Fisheries Biologists Keith Ashley and Tom Rachels sampled the Cape Fear River from their electrofishing boat this week on May 13 and 14, collecting a total of 25 striped bass. They launched immediately below each of the three locks and damson the Cape Fear River at Duart, Elizabethtown, and Riegelwood in Bladen County.
American shad were still present in the Cape Fear at locks and dams 2 and 3, but the fish-sampling work focused on striped bass at the three sample sites.
Ashley and Rachels captured 22 stripers at lock and dam 1 (11 males, 11 females), two stripers at lock and dam 2 (1 male; 1 female), and one male striped bass at lock and dam 3. The striped bass were tagged and released into the river.
Size ranges for the stripers were 19-30 inches in length and 2.5 to 13.5 pounds in weight. The sex ratio was almost 50:50, as Ashley and Rachels collected 13 males and 12 females.
Ashley and Rachels observed six recreational boat anglers below lock and dam 1, four recreational boat anglers below lock and dam 2 and two below lock and dam3. In addition, they saw four bank anglers at lock and dam 2, but none at lock and dam 3.
“We saw 10 bank anglers fishing from the newly constructed fishing pier at lock and dam 1,” Ashley said. “Most of them were fishing for catfish, but there are a lot of striped bass still in the river immediately below lock and dam 1. Even though all striped bass caught must be released immediately, the striper fishing is good.”
Ashley and Rachels also assisted N.C. State University researcher Josh Raabe, who is evaluating fish passage through the rock arch rapids at lock and dam 1. They collected seven flathead catfish for Raabe’s sonic tagging study.
The weather was cloudy and cool with air temps in the mid 50’s when Ashley and Rachels sampled the Cape Fear as part of their routine weekly striped bass spawning stock monitoring. The water in the Cape Fear was somewhat muddy with normal flows. Discharge was at 5,420 cubic feet per second (cfs), and the water temperature was 68°F.
The Cape Fear River remains a good fishing opportunity for American (white) shad, 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.
“Things have slowed in the Cape Fear River, but it’s not that there aren’t any fish around. It’s that the number of anglers has fallen off,” Mumford said. “Plenty of white shad are still being landed at lock and dam 2 and lock and dam 3. If you’re thinking about a ‘last trip of the shad season,’ the Cape Fear River is the place to go for white shad.”
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