HOT SPRINGS (AGFC)
– Arkansas anglers looking for a deep-sea fishing thrill don't need to
travel far to tangle with a trophy. Thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission's striped bass program, stripers regularly topping 20 pounds
swim in many Arkansas lakes to test angler's equipment and raise their
are naturally found in salt water, but migrate into freshwater rivers
and streams to reproduce. They also can adapt to life in in landlocked
freshwater lakes if the conditions are right.
grow to tremendous sizes in fresh water. Arkansas's state record
striped bass weighed 64 lbs. 8 oz. and was caught below Beaver Lake in
2000. But they can't reproduce naturally in Arkansas's reservoirs.
exception of a few striped bass on the Arkansas River, every striped
bass in Arkansas is a product of our hatchery system," said Don Brader,
AGFC assistant fisheries chief. "We also produce a hybrid striper by
crossing striped bass with native white bass."
for producing striped bass and hybrid striped bass is a labor of love,
one the AGFC has been conducting annually since the 1970s.
fisheries biologists and technicians spend between 1,000 and 1,500 man
hours each year to offer anglers this added opportunity.
In mid-April, netting crews intercept stripers at night as they make their annual spawning runs upstream.
the nets every few hours, collect male and female stripers, and
carefully transport them to (Andrew) Hulsey Hatchery near Hot Springs,"
Once at the hatchery, a weeks-long vigil begins.
watch the fish around the clock, checking the stripers to see if they're
ready," Brader said. "Once a female striper begins to ovulate, we have
less than half an hour to collect those eggs."
technicians massage eggs from female stripers and milt from male
stripers (or white bass, if hybrids are being produced) and mix them
together in sterile containers to ensure fertilization.
are placed in glass containers with constantly flowing water to keep
them aerated," Brader said. "The water has to stay 64- to 66 degrees, or
the eggs may not develop."
hatch in about 48 hours and the fry are moved to holding tanks for about
four days. Once fully developed, they are moved into hatchery ponds to
By July the fry will be about 2 inches long and are ready to be stocked.
Arkansas's famed trout fisheries, lakes with stripers have gained a
devoted following among anglers interested in battling big fish.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about 63,000 anglers
fished for white bass, striped bass and hybrids in 2011.
anglers who catch the occasional striper when fishing for other species
often want to learn more about how to catch them," said Mark Oliver,
AGFC chief of fisheries. "One of the best resources a person can use is a
local striper fishing club or guide that operates on our striper lakes.
These people stay on top of the fish year-round and can definitely cut
down the learning curve for newcomers."
Some anglers worry that striped bass eat black bass and other game fish, but their diet is almost entirely shad.
been several studies done on the eating habits of stripers in
reservoirs," said Brett Hobbs, AGFC fisheries management biologist in
Hot Springs. "All of these studies indicate striped bass are extremely
unlikely to eat black bass."
Hobbs explains that adult striped bass stay in the cool open water of the lake, not around shoreline cover like black bass.
Hamilton study showed shad made up 92 percent of prey items found in
sampled striped bass," said Hobbs. "And that was during a winter
drawdown, when bass, crappie and other game fish were forced into deeper
open water where stripers stay."
this high dependence on shad, waters where stripers are stocked are
scrutinized each year to ensure that the food chain remains balanced.
help control the amount of large gizzard shad in a lake that have grown
too large for other game fish to prey upon." Brader said. "But if we see
the shad populations decline, we immediately cut down on the number of
stripers stocked in those waters. Because they don't reproduce
naturally, we can directly control the population to keep our fisheries
healthy and keep this opportunity alive for Arkansas anglers."