Unfortunately, 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 NC WRC 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 WRC website at www.ncwildlife.org, 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 WRC 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 every weekday morning and afternoon through February 5 there is a program on “Raising Hatchery Fish.” An “Introduction to Fly Fishing clinic is scheduled for January 23. More events will be added.
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 currently lists two programs on their calendar and both are on line only. These are an ecoEXPLORE Skill Session on Shore Birds on January 26 and a program in their “Do You Hear What I Hear Series on Frog Calls on January 28. More events will be added.
The John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center is located at 7489 Old Raeford Road and features mostly fresh water, but some salt water 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 WRC 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 11 programs on their calendar. These begin on January 22, with an “Entomology for Anglers” workshop that is available in person and virtually. January 26 is a “Fishing Lanyard Making Class” in their DIY Fishing Series. January 28 they will offer a “Fly Tying Forum” both in person and virtually. January 30 is the last of their “Beginning Fly Fishing Clinics” for 2021.
Several February programs are already scheduled and open for registration. The first is February 6 and is a “Beginning Fly Tying Course” that is offered both in person and virtually. February 9 there will be a course on “Soft Plastic Lure Making.” The “Intermediate Fly Fishing Workshop” on February 13 is the last program currently scheduled, but more will be added.
The WRC 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 on line. These programs are coordinated through the main WRC office in Raleigh and include a variety of Boating Education classes, Hunting Safety classes, Hunting Skills classes and the Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) classes.
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is an international program in which women age 18 and older learn outdoor skills through hands-on experiences. In North Carolina, BOW workshops are held across the state and offer a variety of outdoor skills, including fishing, hunter safety, target shooting, archery, canoeing, motorboat safety, outdoor cooking, tracking and map-and-compass.
A BOW Weekend is scheduled for April 16-18, 2021 at Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge, located near Boomer, N.C., in Wilkes County. Details and a link to a registration packet are on the BOW section of the WRC website. Enrollment is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Scholarship opportunities are available for all the BOW programs and details are available at the BOW page.
The Pechmann Center is the closest of the WRC 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 WRC 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 on line number restrictions, but must still be registered in advance. Interested persons should check the program offerings and register by visiting www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Education-Centers. 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.
For more information on outdoor education opportunities provided by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, visit their website at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning. From there you can open the link to the education centers a and choose your preferred Education Center. The links for their calendar and registration are on the individual education center pages. The WRC Education Centers also have individual Facebook pages.