The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will extend the striped bass harvest season within the Roanoke River Management Area until midnight on Sunday, May 7. The season had been set to expire by rule on April 30.
The Roanoke River Management Area includes the Roanoke River and tributaries from Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam downstream to the mouth of the river at Albemarle Sound, including the Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers.
The Commission is extending the season to allow anglers opportunity to harvest additional pounds of striped bass allocated to the Roanoke River. The quota of striped bass established for 2017 is 68,750 pounds. Through April 30, the end of the regular harvest season, the number of pounds projected to be harvested is about 30,000 pounds. The Commission calculates the harvest estimate by interviewing anglers as they complete fishing trips on the river.
“Harvest rates have been low this spring throughout the river, primarily because we had poor recruitment of the 2013-year class and subsequently very few age-4 striped bass are in the population,” said Chad Thomas, coastal fisheries supervisor for the Commission. “Age-4 striped bass are typically our 19- to 20-inch fish, and in their absence, anglers are having to work harder this season to find fish between 18 and 22 inches. Contributing to the lower catch rates were extreme low flows (2,600 cubic feet per second) during March that have now been replaced by flood releases (35,000 cubic feet per second) resulting from heavy rainfall in the upper river basin. With high flows projected through the end of the harvest season and into May, fish will be redistributed throughout the river, which will further impact catchability and ultimately angler success.”
Although weather conditions and the absence of age-4 fish in the population have combined to make finding legal-sized striped bass a challenge to some this spring, an abundance of smaller, age-2 and age-3 fish have kept angler catch rates high in the upper river this past week. These two strong year classes (2014 and 2015) suggest better harvest rates for 2018.
“Anglers preferring to harvest fish are a bit frustrated this year because they are having to throw back lots of small fish, and occasionally fish in the protective slot, to find their keepers. Water temperatures will be cooling as high flows continue into May, which will help survival of fish that are caught and released,” Thomas said. “However, we are hopeful that the flow rates will return closer to the preferred spawning flow of 8,000 cubic feet per second as soon as possible.”
During the harvest season, the minimum length limit is 18 inches, and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches (the protective slot) may be possessed at any time. The daily creel limit is two fish, only one of which may be larger than 27 inches. To reduce handling stress on fish that are released, anglers must use a single barbless hook or a lure with a single barbless hook from April 1 through June 30 when fishing in the upper Roanoke River above the highway 258 bridge near Scotland Neck.
For more information on fishing in public inland waters, visit the Commission’s fishing page.
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities. To learn more, visit www.ncwildlife.org.
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