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Land-Locked Striped Bass


Phil Lilley

Morone Saxatilis (Striped Bass) are members of the family Percichthyidae, the temperate basses!

Morone is a genus oftemperate basses (family Moronidae), consisting of fourspecies.

1. Moroneamericana (whiteperch)

2. Moronechrysops (whitebass)

3. Morone mississippiensis (yellow bass)

4. Moronesaxatilis (stripedbass)

The word Saxatilis tells you a lot about the Striped bass. Saxatilis is Latin meaning "dwelling among rocks." Which is avery accurate description of where you can often find them at certain times, insalt-water but in freshwater the have adapted to different habitats.

Max.Recorded Length:

78 3/4 inches

Max.Recorded Weight:

125 Lbs "commercial netting"

Climate:

45 - 77 degrees - preferred water temperature range is 65 to 70 degrees.

Part 2: The Biology

Striped BassInhabits coastal waters and are commonly found in bays and enter rivers in the spring to spawn. Stripers are native to the Atlantic coast, from the St. Lawrence River, Canada, to the St. John's River, Florida. This is something fishermen need to be mindful of when targeting stripers. Note they are in ornear rivers which means they want current. Even in the Atlantic Ocean they are commonly found near inlets and in oceanic current areas. This is where the food is congregated as well.

Female stripers release their eggs to be fertilized by any pursuing males. The semi-buoyant eggs then need to drift in currents for several days until they hatch. There is a lot of controversy as to if Landlocked stripers truly do have successful spawning. There is evidence to it in numerous reservoirs but to my knowledge not in Beaver lake as of yet. Eggs hatch in approximately 2-3 days,

Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 60-70°F. The semi-buoyant eggs are released in flowing water as many as 3,000,000 eggs may be released by one female. Eggs require a flow adequate to prevent their settling to the bottom during the incubation period. Hatching occurs after 48 to 50 hours.

The best survival rates occur with a salinity of 9-9.5parts per thousand. The optimum temperature for egg maturation is about 63°F. Optimal hatching temperature appears to be at 68°F. I mention these facts as it appears that in landlocked populations lakes that are in areas with salt deposits in the ground creating the salinity levels in the water column appear to be the same ones with reproduction. Though I am not a biologist this does seem to have a correlation.

Life Span: Striped bass are a long-lived species; they can live roughly 30 years.

Growth Rate: Growth rates are variable, depending on a combination of season,location, age, sex, and competition. Growth is more rapid during the second and third years of life, before striped bass reach sexual maturity, than during later years. After age four, growth may be 2.5 to 3 inches a year until age eight. Starting at age four, females grow faster than males. Growth occurs between April and October.

Part 3: Discussion and Speculation

I have added this section as the topic always seems to come up. Though for our region it is just the speculation it is a good discussion topic at any lodge or garage.

There is evidence of spawning in land-locked Stripers in numerous reservoirs but to my knowledge not in Beaver lake as of yet. Remember: Eggs require a flow adequate to prevent their settling to the bottom during the incubation period. Hatching occurs after 48 to 50 hours.

The best survival rates occur with a salinity of 9-9.5parts per thousand. The optimum temperature for egg maturation is about 63°F.Optimal hatching temperature appears to be at 68°F. I have taken water samples of Beaver Lake and have found this salinity level, and Beaver certainly does support the current needed and it certainly has the water temperature needed. So the question beckons, is it possible?

To date I have found no studies done on Beaver or had reports of successful breeding. Yet many people catch white bass each year and most could not identify a juvenile striper from a white of the same size. Fun to think about and maybe in time we will have an answer.

But then comes the next question: If they did breed in beaver and we had heavy spring storms and if the gates were opened could stripers get into Table Rock? We already know for fact they are in the tail waters of Beaver, the state record came from it. I have caught many stripers from the tail waters. So is Table Rock the next BIG STRIPER LAKE?

