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Wildlife Commission Education Centers Shift with COVID

A guest blog post from Captain Jerry Dilsaver

Author: NCWRC blogger/Monday, February 15, 2021/Categories: Blog, Education, Fishing

Wildlife Commission Education Centers Shift with COVID

The guest blog post below is courtesy of Captain Jerry Dilsaver and PointFishClick.com. Jerry has been writing about fishing, hunting and the outdoors since 1986. His recent post caught our eye, and he graciously agreed to be a guest blogger.

He highlights the incredible work of our three education centers and the tremendous job they have done during the pandemic to remain nimble, get creative and learn a lot about Zoom and live streaming to continue to their mission to educate North Carolinians and visitors about wildlife recreation and conservation. Thank you, Captain Jerry, for sharing!

Guest Blog Post by Captain Jerry Dilsaver, PointFishClick.com

Many people are not aware that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has three education centers across N.C. These Education Centers, located in Corolla, Fayetteville and Pisgah Forest offer a variety of fishing and outdoor education programs. Even better, most of the programs are offered at no charge.

The NCWRC Education Centers aren’t intended to be a secret, but there aren’t funds allocated for advertising and promoting them. They are listed under the “Learning” tab on the NCWRC website, but most people visit this website for other reasons and don’t notice them. The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education (Corolla), John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center (Fayetteville) and Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (Pisgah Forest) all have Facebook pages that make it easier to keep up with events and programs, even though the NC Wildlife website is used for registration.

The NCWRC Education Centers were closed for a while, but reopened in the fall. They are subject to the state’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, which has created smaller classes. While subject to change, the maximum participants at this time are 10 for an inside workshop and 25 for an outside event. They are also live streaming some classes, workshops and events that lend themselves to this. There is no limit to the numbers of participants that can live stream, but advance registration is required to receive the login information.

The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education is located at 1401 Fish Hatchery Road in Pisgah Forest and specializes in programs appropriate for the mountain area. As the road name implies, this is the site of a trout hatchery. It is situated on the banks of the Davidson River in Pisgah Forest and many fly fishers use the parking lot to fish the river.

The Pisgah Center currently has a multitude of programs on their calendar. Almost always you’ll find a program on raising hatchery fish, fly fishing and other outdoor wildlife activities. They update their class calendar regularly.

The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is located at 1160 Village Lane in Corolla and specializes in programs appropriate for the coastal area. This is on the shore of Currituck Sound, very near the famous Currituck Beach Lighthouse and a little south of the Currituck Banks Reserve. In addition to the programs, classes and workshops, the building is surrounded by exhibits of Outer Banks flora.

The Outer Banks Center is currently offering several online programs about birds and birding tools. They update their class calendar regularly.

The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is located at 7489 Old Raeford Road and features mostly fresh water, but some saltwater fishing programs, a kayak fishing program and a variety of nature and outdoor classes and workshops. This education center is named for John Pechmann, a former NCWRC chair from Fayetteville, who is no longer with us. It is across Raeford Road from Lake Rim, which has a Wildlife Resources Commission Boating Access Area, and is on the grounds of a former fish hatchery.

The Pechmann Center is the busiest of the WRC Education Centers at this time and currently has a wide array of in-person and virtual programs on their calendar. They update their class calendar regularly.

The NCWRC also offers statewide education and skills programs in partnership with community colleges and county agricultural offices. Many of these were cancelled during 2020, but they are working to see how they can be held in 2021 and be COVID-19 compliant. Several of these programs were already offered online. These programs are coordinated through the main NCWRC office in Raleigh and include a variety of Boating Education classes, Hunting Safety classes and Hunting Skills classes.

The Pechmann Center is the closest of the NCWRC Education Centers to me and hosts classes, workshops and other programs all year. Everything I have attended was excellent and I would attend more if it were just a little closer. The drive is just over two hours and makes attending their weekday and evening classes a little tough unless someone goes with me.

My experience with the NCWRC Education Center programs is all from the Pechmann Center, but I have been assured the programs are similar at the other two centers. These events were designed for participants of all ages and skill levels. Younger participants must have an adult attend with them and a few have minimum ages. The Pechmann Center does not charge participation fees, but there may occasionally be small fees for replacing expendable supplies. Pre-registration was required for many programs as participation is limited and this is particularly important in meeting COVID-19 health and safety mandates.

All in person programs are offered on a first come, first served basis. Those programs that are streamed live over the internet do not have online number restrictions, but must still be registered in advance. Interested persons should check the program offerings and register by visiting the NCWRC website. Once there, open the appropriate education center and select their “Program Calendar and Registration” link. There are also often links back to this from the Facebook pages of each education center.

I recently attended a “Beginning Fly Fishing Workshop” at the Pechmann Center and was pleasantly surprised at how well the instructors managed to work with the participants and still observe COVID-19 protocols. Even being outside, the instructors and participants wore masks, except occasionally when really spread apart. For this class they did not do anything inside and it was limited to 25 participants.

The day was cold and windy but the participants were smiling as they learned not only to cast, but how to land their fly within a few inches of where they wanted. Because of the weather, several of the people who registered didn’t come. They missed it! After learning to cast in the morning, participants fished in the stocked ponds (catch and release) for a few hours in the afternoon.

We are in a time unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. Many businesses and recreational activities are severely limited or closed. It is good to see the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Education Centers open and hosting outdoor education programs, even if they are limited.

NCWRC blogger’s note: Some edits were made to the original post on PointFishClick.com.

Photo credit: Capt. Jerry Dilsaver

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