Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hydroelectric station safety rules went into effect on Jan. 1, with approval by the N.C. Wildlife Resources commissioners.
The rules affect seven Duke Energy plants and two Alcoa Power generating facilities.
The rule covers 100 feet upstream and downstream of the dams and associated structures and requires people in a boat within this zone to wear an approved personal flotation device (life jacket).
No vessel may tie off to any part of the station structure or accessory portions. And you can’t anchor or otherwise secure a vessel within the 100-foot zone.
The rule applies to High Rock and Narrows dams, both owned by Alcoa. The other areas are on the Catawba and Green rivers and are owned by Duke Energy.
Q&A on the new rule
Q: Can I still net shad behind the dam at High Rock?
A: Yes, as long as everyone in the boat is wearing an approved PFD and the boat is not tied to any portion of the structure or anchored within the 100-foot zone.
Q: Can I anchor and fish for catfish if I am not in front of the powerhouse structure but still within the 100-foot zone?
A: No. A boat cannot anchor anywhere within the 100-foot exclusion zone.
Q: Can I drift fish within the 100-foot zone?
A: Yes
Q: How will I know where the 100 foot zone begins?
A: Both Alcoa and Duke Energy will be placing signs and other markers to indicate the exclusionary zone.
Fishermen who have braved the recent rain, sleet and snow have continued to put crappie in their buckets. Fish ranging in size from the average 9-incher to those weighing more than a pound have been reeled in. Pumpkin-seed color jigs along with green/yellow and black/green are working best. 
Areas to try include Dutch Second Creek along the rock bridge abutment along Bringle Ferry Road and Crane Creek, near the gameland side. Focus on the dropoffs on the points.
Water conditions on High Rock Lake are clear to slightly stained in most areas, with water levels remaining within several feet of full. Most portions of High Rock Lake are accessible to boats with very little floating hazards.
For those who operate in the upper main channel areas upstream of Shriner’s Point and Swearing Creek, the main river channel has shifted from the Rowan side of the lake and now crosses the center of the very shallow mud flat area. Boaters should use caution when exploring this area, but once the new deeper channel is located most will find travel fairly easy.
Give to wildlife on income tax form
When you give through the tax check-off (Line 26) of your state income tax form, it helps biologists like Jenna Begier create nesting areas for the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Checking the Line 26 option lets you give any portion of your refund to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund. This fund helps the Wildlife Diversity Program of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission with projects benefiting songbirds, salamanders, crayfish and dozens of other species.
“Giving through the tax check-off provides critical funding for the Wildlife Diversity Program and its work to conserve wildlife and wildlife habitats across the state,” said Chris McGrath, Wildlife Diversity Program coordinator. “Every dollar you give goes to projects that protect sea turtle nests, aid the acquisition and management of colonial waterbird nesting colony islands, monitor freshwater mussels to promote clean water for our future, and research to determine the status of salamanders and songbirds and dozens of other projects. It helps to further our understanding of the natural world and point us towards a future with clean water, abundant natural habitat, and bountiful wildlife populations.”
Although the program targets nongame animals, game species such as smallmouth bass, deer and quail also benefit because they share many of the same habitats.
Fly-Fishing tournament
Call it casting for a cause, the 2008 Pisgah Fly Masters tournament is much more than a fly-fishing competition.
Proceeds from the inaugural event, to be held March 29-30 on the Davidson River under a special use permit by the U.S. Forest Service, will benefit classroom construction at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
“Conservation is the real winner,” said organizer and primary sponsor Kevin Howell of Davidson River Outfitters. “The competition will be fun and it will raise awareness and funding for education about coldwater fisheries.”
The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education is a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission visitor and learning facility located near Brevard. The planned classroom will be used for educational programs including aquatic habitats, fly fishing and fly tying.
The Pisgah Fly Masters tournament will consist of casting for distance and accuracy on Saturday at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. On Sunday, the top 10 finishers will move to on-stream competition at Davidson River Outfitters’ private access portion of the Davidson River. First place will take home a Sage 8-foot, six-inch Z Axis rod, Lamson Velocity reel with Rio fly line ń and bragging rights.
Feb. 15 is the entry deadline. Competition is limited to the first 125 entrants, with a $50 registration fee. For more information, contact Emilie Johnson at 828-877-4423.
Drought compresses trout stocking
In response to drought conditions forecasted for this spring and summer, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will compress its trout stocking schedule, stocking the majority of fish in March, April and May, and limiting the numbers of trout stocked in June and July.
During a year with normal precipitation and weather conditions, personnel stock trout throughout the summer and fall. However, Commission biologists determined that a compressed stocking schedule would help minimize the drought’s impact on hatchery fish, particularly the fish that are now being grown for stocking in 2009.
In addition to helping protect the 2009 fish, the compressed schedule will ensure the majority of this year’s fish are stocked when stream conditions are more favorable than they would be later in the summer when water temperatures typically are higher and flows lower.
“With much of North Carolina in an exceptional drought and drought conditions forecasted into the summer, the aquatic habitat and environmental conditions for hatchery-trout production likely will continue to decline,” said Kyle Briggs, statewide hatchery production coordinator for the Commission. “However, we have every intention of stocking all of the trout scheduled for release in 2008 and will continue to target the normal sizes for those trout being stocked.” 
Waterfowl season ended at sunset Saturday. Large numbers of coots were found throughout the upper reaches of High Rock Lake. Mallards, wood ducks and widgeon were found in a few successful hunters bags.
Youth waterfowl day is Feb.2.
Small game hunters are finding good numbers of rabbits, often with multiple jumps and races going on at once. Most area game lands are open to rabbit hunting after deer season closes, however hunters should check regulations on specific public lands they may choose to hunt. Special permit-only gamelands such as Second Creek Game Lands have rules that are different most public hunt areas.This permit only game land is only open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week for rabbit, quail and squirrel hunting.
n n nE-mail Sgt. Anthony Sharum of the N.C. Wildlife Resources at