Your opinion please: What happened to the Roanoke River striper fishery?

stiab

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
I started fishing the Roanoke for stripers and shad out of Weldon in the 1980's, and continued for many years, until the crowds and boat ramp waits became too great. Even after that I tracked it while being described as a 'world class striper fishery'. So looking at todays season and limits, what do you think happened? Informed opinions appreciated!
 

Wildlifer

Twelve Pointer
Death by a thousand cuts. It's not just the Roanoke population, large runs of stripers have failed to make it down along the coast since at least the early 2000s.
Overfishing of menhaden and stripers alike, Failed spawning seasons due to poor river conditions, Changing habitat and climate. The list goes on but those are some big ones.
 

Bailey Boat

Twelve Pointer
Speaking to the Roanoke only, water quality, plain and simple. When they allowed the paper mill at hiway 258 to reopen, the quality has steadily declined. The Mill doesn't even attempt to cover it up as the discharge is out in the open for everyone to see.

I have guided on that river for almost 25 years and its gone downhill every year since the Mill reopened. Every year it gets tougher to find the fish (quality, not quantity) and cost more to do so for the 14 straight days I'm there. I made the decision about 2 weeks ago that this will be my last year beating my head against the brick wall.......

Anyone want to buy a client list??
 

Mack in N.C.

Old Mossy Horns
I can tell you back in the 80's I had some of my best fishing but that was partially due to my brother in Law being a guide there and he was probably the 1st modern guide on the river. Back then his client list inluded several members of the United Sates supreme Court and several cast members of the Soap opera THE YOUNG AND RESTLESS that fished with him for years.

He knew the river as well or better than anyone and we had many many quality days there. My best fishing was back then even without him in the boat. I think the poster who said death by a thousand cuts got it. ......water quality, river flow, over fishing, prey base you name it .

Commercial fishing has to be part of it as well.....in the 90's I used to fish some at the 301 bridge over the Potomac in the January.....big big stripers and the fishing was good but the netters would come in and rape the place . these Albermare and Cheasapeke fish intermingle i would assume thats still happening.

Here is another thought I will throw out there since wildlifer mentioned global warming..........
Most people dont realize that the Striper populations from the Cape Fear River south to the St Johns river in Florida are not ocean fish. these populations rarely if ever go into full salt and do not co-mingle with nearby river populations. Because of tempature and other reasons they are confined to the rivers and the brackish estuarys of those river s from the Cape fear south so those populations are not as big and were never as big as the northern ones. Same thing with the Gulf strain stripers, these stripers from Northern florida on the gulf on over to Louisana are river and estuary fish and rarely if ever venture into the gulf. In the summers gulf strain stripers would go upstream and live the hottest days around springs in the river. Now dams have bloked them from reaching most of these cooler spots.
With global warming this dynamic may go north of the cape fear????.
 

darenative

Twelve Pointer
Death by a thousand cuts. It's not just the Roanoke population, large runs of stripers have failed to make it down along the coast since at least the early 2000s.
Overfishing of menhaden and stripers alike, Failed spawning seasons due to poor river conditions, Changing habitat and climate. The list goes on but those are some big ones.
Nailed it
 

thelivecanary

Eight Pointer
Fished the Roanoke a few times the last five years. It's a phenomenal fishery, in my opinion but I wouldn't catch and keep a striper out of that system if you paid me. They taste horrible, they are not sea run stripers. They taste like they get released from a holding pond every spring....some hatchery near the sound. Gross! If you cook a white perch and a striper side by side out of that system, the quality of the perch is far and away better. Not even close!

In terms of the demise of the striper fishery, you can chalk it up to a million different issues not the least being, industrial waste, ag chemical runoff, the bastardized menhaden scheme, poor fishery management (see sustainable fisheries management) and the reduced access to spawning grounds. Too many fingers to blame, the only fix is to attack the biggest issues first and start working your way down the ladder. It will take huge government intervention because they allowed these practices to agglomerate. Many fisheries suffer the same way and it's disgusting.

I HATE GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION BUT I DON"T SEE A WAY OUT.
 

