Hybrid bass and striped bass were again stocked in Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair over the last few weeks by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD). Lake Oconee received 291,304 hybrid bass and 108,257 striped bass. Lake Sinclair received 118,000 hybrid bass and 81,150 striped bass. The stockings consisted of fingerlings that were 1 to 1 ½ inches in size.

Previous stockings of striped bass in Lake Sinclair have not fared well since the construction and operation of the Wallace Dam began. The operation at Plant Branch, which is now closed, had a huge impact on both striped and hybrid bass due to the hot water discharge. Anglers prefer hybrid bass over striped bass, so the GWRD is now stocking fewer striped bass in both lakes.

Over the last several years, significant numbers of hybrid and striped bass have been stocked into Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee. In 2012, 35,225 striped bass and 161,915 hybrid bass were stocked into Lake Oconee; in 2013, 290,613 hybrid bass and 97,400 striped bass were stocked into Lake Oconee; in 2014 268,422 hybrid bass and 97,560 striped bass were stocked into Lake Oconee; in 2015, 292,426 hybrid bass and 97,589 striped bass were stocked into Lake Oconee; in 2016, 292,500 hybrid bass and 97,500 striped bass were stocked into Lake Oconee and in 2017, 201,739 hybrid bass and 99,655 striped bass were stocked into Lake Oconee.

In 2012, 174,000 hybrid bass and 149,000 striped bass into Lake Sinclair; in 2013, 149,994 hybrid bass and 174,112 striped bass were stocked into Lake Sinclair; in 2014, 163,138 hybrid bass were stocked into Lake Sinclair; in 2015, 149,416 hybrid bass and 73,479 striped bass were stocked into Lake Sinclair; in 2016, 200,200 hybrid bass and 73,928 striped bass were stocked into Lake Sinclair and in 2017, 117,500 hybrid bass and 76,200 striped bass were stocked into Lake Sinclair. 

Striped bass are more difficult to consistently catch in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee than are the hybrid bass. However, the use of live bait (shad) seems to be the ticket for consistently catching striped bass. Live bait is also used to catch hybrid bass.

Hybrid bass tend to surface feed in the summer and fall on Lake Oconee more consistently than they do in Lake Sinclair. It is not clear why there is a lack of surface feeding by hybrids in Lake Sinclair. The pump-back is one possibility for the lack of surface feeding in Lake Sinclair. There is surface feeding occurring below the Wallace Dam in Lake Sinclair when water is being pushed and pulled between the two lakes, but Georgia Power has made that area off limits to anglers due to safety concerns. Anglers are not supposed to travel above the buoys placed some distance below the Wallace Dam by Georgia Power.

I have caught hybrid bass that were surface feeding below the restricted area, and for some ways down the Oconee River arm of the Lake Sinclair, but the surface feeding bite is inconsistent in much of the lake.

Anytime you can toss a popping cork or a white Rooster Tail into a school of surface feeding hybrid bass on either lake, it sure can cause the heart to beat just a little faster, and the action can be non-stop. During the summer months on both lakes, hybrid and striped bass can be caught casting or trolling crankbaits over ledges and points. Jigging spoons can be extremely effective during the summer and winter months. 

After receiving input from anglers at a meeting in 2012, GWRD decided to increase hybrid stockings and decrease the stocking of striped bass. Anglers simply prefer catching hybrid bass over striped bass. 

The 2017 fall surveys conducted on Lake Sinclair by the GWRD indicated that the hybrid bass are doing well after several years of no stocking. Good numbers of 12- to 20-inch hybrids are available, and some larger fish that have escaped through the Wallace Dam from Lake Oconee are available in Lake Sinclair. Anglers can also expect to catch some 8- to 10-pound striped bass and a few that exceed 15 pounds in Lake Sinclair.

The 2017 fall surveys at Lake Oconee indicated stable populations of hybrid bass with good numbers of 5- to 10-pound fish. Even though striped bass stockings have been reduced, the striped bass populations still contain good fish in the 10- to 20-pound range. Both lakes have good populations of white bass. 

Feedback from anglers who catch striped bass and hybrid bass continues to be of great help to GWRD fisheries biologists on both Lakes Oconee and Sinclair. GWRD would like to have photos and weights of some of the bigger fish being caught. Your comments about the hybrid/striped bass fishery at both lakes are also welcome.   

Anglers catching Lake Oconee striped bass and hybrid bass can send their photos and other information directly to WRD via email by sending it to Chris Nelson at chris.nelson@dnr.ga.gov. Anglers catching Lake Sinclair striped bass and hybrid bass can send photos and other information directly to WRD via e-mail by sending it to Brandon Baker at brandon.baker@dnr.ga.gov. 

Good fishing and see you next week.

Outdoor columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached via email at brpeoples995@gmail.com. 

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