The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission confirmed today that the season for harvesting striped bass by hook and line in the Roanoke River Striped Bass Management Area will end at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, as specified in rule. After that time, all striped bass caught in this area must be released immediately, regardless of condition.
The Roanoke River Striped Bass Management Area includes the Roanoke River and its tributaries downstream from the Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam to the mouth of the river at Albemarle Sound, including the Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers.
Migration of striped bass into the Roanoke River was delayed this spring due to unusually cold water temperatures that have persisted throughout March and into early April. Striped bass have been moving upstream as the water temperature has slowly warmed into the low 60s, and they are now scattered throughout the river.
Low striped bass harvest and cool water temperatures prompted the Wildlife Commission to consider extending the season. However, recent declines in overall striped bass abundance in the Roanoke River coupled with depressed numbers of key age groups suggest that the fishery may need more protection.
“After analyzing the data, we concluded that the low numbers of harvestable striped bass between 18 and 20 inches — mostly 3- and 4-year-old fish — were compelling reasons against extending the season, despite the cool weather and despite the striped bass harvest prior to April 30 being relatively low,” said Chad Thomas, the Wildlife Commission’s coastal region fisheries supervisor. “Information received late last week from our creel clerks interviewing anglers in the lower river and from N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff sampling in Albemarle Sound suggests that no large influx of striped bass greater than 18 inches is staging to enter the river or has recently entered the river.”
During their data analysis, Commission biologists identified a downward trend in abundance of certain age groups of striped bass on the spawning grounds.
“Specifically, we have confirmed that survival of Roanoke River striped bass spawned in 2009 was poor, as first indicated by the absence of juveniles in N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ sampling that summer,” Thomas said. “Striped bass spawned in 2009 were in short supply as 3-year-old fish in the river last year. Their numbers were even lower in 2013 when they should have been appearing in the river as 4-year-old fish.”
In addition, the Roanoke River striped bass spawned in 2010 that should be appearing in fisheries surveys as 3-year-old fish this year (18-inch fish) are also poorly represented in the population, Thomas said. The evidence points to two consecutive years of poor contributions to the overall striped bass population — a concern not only for angler success, but also for long-term population health.
Thomas said that fisheries surveys in the Roanoke River also offered encouraging news as biologists have detected high numbers of 2-year-old striped bass, all less than 18 inches, in the river.
“Anglers are catching a lot of small, sub-legal striped bass — an indication that a good spawn may have occurred in 2011,” Thomas said. “Fortunately, we are seeing some larger, slot-size fish (22-27 inches) currently on the spawning grounds, along with a number of fish that exceed 30 pounds. It is important to protect these fish as they make up the majority of the spawning adults that will contribute to the long-term health of the population.”
Commission biologists in collaboration with N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ staff are analyzing Roanoke River striped bass population data for developing future management options.
The daily creel limit for striped bass in the Roanoke River Striped Bass Management Area is two fish per person; the minimum length limit is 18 inches; no striped bass between 22 inches and 27 inches in length may be possessed; and, only one fish of the two-fish creel limit may be greater than 27 inches in length. Starting May 1, all striped bass caught in the Roanoke River Striped Bass Management Area must be released immediately. From April 1 to June 30, upstream from the U.S. Hwy. 258 bridge near Scotland Neck, anglers may use only a single barbless hook or a single hook with the barb bent down.
For more information, contact the Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries at (919) 707-0220.
For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the fishing home page.
Logo courtesy North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission