While the keeper season for striped bass in the Roanoke River is now closed, anglers are still catching fish.

Jeremy McCargo and Ben Ricks, fisheries biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, sampled the river on Monday and collected approximately 500 striped bass. McCargo said that although fish were scattered throughout the upper river, most were concentrated around the big rock and just below.  He also said over the weekend, fly fishermen were doing well.    

Bobby Colston, of Colston’s Tackle Box on Hwy. 48 south of Gaston, said he was getting lots of reports on Monday of anglers still catching fish. Most were fishing with live bait, but with so many fish still at Weldon, just about everyone was catching something no matter what lure they were using.

McCargo said that water temperatures are within spawning range, which has sent the stripers into a spawning frenzy. McCargo speculated that the fishing should last another week or two, but the spawning season in nearing the end.

As water temperatures increase, so does striper mortality from catch-and-release angling. From April 1 through June 30, anglers can use only a barbless hook or a lure with a single barbless hook (or the hook bent down) when fishing in inland waters of the Roanoke River upstream of the U.S. Hwy. 258 bridge. Using barbless hooks is one way to reduce striper mortality. Other ways to help keep stripers alive are:

    • Keep the fish in the water when unhooking it
    • Use de-hookers whenever possible to help remove hooks quickly
    • Cut the line if the hook cannot be removed easily
    • Use a landing net made of rubber or knotless nylon, if necessary
    • Use small, non-offset circle hooks, preferably ones with the least amount of distance between the hook point and shank.

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.