Striper fishing on Lake Lanier: Past, present and future
Lake continues to meet needs of area anglers
SOCIAL CIRCLE — Annual striped bass stockings over the past few decades have helped sustain Lake Lanier as a significant striper fishery.
In fact, striped bass fishing ranks second to black bass fishing ( specifically, spotted and large mouth bass) in popularity by Lake Lanier anglers.
Since the 1970s, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division has monitored the striper population in this popular Georgia reservoir and has pinpointed both the key factors affecting striper survival and the important management techniques necessary for maintaining Lanier’s flourishing striper fishery.
The initial periodic WRD striper stockings in the 1970s established Lake Lanier as a striper angler’s destination. However, by the 1990s, anglers experienced a decline in striper catches and attributed the cause to over harvesting and high summer mortality rates. In response to angler concern, WRD conducted various tagging studies ( 1997 and 2005) and a summer creel survey ( 2000) to measure the impact of anglers on the Lake Lanier fishery.
Specific tagging objectives were to determine annual survival, harvest rates and catch- and- release mortality rates.
During the same time, WRD fisheries personnel also documented the declining numbers of striped bass in the reservoir. As a result, sampling showed the decline was likely caused by poor survival of fingerlings stocked in four of six years between 1992 and 1997.
( Anglers should note: A number of factors, including time of stocking, shad/ herring spawning success, fingerling size, fish predation and reservoir conditions can affect survival of stocked fish.)
WRD’s tagging study results determined that the striper population was not being over- fished. The study indicated that 30- 40 percent of stripers die of natural causes ( diseases/ water quality stressors) each year, and that 50 percent of the population generally survives and is replenished each year by stocked fish that grow into the adult population.
Based on these studies, more restrictive harvest regulations than the current daily creel ( 15 fish, only two of which can be greater than 22 inches) would have little effect on saving more fish and increasing future angler catches of larger stripers. These studies also reveal that stocking success is the major factor influencing Lanier striper fishing success — improved survival of fingerlings to age 1 ( approximately 12- inches) would be responsible for 70- 90 percent of any improvements in angler catches.
Therefore, the suggestion of more restrictive fishing regulations would also fail to address the main factor influencing striper survival — stocking success.
WRD has focused on three management objectives since 2000 as the primary means of increasing the survival of stocked fingerlings.
As the first objective, fisheries personnel strive to produce a quality size fingerling that can take advantage of the shad and herring spawns. Second, fisheries personnel will likely recommend increased stocking densities in times of declining striper abundance.
Third, WRD is currently in the fourth year of an experiment to scatter fingerlings across the lake by stocking at nine or ten boat ramps instead of the traditional two to four. So far, the results are positive — WRD has seen more striped bass produced from these experimental stockings.
The increase in survival rates of stocked fingerlings should result in a more stable striper population and in turn, more successful fishing trips for anglers.
Despite the implementation of these three management techniques, the Lanier striper fishery will still continue to depend on three main factors: the presence of cool water habitat, survival of stocked fingerlings and the desire of Lanier anglers, both the trophy- seekers and the meal providers. Currently the lake provides opportunities for both groups of striper anglers while still being nationally known as a top black bass lake.
So, grab a kid and test out Lake Lanier’s striper fishery — what better way to introduce a child or older newbie to the world of fish- ing than experiencing the thrill of fighting and landing a striper?
For more information on striped bass fishing or other fishing opportunities near you, visit www. gofishgeorgia. com or contact the nearest WRD Fisheries Management Office.