The Roanoke River
One of the largest rivers in North Carolina, the Roanoke River is the major tributary to Albemarle Sound. The Upper Roanoke River begins in Virginia at the junction of the North and South Forks. Along its mid-section, the river is impounded into a series of reservoirs, including Smith Mountain Lake, Leesville Lake, Kerr Lake, Lake Gaston, and Roanoke Rapids Lake. After exiting the dam at Roanoke Rapids Lake, the river flows freely before emptying into Albemarle Sound.
Habitat along the lower river is protected by the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge. The complex encompasses five different tracts of land along 70 miles of the Roanoke River from Hamilton, NC to western Albemarle Sound.
Among the most popular freshwater species are largemouth bass and several species of catfish. For panfish enthusiasts, the river holds white perch, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, fliers, redear (shellcrackers), redbreast sunfish, rock bass, Roanoke bass, and warmouth. The river also sustains a number of threatened or endangered species, including Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon, and others.
Several anadromous fish species enter the Roanoke to spawn, including American shad, hickory shad, river herring, and striped bass (rockfish). Striped bass begin moving into the river in late March or early April, eventually moving up the river to their main spawning grounds near Weldon, North Carolina.