The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, along with Jessup Mill, has opened a new public fishing access area on the Dan River in the Westfield community of Stokes County.
The Jessup Mill Public Fishing Area is located 6.1 miles upstream of Hart’s Access at N.C. Hwy. 704. GPS coordinates are 36.525714, -80.370674. The fishing area consists of a parking lot with 11 parking spaces and a turnaround area for trailers; a set of concrete stairs with adjoining slide to help paddlers carry kayaks and canoes up and down the stairs; and a concrete walkway connecting the stairs to the parking area.
The new public fishing area is a partnership between the Wildlife Commission and Jessup Mill, an outdoor recreation business that offers camping, tubing, music, and other outdoor events on the banks of the Dan River across from the new access area.
Andrew Jones, the owner of Jessup Mill, donated use of the site to the Commission to provide river access to the public — a unique partnership in which the access stairs are used by both the visitors to the river and Jessup Mill clients, according to Kin Hodges, a fisheries biologist with the Commission.
“The access stairs are located under the Collinstown Road bridge, enabling visitors to the PFA to reach the river from the downstream side of the bridge, while Jessup Mill clients can access the river upstream of the bridge,” Hodges said.
Because this section of the river is relatively shallow and rocky, Hodges and Jones recommended the use of paddlecraft, such as canoes and kayaks.
“This stretch of the Upper Dan River is well documented for paddlers in Paul Ferguson’s book, Paddling Eastern North Carolina, and is a stretch of water to work your way up to as far as skill level,” Jones said.
This part of the Dan River also provides good opportunities for anglers to catch smallmouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and possibly trout.
“The site is immediately below the lower boundary of a Hatchery Supported Trout Water on the Dan River, so anglers also should have a good chance of catching stocked trout that have migrated downstream,” Hodges said.
Private-public partnerships like this are one of the ways the Commission is working to provide anglers with access to public waters — access that in some western waters is very limited.
“I see this unique partnership between the Commission and a river business operator as a sign of the kinds of creative solutions the Commission can embrace to be both a steward of resources and advocate of sustainable enterprise in our rural communities,” Jones said. “Donating the land lease to the WRC was an easy process and we were able to have input on the design of the access so that our farming neighbors have improved access to their field, just as recreational river users have improved access to the high quality fishing opportunities on the upper Dan River.”
He added that the new facility also helped to improve access to the fields of a local farmer.
The Wildlife Commission constructed the Jessup Mill Public Fishing Area with funds from the Sport Fish Restoration Program and fishing license sales receipts. For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, including an interactive map of more than 500 public fishing access areas throughout the state, visit the fishing page.
Built in 1910 as Union Mill, Jessup Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers recreational and family-friendly activities that build on the heritage of fishing, swimming and outdoor recreation. Visit www.jessupmill.com for more information.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.