Ready to land a beautiful fish in a scenic mountain river or river? Visit one of the many great streams and rivers found in our Madison County Fishing Guide and start planning your next fishing adventure today.
View Our Picks For Top Madison County Fishing Adventures
The stretch of Spring Creek for hatchery-supported trout fishing begins about 7 to 8 miles south of Hot Springs at the community of Bluff. Fishing extends to where Highway 209 joins Highway 63 and parallels the road the entire distance.
Tip: The best area for fishing begins at West Road (there’s a Methodist Church there) and continues to the flats of Spring Creek. The best fishing is during the three to four days after stocking. Once you find the hole, you can catch a fish.
Tip: Smallmouth bass can also be fished on this creek in the area that is about one mile south of Hot Springs. This is the Spring Creek Gorge. Rocky Bluff Campground has access to that area. There are no trout in this area since it is not accessible for stocking.
Directions: From Hot Springs, drive south on Highway 209 to Bluff Community (about 7 to 8 miles out of town). The fishing area continues and parallels the highway to the point it intersects with Highway 63.
Big Laurel Creek is a hatchery-supported trout stream that begins in the northeast corner of Madison County and flows down a steep and winding mountain valley for approximately 20 miles to its convergence with Laurel River.
Tip: Best stretches of water are between Lewis Branch and Wilde’s Branch and between Wolf Branch and Foster’s Creek. There are places where you can do bank fishing as well as wading.
Tip: Good choice of artificial flies is a generic wet fly with brown tail, olive body, brown hackle, and white wings tied at 90 degrees to the body like a spent dry fly that as fallen into the water.
Directions: Interstate Highway 26 at exit number 3. This exit ramp crosses the head waters of Big Laurel Creek and intersects with US Highway 23. Turning left onto US Highway 23 for approximately 3 tenths of a mile and turning left again onto Big Laurel Road puts you at fishable waters. Big Laurel Road parallels Big Laurel Creek for approximately 9 miles and then leaves the stream and goes on to intersect with NC highway 208 at the community of Belva. Big Laurel flows through a gorge for about 4 miles before emptying into Laurel River.
Puncheon Fork –a hatchery-supported trout stream–is a tributary of the Big Laurel River which begins at Ebbs Chapel Community Center. It’s a small stream which runs about 6 to 8 feet wide and runs for about 5 miles.
Tip: The trees and bushes on the bank are thick at time and then it is difficult to fish where the good pools are. It’s easier when it goes through pasture land but the pools here are not as good. This is convenient to people in the Mars Hill and Wolf Laurel areas. Great spots behind the Ebbs Chapel Fire Department. You don’t have to walk a “country mile” for access off the road here.
Directions: From I 26, take Exit 3. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto Bear Branch. At the stop sign, turn right onto Highway 23 A and then the first left at Ebbs Chapel Community center. The creek parallels Puncheon Fork Road.
Shelton Laurel Creek is a stretch that parallels the road allowing easy access when you find a place to pull off the road. It covers the area which begins where highway 212 meets highway 208 and continues to Carmen Church of God.
Tip: If you get in the stream and fish for a while, you’ll catch a fish.Tip: For bait, use a Eagle Claw Hook, a 2-way spinner tipped with a night crawler.
Directions: From Marshall, take 25/70 North to Highway 208. Highway 208 to Belva and turn right on Highway 212.
The entire 3.6 mile stretch of The Big Laurel which is Delayed Harvest from October until June runs along NC Highway 208 and is accessible from this road. At the junction of US Highway 25-70 and Highway 208, its width is about 50-55 feet and runs to 110 feet wide in broad flat pools.
Tip: Delayed Harvest single hook artificial bait rule eliminates live baits and other organic baits such as corn, salmon eggs, etc. from October 1 until the first Saturday in June of each year. Also all trout caught during this time must be released. Single hook spinner, flies, and plugs are legal on this catch-and-release section of water from October 1 through the first Friday in June. Best choices of artificial flies are: Muddler Minnow flies, Black and Olive Wooly Bugger Streamers, Beadhead Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear Nymph, Elk Hair Caddis with tan body, Royal Wulff, Adam’s Fly, and a generic wet fly with brown tail, olive body, brown hackle, and white wings, muddler minnow fly, Telico Nymph, black and olive Wooly Buggers, small midge dry flies, ant imitation flies, Pheasant Tail flies.
