“Hot and heavy.”

That’s Jeremy McCargo’s response when asked how the striped bass fishing has been on the Roanoke River the last few days. With water temperatures having finally reached optimal spawning range for stripers, the fish are biting fast and furious during this last week of the season.

McCargo added the fish—and the fishermen—were, for the most part, concentrated around the big rock downstream of the Weldon boat ramp and anglers were catching stripers nearly all day long on Monday.

The season for harvesting a limit of 2 fish per angler per day closes on Saturday at 11:59 p.m., but the fishing should continue to be good for the next few weeks as more and more stripers make it to the spawning grounds.

McCargo and fellow Commission biologist, Ben Ricks, sampled the river on Monday at Weldon, collecting nearly 700 striped bass. Each week, they collect stripers while conducting annual spawning stock monitoring. The fish are counted, measured, weighed and then returned back to the river.  Before they are released, most of the stripers are also tagged by biologists from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.

Anglers who catch a striped bass with a red or yellow tag can fatten their wallets and, at the same time, participate in research projects that help fisheries biologists manage North Carolina’s striped bass populations. Click here for more information.

Bobby Colston, of Colston’s Tackle Box on Hwy. 48 south of Gaston, said he was getting lots of reports on Monday of anglers catching fish, drifting below the big rock. “Everywhere I looked, someone was catching fish,” Colston said. “Lots of boats, lots of catches.”

Although the fish were hitting just about anything, he said live bait seemed to be working the best for fishermen.

In other parts of the river, the fishing was good. McCargo said creel clerks at Hamilton and Jamesville saw plenty of fish over the weekend and Ricky Mobley of the Roanoke Sportsman in Williamston reported that “overall, the fishing’s been pretty good.”

“Now is the time to go, if you want to keep fish,” McCargo advised. “This last week of the harvest season will probably be the peak in terms of numbers of striped bass on the spawning grounds.”

Studies show that striped bass caught on small, barbless circle hooks are usually hooked in the jaw, which means they have a much greater chance of survival after being released than fish hooked in the throat or gut. Anglers can get free samples of Eagle Claw barbless circle hooks from Commission creel clerks working at the Weldon boat ramp.

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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