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Here is another thought I will throw out there since wildlifer mentioned global warming..........
Most people dont realize that the Striper populations from the Cape Fear River south to the St Johns river in Florida are not ocean fish. these populations rarely if ever go into full salt and do not co-mingle with nearby river populations. Because of tempature and other reasons they are confined to the rivers and the brackish estuarys of those river s from the Cape fear south so those populations are not as big and were never as big as the northern ones. Same thing with the Gulf strain stripers, these stripers from Northern florida on the gulf on over to Louisana are river and estuary fish and rarely if ever venture into the gulf. In the summers gulf strain stripers would go upstream and live the hottest days around springs in the river. Now dams have bloked them from reaching most of these cooler spots.
With global warming this dynamic may go north of the cape fear????.
That idea is not crazy. The stripers in the Albemarle-Roanoke system are under significant heat stress in the sounds during the warmer months of the year. In fact, all of the populations south of the A-R system, including the Tar-Pamlico are considered non-anadromous, estuarine populations. The A-R system contributes to the Atlantic migratory stock, but the schools of ocean fish haven't ventured as far south in the past decade. I can only wonder if temperature is playing a role in that, since NC (Oregon Inlet) is at the southernmost border of their migratory range.

The temperature conditions in NC from May-September are marginal for the growth of striped bass. Their condition is poor, and they have very little fat storage at all. It would not take much of an increase in temperature to hurt their survival.

Of course, an increase in fishing mortality above thresholds doesn't help, and release mortality with striped bass is often quite high as well. Menhaden are huge in the sounds and coastal areas as a food source. I think Wildlifer is correct, that they are getting hit from multiple angles, but they are definitely sensitive to temperature.
 

justwin24

Six Pointer
I only fished the striper run once and that was in 2019. We lost count of the number of stripers caught in 2 days. Size wise it was like we were catching the same ones over and over again. Right around 16 inches I believe. It was a log of fun at first, but wasn't much of a challenge even on lightweight gear. So out of curiosity what's different now than in the in 80's? Smaller fish now? What was an average size back then?
 

Mack in N.C.

Old Mossy Horns
I will say that the avg size I caught and saw caught this year was bigger than any year since the 80's

this isnt going to be popular but they might as well just close it to all harvest for a few years ...4 days is terrible and maybe open it back up to harvest on a lottery basis,.......
 

Dick

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
During spring spawn on the headwaters of the Chesapeake, 50 lb cows was fairly common. It was always catch and release. But when you pull a heavy fish out to take your picks and measurements, it takes a toll on the fish.
Commercial menhaden netters killed every striper they touched. Taking away their food sources at the same time. Entire schools were decimated and the bycatch tossed back in for the crabs.
 

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
As a follow up on temperature, these are graphs from my master's thesis on growth and condition of striped bass in the Albemarle-Roanoke system, 2005, that show how their condition changes throughout the year in response to heat stress, and other seasonal factors:

Figure 13 is a measure of glycogen (energy storage) inside liver cells, by measuring cell diameter
Figure 14 is a measure of visceral fat (visible fat along the intestines) across seasons.
Figure 21 is the relationship between Relative Weight (weight vs. length) and water temperature

50E9E1FE-7EA6-4C3F-8A2B-003AC8267DDD.jpeg92B6EF92-94FD-499C-B3C8-20634A26A607.jpegFF82502C-026D-426D-ADB0-F3A89846C8B9.jpeg

It is also well documented that release mortality skyrockets during summer when water temps are high, and that has led to some regulation changes, especially in reservoir fisheries. Temperature-oxygen kills in reservoirs are also well documented. I think striped bass are a species that prefers cool, oxygenated water and both their growth and their survival suffers when water temps rise above their preferred range. I think Albemarle sound is an inhospitable place, marginal water quality, in the summer months.
 

darenative

Twelve Pointer
I think Albemarle sound is an inhospitable place, marginal water quality, in the summer months.
Yep. By August, most of the fish on the southern end of the Albermarle are in poor condition most years. They look like q-tips, big ol head and an emaciated body. The same time frame, fish that are 10 miles away at the inlet are fat and healthy by comparison.
 

