The Catawba River tailrace below Lake James is our home water! It flows within 100 yards of our shop and we have been float fishing it for more than 10 years. Guiding clients on this river is not something we do in our spare time or when we are not busy at our other job this is our life. With the recent dam reconstruction the water quality and flows have improved dramatically. The new turbines that provide a minimum flow also provides much needed dissolved oxygen for the fish.
In October of 2011 the NC Wildlife Resource Commission stocked nearly 10,000 brown trout between 8 and 10″ long, this was the first of 5 stocking over the next 4 years. These fish are growing at nearly 3/4″ per month and are very willing to eat a well presented fly.
Access is a major issue with this tailrace since most of the shoreline is privately owned and posted against trespassing. We offer Float Trips as well as Wade Trips on our Exclusive Access Area of the river.
Duke Power manages the Bridgewater Hydro Station on Lake James and releases water for power generation into the Catawba River below the dam.
Bridgewater Hydro Station
- Capacity: 20 megawatts
- Location: McDowell and Burke counties, North Carolina
- Commercial Date: 1919
Bridgewater Hydro Station has two generating units. Located on Lake James in Morganton, N.C., it began commercial operation on May 4, 1919. Lake James, named after J. B. “Buck” Duke, spans McDowell and Burke counties, N.C., and is formed by damming three streams: the Catawba River, Paddy Creek, and the Linville River.
Bridgewater Hydro Station was named for the Southern Railway depot to which the materials to build the dam and hydro station were shipped.
A word of wisdom from Duke Energy
Caution: Do not enter the tailrace section directly below hydroelectric stations. These areas are prone to a sudden rise and violent turbulence in the water.
Note: Scheduled flow releases are subject to variability based on natural conditions and/or unexpected changes in hydro project operation. Duke Energy may, at any time, and without prior warning, change operations of our hydro facilities in response to high electricity demand, flooding, electric system emergencies or other conditions. Always exercise caution when boating or fishing on lakes and rivers. Please remember to stay 300 feet away from the upstream and downstream sides of the dam and powerhouse.
WCO Notes about access..
Access is very limited for the wade fisherman, the first 1/4 mile or so below the dam is managed as Hatchery Supported Trout Waters (dam to Muddy Creek), from Muddy Creek to the Morganton Water Intake is managed as Special Regulation Trout Waters. For float fisherman a nice state maintained ramp is located just downstream from the dam and a take out ramp is located 8 miles downstream which is maintained by the city of Glen Alpine. WCO offers shuttle services for angles floating the river. Just give us a call to set up the details.
Duke Energy Information Line 800-829-5253 then select options 1, 1, 2, then 1 for Bridgewater