This week represents a transition on the Roanoke River as the shad fishing winds down and the striper fishing heats up.  Shad anglers continue to report good catches, while the striper action is hit or miss, depending on where you’re fishing in the river and daily water conditions.  Although catches have been spotty, striped bass have been harvested in good numbers throughout the river since April 1st. 

Rainfall in the upper Roanoke River basin this past weekend necessitated the release of more water from Roanoke Rapids Dam this past Tuesday, the 19th.  Flows increased from 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to almost 14,000 cfs.  This flow level will likely persist through Easter weekend before ramping down to approximately 11,000 cfs next week.  

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists sampled the river on Monday at Weldon, collecting 280 striped bass. A fair number but nothing like what they expect to see in the coming weeks as the water temperatures rise and the fish that are currently in the lower river start migrating to the spawning grounds at Weldon. According to Jeremy McCargo, a Commission fisheries biologist, most of the fish they collected were scattered from the little river to Troublefield Gut. The anglers were also congregated in the same area and were catching fish throughout the day.

Water temperatures hold the key regarding when the shad leave, and when the striped bass appear.  Temperatures in the low 60’s draw striped bass onto the spawning grounds, with peak spawning activity occurring between 64 and 68 F.  Water temperatures this week downstream of Weldon near Halifax are near 62 F.  

Bobby Colston of Colstons Tackle Box on Hwy. 48 south of Gaston reported on Wednesday that the fishing was pretty slow on Tuesday. He and his fishing party fished upstream of Weldon near the gap, catching 10 stripers on flukes. Three of the fish they caught were keeper size. He said they saw lots of boats but not a lot of fish being caught. However, he has high hopes for fishing the rest of this week and into the weekend now that the river is flowing at nearly 14,000 cfs. “They’re usually here by now,” Colston said, referring to the stripers. “It’s a full moon and the water’s up so maybe they’ll get on up here.”  McCargo echoed Colston’s observations, citing the likelihood that the increase in flows will attract more stripers to the Weldon area. 

Down river at Williamston, Ricky Mobley reports that the fishing has been very good, with anglers reporting catches every day, mostly fishing cut bait or large minnows. Commission creel clerks have also documented decent catches of striped bass from the Jamesville, Hamilton and Scotland Neck areas over the last week.

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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