Updated to Include Thursday’s Electrofishing at Gaston BAA
This week’s report again features this update section because Fisheries Biologists Jeremy McCargo and Ben Ricks, and Fisheries Technician Adam Johnson, sampled the Roanoke on Monday (Apr. 22) and Thursday (Apr. 25) this week.
McCargo and Ricks sampled the Roanoke yesterday (Apr. 25), launching from the Gaston boat ramp associated with the Town of Gaston near Hwy. 48. They conducted this week’s sampling for American shad spawning stock from the Hwy 48 bridge to the powerlines. Although the weather was sunny and mild, the river was turbid and flows had decreased slightly from 9,500 cfs to 8,500 cfs. McCargo noted that rocks were out of the water in some places.
American Shad electrofishing catch rates continue to be relatively high — 162 shad per hour, according to McCargo.
“By way of comparison, last week’s catch rate was similar at 155 shad per hour,” he said.
They captured 133 American shad, consisting of 98 males and 35 females — approximately a 3:1 male-to-female ratio. Size range for the American (white) shad was 15-22 inches, with the heaviest shad weighing at little over 4 pounds. They also observed one striped bass angler who was leaving as they were putting in. The angler said his party had caught a couple of small striped bass.
McCargo continues to underscore two important points to anglers on the Roanoke: First, he stressed the importance of being able to identify American versus hickory shad because only one American Shad may be harvested in the 10-fish-per-angler daily creel limit for shad.
“The upper and lower jaws on American shad come together evenly when the mouth is closed, whereas the lower jaw of the hickory shad protrudes beyond the upperlip with the mouth closed,” McCargo said. “Another important note for anglers is that flows are still fairly high on the Roanoke River, despite the slight decrease yesterday. So, boaters should use extreme caution when boating in the Gaston and Weldon areas.”
Striped Bass Fishing Information from Monday's Electrofishing at Weldon
Wildlife Commission fisheries biologists observed many anglers trying their luck on the Roanoke River near Weldon on Monday (April 22) this week, but did not witness many stripers caught by conventional hook-and-line fishing. On their electrofishing boat, the story was a little different as they sampled 168 striped bass,including a 55.1-pound striper that was the largest striped bass Wildlife Commission biologists have caught with electrofishing gear on the Roanoke.
“It appears that the striped bass are still spread out over a long stretch of river and were apparently difficult for anglers to find consistently,” McCargo said.“The fish are late arriving on the spawning grounds this year because of the continued cool water temps.”
McCargo said that while they did not observe anglers catching fish, they heard mixed reports of some anglers with good catches and others who couldn’t get a bite. The wide distribution of striped bass along the entire river was evident in their electrofishing catch rate as well.
“Our catch rate was 81 fish per hour, which is fairly low for this time of year, but it is normal given the water temperatures,” McCargo said, noting that the water temperature on Monday was 59° F. “We typically see our catch rates increase when temperatures are consistently over 60° F. Preferred spawning temperatures for Roanoke River striped bass range from 64°– 72° F.”
McCargo was accompanied by Ben Ricks and Chad Thomas on Monday’s fish-sampling excursion. The trio of fisheries biologists collected 168 striped bass while sampling in the area from the Gap downstream to the power lines. The stripers ranged from 11-46 inches in length, with the heaviest striper tipping the scale at 55.1 pounds.
The weather was cloudy and cool. The river was muddy with the water temperature at 59°F. Flows were around 9,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). Anglers can view the USGS gauge at Halifax to get an idea of current and past water temperatures near Weldon.
McCargo said that boaters always need to be safe and courteous. The Roanoke’s unseasonably cool water temperatures make it even more important for anglers to avoid accidents and possibly falling in the river.
“Many boaters are trying their luck for striped bass at Weldon, and the river can get pretty crowded with boats during the peak fishing season,” McCargo said. “When navigating around other boats, boaters should be aware of their speed and wake,and proceed with caution.”
Tagging, Brood Fish Collecting and then Sampling Again
In addition to sampling striped bass in the upper Roanoke, McCargo, Ricks and Thomas also sent 16 striped bass (four females and 12 males) to the Watha State Fish Hatchery, where hatchery staff will raise striped bass and hybrid striped bass juveniles for stocking into numerous reservoirs throughout North Carolina.
Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) staff tagged the other 152 striped bass with yellow, internal anchor tags, and returned the stripers to the Roanoke. The Wildlife Commission has cooperated with DMF to tag thousands of striped bass each year. Anglers who catch a tagged striped bass should contact DMF biologist, Charlton Godwin, at 800-338-7805.
Wildlife Commission fisheries biologists sample the Roanoke River every Monday in the spring as part of their survey of striped bass spawning stock. They will be electrofishing the Roanoke River again this week on April 25 to survey American shad spawning stock around the Gaston boat ramp associated with the Town of Gaston near Hwy. 48.
Look for a Roanoke River fisheries report update on April 26 to reflect the April 25 American shad sampling.
Roanoke River creel clerks interviewed anglers coming off the river and reported striped bass being caught and harvested at Jamesville, Williamston, Edwards Ferry and Weldon, according to Kevin Dockendorf, the Wildlife Commission’s fisheries research coordinator in the coastal region.
“Anglers who can find the striped bass reported catching between 25 and 30 fish, but some anglers came back from their fishing trips with no fish and some with no bites,” Dockendorf said. “Some anglers caught their limits, although many of the striped bass that were released were less than 18 inches. A few striped bass in the protective slot limit of 22 to 27 inches have been released and nostriped bass greater than 27 inches were reported last week.”
Dockendorf said that most anglers fished for striped bass although some American shad could still be found around the Gaston Boating Access Area near the Hwy 48 bridge.
“Remember: You can harvest only one American shad on a daily basis from the Roanoke,”Dockendorf said. “Hickory shad spawning appears to be complete.”
Dockendorf’s weekly creel report from the Roanoke comes from information collected by Chip Peele and Patrick Railey, Roanoke River creel clerks. Peele and Railey interview anglers coming off the Roanoke to collect information for the Wildlife Commission on angling effort as well as size, catch and harvest data on striped bass, hickory shad and other fish targeted by anglers over the 61-day striped bass harvest season on the Roanoke River.
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