WELDON — Anglers are lining the banks of the Roanoke River in Weldon for the annual shad run as they look to catch American and hickory shad coming up river to spawn.
Many people fishing Saturday on the Roanoke River reported catching a few, but believe warmer temperatures and much lower water levels are needed before they see the bounty of the harvest that comes when the large schools of anadromous fish head to the River this time of year.
The fish generally make the trek upriver between March 1 and June 15, and lay their eggs in the shallows of the River and in many of its tributaries, according to www.ncwildlife.org.
The site also described the American shad as the largest of the river herring family — the fish are silver sided with green-blue backs and can weigh from three to eight pounds. In addition, the site said, the hickory shad is usually smaller than the American kind and is distinguishable by the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper jaw.
The fisherman will be getting some help from Dominion Power, as the company will be raising the level of Lake Gaston’s waters to facilitate the spawning season, according to Bill Lindenmuth, Lake Gaston Association Environment Committee chairman who acts as liaison between Dominion Power and Lake residents.
Dustin Durham, Northampton County’s Wildlife officer, said the water is too high right now to catch many of the fish but he expects them to come in droves in coming weeks.
He said fishermen can catch all they like, but are allowed to keep only one American shad and nine hickory shad per day. Anglers are required to hold a fishing license to partake in the seasonal activity, he said.
Mike Shearin, owner of Roanoke River Rentals and Guides, said his schedule is filling up with folks interested in taking to the water. He said the upcoming Roanoke River Grand Slam Tournament Series in Weldon — an annual event of three tournaments, and a grand prize is awarded for the winning participant who fishes in each of the tourneys — draws many people.
Shearin said while the water is very high right now, he expects the shad run to peak next weekend during the Shad Shootout in Weldon — the first tournament in the Series.
“On a good day you can catch 20 an hour,” Shearin said. “It’s real easy to do when the fish are here.”
The Roanoke Valley native said the cold temperatures and over-abundance of rain have held things up, but there are a few fish here now.
Tim Etheridge brought his grandson Tyler, 3, to the Weldon boat landing Saturday to watch folks cast their lines. This was Tyler’s first experience at the River and he wanted in on the activity.
K’Ron Lynch, 12, was also at the boat landing. She was a little disappointed there weren’t more fish to catch, but she had a few in her bucket.
Joe Razario of Garner came to the River every day last week. He said he caught several fish early in the week, but it tapered off. He said he’d keep coming back.
Lindenmuth alerted Lake Gaston residents last week Dominion Power will be holding back water to facilitate the spawning, as the fish need low water levels to successfully breed.
“This means Lake Gaston can be raised an extra foot (199-201 feet) to provide storage in support of spawning flows as necessary,” Lindenmuth said. “Dominion has stated they don’t expect to raise the water level much more than a couple inches over 200 feet.”
Lindenmuth encouraged lakeside residents to tie down items like canoes and paddle boats, and move items that typically sit on the floor of boathouse sheds to higher ground to prevent any water damage.
“Boats in docks should be securely tied, and boats in lifts should be raised and tied,” he said.
Seasoned fisherman Caleb Horn, 16, comes to Weldon nearly every year to enjoy the shad run, he said, adding he will continue to come out in anticipation of the shad run.
“I know they will come,” he said, adding when they did, he would be waiting.