Online Outdoors

By Scott T. Fletcher

Whether it’s learning about a new fishing spot, discovering a lake to take the grandchild, ferreting out a previously unknown boating access, knowing the current lake level, or studying a mountain trout map on which to float an #16 elk hair caddis, it’s always good to pick up a new outdoor tip.

Often those tips are available online, provided by state natural resource agencies, as well as several other non-governmental sources. You just need to know where to look. Checking these sources before you head out can save you time, effort, and in some cases, money. Below are a few beneficial websites to keep in mind:

Lake and Stream Information
• The NC/SC utility company Duke Energy has recently come out with a real-time app called, Lake View (in the App Store search “Duke Energy Lake View”). This app provides helpful information on current lake levels (i.e., Catawba-Wateree, Yadkin-Pee Dee, Nantahala, and several other Duke managed lake areas), flow releases below the hydroelectric facilities, boating access alerts such as closures, and special messages such as high water conditions and facility operations such as dam gate releases.

Boating and Fishing Access
• The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) provides excellent information regarding areas to fish, as well as waterway access (see “Fishing”). The site provides interactive maps on the various access types (e.g., bank access, boat ramps, canoe/kayak access) and the fish species found in that area. Along with that info comes a map of the various fish attractor locations (by lake) including the type (e.g., rock reef) and location coordinates (Lat/Long). In addition, there is also a public mountain trout water map for all the 26 mountain trout counties in NC (by stream classification).

For anglers in the NC Piedmont area that are looking for some hot “urban lakes” see the NCWRC’s publication “City Lakes Fishing Guide for the Central Piedmont Region of NC” (see “Fishing/Learn Resources/Publications”) or just enter the title into your favorite search engine.

• (again see “Boating”) provides a similar interactive map on public boat ramps within the Palmetto State. You can search by name, county, and waterbody. Boat ramp information, coordinates, and directions are provided for each facility.

Boating Safety and Regulations
In the Carolinas, we’re blessed with thousands of miles navigable waterways that harbor numerous gamefish and wildlife species, as well as aesthetically pleasing areas to slow down and relax. However, there are safety and regulatory responsibilities that come with being out on the water in a motorized watercraft.

• The NCWRC at (see “Boating”) provides information on the state laws for operating boats on public waterways, rules of the water (including navigation aids), National Association of State Boating Law Administration (NASBLA) approved boating education courses (i.e., instructor led and online courses), boat registration and licensing, and a helpful boater’s checklist of safety and equipment requirements.
• For our more southern Carolina brethren, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) provides similar boating information. Through accessing (see “Boating”) you can access safety tips (including a helpful float plan template), current regulations, registration, titling and licensing, and approved boating education courses.
Spending a few minutes educating yourself on these resources can help you make the most of your time on the water.

Scott T. Fletcher is a certified wildlife biologist, conservationist, and outdoor enthusiast.