Cape Fear Riverwatch Striperfest
Placing tags in the flanks of five of the river’s striped bass before returning them to the tannin-stained water, Capt. Jason Dail and anglers Wade Tillery and Jared Shearin earned first place in the 2014 Cape Fear Riverwatch Striperfest striped bass tournament, held out of downtown Wilmington on January 18-19. Dail, of Silver Spoon Charters, fished the weekend before the event and found some action in the Northeast Cape Fear River to return to with his anglers on the morning of the competition.
“We went right back there for the tournament,” he explained. “We were up the NE Cape Fear around the GE plant.”
Turbid water around downtown Wilmington made the run upriver seem like an even better idea, and the anglers didn’t have to wait long to confirm it.
“The water was dirty around downtown,” Dail continued. “We were keeping just ahead of that dirty stuff and Jared caught our first fish almost as soon as I put the trolling motor in the water.”
Casting a paddletail soft plastic on a Rockport Rattler jighead, Shearin’s first fish also proved to be their largest of the day, taping out at 26.5” before they sank a tag in its side and eased it back into the river.
The trio continued using the trolling motor to work the riverbanks in the same area, and they were rewarded with action for much of the morning.
“We stayed within a mile of where we started for most of the day,” Dail reported, “and that’s where we caught all our fish.”
Sticking with the paddletail/jighead combos, the anglers brought four more fish to Dail’s boat before the action slowed around 10:30.
“We lost a couple of fish along with the ones we caught,” he explained. “It was pretty steady for about two hours.”
After the bite turned off, the anglers continued casting, but found no more action before it was time to head for the docks that afternoon. Their five fish, however, were enough to slide past the competition and give the “Silver Spoon” anglers the win.
Capt. Jon Huff, of Circle H Charters, and anglers Frank Spencer and Robby Rhyne earned both the event’s Largest Striper and Largest Two-Fish Aggregate awards for 29.5” and 28” fish they tagged and released during the event.
After Huff tagged and released a 14 lb. striped bass in the week leading up to the event, he had a gameplan in place when tournament day rolled around. Like Dail, he took his anglers up the Northeast Cape Fear, but Huff’s first two spots produced no action.
Fishing another bank in the Northeast, the anglers were about to head to a fourth spot when their big fish inhaled a chartreuse soft plastic. After battling the fish around the boat, including untangling a snarl with the motor, the trio finally put their fish in the livewell to await tagging.
Rhyne and Spencer began casting with renewed vigor after landing the estimated 12 lb. fish, and 10 minutes later, the anglers got another strike on the same Bass Assassin soft plastic. They soon put the 28” fish in the boat and handily locked up the Aggregate category.
Corbett Baird, fishing with Capt. Jeff Wolfe of Seahawk Inshore Fishing Charters, earned the event’s First Place Junior Angler award for releasing four striped bass over the course of the tournament. Coty Conner, aboard Capt. Danny Wrenn’s boat, took home Second Place Junior Angler.
Held concurrently on the weekend of the tournament, Cape Fear Riverwatch has an annual Auction and Banquet, as well as an Education Day, to raise money and further awareness on the plight and restoration of the river’s anadromous fisheries, including striped bass, shad, and sturgeon. This year’s Education Day featured a record of over 420 people, and not to be overshadowed, the Auction and banquet had 400+ participants.
Fundraising over the event also exceeded previous years by a strong margin. In years past, the funds have gone to projects including a rock ramp that allows fish to navigate around the Cape Fear River’s Lock and Dam #1 and sonically tagging fish to track their movements throughout the river system. Rock ramps at the two other lock and dam systems along the river and more receivers that will enable more fish to be tracked are among the group’s hopeful future projects.
Learn more about the migratory fish in the river and Cape Fear Riverwatch’s intensive restoration efforts at www.capefearriverwatch.org.