By Don Mallicoat-
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently launched an online interactive map that identifies more than 500 public fishing areas across the state, many of which are owned or managed by the Commission. The North Carolina Interactive Fishing Map allows users to search for and view information about public fishing areas around geographic areas of interest. Visitors can view the entire state, or search locations by address, by zip code or by county. Once they enter a location, they can then click on a map access point to get additional information about the site, such as the name of the access site, the type of access available, the water body name, the primary fisheries present, directions to the site and the entity that owns and/or manages the site.
They also can select the “zoom to site” button for a closer look at the site’s location. Selecting the “satellite” view enables users to view aerial imagery of the access site. Visitors can search the map by fish species, specific water body, type of water body and type of access. They also can purchase fishing licenses by clicking on the “Purchase License” icon.
“We hope that this new map will be useful for anyone who fishes or wants to start fishing in North Carolina,” said Kevin Hining, a fisheries biologist with the Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries. “Our goal is for the map to serve as a comprehensive information source for anglers looking for a publicly accessible place to fish in North Carolina, which is why we included sites that are managed by entities other than the Commission, such as municipalities, state parks and other groups.”
The map also shows the different trout classifications for all public mountain trout waters, coastal and joint water boundaries along the coast, game land boundaries and county boundaries. Future updates to improve the map’s functionality and usability will include links to additional information about the access sites, including photographs, water bodies and fish collected during biological surveys conducted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Southwick Associates in Florida is the leading outdoor industry survey firm. They report the facts of trends in the hunting and fishing industry without spin. It is what it is. They just reported a disturbing trend that should alert hunters and more particularly state and federal legislators and game officials. When asked in a HunterSurvey.com poll if access to any of the places they tried to hunt in the past year had been restricted or placed off limits to them, nearly 23 percent of hunters said it had. When compared to the previous year’s results to the same question, hunters who lost land access grew by less than one percent, a statistically insignificant bump, but their numbers still reveal that nearly one in four sportsmen nationwide are potentially affected by losing access to available hunting land.
“Finding a place to hunt remains one of the biggest challenges to hunters and hunter recruitment” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com. “As available lands for hunting diminish or change ownership, some hunters will inevitably grow frustrated and pursue other activities.” Indeed, more than half (52 percent) of those respondents who admitted to losing access to a hunting location said their time spent hunting last year was reduced as a result—a seven percent increase over the previous year—while 11 percent said the lost land kept them from hunting altogether. Only seven percent of those respondents said they acquired access to another property where they were able to hunt more than planned.
Southwick pointed to the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which was part of the 2008 Farm Bill, as a key example of programs designed to improve access to hunting and fishing lands and waters. VPA-HIP was intended to provide three years of funding to augment state land access programs that provide incentives for private landowners to open their lands to hunting and fishing. With slashes in government funding and private properties increasingly restricted, land access will continue to be an issue for many sportsmen.
As valuable as VPA-HIP is, as well as other state and federal legislation to improve hunter access to private and public land, it is all meaningless if the land is not habitable for wildlife. That’s the problem we have here in the mountains. With over 1 million acres of public land we have a wildlife desert. Programs are ineffective if they do not eliminate bureaucratic barriers to habitat management.