Season opens for striped bass on Roanoke River

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014




By Fred Bonner



North Carolina has not had opening days for many of our game fish until just recently.

The fishermen who have experienced the opening day of striped bass, or what the locals call rockfish, season on the Roanoke River have compared it to New York’s infamous opening day of trout season. Anglers stand elbow-to-elbow as cast lines tangle, boats bump together and on occasion boating accidents occur.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission states: “The Wildlife Commission will open the entire Roanoke River Management Area to striped bass harvest from March 1 through April 30, unless closed or extended through proclamation. The daily creel limit within the Roanoke River Management Area is two striped bass per angler. The minimum length limit is 18 inches, and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches can be possessed at any time. Only one striped bass larger than 27 inches can be included in the daily creel limit.”

For those of you that do not understand the importance of our nearby Roanoke River as a breeding stream for the once close to endangered striped bass, this relatively fast-flowing river runs from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, through several large lakes and finally into the headwaters of the Roanoke River in Roanoke Rapids near the Virginia border. The lower Roanoke River is considered to be one of the most important breeding waters in the entire world for the striped bass.

When the stripers were in short supply, fishery managers put stringent catch restrictions on the striped bass and put in place water release guidelines on the dams above the headwaters. Over the past 20 years, the once limited population of the striped bass is now considered to be “fully recovered.” Strict harvest regulations now help to conserve this valuable natural resource and anglers, as well as commercial fishermen, hope that it continues to improve.

Weldon, N.C. now proclaims itself to be the ”Rockfish Capitol of the World,” a title well deserved. Recreational anglers from far and wide flock to this river during the annual spring spawning migration and, if you’ve never witnessed this event, it’s well worth a trip to Weldon to see this amazing spectacle.

Fishermen can continue to fish after having filled their daily creel limit, as long as they release the fish they catch, unharmed, back into the river.

For sport fishermen who go by the catch and release rules, this striped bass fishery is a fishing trip to remember. Light tackle anglers have a ball fighting these fine sport fish.

Fishing guides from all over North Carolina gather in Weldon for this event, and this contributes large amounts of money into the local economy. Enterprising merchants have even set up floating tackle stores to sell bait and some basic tackle to the fishermen who don’t want to leave the river to go into town to replenish supplies.