Think about it Table Rock has two rivers that flow into it with heavy trout stocking programs, The White River and Roaring River. We know from waters with stripers as close as The Lower Illinois below Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma to as far asLake Silverwood in California those lakes with Trout the Stripers reach gigantic sizes.

A lot of speculations yes! But it has happened in other lakes.

PART 4: Striper Food

The most common food source in freshwater is shad gizzard and threadfin. Yet I must say I have seen stripers go crazy over a school of suckers. In fact when over schools of Stripers I have dropped down both a Shad and a Sucker and hands down the sucker will out catch the shad 20 to 1. Perch also are a staple for stripers as well as crayfish, hands down where legal though nothing will beat a trout.

You don’t get big without protein and Stripers I have found are the champions at any eating contest and have a high metabolic rate. They eat a lot and will not be found far from the table. Unlike Largemouth bass Stripers are not an ambush predator, waiting for food to come to them, they go to the food.

Find the food find the fish. This is an interesting and frustrating thing for most anglers. You see a Shad Ball on sonar but no stripers! Why? Again this is speculation, but over the years I have noticed something about Stripers and Bait schools but not until the last 5 years and people posting pictures of their graphs has it started to come together for me.

I would see a single striper on my old flasher or graph and even when diving I would see maybe 1 or two stripers hanging around large bait pods; by large I mean one that is over 20ft round. Yet when I would come across smaller pods 10ft or less it would be shadowed by large schools of stripers. The smaller the pod the more active the fish seemed to be.

That got me to thinking about what I had seen so often in salt water dives. Smaller bait balls had more active fish. This confuses people as they see large areas of“boils” where fish seem to be exploding on huge schools of bait in lakes. In most cases where I have metered and been diving and witnessed this what is actually occurring is the fish have herded many schools over flats and are actually picking off individual small schools over the flat. It gives the appearance of them busting a super bait ball when in truth it is smaller balls they actually forced together.

When they do this it is an interesting thing to watch as they start attacking with from what the surface appears to be wreck lace abandon, just attacking any bait near them. But underwater this is a very different picture. Some hold under the attack picking off stunned bait and others actually form a wall in front of the bait. You can see videos like this where sailfish and marlin circle bait balls while others slash through them. It may look like chaos and certainly puts anglers into chaos but in reality it is a very methodical feeding ritual.

There is of course an occasions when they do have large bait schools pinned and watching them in this situation shows an intelligence to the fish or as a biologist once told me “they are hard wired for life and just do it from millenniums of wiring” they tend to hang on the fringes and when another species crashes the ball it scatters. Then the stripers start attacking the individual bait left out of the protection of the bait ball.

PART 5: Habitat

There is plenty of research done on Oceanic Striped Bass but very little information on Landlocked or Lakes Stocked Striped Bass. This is a frustration to many anglers trying to learn about these fish. My belief as to why we have little research on this vital part of the fishes life is simple! They are a “Put N Take”species, in other words they are stocked for the purpose of anglers taking and keeping them thus little to no need for the research, and the research is mostly on the growth rates and environmental needs to survive..

With little to no “Scientific studies or evidence” to back my findings, I am always open to input from other anglers, but the following is based on years of Diving with them, Marking them on Graphs, Catching them and then correlating my findings to lake maps and where they were caught.

Using my logs for the last 23 years from the following lakes,

1. Silverwood Lake, California

2. Pyramid Lake, California

3. Skinner Lake, California

4. Castaic Lake, California

5. Lake Powell, Arizona

6. Lake Havasu, Arizona

7. Lake Mead, Nevada

8. Texoma, Texas

9. Beaver Lake, Arkansas

10. Lake Ouachita, Arkansa

11. Cumberland Lake, Kentucky

I have seen distinct patterns of landlocked Striped Bass that I use each time I fish for them, though some of these lakes are separated by thousands of miles patterns are the exact same, which tells me landlocked stripers do have habitat they prefer and being migratory have stop off points they traditionally use each year just like migratory birds.

