to visit the marina and pick up a card that shows you the ‘holes’ arranged by season and buoyed,” Frazier explained. “It’s like a golf course, only for bass fishing.”

Frazier will also publish a brochure, as well as illustrations on both the NCWRC and NCBN websites to help anglers learn to pattern bass by seasons.

The brochure will include an angler survey intended to help the partners determine the trail’s popularity, as well as learn ways to improve it.

This first trail will have 11 sites initially, with six in summer and winter areas and five in pre- and post-spawning areas, according to NCWRC, which said more sites could be added later “if the initial project is deemed successful and the lake manager approves.”

Setup and maintenance cost will be minimal, as NCBN youth build and install the attractors, with assistance from the commission.

NCWRC noted that it routinely places fish habitat in public waters to attract fish.

“However, using fish attractors to educate the public about different habitats and seasonal patterns of sportfish will provide anglers the necessary skills to enjoy fishing for a lifetime,” said Frazier.