Justin

Old Mossy Horns
As a follow up on temperature, these are graphs from my master's thesis on growth and condition of striped bass in the Albemarle-Roanoke system, 2005, that show how their condition changes throughout the year in response to heat stress, and other seasonal factors:
Figure 13 is a measure of glycogen (energy storage) inside liver cells, by measuring cell diameter
Figure 14 is a measure of visceral fat (visible fat along the intestines) across seasons.
Figure 21 is the relationship between Relative Weight (weight vs. length) and water temperature

View attachment 90744View attachment 90745View attachment 90746

It is also well documented that release mortality skyrockets during summer when water temps are high, and that has led to some regulation changes, especially in reservoir fisheries. Temperature-oxygen kills in reservoirs are also well documented. I think striped bass are a species that prefers cool, oxygenated water and both their growth and their survival suffers when water temps rise above their preferred range. I think Albemarle sound is an inhospitable place, marginal water quality, in the summer months.
Do you feel like the shift of inlets further south (Oregon Inlet itself has shift south a mile or two since it first opened), had had an affect, combined with water temps, over the life of a couple cycles? Although Oregon Inlet, and even Hatteras, saw runs of stripers in and out, do you feel like the lack of inlets further north like Currituck/Corolla/Back Bay VA/Duck, etc , have over time (100-150yrs) have played a factor?
Fish having to travel much further south, into higher temp water, to reach spawning grounds. Inlets closed up that may have potentially played a role in fish entering and existing estuaries, and pushed them further south along the southern edge of their range at this point in history + rising temps.

No basis for my question, just that it’s another potential ‘cut’ that I haven’t seen factored in. Those fish historically had access to ocean and what it brings a lot quicker and closer than they currently do. That’s a lot of relatively ‘barren (baitless) ground to cover after coming out of the spawn.
 

todobien

Six Pointer
Speaking to the Roanoke only, water quality, plain and simple. When they allowed the paper mill at hiway 258 to reopen, the quality has steadily declined. The Mill doesn't even attempt to cover it up as the discharge is out in the open for everyone to see.

I have guided on that river for almost 25 years and its gone downhill every year since the Mill reopened. Every year it gets tougher to find the fish (quality, not quantity) and cost more to do so for the 14 straight days I'm there. I made the decision about 2 weeks ago that this will be my last year beating my head against the brick wall.......

Anyone want to buy a client list??
Paper mill in Scotland Neck?
 

todobien

Six Pointer
We have loved them to death. The we being comm and rec fishermen. Quotas were set too high and the politics of it prevented the fish managers from making changes when needed. Now stocks are so small that we have young fish on the spawning grounds which are not as fecund as larger ones and the politics are still hampering management. There were some 100 lb fish harvested in the 1800s near Edenton. So if you think about the size of fish we see are usually only about 2 or 3 size classes it trlls you something is wrong.

This is not just a NC thing but a Coastwide thing. The Hudson, Ches Bay and other stocks are in the same shape. Hopefully they will rebuild before I die and better more reactive management measures will be in place.

Of course there are those will say there are more than there ever has been.....
 

MJ74

Old Mossy Horns
Speaking to the Roanoke only, water quality, plain and simple. When they allowed the paper mill at hiway 258 to reopen, the quality has steadily declined. The Mill doesn't even attempt to cover it up as the discharge is out in the open for everyone to see.

I have guided on that river for almost 25 years and its gone downhill every year since the Mill reopened. Every year it gets tougher to find the fish (quality, not quantity) and cost more to do so for the 14 straight days I'm there. I made the decision about 2 weeks ago that this will be my last year beating my head against the brick wall.......

Anyone want to buy a client list??
There isnt a mill at hwy 258......maybe your thinking of a different road?
 

timber

Twelve Pointer
It seems the strippers had better numbers when the paper mill at roanokerapids was dumping in the river before they built the ponds. The eggs had something to catch a ride down river on with all the slime floating down the river
 

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Do you feel like the shift of inlets further south (Oregon Inlet itself has shift south a mile or two since it first opened), had had an affect, combined with water temps, over the life of a couple cycles? Although Oregon Inlet, and even Hatteras, saw runs of stripers in and out, do you feel like the lack of inlets further north like Currituck/Corolla/Back Bay VA/Duck, etc , have over time (100-150yrs) have played a factor?
Fish having to travel much further south, into higher temp water, to reach spawning grounds. Inlets closed up that may have potentially played a role in fish entering and existing estuaries, and pushed them further south along the southern edge of their range at this point in history + rising temps.

