Lineside Anglers Not Thrilled

Most rate hybrid and striper fishing as fair or poor, and 83 percent say it's getting worse. Middle Georgia and West Point anglers want hybrids back.

Stripers and hybrids certainly invoke a passion among the dedicated anglers who pursue them on Georgia’s reservoirs.

Last month, GON provided 10 years of data showing how many linesides per acre have stocked in Georgia reservoirs. We also asked anglers to rate the lineside fishing, comment on whether it’s gotten better or worse, and to make recommendations on stocking efforts at their favorite lakes.

We weren’t overwhelmed with responses, but those that returned their surveys were not very satisfied with the direction of Georgia’s lineside stocking program. We got the most responses from Lanier striper anglers, followed by Oconee, West Point and Sinclair fishermen. Not surprisingly, most anglers want more fished stocked in their lakes. But was what is surprising is that 83 percent of the anglers said the lineside fishing has gotten worse in the past five years. You can boil the dissatisfaction down primarily like this—Lanier needs a higher stocking rate of stripers, and hybrids need to be returned to middle Georgia lakes and to West Point.

Here are the survey results and a sample of comments from each lake. We didn’t have space for all of the comments, but they are published online at www.gon.com.

Allatoona: There were two responses, and both rated the fishing as fair and said it has remained the same. Both also would like to see more stripers stocked.

• I would like to see the total amount of stripers stocked to be more in line with the hybrid population being stocked. I thoroughly enjoy the hybrids personally, and believe they have been a valuable component in erasing Allatoona’s reputation as the Dead Sea. But I think anglers of all species could benefit from a larger, more prevalent striper population from the aspect of you never know what you could catch!

Chatuge:
Two anglers responded about Chatuge, which once held the world-record hybrid. They rated the fishing as poor, said it’s gotten worse and want more hybrids stocked.

• Why do they not stock hybrids or stripers in Chatuge?

• I used to fish Lanier a lot, but now Chatuge is my home lake. What is the possibility of stocking some hybrids and stripers in Chatuge?

Clarks Hill:
Two anglers responded. One rated the fishing as good and about the same and wants stocking to remain the same. The other rated it as poor, worse and wants more stripers stocked.

• In 2007 and 2008, the striper and hybrid fishing was great. Both size and quantity were no problem to find at least once a week. For the past three to four years, the fish have been harder to find and the size is small. With all the guides taking hundreds of fish of every size on their trips, the numbers and size are suffering. I once could catch and release 150 fish in three days. Now, I’m lucky to get 20.

• 50/50 stock rates seem to work good. Ed Bettross, the local biologist for Clarks Hill, does a great job keeping the local fishing population informed of striper/hybrid stockings.

Eufaula: One response, and the angler said the lineside fishing is fair, worse, and that more hybrids need to be stocked.

Hartwell:
One response, and the angler said the lineside fishing is excellent, improved and sees no need to change stocking efforts.

• Let the DNR biologists do their jobs. More stocking and more restrictive creel limits are not always the silver bullet. Striper fishing on Hartwell the past few years has been very good. As an example, look at the ASC monthly tourney weigh-in results.

Jackson: One angler commented, saying the lineside fishing is poor, getting worse, and he recommend more hybrids be stocked.

• Hybrids were a great addition! Stripers may hurt a 4,700-acre lake.

Juliette: One angler responded, offered the following comment:

• From 1980 to 1994, the average striper was 20-plus pounds with three to five fish per trip. After flood of ’94, tons of big stripers went out the spillway and some made it to the river. Since then the average weight is 7 to 8 pounds with occasional 20-pounder. Totally lost the hybrid fishery, which gave up 11- to 13-lb. fish regularly. The sad part was that we had a true trophy striper lake that rivaled any lake anywhere in the United States. It would appear that achieving status quo is the goal, not creating or restoring a trophy fishery once it is damaged. Definitely would like to see hybrids restocked to level where they again become a draw for fishermen. With the blueback levels in the lake, it will support far more fish.

Lanier: Twenty anglers responded. Most (12 anglers, 60 percent) rated the fishing as fair, while six (30 percent) said it was poor, and two said it was good. None of the 20 said striper fishing has improved on Lanier, while three said it was the same. Seventeen (85 percent) said it has gotten worse. Almost all want to see more stripers stocked into Lanier, while three want hybrids added to the mix.

