The State of Hybrids and Stripers

How's the fishing on your favorite Georgia lake? Here is 10 years worth of stocking data, plus the chance to comment on the current state of lineside fishing.

After reading this article, please take the time to download, print, fill out and mail or fax the lineside survey found here, or just email your answers to letters@gon.com. Mailing address: 4331 Seven Islands Rd., Madison, GA 30650. Fax number: (706) 342-2022.

Wondered lately why the hybrids have all but disappeared from your favorite lake?

Would you be surprised to hear that some years Lake Lanier has been stocked with fewer striped bass per acre than Seminole, High Falls and Sinclair?

Few anglers, even guides who make their living going after these fish, know much about the stocking programs that sustain hybrid and striper fishing on Georgia lakes. GON hopes to change that by providing 10 years of data showing how many linesides per acre have been stocked.

Fishing for hybrid and striped bass, which are commonly referred to collectively as linesides or “white fish,” is a big deal on most Georgia reservoirs. Fishing for these white fish drives a mini-industry of guides and bait suppliers, particularly on lakes like Lanier.

Striped bass in reservoirs are a man-made occurrence. These fish naturally would spawn in freshwater rivers and spend almost all of their adult lives in saltwater. State fisheries agencies, like the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) of Georgia, began stocking programs to put striped bass in reservoirs for recreation and to help control gizzard-shad populations. Hybrids are a hatchery-made cross between white bass and striped bass that were added to the stocking mix. Hybrids are more warm-water tolerant and do much better than stripers in reservoirs that don’t have cold-water sanctuaries.

So it was that middle Georgia reservoirs like Oconee, Sinclair and Jackson became premier destinations for great hybrid fishing. The great hybrid fishing continued on those lakes until four to five years ago. The hybrid fishing was sacrificed when WRD announced in 2005 a major shift in how they were going to stock linesides. Hybrids were phased out and replaced by the stocking of striped bass. That year there was even a proposal by WRD to cut its hybrid-stocking program entirely because of budget issues—although that never occurred and hybrids are still produced and stocked in Georgia lakes.

The official presentation of the change from hybrids to stripers on middle Georgia lakes came during a Feb. 1, 2005 meeting at Lake Sinclair.

Former WRD biologist Scott Robinson told the crowd of anglers, “This stocking project, considered a priority by our agency, is meant to hasten recovery efforts of native fish species, including striped bass, in the Altamaha River basin. In addition to providing larger fish for anglers, this effort will restore striped bass populations within the river itself.”

The goal was to create a self-sustaining striper population on the Altamaha River. The problem with hybrids is they don’t just stay in the lakes they’re stocked in—they pass through dams into the river systems below. Hybrids from middle Georgia lakes ultimately found their way to the lower Altamaha where they outcompeted young stripers for food and survival.

In 2005, WRD said, “We propose to solve this problem by phasing in the stocking of striped bass instead of hybrids in lakes Oconee, Jackson, Sinclair, High Falls and Tobesofkee. This action will have the added benefit of providing anglers with larger fish (over 10 pounds), with the occasional chance at a 20- to 30-pounder. This also will lead to a larger, naturally reproducing, fishable population of striped bass with true trophy potential in the Altamaha River.”

Seven years later, where do we stand? There’s not a self-sustaining striper population yet in the Altamaha, although striper numbers have increased significantly as hybrids numbers dropped. What’s been the trade-off?

Meanwhile, how is your lineside fishing—not just on Oconee Jackson or Sinclair—how’s the fishing on Lanier or West Point? Take a look at the 10 years of stocking history on your favorite lake… does it generate any questions? If so, here’s your chance to ask and to comment. Please take the time to fill out and return the lineside survey found at the top of this article.

DNR Public Meeting On Lineside Stocking

Interested or concerned about the striper and hybrid fishing in Georgia? The Fisheries Section of DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division will host a meeting in June, possibly to be held in Milledgeville at Georgia Power’s Plant Branch. However, the location, date and time of the meeting have not been set yet. GON will have details on the meeting at www.gon.com and in the next issue of the magazine.

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