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RALEIGH, N.C. (Feb. 13) - Under a new harvest management approach by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the entire Roanoke River will open to striped bass harvest from March 1 through April 30.

Size and creel limits for striped bass will remain the same with a daily creel limit of two per person. The minimum length limit is 18 inches, and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches may be possessed at any time. Only one striped bass larger than 27 inches may be included in the daily creel limit.

Previously, the season on the Roanoke River was divided between the upper and lower river with overlapping, but offset seasons. A proposed regulation change, which was presented at nine public hearings in January, seeks to change the season to allow anglers additional angling opportunities and to unify the season for the entire Roanoke River.

The separate seasons were originally necessary to closely control striped bass harvest as the population recovered and allocate limited allowable harvest between anglers on the upper and lower river. The numbers of striped bass returning to the Roanoke River to spawn each year are strong, and older and larger fish continue to contribute to the population. The current striped bass harvest allocation for the river is 137,500 pounds and is set in cooperation with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The proposed regulation will be considered by the Commission's 19 members at their March meeting and, if approved, the new regulation would take effect on July 1, 2007.

So that anglers will benefit from the new striped bass season dates in time for the 2007 spring season, Richard B. Hamilton, executive director of the Commission, issued a proclamation on Jan. 29 specifying the new opening and closing dates. As in the past, should the harvest of striped bass exceed the allowable catch, Hamilton will issue another proclamation to close the season.

"This new regulation is intended to expand opportunities for anglers to take the allowable catch; however, the Commission remains committed to ensuring that the harvest remains within sustainable limits," said Robert Curry, chief of the Commission's Division of Inland Fisheries.

The Commission reminds anglers to use a single barbless hook or a lure with a single barbless hook when fishing in the upper Roanoke River from April 1 through June 30. Anglers can make hooks barbless by crimping down the barb.

The Commission also encourages striped bass anglers to use small, non-offset circle hooks when fishing with natural bait, preferably circle hooks with the least amount of distance between the hook point and shank.

Studies show that striped bass caught on small, barbless circle hooks are most often hooked in the jaw, which means they have a much greater chance of survival after being released than fish that have been hooked in the throat or gut.

Visit the Commission's Web site at www.ncwildlife.org to download a pocket-sized information card on releasing stripers safely. A series of questions and answers on striped bass fishing, the location of free, Commission-managed boat ramps on the Roanoke River and striped bass fishing tips are also available online. From March until the end of May, the Commission will post online weekly fishing reports from the Roanoke River every Wednesday afternoon.
 
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