• After looking at the charts that show number of fish per acre, I find it disturbing to see that a 3,500-acre lake gets as much or more fingerlings than a 35,000-acre lake.

• I’m no pro angler, but I know what baits and lures to use and when. I sometimes ask myself what am I doing wrong. Increase the population. I’m looking bad when I don’t bring home dinner.

• Lanier has five to 10 times more fishermen targeting stripers than any other lake in Georgia. Yet, it has been receiving half of the per-acre stocking rate than many other Georgia lakes. The data in the GON article is very upsetting and shows why the fishing on Lanier has degraded over the past few years.

• I believe the stocking of stripers needs to be significantly increased, as well as complimented by the addition of a significant number of hybrids. Many are against the stocking of hybrids, but personally I feel that it would be very beneficial to the success ratio of those fishing for linesides on Lanier. Lanier is an extremely large lake and should have a large holding capacity for greatly increasing the current stocking ratio.

• The stocking received by Lanier compared to many of the other lakes with much less fishing pressure is pathetic. This has to be reflecting some political pressure or other improper influences no the DNR’s schedule for some of these other lakes. Probably worth an investigation by the AJC… if any actual reporters still work there.

• I have 16 years of experience fishing on Lanier for stripers. In 2007, I averaged 10.6 fish per day. Every year since 2007, my average has decreased significantly. By 2011, my daily average was 2.6. I maintain my fishing records using “Fish Base,”a comprehensive software program from Terra-Fin.

Lake Lanier is the most visited lake operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Millions of folks could drive to the Lake in an hour or so. When the lake level is full or nearly full, it is an economic engine unlike any other lake in the southeast. There are at least 42 guides on the lake—the fishing pressure from guides, weekend warriors and the general public is tremendous! Within the Lake Lanier fishing community, most fishermen have: the latest and most sophisticated fish-finding equipment, a broad network with other fishermen, a comprehensive knowledge of the lake, and an extensive amount of information processed and stored by either fishing software or hand-written logs.

Both from my records and those of others, for the period 2008 to the present, it’s very clear that either: the annual recruitment/survival rate was very low; or the annual stocking rate did not take into consideration the tremendous and exponential growth in fishing pressure on Lanier; or the methods and means used by the state to establish annual stocking rates were flawed; or, the results of the gill net studies, the elctro-shocking process, and other methods were confined to such a small number or a small area of the lake that the results may have been skewed; or there were some periods in which the stripers died in large numbers.

The good news is that the stocking rate was increased for May of 2011 and 2012. In consideration of the above information, I hope that the state permanently increases the stocking rate.

• I fish Lanier two to five times per week. There is something wrong. There is a visible decrease in the mid-size population (10- to 20-lb. fish).

• The state should come up with a striper stamp which could be from $5 to $10 for the year and generate a huge amount of revenue for the striped-bass program. The money could fund improvements such as adding biologists to our dramatically understaffed DNR, improving and adding survey and hatchery equipment, and getting the public more involve by conducting scale collecting tournaments for research for providing raw data or scales.

• In the past five to 10 years, Lanier has gone from a very good striper lake to just a fair striper lake. Right now, you can catch more stripers in a day on Carters, West Point, or even Allatoona than on Lanier.

• DNR fails to look at fishing pressure, population or any other factors; rather they decide to stock x number of fish per acre based on old or incomplete data. They are kind of like the Feds and grouper/snapper fishing… using old data. How hard would it be to place an intern at either of the main two bait and tackle stores on Saturday for four weeks and gather some data? Sometimes it seems that they read fishing reports from guides displaying lots of fish (trolling for customers) and use those as their fishing reports. There are plenty of fishermen willing to assist with stocking, creel studies, shocking, etc. Just because 12 fish per acre works for one lake does not mean it is the right number for another. These fish are about the size of shiners when stocked, thus are likely to be dinner for crappie, bass or stripers. Pay close attention to the numbers, not the charts.

• Striper fishing has gotten worse. Increase striper, hybrid stockings. Many days without fish. I believe during the drought a lot more fish were removed. We need our numbers to increase due to the fishing pressure being put on the lake.

Nottely: One angler responded, rating the fishing as good, about the same, and recommended more hybrids and stripers be stocked.

• Increase hybrid and striper stockings. I’m afraid with the abundance of blueback herring in the lake that the fishery will go downhill. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Lake Chatuge got them stocked in there, too!

Oconee: Thirteen Oconee anglers responded to the survey. One rated the fishing as good, nine said it was fair, and three rated it as poor. All 13 said it has gotten worse, and all 13 want to see more hybrids stocked on Oconee.

• WRD actions have taken Oconee from being one of the best hybrid fisheries in the state to being only fair. Oconee will never be a good striper lake, and WRD knows that. Hybrids can be caught all over the lake year-round while stripers can only be caught consistently in front of the dam for only a few months of the year. We need more hybrids stocked. Stripers are dying during Oconee’s summer heat.

• We fish for hybrids/stripers on Lake Oconee on a regular basis. We have noticed quite a drop in the numbers of hybrids that we have caught in the last six years.

• Hybrids are more fun to fish for. They are more aggressive and take artificial lures better than stripers. They might not grow as big, but a 3- or 4-lb. hybrid is a lot of fun to catch. Don’t believe that hybrids, which don’t reproduce, will affect striper habitat in the Altamaha, Ogeechee or other coastal rivers as much as they say.

• I have fished for hybrids in Lake Oconee for approximately 25 years, usually fishing 10 to 12 days each year. In the 80s and 90s I could catch my limit every outing; however, it’s almost impossible to get a limit now. It is evident WRD personnel are not familiar with hybrid or striper fishing. Hybrids are much easier to catch then stripers. The stocking of stripers in Oconee based on the number being caught has been a total flop. Hybrids are the most fun fish in Georgia. Please help us restore the hybrid populations to the levels they were 10 to 15 years ago.

• It has been proven with more stockings of hybrids that Lake Oconee can be one of the best hybrid lakes in the state. Hybrids can be caught year-round all over the lake by fishermen with many different skill levels. Large stockings of hybrids can more effectively control Oconee’s large shad population. There are too many shad in Oconee and that problem has only intensified with the reduction in hybrid stockings.

Stripers die in Lake Oconee’s warm, non-stratified waters. I have been to the dam area in August on several occasions and saw 10- to 12-lb. stripers floating dead. WRD knows this according to calls I have made to them. I thought that part of a fisheries biologist’s job was to place fish in habitat that it could be successful. Unlike hybrids, the only area you can consistently catch stripers in oconee is in the area of the dam and that is only for a few months of the year. In the winter, the stripers disperse in the lake, but the numbers are not high enough to produce a good fishery throughout the lake. In the warm months, the stripers are probably up the rivers trying to survive. WRD needs to quit trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The point that really bothers me is that WRD says they have reduced hybrid stocking because the hybrids travel through the dams and end up in the Altamaha and compete with striper populations there. I think if this river was good habitat for stripers then there would not be a problem with them competing with hybrids. There don’t seem to be a problem with hybrids and stripers co-existing and doing well in lakes Hartwell and Clarks Hill. How many anglers target stripers in the Altamaha? Why is it such a large priority? We know Lake Oconee has a large population of anglers. Lake Lanier has a large population of anglers and good striper habitat; why not put more stripers there? I have nothing against stripers. I frequently go to lakes Hartwell and Russell and catch big, healthy stripers, not the skinny, stressed stripers of Lake Oconee.

I have fished Oconee since it backed up, and they stocked stripers then and didn’t many of the fish survive. I fish Oconee 40 to 50 times a year now for linesides, and I still do OK; but I would like to see the hybrid fishery return to what it used to be.

• It does not appear that Oconee can support stripers. However, if something could be done similar to what was done at Clarks Hill that would increase survival, I would be in favor of full-strain stripers. Otherwise, hybrids grow well, and I advocate their stocking.

• Stock only hybrids in Lake Oconee! The stripers die every August when they reach about 10 pounds —no cool water!

• Definitely increase hybrid stocking to get it back to where it used to be. It was several years ago a fantastic hybrid fishery. DNR flunked big time by stocking stripers in Oconee.

• Stop dumping hybrids/stripers in Oconee and Varner. This has ruined the fishing for largemouths in the northern part of Oconee and all of Varner. You used to catch largemouths in the open water on these lakes in the summer. Now all you catch are hybrids.

