Fishery Management Strategic Plan

Connestee Falls Fishing Club

Dec. 11, 2013

I. Executive summary

Collaborative efforts by CFPOA maintenance and golf course staff, the Fishing Club, the Environmental Conservation Group, Connestee Falls Security and Utilities Inc. optimize fishing in our four lakes with a major caveat: the lakes are multi-functional, enjoyed by swimmers, boaters and other non-anglers as well for their scenic beauty.

Continued monitoring of lake ecosystems as well as fish populations and health by the above-mentioned organizations is feasible, efficient and effective. Connestee Falls property owners are satisfied by current angling-related resources, regulations, priorities, initiatives and return on investment.

II. Situation

When a grandchild catches a fish in one of Connestee Falls pristine lakes, it’s not just luck.

The Connestee Falls Property Owners Association and 674-member Connestee Falls Fishing Club devote considerable resources, including money, work and research, into the development and enhancement of angling as a popular activity. Since Atagahi, Ticoa, Tiaroga and Wanteska were carved from the development’s 4,000 acres four decades ago, they have been multi-functional recreational amenities, managed for the enjoyment of swimmers, boaters, wildlife watchers as well as anglers. Lakes managed primarily for anglers are typically fertilized, providing nutrients at the expense of water clarity and aquatic plant growth. Fertilization has not been an option for our multi-functional lakes.

CFPOA General Manager Jim Lorah challenged the Fishing Club to develop this strategic plan in an Sept. 12, 2013 meeting with Assistant General Manager Earl Jenkins, Fishing Club President Pete Pepinsky and Fishing Club Fisheries Management Co-Chair Bob Chord. The context and rationale were clear: With CFPOA and the Fishing Club allocating a combined $13,000 annually to fish and forage fish stocking, how do we measure the effectiveness of this program? A related question raised at that meeting concerned the advisability of commissioning a professional fish shocking study of Connestee lakes to document the current fish population, size and health, replicating studies conducted in 1991 and 2004.

The economic impact of fishing is astounding.

The American Sportfishing Association, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(USFWS), documents 46 million anglers spending $48 billion annually on equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing-related events and activities. Fishing supports 828,000 jobs in the U.S.

The USFWS pegs the economic impact of fishing-related activities in North Carolina at $1.5 billion. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission(NCWRC)reports that our state has 1.2 million anglers.

The proposed 2014 CFPOA budget projects the following fishing/recreational boating revenue by the end of the current fiscal year: $8,000 from fishing license sales, $1,575 in boat registrations and $22,915 in boat slip rentals for a total of $32,490.

Those national, state and Connestee numbers reflect not only economic impact, but magnitude of the attraction to prospective buyers of Connestee homes and lots.

Complementing these statistics, a 2012 opinion survey conducted by the Fishing Club provides significant data on the support for ongoing fisheries management in CFPOA lakes. (Those survey results and corresponding action plans are offered as attachments to this strategic plan.)

III. Objectives

A. Optimal return on investment for CFPOA and the Fishing Club.

B. Enhancement of fishing as an attractive amenity for current and prospective property owners.

C. Fulfillment of fiduciary and informational responsibilities to CFPOA property owners and Fishing Club members.

IV. Optional courses of action

A. Request a fish shocking assessment of our lakes by the NCWRC.

B. Commission an assessment of our lakes by a professional fisheries consulting firm.

C. Monitor our lakes (by CFPOA staff and Fishing Club volunteers).

D. Monitor fish populations and health.

E. Manage, maintain and build fish populations through stocking programs.

F. Promote rainbow trout, largemouth bass and bream; encouraging harvesting of other species including catfish, perch and crappie, eventually eliminating them from our low-nutrient lakes, reducing competition.

G. Manage Lake Wanteska as a bass-enhanced fishery at least through 2016, giving our enhancement actions time to show more complete results.

V. Assessment of options

A. A 1992 declaratory ruling by NCWRC categorized Connestee Falls’ four lakes as public fishing waters, which permits NCWRC to conduct active regulation of our lakes by wildlife officers, including issuing citations for boats without NC registrations, anglers without NC fishing licenses, boaters without personal flotation devices, and youths without required supervision. To date, NCWRC has not chosen to patrol and enforce state regulations in Connestee Falls. A request for a fishery population assessment of our lakes by NCWRC might result in unintended consequences. The two previous studies, “Fishery Assessment and Water Quality Analysis” (1991) and Management of Connestee Falls Lakes” (2004) were performed by professional fisheries consultants, not NCWRC.

B. While the Fishing Club has not sought proposals from professional fisheries consultants, the cost is believed to be a significant factor. Membership of the Fisheries Management Committee of the Fishing Club is drawn from individuals with extensive experience and understanding of this complicated field. One committee member has spent his career in fisheries management. The committee does not envision the need for this study based on current management practices.

C. This monitoring currently entails sampling of water quality on a continuing schedule for the vital parameters of dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, total dissolved solids, sediment, algae and any obvious pollutants or observations such as fish kills. With the involvement of CFPOA maintenance and golf course management staff, CFPOA Security, Utilities Inc., the Environmental Conservation Group, the Fishing Club and our ever-vigilant property owners, this monitoring is essentially redundant, which is a plus. We are awaiting release in 2014 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Atagahi Lake Assessment Survey. That report may suggest additional sampling parameters.

D. Monitoring fish populations and health is far from scientific, especially considering the relative unreliability of fish shocking studies in our lakes due to the low conductivity of our waters. The Fishing Club promotes monitoring through its “lunker” and “tagged fish” programs and encourages catch reports from Connestee anglers. Knowledgeable and experienced anglers can effectively assess fish populations. (See attached 2011 fishing opinion survey data and action plans.)

E. The Fishing Club is committed to maintaining scheduled cold-water stocking of rainbow trout in our four lakes as well as stocking forage fish such as bluegills, trout fingerlings and crawfish to improve the growth of largemouth bass, within the parameters of CFPOA and Fishing Club funding.

F. The Fishing Club advocates continued promotion of rainbow trout, largemouth bass and bream in all lakes. Harvesting of other species including catfish, perch and crappie is encouraged. Our low-nutrient lakes have too many mouths to feed.

G. Less than halfway through the experimental management of Lake Wanteska as Connestee’s bass-enhanced lake, the Fisheries Management Committee and the Fishing Club plan to continue adding structure (Christmas trees and artificial fish hides) and forage fish (crawfish and trout fingerlings). Additionally, anglers should be encouraged to harvest bass less than 12 inches and release unharmed larger bass. The allocation of trout in the stocking programs has been based on lake acreage. The Fisheries Management Committee suggests decreasing the Wanteska allocation from 19% of the total trout stocked to 10%. The Fisheries Management Committee and Fishing Club will evaluate results of the experiment after 2016 and consider replications in the remaining three lakes.

VI. Recommendations

Implement/continue options C, D, E, F and G.

Attachments as noted.