Upper and lower jaws even on American shad (above).  Lower jaw protrudes beyond upper jaw on hickory shad (below).

Usually by this time of year, shad fishing in the Roanoke River at Weldon is wrapping up and striper action is getting hot. This year, however, hickory shad fishing continues to go strong, particularly up in the Weldon area.

Ben Ricks, a fisheries biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said that he was really surprised to see how many hickory shad were still around during the weekly sampling effort on Monday. With the weather as warm as it has been lately, and with temperatures continuing to be mild through the weekend, he speculated that the shad probably won’t be around for long. So anyone interested in catching their limit of shad for this season should make plans to head to the river sooner rather than later.

Because some folks are still catching white shad (American) in with the hickory, it’s important for them to be able to recognize the differences between the two closely related species.

Jeremy McCargo, another fisheries biologist with the Commission, says to differentiate between the two species, anglers can look at the shape of the mouth. On American shad, the upper and lower jaws come together when the mouth is closed, while the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw on hickory shad.

On the striper front, Williamston is apparently the hot spot this week. By all reports, anglers are reeling them in, in good numbers, down river. According to Ricks, creel clerks Pete Kornegay and Frank McBride interviewed several anglers earlier this week and last weekend who had caught limits while releasing several more. Ricky Mobley of the Roanoke Sportsman said that the striper fishing really picked up late last week, and “continues to be very good this week.”
Striper fishing at Weldon was good over the weekend, although both Ricks and Bobby Colston of Colstons Tackle Box on Hwy. 48 south of Gaston, reported on Wednesday that the action had dropped off somewhat.

Ricks said that Commission biologists collected close to 130 stripers at Weldon during their weekly sampling effort on Monday, most of which were males.   “The fish were scattered in small schools from the boat ramp downstream beyond the Big Rock,” he added.

Colston said he went fishing on Tuesday of this week, drifting from the boat landing at Weldon down to the Big Rock. In the 4 to 5 hours he fished, he caught only four stripers, using live minnows. He said he didn’t see very many boats fishing, either.

As water temperatures begin to warm into the low 60’s, migrating schools of striped bass will continue to move upstream in preparation for spawning.  

“There was a school (of stripers) up here last weekend but have dropped back.  A few limits have been reported down near the power lines,” Colston said. “Hopefully, we’ll get another school up here soon.”

Download and print a pocket-sized card on “Releasing Stripers Safely.” (PDF)

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.

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