This past week was a very productive week on the lower Roanoke. The theme behind this week’s summary is understanding the bigger picture. Sometimes factors that are many hundreds of miles away can affect the very small location where you are fishing. Starting last Wednesday, Dominion changed their flow rate to the new max rate of 35,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), under their new flow management regime. Under the old flow regime, the maximum was 20k cfs. The Wednesday increase was due to all the rain that fell in Virginia at the beginning of last week. They’ll be running it at 35k through the end of this coming week at least. If they get more rain (and they are getting some as I’m writing this), it may be longer that.
We’ve been fishing all week with slowly rising water, and as the week progressed, the water started rising faster, following the change from 23k to 35K last Wednesday. There is about a 2-3 day lag time from Roanoke Rapids to the lower end for the water to reach us. Conversely, when the water drops, it takes longer to drop on the lower end than it does to rise, and the higher the water, the longer it takes to go down because there is simply so much water out in the swamps that has to drain out down the main river channel.
The idea of the 35k max, following heavy rains in southern Virginia in the upper part of the Roanoke River Basin, is for them to let out an additional 15k and get more water through the lakes and dams in a shorter period of time. This allows for “peakier” flow, which is more in line with what mother nature would create without the lakes and dams in place. Before this, they would have released at 20k cfs for a much longer period of time. So we’ve gone from less water for a longer duration, which was enough water to flood the lowgrounds and inundate the trees in the floodplain for sometimes as long as 5 months during the winter (in previous years, I’ve seen it stay at 20k from November through April) to 35k for just a week or two to get the water through and get it back down.
How has this new flow regime and change affected our fishing? It’s really hard to say. I do know that this year has been one of our best seasons in 9 years of guiding the lower Roanoke. High and flashy water (rising and especially falling) helps our fishing on the lower end. We’ve seen lots of fluctuating water levels, and we’ve just simply had to respond and adjust accordingly. Knowing where to be under different water levels is key. We had epic fishing early last week, catching all the stripers we wanted. Then about mid-week, the water got a little too high for where we were fishing and the fish seemed to scatter out a bit. It dropped our catch to about 30-40 fish instead of the normal 50-100+. We made the adjustment and started fishing a new area, and bam, we were back on good numbers of fish.
In addition to the stripers, the shad are really starting to come through our area in a big way. In certain areas, we have been able to catch good numbers of shad mixed in with the stripers. That’s a really fun day to be able to combine shad and striper fishing in some of the same places. I’m learning a lot more about how to catch those fish on the lower end, especially in the main river channel, and that has been a lot of fun for me the last couple of weeks.
As for the shad fishing on the Tar and Neuse right now, both rivers are currently near floodstage and cresting. Without too much additional rain, we’ll hopefully see falling water all week and they’ll be back down to fishable levels by the end of this week. All that high water will bring a bunch of shad upriver, so get ready for some awesome shad fishing mid-March.
This coming week is going to be a bit colder. Hopefully it will be one of the last major cold fronts of March. As in previous years, I’m sure we’ll have another one the third of fourth week of the month. The water will be high all week, but the fish aren’t going anywhere. I expect good fishing to continue this week. We’ll be out there most of the week. I do have tomorrow (Monday, Mar. 4) open as well as Thursday, Mar. 7. After that, I’m locked up the rest of the month. Let’s get out there and get after it this week!
Hope you enjoyed the first of many “Sunday Afternoon Summaries”.
Stay tuned for “Tech Tuesday”, where I’ll be discussing some finer details associated with fishing soft plastics, which is what we do so much of the time.
Highlights from last week: