Striper fish­ing on Lake Lanier: Past, present and fu­ture

Lake con­tin­ues to meet needs of area an­glers

The Covington News - - AGRICULTURE & OUTDOORS -

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.

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