This month of April is a wonderful time to be outdoors. If you can stand the pollen in the air and the surge of insects and the rapidly changing weather, then opportunities abound for people who enjoy being outside.
The sun is getting stronger each day.
Water temperatures are on the rise, and that has made every species of fish in both salt and fresh water make a major move responding to the new season.
The shad kicked off the fishing season earlier this year thanks to a very mild winter. Water temperatures trigger their march up our rivers to the prime spawning grounds.
Hickory shad fishing was excellent in places like Old Sparta and the mouth of Fishing Creek on the Tar River.
The larger white shad came barreling through these locations and concentrated below the dam at the falls in Rocky Mount.
When conditions are right, it is a lot of fun to catch these hard-fighting fish on light tackle. The flow of the water is swift after a good rain. Rising water produces many strikes. When the shad are present in good numbers, the action can be fast and furious.
Right behind the shad are the hungry rockfish. We enjoy following their spring migrations up the Tar and Roanoke Rivers.
April is the peak month for rockfish here in eastern North Carolina.
When the dogwood trees bloom and the temperatures are right in the rivers for the rockfish to leave the ocean and the sounds, the rockfish head west. This migration usually lasts for two months.
The rockfish are present in both rivers right now in good numbers. They are being caught on many different kinds of baits, with fishermen using many different kinds of tactics.
As the rockfish move up the rivers, we change baits and manners of fishing for each separate location. Season, water depth and temperature tell us the best way to fish.
Experience, trial-and-error, successes and failures during the past 40 years tell us the best way to produce strikes in all these various locations and fishing situations.
We started catching rockfish on the lower Tar River in January. We used deep-diving baits, in very deep water, trolled slowly behind the boat. When the fish were pushed close to cover by extreme weather conditions, vertical jigging a soft plastic bait worked really well.
Now that April is here, those tactics just do not work for rockfish that are moving up these coastal rivers. The water is much deeper down east and much shallower close to home where most of the fish are right now.
Our favorite way to make rockfish bite this time of year is to use cut shad and fish on the bottom of the river. When conditions are right in the rivers, it is a lot of fun to anchor the boat and sit and wait for that big strike.
The shad and the rockfish should be present in our coastal rivers through this month.
As far as I know, there is no regulation ending the season for hickory or American white shad. The season for rockfish ends the last day of April.
So far this season, we have seen good numbers of both shad and rockfish in all the rivers we have fished down east.
Fishing has been excellent at times.
It is important to know and play by all the rules. Everywhere we go the game wardens check the boat, our fishing licenses and all the fish that may be on board.