I recently returned home from two weeks on the Roanoke River guiding anglers to Striped Bass during their spring spawning run. This season marked my 17th year fishing the Roanoke River for Shad and Stripers. I grew up right down the road fishing on the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound, but I didn't discover the Roanoke until later in life. Although I love chasing Redfish and Albies in the salt, I look forward to floating the Roanoke and enjoying the slower pace and great fishing each spring.
Although the town of Weldon NC is known as the "Rockfish Capital of the World", it wasn't earning it's reputation the first few days of my trip. We had fish, but they had not arrived in the numbers I was hoping for, and they were scattered up and down the river instead of being stacked in big schools. We caught fish, but we had to work for them. Fly was a bit tought for several days. Casting jigs on spinning rods produced a little better bite for us. Where were the missing fish, and why was the bite tougher than normal? Good question. There were several factors at play. Low water temps could have played a roll. And although the flow of 12,000 cfs was great for spawning fish, the flow had only been up for a few days before my arrival. When the Striped Bass gather in the Albemarle Sound and the mouth of the Roanoke River, they wait on signs such as high water flows to start their 100 mile journey upstream. Perhaps the delayed increase in flow delayed the push of the fish upstream to their spawning grounds. A week after I arrived, we started seeing spawning activity from the fish. Often these fish get a bit lockjawed in the week before they spawn, which could explain the low number of bites.
Fortunately the water temps rose from the low 60's to mid 60's, fish numbers continued to increase and the bite picked up. The fly bite got better and the topwater bite even started to pick up in the early mornings and late evenings.
This right here is what you hope for. A solid wedge of Striped Bass stacked nose to tail and fin to fin from mid water column down the bottom. Often these schools can be several hundred yards long and stretch from one side of the river to the other.
The good days more than made up for the tough days and the Roanoke quickly earned her place as one of my favorite rivers again. Schools of hungry fish, bent rods and happy anglers became the norm and all was right with the world again.
Leaving the Roanoke to head back to the coast was bittersweet. I had been away from my family for two weeks, but the bite was ramping up daily. I said adios to a few of my guide buddies who were staying a few more days to reap the benefits of the happy fish. I'll definitely be back again next year, and I am ready to get you on the books for Shad or Stripers next year if you are ready. Look for more info on the 2024 Roanoke Season soon.
A group of Striped Bass spawn on the surface one evening. When the female rises to the surface to release her eggs, anywhere from a dozen to several dozen males rise up with her. They will fight with all their strength to get close to her and fertilize her eggs. It's quite a sight to see, especially if you consider the long journey these fish make to produce the next generation of fish.
Tenacity...Stripers don't give up the fight very easily.
When a mommy and daddy Striper love each other very much......
A quick goodbye, and a little rest and revive before sending her off into the current.
Striped Bass are such a classically beautiful gamefish.
Another one fell victim to the chartreuse and white Clouser Minnow.
Moody skies downriver.
Happy Anglers = Happy Guides (Baldheaded Bobby Guideservice)
Stripers make you happy!
Chartreuse for the win!
Sometimes the fish were right in the middle of the river, and sometimes you
had to pull them out of the trees like this one.
Captain John Smolko on the hunt for hungry fish
Tossing 350gr sinking lines can be a workout, but it will pay off.
Great fish and good times.
...and the scenery is pretty awesome too.
I love introducing an angler to a new species. Ryan has done Redfish and Albies with me, and now he's gotten to tangle with Striped Bass on my skiff.
Swapping fish stories with Capt Will Paul (Tar River Co.)
Striped Bass aren't the only predators on the Roanoke. This 4ft plus Longnose Gar went after my anglers fly and put up a great fight. I'd love to target these more consistently.
They don't all have to be monsters to have a good time.
On the search for the next bite (Sightfish NC).
Odd looking Striper.
Capt Ozzy on the hunt (Marker 23 Guide Service)
One of the nice things about fishing the Roanoke is that I get to cast a rod a few times too.
This one was worth making a cast for.
The battle ensues.
Constantly changing water heights and flow have carved away at the banks and left these trees hanging on for dear life. It's amazing to see how much affect moving water has on a shoreline.
Lot's of life to see on the river.
Time to make the babies.
From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely appreciate everyone who came and spent some time on the Roanoke River with me this spring. Thank you so much for the support. I look forward to returning next year for both the Shad and Striped Bass spawning runs, and I hope to see you there.
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