Lake James one of top boating, fishing sites in US
Nine of top ten in State Parks
NEBO – Forget about hauling the boat to the Great Lakes for spectacular fishing and boating. One of the best places to take in those summertime recreational stalwarts is right here in Western North Carolina.
Lake James State Park, about an hour east of Asheville in McDowell and Burke counties, has just been voted No. 10 out of the Top 100 Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat by Take Me Fishing, part of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The winners were based on 650,000 votes cast by 35,000 anglers and boaters to support their favorite fishing and boating locations to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 4-12.
For the second consecutive year, Florida’s Everglades National Park snagged the No.1 spot as the best place to fish and boat in the U.S. But Lake James has been steadily growing in popularity since the poll began three years ago. Lake James was voted into the top 100 every year of the survey. In 2014 it was No. 40 and in 2015 it was No. 19.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which contains 2,900 miles of streams and Lake Fontana, was honored at No. 17 on this year’s list.
Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar brought back America’s Top Family Fishing and Boating Spots Instant Win and Sweepstakes for its third consecutive year, with the goal of finding great family-friendly fishing areas and getting more families out on the water. More than 300 sites representing all 50 states were pre-selected from across the U.S. and entrants were able to vote daily for their favorite places, said Steve Bailey of TakeMeFishing.org.
“The criteria for the Top 100 included having a public body of water within driving distance of a major city, good fishing opportunities and family-friendly amenities,” Bailey said.
There was a six-week voting process in March where people were offered 310 pre-selected family-friendly parks from across the U.S. Entrants voted daily for the three parks they felt offered the best fishing and boating experience based on family amenities, location and the likeliness to catch a fish or enjoy a day on the water. The parks with the most votes made the list of the 2016 America’s Top 100 Family Fishing and Boating Spots.
Lake James State Park, established in 1987, is a 6,812-acre reservoir that offers canoeing, kayaking and motor boating, fishing from lakeside and from boats, a swim beach at the Paddy’s Creek access areas, (and a swim beach at the Catawba River open by reservation only for large groups), waterfront campsites and new boat-in-only campsites and four public boat ramps – the Canal Bridge Access and Hidden Cove Access are managed by the state park.
Lake James State Park encompasses 3,644 acres on the north and south shores of the lake. Over the last few years, with the addition of the Paddy’s Creek area, mountain biking trails and more campsites, visitation at the park has continued to mushroom. There were just over a half-million visitors in 2015, with 504,660 people splashing in the lake. That’s a nearly 27 percent increase from 2013, when there were 398,148 visitors. Lake James is the most visited park in WNC.
In January, two parcels totaling 129 acres, including the scenic, 125-acre “Lodge Tract,” where Crescent Communities had planned to build a lodge, were conserved through the aid of the Foothills Conservancy, and added to the park, to forever protecting more of the lake from development.
Park Superintendent Nora Coffey said she’s not surprised the park has moved into the top 10 spot.
“The state park is the only public access on the lake,” she said. “We have many family friendly amenities including fishing piers, boat ramps, a picnic area, campground and swim area. We also have great fishing. Anywhere people can access the water, we allow them to fish – they can fish the entire shoreline except at the swim area and boat ramps.”
Popular fish include large-mouth and small-mouth bass, walleye and crappie. Anyone age 16 and older must have a valid fishing license to fish at Lake James, but entry to the park, fishing and boat launching are free.
Coffey believes people enjoy the fishing, but the setting is what takes the cake. Lake James sits in the shadow of the Linville Gorge Wilderness.
“You cannot beat the beautiful mountain view from the lake,” she said. “We get people from all over the Southeast.”
TakeMeFishing.org’s Top 10 Family Friendly Places to Boat and Fish:
- Everglades National Park, Florida
- Bahia Honda State Park, Atlantic Ocean, Florida
- Blue Springs State Park, St. Johns River, Florida
- Kissimmee State Park, Lake Kissimmee, Florida
- Clear Lake State Park, Clear Lake, California
- Brannon Island State Park, Sacramento River, California
- Dockweiler State Beach, Santa Monica Bay, California
- Hanging Rock State Park, Hanging Rock Park Lake, N.C.
- Guntersville State Park, Guntersville Lake, Alabama
- Lake James State Park, Lake James, Nebo, N.C.