Apr 07

Roanoke Remedy – On the Roanoke River with Captain Mitchel Blake of FishIBX Charters


Each year, naturalists of all types must be prepared to deal with the doldrums of winter.  Some actually enjoy the changing of the seasons, the sleet and snow and the freezing temperatures.  However, many anglers go through a bout of seasonal mood disorder as the temperatures drop.  There may be a few fish that will feed on warm days throughout the winter, but most of us struggle to get on the water during the months of January and February.

Those who are willing to brave the cold get tired of having to wear four layers of clothes and ski goggles in order to try to keep warm.  We all look forward to spring and the opportunity to get back on the water in attempts to find feeding fish.  Many of us look to the inland waterways and river systems to provide the first glimpse of things to come as striped bass provide some of the earliest action for anglers in North Carolina.  Many men and women schedule some time on the Roanoke River in March or April to get their first fish of the new year.  Roanoke Stripers are plentiful as the fish start to stage up and make their annual run up river, usually about the same time the daffodils in our yards start to bloom.

Striped bass are marine fish, but each spring they migrate from the ocean into the four major coastal rivers in North Carolina.  Captain Mitchel Blake of FishIBX Charters is in tune with the seasonal movements of these fish.  He follows them up the Roanoke River from his childhood home of Jamesville to spawning grounds near Weldon.  As the fish move upstream, Captain Blake moves with them, anticipating seasonal cues that correspond with their mass migration.

As the spring season begins to warm up the water and air temperatures, fishermen know they can get their remedy for the winter blues on the Roanoke River.  The action heats up first near the river mouth where fish had been holding in the brackish waters all winter.  There are days in December and January that can be very productive, but as the seasons change, the fish bunch up and provide anglers plentiful opportunities to catch them.  March is a great time to fish down river to connect with the largest mass of fish as they are entering the river system.  However, the fish will often already be pushing up river by the first real warm-up, so anywhere from Weldon to Jamesville can be productive on the right days when the water flow is good.

Captain Blake uses light action TFO Signature series rods and a variety of Penn 3000 series reels to target his quarry.  TFO makes a rod that is extremely sensitive, allowing an angler to feel the fish as soon as it picks up the lure.  Plus, these rods have enough backbone to them to pull a bigger fish out of the stumps.  Mitch uses 20lb test Power Pro braid to add increased sensitivity and to ensure that he gets his lures back from unavoidable snags.  With all of the low-hanging tree limbs and submerged branches, fishing with monofilament could be a costly venture.  Captain Blake prefers to use Z Man lures because of their action and strength.  The lures move good underwater.   I was impressed by how many fish we caught on the same plastic.  They really are one of the toughest soft plastics I have seen on the market.

When you head-out with Captain Blake on the Roanoke, expect a high volume, action-packed adventure.  I joined him on a warm March morning near Jamesville for a few hours of fun targeting stripers on light tackle and the fly.  We fished for several hours, and each of us caught a handful of fish at each stop that we made.  The captain worked the trolling motor in and out of breaks in the tree line, exposing us to some deeper pockets of water along the shore that served as holding grounds for feeding fish as they waited for small prey to be pushed out of the flooded timber by the flow of the river’s current.  We caught plenty of fish, including a handful that made the cut and were kept for dinner.  Even the small 12-14 inch fish that we encountered were a lot of fun on the light tackle that Mitch provided.  Every now and then, we would get one that would turn in the current and make a strong surge, forcing us to hold on as the fish made a run away from the boat.  Each fish was memorable, but those larger ones really tested the 3000 class reels that we were using.  It was an awesome day on the water, as there was never a dull moment.  Everywhere we went, we caught fish!

The Roanoke is not a forgiving river.  It is better to go with a guide, at least for the first few times you venture out.  I encourage others who are interested in getting in on the action to contact Captain Blake, as he grew up on the river and knows it well.  Also, he spent several years working for the state of North Carolina coordinating and leading fish tagging programs on the Roanoke, Pamlico, and Neuse Rivers.  His knowledge of our state’s rivers systems is astounding, and he likes to share his passion with others.  I recommend him to anyone who not only wants to catch a lot of fish but also to those who want to learn about the natural environment.  In my opinion, there is no better cure for the winter blues than the Roanoke River!

Captain Mitchel Blake    www.fishibx.com