In an attempt to assess the survival of striped bass in Lake Lanier, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) has been capturing up to 500 striped bass this past month and attaching numbered, orange, plastic tags to each before returning them to the lake. The WRD encourages anglers to be on the lookout for these tags, which can be found on the fish’s belly. Those mailing or bringing in tags to WRD will receive $5 for each tag returned through February 2006. Anglers wishing to release tagged stripers can simply cut the tag off and return it to WRD.
“The return of these tags will help WRD staff better evaluate its Lanier striped bass management program,” said WRD Biologist Reggie Weaver. “Fisheries biologists can more effectively measure the annual mortality rate of striped bass from tags returned by anglers. Based on these tags and information gathered from anglers, we will be able to measure the percent of the population that dies from natural causes like disease and those that are taken home.”
A lake-wide survey by a creel clerk will also record angler catches of stripers and other species, as well as angler opinions about fishing quality. According to Weaver, a similar tagging and creel study conducted in 1997 revealed that angling-related mortality was less than 20 percent of the population in any given year. This second study will give the biologists a current look at mortality rates and enable the WRD to optimize the Lanier striper fishery for the benefit of all anglers.
Information needed from anglers who catch tagged stripers includes:
· Angler’s name, address, and telephone number,
· The date and area of the lake in which the tagged fish was caught,
· Whether or not the tagged fish was caught during a tournament,
· Whether or not the tagged fish was released alive or kept.
Anglers who release the tagged fish, but still wish to send in the tag for the reward, can simply cut the thin monofilament holding the tag. These tags should be returned to the Georgia WRD/Fisheries Management Office (2150 Dawsonville Highway/Gainesville, GA 30501) or anglers can call that same office at 770-535-5498.
Also, the WRD is considering a regulation change to allow limited harvest of striped bass in the Savannah River beginning in Fall 2005. Currently, no striped bass may be harvested due to a 1988 harvest moratorium for striped bass because of drastic declines in the 1980’s.
The WRD also began an intensive stocking program in 1990, which was aimed at restoring the population to a self-sustaining level. These stocking efforts have been very successful in increasing the numbers of striped bass in the Savannah River, and current population levels approach historic levels. Anglers have enjoyed this resurgence in the striped bass population over the last several years, and a popular catch and release fishery has developed. WRD fisheries biologists, along with the South Carolina DNR biologists, are considering a two fish daily limit with a 27-inch minimum length on the Savannah River downstream of J. Strom Thurmond Dam beginning in October 2005.
“Several harvest scenarios were considered in order to develop a regulation that would meet all needs,” said WRD Fisheries Biologist Joel Fleming. “Any change should allow nearly all female striped bass the opportunity to spawn at least once, thus maintaining the reproductive potential necessary to achieve long-term restoration goals for this population as well as give anglers the option to keep a few fish and provide an opportunity to harvest a trophy fish.”
Although the population has increased, most of the striped bass in the river are hatchery-reared fish. Therefore, the WRD plans to continue their restoration and management efforts involving striped bass in the Savannah River, which includes supplemental stockings, natural recruitment assessments, and annual population surveys.
For more information on the striped bass restoration project, proposed regulation change, or for fishing information, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com or contact the WRD Fisheries Management Office in Richmond Hill at (912) 727-2112.