No basis for my question, just that it’s another potential ‘cut’ that I haven’t seen factored in. Those fish historically had access to ocean and what it brings a lot quicker and closer than they currently do. That’s a lot of relatively ‘barren (baitless) ground to cover after coming out of the spawn.
I'm not very familiar with how the inlets have shifted over the years, but I do think if there was an inlet further north they would use it. I think that if there was a part of their range where they would be susceptible to higher temps it would be here in the southernmost portion.
 

Wanchese

Twelve Pointer
Do you feel like the shift of inlets further south (Oregon Inlet itself has shift south a mile or two since it first opened), had had an affect, combined with water temps, over the life of a couple cycles? Although Oregon Inlet, and even Hatteras, saw runs of stripers in and out, do you feel like the lack of inlets further north like Currituck/Corolla/Back Bay VA/Duck, etc , have over time (100-150yrs) have played a factor?
Fish having to travel much further south, into higher temp water, to reach spawning grounds. Inlets closed up that may have potentially played a role in fish entering and existing estuaries, and pushed them further south along the southern edge of their range at this point in history + rising temps.

No basis for my question, just that it’s another potential ‘cut’ that I haven’t seen factored in. Those fish historically had access to ocean and what it brings a lot quicker and closer than they currently do. That’s a lot of relatively ‘barren (baitless) ground to cover after coming out of the spawn.
When I ask someone if they think lack of a inlet north of Oregon Inlet and humans stopping any new inlets from opening had a trickle effect on fish populations in our sounds, they look at me like I have two heads.

Everyone wants the fish populations to be the same without considering how much the environment they live in has changed.


I mean, it would be nice if there were still live oysters in Currituck Sound but there’s not and likely never will be again.

Will be interesting to see how things change when they tear out the road and sand bags north of Rodanthe. That place wants a inlet bad.
 

Justin

Old Mossy Horns
When I ask someone if they think lack of a inlet north of Oregon Inlet and humans stopping any new inlets from opening had a trickle effect on fish populations in our sounds, they look at me like I have two heads.

Everyone wants the fish populations to be the same without considering how much the environment they live in has changed.


I mean, it would be nice if there were still live oysters in Currituck Sound but there’s not and likely never will be again.

Will be interesting to see how things change when they tear out the road and sand bags north of Rodanthe. That place wants a inlet bad.
Should definitely add life on the back side of tri villages, more than what there was. Currituck/Duck needs an inlet as well. You’re more familiar with it than I am, but have there been significant wash-overs up there that are maintained? I know historically there were inlets up there, but these days we dont hear much about trying to keep them from opening back up like we do with HI/Ocracoke inlets that try to open.
 

JoeSam1975

Ten Pointer
Contributor
There isnt a mill at hwy 258......maybe your thinking of a different road?
I was trying to figure out where he was talking about. Definitely not one on 258 in NC. Guess he is talking about the one near Roanoke Rapids
 

Wanchese

Twelve Pointer
They don’t really have as many places of narrow beach up there as there south of Oregon Inlet. The beach at Kitty Hawk is probably the worse and has washed out the beach road a few times in recent years.
 

Justin

Old Mossy Horns
Not as many as I thought, but definitely a few over the centuries.
 

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stiab

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
. Those fish historically had access to ocean and what it brings a lot quicker and closer than they currently do. That’s a lot of relatively ‘barren (baitless) ground to
That's a great point. Ever wonder how the "Lost Colonists" found Roanoke Island? It was thru nearby Roanoke Inlet, which IIRC closed in 1821, And there was Currituck Inlet back then as well.
 
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Justin

Old Mossy Horns
As much as the rivers flush things out so to speak, I think there’s some sort of flush affect that the oceans would do with inlets or breaches scattered up and down the islands. It’s not conducive for modern humans, but there’s a lot of water back there not seeing much movement relative to the surface area covered in sounds, with the limited inlets and impounded rivers.
 

stiab

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
As much as the rivers flush things out so to speak, I think there’s some sort of flush affect that the oceans would do with inlets or breaches scattered up and down the islands. It’s not conducive for modern humans, but there’s a lot of water back there not seeing much movement relative to the surface area covered in sounds, with the limited inlets and impounded rivers.
This is because wash over used to be a natural part of nature's inaction with the Outer Banks, before the dune system was constructed in the 1930's.
 
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