American shad have just about disappeared at lock and dam 1, but are still abundant below locks and dams 2 and 3 on the Cape Fear River, according to Fisheries Biologist Keith Ashley who sampled the Cape Fear River earlier this week, along with fellow biologist Tom Rachels.
“Striped bass are finally starting to show up at all three locks and dams,” Ashley said.“Their numbers should continue to increase in the next two or three weeks as the water continues to warm.”
Ashley and Rachels surveyed the Cape Fear on April 23-24 this week, sampling fish populations from their electrofishing boat below each of the three locks and dams on the river at Duarte, Elizabethtown and Riegelwood in Bladen County.
Ashley and Rachels captured: four American shad at lock and dam 1 (all females), along with 14 striped bass (8 males, 6 females). At lock and dam 2, Ashley and Rachels sampled 36 American shad (20 males, 16 females), along with two male striped bass. At lock and dam 3, they collected 41 American shad (28 males, 13 females) and two striped bass (1 male, 1 female).
The striped bass were tagged and released, with the exception of four fish (three males and the 10-pound female seen in this week’s photo) that were transported to the Watha State Fish Hatchery to serve as brood fish for producing, rearing and stocking fingerling striped bass into reservoirs across North Carolina.
Size ranges for the fish were 15-22 inches and 1.1 pounds to 4.1 pounds for American shad. The striped bass ranged from 19-29 inches, with weights ranging from 2.7 pounds to 13 pounds. Big fish honors were claimed by a 4.1-pound American shad and a 13-pound striper.
Sex ratios for the American shad combined across all three locks and dams were: 48 males and 33 females. Among the striped bass that Ashley and Rachels collected,11 stripers were male, and seven were female.
Ashley and Rachels observed no recreational anglers fishing from boats below LD1. Three recreational boats with six shad fishermen and four bank fishermen were seen fishing below LD2. At LD3, Ashley and Rachels saw one recreational boat with two shad fishermen.
The weather was cloudy and cool with air temps in the low 50’s when they sampled the Cape Fear as part of their routine weekly spawning stock monitoring. The water in the Cape Fear was slightly muddy and 66° F. Flows were at 4,450 cubic feet per second (cfs).
Ashley advised that the boat ramp at LD1 is still closed and will not re-open until early May.
“If anglers want to fish the rock arch rapids at lock and dam 1, the nearest boat ramp is located approximately six miles downriver at the end of Reigel Course Road, which is also known as SR 1816,” Ashley said. “This road is adjacent to the Reigelwood Golf Course, has a concrete ramp, and is open for public use with no fees.”
If you missed the boat on American shad fishing on the Roanoke, Tar or Neuse rivers this spring, the Cape Fear River still offers shad-fishing opportunities, according to N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) creel surveys.
Each week, Doug Mumford from DMF shares creel survey information collected from different stretches along the Cape Fear River. The DMF creel surveys are funded via 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.
The Cape Fear River continues to offer the best American (white) shad-fishing opportunities in North Carolina, according to Mumford.
“The best fishing observed last week was at the lock and dam 2, with excellent white shad fishing at this site,” Mumford said. “Shad fishing effort and catch continued to improve at lock and dam 3 last week.”
In addition, Mumford reported that fishermen are using “cut shad” as bait and targeting catfish with some success. Several catfish heavier than 30 pounds were observed by creel clerks last week. No striped bass were reported to creel clerks last week.
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