Fisheries Biologists Keith Ashley and Tom Rachels sampled the Cape Fear River on March 18-19 earlier this week, surveying the Cape Fear’s fisheries immediately below each of the three locks and dams on the river at Duart, Elizabethtown and East Arcadia in Bladen County.
They captured 24 American shad and one hickory shad at lock and dam 1, along with two juvenile striped bass. At lock and dam 2, they captured five American shad. At lock and dam 3, they captured one female striped bass. The American shad ranged in length from 16-22 inches and the weights ranged from 1.4 to 4 pounds. The one hickory shad they sampled measured 13 inches and weighed 0.75 pounds. The striped bass that they sampled ranged from 19-21 inches and weighed between 2 and 4 pounds.
Big fish honors for the two-day sampling excursion was a 4-pound American shad and a striped bass of equal weight. The striped bass were tagged and release. Ashley and Rachels conduct the springtime weekly electrofishing samples to monitor spawning stocks of striped bass and shad.
Of the 29 American shad captured, 22 were males and seven were females. The three striped bass comprised one female and two juveniles not identified to sex.
“The American shad are really starting to stack up below lock and dam 1, and they’re starting to appear at lock and dam 2 also,” Ashley said. “So, the fishing in the Cape Fear should start picking up.”
Ashley also reported seeing some spotted suckers and redhorse suckers below each site. “Numerous large blue catfish were at lock and dam 3,” he said.
Ashley and Rachels observed two commercial gill netters and two recreational shad fishermen below lock and dam 1 who were catching a modest number of shad. They also observed four recreational shad fishermen fishing below lock and dam 2. No anglers were observed fishing below lock and dam 3.
Weather was overcast and cool. The water in the Cape Fear was slightly muddy and flows were at 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The water temperature was 54ºF
Doug Mumford of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) shared some creel survey information collected from different stretches along the Cape Fear River. The creel surveys are administered by the Division of Marine Fisheries through Coastal Recreational Fishing License funding, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission assists with design and data interpretation in the upper portions of the Cape Fear.
Mumford reported creel clerks recording very good catches of American shad in the Cape Fear last week. Most anglers were fishing at lock and dam 1 using Mitchell's landing, also known as the “golf course ramp” for access. Catches of up to 60 American shad fish per boat were reported last week. Other catches consisted of largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and a variety of sunfish.
The boat ramp at lock and dam 1 is closed for maintenance.
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