For The White Street Journal —
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Executive Director, Cameron Ingram, has signed a proclamation outlining significant changes to the 2022 striped bass harvest season in the Roanoke River Management Area. The entire Roanoke River Management Area will be open for harvest of striped bass April 23 – 24 and April 28 – 29. In addition, the daily creel limit has changed to one striped bass per day. The minimum length limit is 18 inches, and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches may be possessed at any time.
The Roanoke River Management Area includes the Roanoke River and tributaries from the Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam downstream to the Albemarle Sound, including the Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers.
In 2020, a stock assessment of striped bass in the Roanoke River/Albemarle Sound indicated that the stock was overfished, and overfishing was occurring. In 2021, the harvest quota in the Roanoke River was reduced from 68,750 pounds to 12,804 pounds as a necessary conservation action intended to rebuild the striped bass population.
Despite season reductions, the striped bass harvest exceeded the 12,804-pound harvest quota in 2021 and payback of the overage is required in 2022 as outlined in the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The payback means a further reduction of the 2022 quota to 6,578 pounds. The four harvest days outlined in the proclamation were selected using past angler creel data with the goal of anglers having an opportunity to harvest fish throughout the river.
“We have seen dramatic declines in the abundance of striped bass, in particular the number of larger, older females. These larger fish are key in rebuilding the Roanoke River-Albemarle Sound striped bass population,” said Ben Ricks, coastal region fishery supervisor with the Wildlife Commission. “Additionally, river flows are very important for spawning success. We work closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers each spring to get the best possible flows for spawning on the Roanoke River and we need to make sure there are plenty of fish on the spawning grounds to take full advantage of those flows.”
Anglers can continue to catch and release striped bass throughout the spring despite the shortened harvest season. The Wildlife Commission recommends that anglers use a single barbless hook or a lure with a single barbless hook to reduce handling stress on fish that are released, which is a requirement from April 1 through June 30 when fishing in the upper Roanoke River above the US Highway 258 bridge near Scotland Neck.
Signage will be posted at boating access areas (BAAs) along the Roanoke River to notify anglers of the changes to the open harvest dates. More information about BAAs on the Roanoke River, including the new Odom BAA in Jackson, can be found using the agency’s online BAA locator.