It was back in the late 1960s when the striped bass population all along the Atlantic Coast was in a serious state of decline. One fisherman, Bob Pond, long an advocate for closing the season altogether on striped bass, actually led the fight to have the fish put on the endangered species list. That never happened but due largely to some serious management practices, our striped bass populations are now listed as “fully recovered.”
The annual spawning run of striped bass on the Roanoke River is now considered to be a major tourist and angling attraction to this section of North Carolina. Anglers from all across the world come here to try their luck on these game fish. In contrast, the angling for striped bass (rock fish to our natives) on the Pamlico/Tar River and Cape Fear River areas also has a strong population of striped bass.
Fishing for trophy-sized striped bass has always seemed to be concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina Outer Banks. Truly large fish in the 50-pound class were not unusual in this ocean fishery. All this may be changing as another fishery for trophy striped bass seems to be developing in the Pamlico River below Washington.
Apparently the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) had been suspecting that some of these large trophy-sized striped bass were wintering in the Pamlico River. Large numbers of six to eight-inch menhaden were known to be in the lower Pamlico River every winter and this could be a great source of food for large striped bass. In an effort to find out if some of the large sized female stripers were in the area too, the NCDMF sampled this area with large mesh gill nets and found that this was indeed the case. Striped bass weighing 40-50 pounds were not uncommon in the Pamlico River during the late fall and winter.
While this population of large stripers was known to be in the Pamlico area, few sport fishermen seemed to be taking advantage of this fishery. All this seems to be changing due to the efforts of Richard Andrews of the Tar-Pam Guide service (252-945-9715 or www.tar-pamguide.com).
Operating from the Washington area, Andrews decided to see if sport fishing for the large stripers was feasible. Using some of the methods that he’d learned while working as the first mate aboard one of the boats fishing for big trophy-sized stripers off the Outer Banks, he recently began trolling the deeper areas of the Pamlico River with large lures that imitated what he presumed to be the major food source for trophy-sized striped bass, large menhaden.
Andrews set out trolling lures consisting on a six-ounce jig head with a six to seven-inch lure attached to it and promptly was into a nice fish. When it was quickly boated, measured and released, he estimated the fish to weigh 45 pounds. He is convinced that if anglers would fish using methods that he’s developed on the Pamlico River, they also can catch trophy-sized fish like this.
Captain David Mason of the Slingshot Guide Service (252-945-5588) also does some commercial fishing as well as sport fishing. He has known of this winter population of trophy stripers on the Pamlico River for many years. He feels that they are here to feed on large menhaden that over-winter in the area. They seem to lurk in a deeper area of the river waiting for the menhaden to swim by then rush out to eat them.
Although anglers can take one striped bass over 27 inches a day from this Pamlico River area, most guides and sport fishermen prefer to let these big breeders go unharmed so that they can spawn and add new stock to the population of North Carolina’s increasing striped bass numbers.
Bear hunting in North Carolina
Henry and Joe McClees of the N.C. Sporting Dogs Association recently attended a meeting of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission having to do with bear hunting in our state. They wish to express their thanks to the many NCSDA members who traveled many miles to speak about bear hunting: Gerald and Renee Chandler, Western N.C. Coon Hunters Association, Jim Noles, Wallace Messer and several other western hunters from the N.C. Bear Hunters Association, Bobby Harris, Albemarle Houndsmen Association, Terry Morris, Ralph Sheffield, Reed Sheffield and other bear hunters from eastern N.C. Bow hunters, paid guides and life-long bear hunters sat together. There was a good crowd and excellent participation as important bear issues were discussed.
The WRC presented detailed information about the present bear population in North Carolina. Their information shows an increase in North Carolina’s huntable bear population and projected increases in bear occupied range in the state. Bears are increasing and moving into the Piedmont counties.
We felt the WRC presentation was biased toward the still hunter complaints. They used the term “inequity” to describe the present rule. They claim dog hunters have the advantage of being able to feed bears and strike over bait, though not kill over bait. Still hunters are not allowed to kill over bait.
They proposed two options, including no bait to be used by any bear hunter and bait can be used by all bear hunters, with and without dogs. They presented these two options only, although they admitted there are other options to address bear issues.
The bag limit can be increased and the length of bear seasons increased. There were lengthy discussions about the benefits of longer seasons and the use of a second tag, probably at extra cost.
Many dog hunters spoke of their deep concern about potential commercialization of bear hunts from stands. A still hunter needs only land enough for the range of his weapon. A small plot of land with huge feeding piles could be used to kill a disproportionate number of bears in a single season. It is easy to kill a bear while he is feeding. When an out of state hunter has paid a high fee to kill a bear over bait, the pressure is huge to allow him to kill whatever bears comes to the bait pile. If this hunting pressure is allowed, the healthy bear stocks could be decimated quickly.
No vote was taken on any of these bear management issues.