RALEIGH, N.C. — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will extend the striped bass harvest season within the Roanoke River Management Area until midnight on Sunday, May 6. 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 2018 is 68,750 pounds. Through April 30, the end of the regular harvest season, the number of pounds projected to be harvested is about 44,000 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, especially in the lower river,” said Chad Thomas, coastal fisheries supervisor for the Commission. “Variable weather patterns and flow releases have delayed Striped Bass migration. Flows were low (2,200 cfs) during March before returning to the optimal spawning range of 6,000-8,000 cfs in early April. However, water temperatures through the middle of the month were in the mid-50s, and the fish were really spread out.
“Flow releases are set to increase to 11,000 cfs this week and are projected to continue near or above 11,000 cfs through the extended harvest period.”
The preferred temperature range for Striped Bass spawning in the Roanoke River is 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperatures are currently hovering around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, an important consideration when the Commission plans harvest season extensions. Cooler water temperatures aid with the survival of fish that are caught and released.
“Changes in water temperatures and flows can impact angler catch rates as the fish will often ‘turn off’ for a period until they adjust to the new conditions,” Thomas said. “This can be frustrating to anglers, so the extra harvest days should give anglers who prefer to keep fish an opportunity to find the fish again.
“Although the harvest season will end on May 6, catch-and-release opportunities will be good through most of May.”
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.