Try Roanoke River for big blue cats as striper run wanes
Trophy blue catfish showing up, hitting cut and live bait
The Roanoke River is producing some big blue catfish as the spring striper run wanes and fish move back downstream.
The spring striped bass migration has ended in the Roanoke River and fish have turned around and headed downstream toward Albemarle Sound and the Atlantic Ocean until next March. But tremendous-size fish remain in the river, blue catfish, with individuals that'd make the largest rockfish look like a bluegill.
“There are still a few stripers up here,” said Bobby Colston of Colston's Tackle Box in Gaston. “But they're mostly males, because they're not that big. A few people are still fishing for them. It's all catch-and-release fishing.”
The best place for summer stripers, he said, is “at the paper mill bridge that has lights on it you can see from the boat landing, but nobody much goes down there to bother them for no reason.”
If anglers really want to try for trophy fish, blue catfish are what they should target, said Colston (252-537-6485).
“(The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission) shocked up a blue catfish three weeks ago (below the NC 48 bridge) that weighed 90 pounds,” he said. “They said when they released him, it looked like a submarine when it swam off. They shocked it up in 6 feet of water.”
Colston said most people fish for river catfish at night, using lights and follow floats – often pieces of Styrofoam “pool noodles,” with bait chunks or live bream drifting suspended under them. Blue cats are ranging from 30 to 50 pounds with, of course, the chance to catch a real river monster.
“A lot of people are fishing with noodles, but some are fishing with rods and reels,” he said. “There also are really big channel catfish in the river, especially in the tailraces of the Roanoke Rapids and Lake Gaston dams. They're catching 20-pound channel cats that are the best-eating catfish.”
Largemouth bass in the Roanoke River also are providing excellent action for anglers.
“They're catching them with plastics, such as crawfish, lizards, plastic worms and topwater lures,” he said. “I've seen a 7 ½-pounder this year, but there are 10-pounders in the river. Bream are hitting crickets as well and nice shellcrackers are biting red wigglers.”
Anglers who want to attempt to catch stripers and largemouth bass at the same time with the same lures can float the river, starting at the NC 48 bridge, and cast Chug Bugs and Pop-Rs at the banks and allow the lures to float underneath overhanging shoreline bushes then “pop” the lures back to the boat. Stripers will charge from the banks and attack the lures. These same lures thrown at rocks in the river and retrieved will entice largemouth strikes.
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