North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Cameron Ingram this week signed a proclamation that closes the 2024 striped bass harvest season in the Roanoke River Management Area.
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.
Despite reductions in harvest over the past two years, the Roanoke River striped bass population continues to decline. In 2023, Wildlife Commission biologists observed the lowest abundance of striped bass in the Roanoke River on record during their spawning grounds survey.
High mortality rates in recent years have also resulted in a persistent low abundance of older fish, which are important for population recovery. Low abundance and the impacts of high mortality have resulted in poor spawning success over the past six years, even in years when Roanoke River conditions were considered optimal for spawning.
The Wildlife Commission is working closely with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to address declines in the Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound striped bass stock.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has already closed coastal waters to both commercial and recreational harvest of striped bass in the Albemarle Sound Management Area. Striped bass in the Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound Management Area have the most protection they have had in the history of their management in North Carolina.
“The Roanoke River has the only self-sustaining population of striped bass in North Carolina and the reductions in this striped bass population are concerning.” said Ben Ricks, Coastal Region fishery supervisor with the Wildlife Commission. “We are working cooperatively with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to try to improve the Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound striped bass population. While harvest restrictions are an important management tool, we are also stocking striped bass in the lower Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound, and are looking into other factors that may be limiting striped bass survival.”
Anglers can continue to catch and release striped bass throughout the spring despite no harvest season.
The Wildlife Commission recommends that anglers use a single, barbless circle hook when fishing with natural bait 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 Highway 258 bridge near Scotland Neck.
Signage will be posted at boating access areas along the Roanoke River to notify anglers of the closed harvest season.