Directions: Take Highway 25N/70W from Marshall. The Delayed Harvest water begins where the 25/70 joins highway 208. It continues along the 208 and stops at the junction of Highway 208 and Highway 212.
Big Creek is one of the tributaries of Shelton Laurel which is a “wild water” with native trout. Big Creek, is 5 to 6 miles long and ranges from 12 to 15 feet wide. It has a fair population of native rainbow trout.
Directions: From Marshall, take 25/70 North to Highway 208. Highway 208 to Belva and turn right on Highway 212. The left turn onto Big Creek Road is almost to the Tennessee border.
Hickey Fork Creek is a small tributary of Shelton Laurel Creek and is fish-able for approximately 1.5 miles and is about 10 to 15 feet wide at its confluence with Shelton Laurel Creek. It becomes smaller as you move up stream.
Tip: The head waters have some of the ONLY native brook “trout” (actually a subspecies of the Arctic Char) in our area. These fish came to this geographic area with the last Ice Age glaciers and remained here after the glaciers melted. North Carolina has the largest number of brook trout populations remaining in the southeast U.S.Directions: Take US highway 25/70 from Marshall to the intersection of NC Highway 208. Continue on Highway 208 and turn right at its intersection with NC Highway 212. Continue south for 6.7 miles to the sign for Hickey Fork.
This section of the Laurel River is located within National Forest Service boundaries and carries the designation for general regulations which mean the spin caster, bait fisherman, and the fly fisherman can all enjoy the day.This is an “undesignated” stretch meaning that you can fish year-round.
Tip: The creek is very wadable but all anglers should exercise caution when wading because of the swift water and deep pools. There are Browns, Rainbows and a good population of small mouth bass in this stretch of water. Most of the trout come down stream from the delayed harvest section of the Laurel and can grow to impressive size.
Bait: The usual assortment of flies and spinners can be effective in this beautiful stream. Try a Wulff in size 12 or 14, or go deep with a wooly bugger to see if you might be lucky enough to catch a “bragging size trout”!
At the intersection of 25/70 and 208 (35.54 and 82.45) there is a parking area located just below the bridge going to Hot Springs. The Laurel River Trail is well marked from the parking area heading down stream and the trail follows the stream all the way to the confluence of the French Broad River at the old settlement of Runion.
A second option is to turn onto Stackhouse Road off of 25/70, follow the road until it ends at a public parking area. You can then walk down the railroad track toward Hot Springs approximately one mile until you come to the Laurel River. Turn right and follow the trail up the river as far as you like.
One of the points along the French Broad River where you can wade in throughout the county is Murray Branch Picnic area. Excellent shoals and smallmouth bass love this. The area along River Road from Murray Branch to Paint Rock is easy to access. The Picnic area is a handicapped accessible area to fish the French Broad River.
Tip: White bass—some (about 3 pounds in size) are migrating out of Douglas Lake in Tennessee and you can catch them from the Tennessee line to Redmond Dam. They are good fighters but not good food fish. Some Walleye bass are beginning to migrate from Douglas Lake, too.
Directions: From Hot Springs, take NC Highway 25/70 south and east over the French Broad River. Turn left on River Road and go 4.2 miles to the US Forest Service’s Murray Branch Recreation Area. This is handicapped accessible.
For smallmouth bass, catfish, and muskie, it’s the French Broad River. From the town of Hot Springs, go along the bank of the French Broad River or use a raft or boat to Stackhouse and on to Barnard Road. No access along the road during this stretch of the French Broad.
Tip: White bass—some (about 3 pounds in size) are migrating out of Douglas Lake in Tennessee and you can catch them from the Tennessee line to Redmond Dam. They are good fighters but not good food fish. Some Walleye are beginning to migrate from Douglas Lake, too.
Directions: From the town of Hot Springs, go along the bank of the French Broad River or use a raft or boat to Stackhouse and on to Barnard Road. No access along the road.
For more information on these and other great fishing spots in Madison County, visit the Madison County Tourism website.