Veterans of past Roanoke River striped bass runs said they expected the species’ annual spawning migration to be about a month late this year because of an unusually cool spring, and it appears they are correct. Large female rockfish finally began arriving in the Weldon area last week.
Hard-wired like salmon to surge upstream, the stripers rode a flush of new water that rolled down the river toward Albemarle Sound in the last half of April, and they’re fighting their way through the rocks at the public ramp and heading toward the base of Roanoke Rapids Dam.
Last week three N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists — Jeremy McCargo, Katy Potoka and Kevin Dockendorf — conducted an electroshocking excursion, starting at Weldon. They zapped 541 rockfish, including the biggest striper they’ve ever electroshocked, a female that was 37 ½ in ches long and weighed 59 ½ pounds
“We sampled the area around Weldon from the Gap to just below the Big Rock, and the water temperature was 64 degrees,” Dockendorf said.
Of the shocked fish, 508 were males ranging from 12 to 23 inches in length, 31 were females between 14 and 37 inches long, and two were immature females. The ratio was 16 males to one female striper.
“Fishing activity at Weldon was heavy (May 6),” Dockendorf said. “Many boats were fishing the normal spots from the boat ramp to just below the Big Rock.
“We observed numerous anglers hooked up with stripers throughout the day. Angler reports indicated fishing was excellent all day long. Fishing activity was light near Gaston by Thursday.”
Commission clerks took creel surveys from fishermen taking out at the Weldon ramp.
“Our creel clerks interviewed more than 100 boating parties … and release estimates of 100 striped bass were commonly reported by nearly every party, often in relatively short periods of time,” Dockendorf said. “Anglers were catching all size ranges of fish and enjoying the opportunity to fish such a tremendous resource.”
Biologists said to reduce stress and mortality associated with catch-and-release angling, anglers must use only a single barbless hook or a lure with a single barbless hook in the upper Roanoke River through June 30.