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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

April 28, 2011

Jocassee Gorges is a trout-fishing destination for anglers

The state's prized 50 square miles of mountain habitat known as the Jocassee Gorges contains some of the highest quality water resources anywhere, and conditions are going to get better, says the manager of the mountain region in Pickens and Oconee counties.

"We have some excellent trout fishing opportunities in the Jocassee Gorges," said Mark Hall, wildlife biologist and forester who manages the 33,000-acre Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Hall is an avid fly fisherman who relishes opportunities to enhance water quality, trout streams and the quarry he likes to find at the end of his flyline—the brook, brown or rainbow trout. "We have some well managed trout waters, and we also have plans to put more waters into first-class management in the near future," Hall said.

The Eastatoee River and its headwaters support an incredible diversity of aquatic life in terms of invertebrates, salamanders, snakes, frogs and all sorts of animal species, including trout. "Just turn over any rock in the stream and you'll find stoneflies, caddis flies, mayflies and their allies," Hall said.

Traditional, popular trout fishing streams in Jocassee Gorges region include the Eastatoee River, Cane Creek, Emory Creek and Whitewater River. Some streams are stocked regularly throughout the season, whereas others are left as they are and the wild trout populations are allowed to maintain themselves. Some of the highest elevation streams support the wild, native Eastern brook trout. Others support good populations of rainbows and brown trout.

Many management activities on Jocassee Gorges are implemented to improve water quality. More than 100 miles of battered forest roads have been re-graded, stabilized and repaired to reduce sedimentation, erosion and stream impacts. Old roads have been opened to allow fisheries biologists access to streams to conduct aquatic inventories and implement aggressive trout management. Some streams have received the first trout stockings in decades due to the improved access.

"The most exciting things for water quality and trout in Jocassee Gorges are the Reedy Cove Creek and Laurel Fork Creek restoration projects that were completed in connection with wetland mitigation agreements," said Hall. Hall represents the DNR's interests in wetland permitting and has worked closely with upstate business interests who had wetland mitigation needs. "When someone proposes to legally alter a wetland and obtain a permit, they have to propose an environmental trade-off, or a plan to mitigate for the impacts of their projects," Hall explained.

Reedy Cove Creek was re-engineered to lower the water temperatures in the stream as it passes through Jocassee Gorges on its way to Twin Falls. It can also be accessed from Cleo Chapman Highway in northern Pickens County by using a new hiking trail that was built on Jocassee Gorges to the top of Twin Falls. From there, angler trails weave in and out of the laurels and rhododendron along a brisk waterway that contains numerous small plunge pools, deep runs and attractive pocket water. Bits and pieces of old logging railroad can be found in the valley, where it is likely that week-day anglers will have the place all to themselves.

Laurel Fork Creek is one of the primary streams that flows into Lake Jocassee, and it creates the most impressive and popular waterfall on the Lake. The stream had been straightened, piped, filled, lifted and manipulated in many ways over the course of 100 years and many different landowners. The Laurel Fork Creek Restoration Project was implemented in 2007, and it resulted in stable soils, better floodplain function and improved habitat for trout and other cold-water organisms. The Foothills Trail follows Laurel Fork Creek and has some attractive campsites and plenty of good places for a day visit or a good break from the hustle and bustle of cars, pavement and wires.

The hydrology of Jocassee Gorges is interesting, and many people don't realize that most of the water on Jocassee Gorges flows to the Saluda/Broad river system and never reaches Lake Jocassee. Only a few of the streams on the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges actually flow to Lake Jocassee or Lake Keowee, which constitute the upper limits of the Savannah River drainage.

Fisheries biologists are currently working across Jocassee Gorges to evaluate stream conditions and identify potential sites for brook trout restoration. Look for more good things to come from the cold waters of Jocassee Gorges in the near future, according to Hall.

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