Monday, March 6, 2023

When you get a minute, can you explain what is happening with the stripe bass situation on the Roanoke.


My take of course and I will try to be brief.


Striped bass have evolved to maximize spawning success on their perspective rivers.   Egg size and buoyancy is different on striped bass spawning on the flats of the Susquehanna vs the striped bass eggs of the Roanoke River or those of native strain Neuse River striped bass.   Eggs of native strain Neuse River striped bass are evolved to successfully hatch in the slower low flow waters of the Neuse River vs the eggs from Roanoke River striped bass are more likely to successfully hatch and reach larvae size in the higher flower waters of the Roanoke.


We have dammed our rivers.  Cape Fear River no longer is viable for successful striped bass production because of locks and dams.   Despite years of stocking and regulations, modifications of dams, etc, the biologists finally admitted that striped bass will never be returned to historical levels on the Cape Fear.  The stocking program has been abandoned there, so no more striped bass on the Cape Fear once the current occupants die off.


On the Neuse River (and Roanoke) , you have net problems, a lot of which have been resolved with attendance requirements and the removal of large mesh nets.   You also have  a lot more recreational fishermen you have to manage, but the reality is that not enough striped bass are being produced in the first place. 


 Why?   Because we have plowed and paved our watersheds……not to mention the dams which are in part to control flooding in fields.    After WW 2 people came back from the war and settled down.  They cut trees and converted forest land to fields, they built roads and dams and parking lots.   Look at New Bern, Kinston, Goldsboro and Raleigh, all drain right into the Neuse River.  


Water once filtered by forests now runs off roofs  and roads in the rivers or evaporates from the drainage ponds of mega parking lots.   The flow has changed and striped bass, among other anadromous fish, can no longer successfully support their numbers at historically levels.   Add any take from nets or hooks further inhibits their ability to return to historic levels.  


I reference historic levels because that is the legal benchmark or goal we are trying to achieve.   It will never happen.   So we need to change our goals or allow supplemental stocking during years in which spawning success is low.


As the Roanoke River has demonstrated, when water flows are good, striped bass can be very successful spawners.   The idea  was to let them naturally do their thing with no stocking.   But with no stocking, after several years of poor spawning success, you end up with the draconian rules now imposed on recreational fishermen, 4 day season of 1 fish. 


So why not stocking?  They are considering it, but the fish biologists are a bit gun shy after they stocked the native Neuse River strain striped bass into extinction.   Remember we were talking about the difference in the eggs, well for decades the state stocked fish spawned from Roanoke River stock into the Neuse River, essentially polluting the gene pool with fish that produce eggs not suitable for the Neuse River. 


Another opposition to any stocking is because stocking is funded with recreational dollars, but the striped bass that get caught in nets don’t know that they are only supposed to be caught by hooks.   Therefore the people with the hooks don’t see the point in stocking fish that might get caught by someone not using a hook.


That sum it up?