• I guide on Oconee for stripers/hybrids, and we have lost our topwater late-summer bite for hybrids along with out late spring hump bite. I have seen them go downhill over the past five years. Because of the low oxygen levels in the lake, the larger stripers cannot survive during the peak of summer. As a general rule, they will die without oxygen a the proper level. Oconee cannot reach that with the pumpback operation, we do not have the thermocline. I do not know for sure, but I have heard that the federal government subsidizes the striper program and not the hybrid program. If this is true, then I think we have found the problem. If nothing else, a 75 percent hybrid and 25 percent striper program would be my choice. In effect, the DNR for whatever reason has taken a great hybrid lake and turned it into a fair hybrid/striper lake, and that is a shame.

Sinclair: Nine Sinclair anglers responded. One rated the lineside fishing as excellent and has improved. The other eight rated it as poor and said it has gotten worse. Seven anglers recommend more hybrids be stocked, and one said the lake should get more stripers.

• I’ve fished this lake 55 years. It used to be easy to catch a good quantity of linesides. The fishery has certainly gone downhill in the last few years.

• We have had a place on Sinclair since 1998. I’ve caught one hybrid in the last five years and a few smaller stripers that were probably hatchery fish. I quit wasting my time trying to catch linesides a long time ago in Sinclair. To me I could care less what species of linesides flourish. I don’t eat them, but love to catch and release them. But it seems there is none to catch anymore.

• Forget the stripers! Water in Sinclair is too warm, survival rate is low. Stock stocking hybrids again.

• DNR does a good job with limited resources.

• In the past I enjoyed going to Lake Sinclair and fishing at night around the boat dock lights up on the Oconee River above Crooked Creek. I spend many nights with my dad and sons catching good size hybrids around these lights. It was always a fun trip catching these fish on light tackle. The last several years I hardly go to Sinclair now because they stopped stocking hybrids in the lake, and you rarely catch many fish around the lights as you did in the past. I think WRD made a mistake in stopping the stocking of hybrids in Sinclair. They should start back stocking these fish in Sinclair.

Tobesofkee: One angler responded, saying the fishing is poor, worse, and the lake needs more hybrids.

• Linesides have not been stocked properly. I have only caught one in the last three years. I used to catch tree on every trip!

West Point:
There were 13 responses. Two rated the fishing as good (15 percent), six said it was fair (46 percent), and five rated it as poor (39 percent. One angler said lineside fishing has improved on West Point—12 said it’s gotten worse. Several of the anglers want to see more hybrids and stripers, but almost all (11 anglers) checked the box for more hybrids to be stocked.

• As a guide who has had the lake-record striper and hybrid caught on his boat, I think the state WRD has ruined what was once the best fishery in the southeast. The stripers stocked have a vast river system to live in during hot months, and then hybrids return to the lake. The stripers are stocked into the lake in LaGrange, but they lie up the river around Six Flags.

• River run used to be great but now not worth going for.

• Eight to 10 years ago, hybrid fishing was great. Now after years of little to no stocking, it’s not worth paying a guide for two fishermen to catch and release five fish. Stripers are spotty and hard to find. Extremely poor decision to cut hybrid stocking!

• The potential for a big-striper fishery in the system is there. Guide boats may need 40-fish days of 2-lb. hybrids to keep their clients entertained, but one 20-lb. striper is better than 100 Frankenstein fish in my mind.

• Hybrid numbers are non-existent. I’m a guide on West Point and have watched our fish and business go away because of the stocking program—or lack of. Stripers will not stay in the lake, they go up the river and never come back.

• The hybrid is a “take a kid fishing” dream. During the heyday of West Point, it was incredible, not only for the river run, but also down the lake. Guides, bait shops and families out targeting them—everybody had a ball. Stock them hard—there is plenty of bait—drive over West Point any summer evening, you can walk across the shad. It’s a big win on all fronts, heck add $5 to the license if needed. If some patched-up tourney jockey gets unhappy when a 3-lb. hybrid slams his crankbait, there probably isn’t much you can do to get him happy anyway.

Make Your Voice Heard

Sportsmen who feel strongly about an issue should share their opinions with WRD. The June 5 public meeting is scheduled to discuss “Altamaha River basin” lakes. If biologists aren’t going to discuss other lakes such as Lanier or West Point at that meeting, anglers from those lakes need to contact WRD. Go to www.georgiawildlife.org/node/792 to find contact information for regional offices, or call the Fisheries main office (770) 918-6418.

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