PART 6: First is Summer Patterns

Understanding the Striped Bass preferred Temperature range is vital. Stripers want water in the 55 to 70 degree range. Water Temperatures in summer near the surface can range as high as 90 degree’s which is far too hot for them. The other thing to understand is the Dissolved Oxygen content Stripers prefer which is 8.1 to 10.1. On all the above lakes one thing that was clear and present was Stripers moving to the deepest sections of the lakes in summer, you can go on the internet and search for fish reports from all of them and the same story unfolds, “STRIPERS AT THE DAM”! The dam is the deepest section of most lakes and makes perfect since that a species preferring cooler water temperature would be there.

But more so the BAIT the striper eats prefers cooler water temperature. Again we have the symbiotic relationship between the fish and the food, which is a vital part of understanding the fish. Everything eats and if you can find the food source you can find the game animal a fact as old as history.

This is also an exact attribute of the oceanic Striper, They are in the open ocean during the summer months fattening up on food sources in cool Atlantic’s Northern waters but in fall they migrate south. Same holds true in lakes.

PART 7: Fall

This transition time of year for stripers is when they are migrating and can be difficult to pattern for many people. But the simple truth is just as with other migratory species they have key resting/hold over spots. This is when stripers truly show their oceanic origins.

In the fall they start leaving the deep water home and start moving up lake. It is this time of year to pay close attention to water temperature and bait movement! As the water cools they will work up lake toward the river mouths. Remember shallow water retains its heat longer and this will be the contributing factor to where you find the fish.

As they move up they will start keying in long main lake points with adjacent flats, also they key in on main lake humps and rock piles.

Fall is also the time leading up to the winter gorging to get weight up for the spring breeding time. Smaller stripers move up to the traditional feeding grounds first. I have watched many times in creek areas that first the small fish arrive and as the months go on they get larger and larger in size till you max out a specific range. The big females always seem to be last. This characteristic behavior of stripers is exactly duplicated in the Oceanic Striper.

PART 8: Winter

This is a tricky time of year to locate striper! Habitat to look for is of course the creek mouth flowing water constantly. A mud flat as this is where shad feed and a flat bottom with points with that hook I mentioned earlier.

Key is to find the Shad on your fish finder and target the outside of the schools of bait. In the absence of

For some reason I have never seen stripers under docks or in structure during the winter, they are always in open water or set-up in a funneling area for bait. They also run up the creeks in the mornings and evenings.

PART 9: Spring

This time of year they can move fast from the winter ground up river to try and spawn! But it only last a couple weeks then they start heading back to the deep water. A striper can cover a lot of water in a short time, some reports show them moving 100 miles in 24 hours and speculation of more. So when they want to move they move.

Like fall points are a good place to look, trolling is a very productive method this time of year as you are trying to intercept fast moving schools. The water is still cool so surface activity is common; I see it on points and open lake mounds where they stop off and feed.

Striped bass are originally and Oceanic fish for certain, but have adapted to freshwater life. Understanding they relate to a lake much like they do the ocean is the key to catching them but more important understanding how close the relationship is between them and the bait the feed on.

PART 10: Fun Information

Everyone knows the start of the land-locked story began in 1941 when striped bass were accidentally landlocked in the process of building the Santee Cooper reservoir in South Carolina.

The true first stocking or land locking of striped bass could be much earlier than that even, In 1879, 132 fingerling striped bass were introduced into the San Francisco Bay, from the Navesink River in NJ. An additional 300 fingerling were stocked 3 years later.

Captain John Smith wrote in 1614: that the fish seemed so plentiful that one might walk “dryshod”across their backs over the river.

In 1670,Plymouth Colony established a free school with income from coastal striped bass fisheries.

Greg Myerson's , striped bass caught on August 4 2011 that weighed 81 pounds, 14 ounces and beat the 29-year-old previous world record of 78.8 pounds caught in 1982 by Albert McReynolds. Has been certified by the International Game Fish Association.

Land-LOCKED World Record (67 lb 8 oz) O'Neill Forebay, Los Banos, California , 5/7/1992 by Hank Ferguson.


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