Lake Oconee Breeze

Outdoors

June 21, 2012

Changes in the stocking of striped and hybrid bass in area reservoirs

LAKE OCONEE — Last week in Part 1, we took a quick look at the meeting that was held

June 4 to discuss changes in stocking rates for striped and hybrid bass in area lakes that have occurred since 2005. The changes in stocking rates for Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee were put in place by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD) to address problems with striped bass populations in the Altamaha River.

The Altamaha River system has always had a population of native striped bass that return to the river form the Atlantic Ocean each year to spawn. That native ocean grown population of striped bass was being augmented with stockings of hatchery grown striped bass fingerlings by the GWRD to improve their numbers.

However, the presence of hybrid bass that were escaping from upstream reservoirs was hindering that effort because the hybrid bass populations were increasing in the river and competing with striped bass for the same habitat and food sources.

Consequently, the GWRD decided to limit or eliminate hybrid stockings on reservoirs that feed into the Altamaha River. The goal was to reduce significantly or even eliminate hybrids from escaping through reservoir dams like those on Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee.

Since 2006, no hybrid bass have been stocked in Lake Sinclair and the population of hybrid bass in the lake has been greatly reduced. However, hybrid bass are still being stocked in Lake Oconee at reduced rates and some hybrid bass escape through the Wallace Dam into Lake Sinclair. Hence they are present in Lake Sinclair but at a very reduced level than the numbers prior to 2006.

Prior to 2006, significant numbers of hybrid bass were stocked each year in Lake Sinclair. For example, in 2002 roughly 300,000 hybrid bass and 300,000 striped bass were stocked in Lake Sinclair. Lake Sinclair was a good but not outstanding hybrid fishery prior to 2006. Also the high stocking rates of striped bass failed to create a good striped bass fishery in Lake Sinclair.

Since 2006, only striped bass have been stocked in Lake Sinclair, and a good striped bass fishery continues to be slow to develop due to water quality problems that are not conducive to striped bass development. The striped bass require cool water, which is pretty much impossible for them to find during the hot summer months.

Regarding Lake Oconee, the GWRD decided to continue stocking hybrid bass but at significantly lower rates beginning in 2005 and decided to match the hybrid bass stocking numbers with the same number of striped bass. In 2002, an estimated 400,000 hybrid bass and 400,000 striped bass were stocked in Lake Oconee.

Lake Oconee had become a great hybrid fishery prior to 2005 and occasionally was rated as a decent striped fishery. Beginning in 2005, the GWRD began to stock both striped bass and hybrid bass at a rate of 10 per acre each and that rate has continued through 2012. That rate equated to a planned stocking of around 190,000 hybrid and 190,000 striped bass each year in Lake Oconee.

However, that rate is dependent on availability of fingerlings from the state hatchery and the planned rate has not always been met. Actual stocking rates for hybrid bass in Lake Oconee has been 10 per acre in 2005, 8 per acre in 2006, 3 per acre in 2007, 10 per acre in 2008, 10 per acre in 2009, 9 per acre in 2010, 10 per acre in 2011 and 8.5 per acre in 2012. Actual stocking rates for striped bass were 10 per acre in 2005, 8 per acre in 2006, 16 per acre in 2006, 14 per acre in 2007, 14 per acre in 2008, 6 per acre in 2009, 8 per acre in 2010, 10 per acre in 2011, and only 1.9 per acre in 2012.  

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