Early on the morning of April 28, 38 captains and their crews eased away from their Lanier launch sites only to find themselves in a thick shroud of fog which enveloped them and their surroundings. With absolute stillness and not a breath of wind, distant-echoed voices could be heard, but vision was limited to 50 yards or less. While most folks would have shunned fishing under these conditions and nestled-up in a warm room with a hot drink in the comfort of their homes, individuals participating in the first ever DNR Scales Round-Up were driven to catch as many striped bass as possible. The captains included professional guides and weekend warriors. They were cautious but confident, and despite not being able to run in the fog the mantra for the crews was, “Let’s get our lines in the water and start fishing now.”
Just 10 minutes into the tournament, the crew of Team Striper Tales extracted three scales from a robust 9-pounder. During the mid-morning, the spirit of the participants lifted exponentially when rays of sunlight burst through the bands of moisture-filled air. Now the crews could safely and quickly navigate to their favorite fishing holes and accomplish what they were asked to do—extract two or three scales from as many striped bass as they could catch.
Why scales? The Fisheries Section of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wanted the scales to learn more about the health of the striped bass fishery on Lake Lanier. So, what would prompt fishermen to spend money for gas, bait, food and other goodies under the auspices of a tournament? Three trophies—that’s all it took!
First place went to the team that caught the most fish. The winner was Keith Prather with eight solid stripers brought to the boat. Second place was awarded to the fisherman who caught the longest fish. Leonel Castillo caught a 36 1/2-inch striper to take second place. Third place was given to the individual who boated the smallest fish. James McManus released a 15 1/4-inch fish to take third place.
Participants met at Little Hall Park tournament facility at high noon and turned over their scale-filled envelopes to board members of the Lanier Striped Bass Coalition (LSBC), which conducted the event. Trophies were awarded, and raffle tickets were exchanged for some excellent prizes including a Humminbird 998C Si Combo, a Lowrance HDS 8 Gen2 Combo Unit, Penn reels and rods, In-line planer boards, landing nets, decals, shirts and more. Sponsors included Humminbird, Lowrance, HydroGlow, Pure Fishing Inc., Oakwood Bait & Tackle, Hammond’s Fishing, Ambrose Tools and Big Fish On.
In addition to scale extraction, the LSBC had a second purpose in mind when planning and organizing the tournament. That goal was to raise money to help purchase a new stocking tank for DNR. Funds are also coming in from other striped bass organizations in Georgia and South Carolina and businesses in the Atlanta metro area. The raffle was a huge success, and our most heart-felt thanks go out to the people who have contributed funds for the tank.
In the seven-month life of the LBSC, much has been accomplished. Large thinking, goal-driven, deliberate individuals established the organization, and the path that it should take to help maintain the health of the Lanier striper fishery. What began as a few became a group of many, as more than 125 striper aficionados attended the first meeting. Membership went to almost 70 overnight. Members of the organization have met with the state fishery managers, participated with WRD during the fall gill-net studies and have successfully completed the first Scale Tournament. Moreover, at the request of DNR, the Coalition established an Online Angler Survey at www.lanierstripedbasscoalition.org/angler-diary/. The survey is being used to gather specific and useful data concerning the results of fishing on Lanier. This very valuable information includes the number of hours fished, number and description of fish caught, whether the fish were released or kept, weight and length of each fish, etc.
While the volunteers of the organization have hit some huge home runs within the Lanier community, the results of their efforts can be seen across the entire state. Do not look for the Coalition to tout their successes and go on “recess.” No, the future of this purpose-driven organization is very clear —it will continue to lead in the conservation and preservation of striped bass on Lake Lanier and to be an active partner with all levels of government in successfully maintaining a thriving and healthy population of Lanier’s striped bass.