It's the time of the year where our focus begins to shift from Largemouth Bass to another species of bass that brings folks from far and wide to our rivers; the Striped Bass. These are one of the most exciting fish we have to chase in our rivers, their aggressive strikes and hard fighting nature makes them a worthy adversary on both fly and spinning tackle.
We start our season of chasing Striper in December as the fish move into the lower ends of the Tar & Roanoke Rivers. This is a unique area to target these fish. We are fishing very large moving water that is often quite off-color. Just like fishing a trout stream, we dissect the structure of the river to find schools of fish holding and feeding much like trout out west. Fish can be found in anywhere from 4' to 25' deep water depending on factors like river flow, water temperature, and air temperature. When the conditions are right it's even possible to catch these fish on topwater in the middle of winter. For the fly fisherman, this is a place to master casting & fishing sinking lines. We utilize 7 to 10 weight rods with a large variety of fly lines that vary in density and weight. Many of the lines we use are homemade specifically for the type of fishing we do. For the conventional angler, this is an excellent fishery to learn about fishing moving water. We primarily are using heavy jigs and swimbaits to present the bait in the correct water collum for these fish. The best part of our winter fishery for Striper is the lack of crowds that are commonplace during the spring migration. Many days you can look around and not have a single boat in sight while fishing. The lower river experience is best from December through early March. We run most of our trips from 9 am to 3 pm to ensure we are fishing at the warmest and most productive point in the day.
Once the temperatures begin to rise the schools of striped bass congregated in the lower rivers begin to push up the river toward their spawning grounds. This time of year can provide some of the most action-packed fishing there is. As the water warms the Striper begins feeding higher in the water collum and by April the fish are blasting baitfish out of the water most evenings. Watching schools of Striper corral baitfish against the bank and other river structure is an incredible spectacle. From early April through early May we target these fish in the upper reaches of the Tar and Roanoke rivers. Both fly fishermen and conventional anglers can experience a ton of success with a bunch of different tactics. Our trips center around finding fish that are actively feeding high in the water collum for the most exciting fishing possible. We run two trip sessions a day, one early in the morning and one late in the evening, to put our anglers on the water at the most productive feeding times. This can be a busy time of year on the river but our guides stay on the fish day after day and are experienced watermen that can safely navigate the river during its high spring flows.
After the Striped Bass have concluded their spawn in early May, the fish turn around and start making their way back downriver. Many anglers leave the river and turn their pursuits elsewhere- we do not. Some of the best fishing of the year takes place as the fish begin their migration back to the sound! We follow these fish day in and day out back down the river as they feed crazily to recoup their energy after an exhausting spawn. We can effectively target these fish using the same tactics we use all spring. The topwater fishing continues throughout the whole migration down the river and we can encounter some incredible amounts of fish. We follow the Striper back down the river from mid-May through early June.