Fisheries Biologists Jeremy McCargo and Ben Ricks sampled the Roanoke River on Monday, March 18, capturing 35 American shad and 172 hickory shad. They put in at two different boat ramps — the Weldon ramp and the boat ramp associated with the town of Gaston near Hwy 48 — to conduct electrofishing work and survey the Roanoke’s fisheries in different stretches of the river.
Sampling near Weldon, from the “Gap” down to the “Big Rock,” and near the town of Gaston from the Hwy 48 bridge to the Kapstone bridge, McCargo and Ricks came across seven American shad and 171 hickory shad in the Weldon area, and 28 American shad and one hickory between the Hwy 48 and Kapstone bridges. Lengths ranged from 16-21 inches for American shad and 12-19 for hickories. They did not weigh fish. Sex ratios of fish that were sampled were 33 male American shad and two females, and 117 male hickory shad and 55 female.
McCargo and Ricks also tagged some of the fish as part of a cooperative research project between the Wildlife Commission, Dominion Power, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and N.C. State University.
“We tagged six American shad with sonic transmitters as part of a telemetry project studying movement and residency time of American shad on the Roanoke River spawning grounds,” McCargo said. “These tags are placed internally and anglers will not be able to tell if a fish is tagged.”
McCargo reported seeing several anglers fishing for and catching hickory shad from the shoreline next to the Weldon boat ramp. There were also three boats on the river with anglers catching some fish as well.
“Hickory shad fishing should be good for a couple more weeks,” McCargo said. “Striped bass have yet to arrive on the spawning grounds. Water temperatures need to increase for striper activity to pick up on the spawning grounds.”
McCargo added that, for anglers looking to tangle with whiskered denizens of the Roanoke, Monday’s electrofishing survey also revealed “lots of channel catfish in the Weldon area.”
McCargo reported that river flows at Weldon have been fairly constant and relatively high the last several weeks, but flows and water level can change quickly in the Weldon area.
“Please be cautious when navigating the upper Roanoke River,” McCargo said. “During low flows, you should watch for rocks. During high flows, you should be on the look-out for logs and other floating debris. Check USGS streamflow gages for current flow conditions.”
When McCargo and Ricks sampled the Roanoke on Monday, the river was muddy from previous rains, and the weather was cold and cloudy, with occasional light, misty rainfall. Water temperatures were hovering around 48ºF. Seven thousand, three-hundred cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was being released from Roanoke Rapids Lake into the river.
“This discharge provides adequate water levels for safe navigation around Weldon and Gaston areas,” McCargo said.
He added that March 18 was the first of many weekly spawning stock surveys on the Roanoke River for the spring fishing season.
Kevin Dockendorf, the Wildlife Commission’s fisheries research coordinator in the coastal region, will be supplementing McCargo’s fish-sampling report each week with creel survey information elicited from anglers fishing the Roanoke.
Roanoke River Creel Clerks, Chip Peele and Patrick Railey, are interviewing anglers fishing the Roanoke River this spring to collect angling effort as well as size, catch and harvest data on striped bass, hickory shad and other fish that anglers are targeting over the 61-day striped bass harvest season on the Roanoke.
Since March 1, creel clerks have been interviewing anglers at boat ramps along the Roanoke River. Hickory shad are being caught by anglers interviewed at Weldon. The numbers of hickory shad caught per angling trip ranged from 5 to 101 hickory shad caught. Interviewed anglers fishing the Roanoke also have caught striped bass around Williamston, Jamesville and the Hwy 45 bridge, although most of the stripers have been undersized.
For the week of March 18, Dockendorf reported that early season striper fishing has been hit or miss throughout the river.
“Anglers are reporting some catches of short striped bass (less than 18 inches) with just a few keeper size and slot fish mixed in,” Dockendorf said. “Creel clerks have only measured three stripers total during the first two and a half weeks of the season.”
Dockendorf also reported crappie and blue catfish being caught.
“Hickory shad fishing has been good in Weldon and Williamston,” he said.
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