Roanoke River Fisheries Report - May 31, 2013

Just when you thought the Roanoke River American shad run was coming to an end, there are reports of another increase in shad catch rates this week. So, if you’re up for some quality American shad fishing on the Roanoke, a new batch of shad has made it to the spawning grounds in the Weldon/Gaston area.

“We caught a total of 75 American shad this week, and our catch rate was 115 fish per hour compared to 50 fish per hour last week,” said Fisheries Biologist Jeremy McCargo.  “Although we saw some spent female American shad, the majority of the females were gravid. It looks like American shad will continue to be on the spawning grounds for a few more weeks.”

Striped bass fishing in the upper Roanoke River, however, has continued to decline as the spawning run of stripers appears to be reaching its conclusion for 2013, according to McCargo.

For the last week of May, Wildlife Commission Fisheries Biologists Jeremy McCargo and Ben Ricks collected 153 striped bass and 75 American shad during their weekly spawning stock surveys for striped bass and American shad in the Roanoke River.

Joined by fellow Fisheries Biologist Chad Thomas for the fish-sampling work on May 28, they surveyed the Roanoke for stripers in an electrofishing boat from the local fishing hole known as “The Gap” downstream to “Troublefield Gut.” The trio conducted shad sampling between the Hwy 48 bridge to the power lines downriver.

The153 stripers that McCargo, Ricks and Thomas sampled ranged in length from 11-32 inches. The largest tipped the scales at 13 pounds. Male stripers were collected at about a 17:1 ratio over females (136 male; 8 female; 9 immature). Catch rates for striped bass this week were much lower than last week — a 97 fish per hour compared to 228 fish per hour. And, like last week, the sample was dominated by small male striped bass around 16 inches.

“We only collected 8 females,” McCargo said. “But we saw boats catching good numbers of fish from Mush Island to the Big Rock. Most of the fish were small males, but some anglers reported catching good numbers of fish.”

With water temperatures continuing to rise, they soon will exceed the upper end of the preferred striped bass spawning temperature range, according to McCargo.

“There will likely be a few small males remaining on the spawning grounds for a while longer, but spawning activity should be complete,” he said. “This week’s sample was the final striped bass sample for us for the year.”

Unlike striped bass catch rates, catch rates for American shad bounced back up, which was a bit of a surprise to McCargo.

“With more American shad having arrived, we will continue our weekly shad sampling,”McCargo said.

Of the 75 American shad sampled this week by McCargo, Ricks and Thomas, the sex ratio of the shad was 5:3 males to females (47 males; 28 females). The fish ranged from 17-21 inches and the heaviest American shad tipped the scales at 3.7 pounds.

The weather was warm and sunny when they sampled the Roanoke earlier this week. The water was clear, but high and fast due to releases from upriver dams. McCargo reported flows at 13,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) when they sampled the river on May 28 this week.

With the striped bass spawning run tapering off, and despite the recent new influx of gravid American shad at the spawning grounds, this will be the final Roanoke River fisheries report for 2013.  (Seriously, go grab your ultralight gear,shad darts and spoons for some late-season American shad action.  They are up there.)

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Related Information

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Jeremy McCargo reports that a new batch of American shad has made it to the spawning grounds in the upper Roanoke River near Gaston, N.C.