Anglers at fishing at Weldon boat ramp. 

“Shad fishing’s been real good up here this week, particularly up at the 48 bridge in Roanoke Rapids.” 

That was Bobby Colston’s reply on Wednesday when asked how the fishing on the Roanoke River has been over the last few days.

Reports from other sources say the same thing: hickory shad fishing is about as hot as the weather. Jeremy McCargo and Kevin Dockendorf, fisheries biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission sampled the river on Monday, collecting more than 500 hickories. “We collected good numbers of hickory shad in all of our sampling locations from the Gap downriver past Troublefield Gut,” McCargo said.

McCargo also noted high river flows have the shad holding tight to the bank and in eddies created by downed trees. Both boat and bank anglers fishing in these areas and near creek mouths were catching fish, and most anglers seemed to be catching well over their limit (see below for shad daily creel limits.) Colorful shad darts, small spoons and white or chartreuse jigs are still the bait of choice for hickory shad on the Roanoke.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that the stripers have yet to appear in any substantial numbers in the upper river, although anglers were catching stripers about 2 miles upstream from Jamesville. According to Ricky Mobley, owner of the Roanoke Sportsmen in Williamston, the rockfish started biting “pretty good” on Tuesday, rating the fishing quality a “7” on a scale from one to 10.

Apparently, another good place to catch stripers has been the 48 bridge at Roanoke Rapids. According to Colston, he said he saw several fishermen catching stripers and talked to one who caught 11 there. On Tuesday, he caught three within the slot limit on flukes.

So there is some striper action just not a lot. With the water temps still below 60 degrees, the river continues to be a little cool to see the mass number of stripers that’s made the Roanoke River a popular fishing destination. The recent heat wave, though, continues to increase water temperatures on the spawning grounds, which should lead to better striper fishing in the coming days.

Striped bass anglers are reminded that they need to use a single barbless hook or lure with a single barbless hook when fishing in the upper river until June 30. The upper Roanoke River is defined as the main river channel and all tributaries, upstream from the U.S. Hwy. 258 bridge near Scotland Neck to the Roanoke Rapids Lake dam.

While anglers can make their existing hooks barbless by crimping down the barb with pliers, the Wildlife Resources Commission, in partnership with Eagle Claw, is handing out barbless circle hooks to anglers fishing on the upper Roanoke River this spring. Informational cards with a single barbless hook attached are available from Wildlife Enforcement officers, fisheries biologists and creel clerks working in the vicinity of the river from now until the end of June.

Safety Note

High flows following periods of low flow dislodge limbs, logs and in some cases, trees from up river locations.  Boaters should take extreme caution when traveling on the water and be on the look-out for these floating hazards!  Similarly, extreme low flows can expose rock outcroppings and make many areas too shallow to access. 

For additional safety measures, the Commission urges boaters to file a float plan before getting on the river. Filling out a float plan and giving it to a reliable person before you leave the ramp can be a life-saving decision.

Check out the North Carolina Boating Checklist to be sure you’re complying with on-the-water rules and safety recommendations.

American Shad Regulation Information

Within the inland waters of the Roanoke River and its tributaries, only one American (white) shad can be included in the daily limit of 10 shad per angler. Inland waters on the mainstem of the Roanoke River are  upstream of the US Highway 258 Bridge near Scotland Neck.

For a downloadable, color pamphlet identifying the species of shad and herring found in North Carolina waters, click here.

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