Striped and Hybrid Bass

 

The striped bass is actually a saltwater species which has adapted to freshwater environments. The Department imported the species in the 1950s to help fill open-water niches that were created as man-made impoundments were constructed across the state. Self-sustaining populations of striped bass are now found in lakes Texoma and Keystone and in the Arkansas River navigation system.

Stripers are known for their tackle-busting runs and fantastic fighting ability. These torpedo-shaped fish feed in schools and often move long distances in search of their main prey, shad.

In the spring, they tend to congregate in the upper arms of lakes, but they are most often found in main lake areas during summer and winter.

Hybrid striped bass are produced in hatcheries, generally by fertilizing striped bass eggs with white bass milt. Hybrids are best identified by their two distinct, rough tongue patches. Hybrids display broken-lined body patterns which can be helpful in fish identification, however, both white bass and striped bass may also possess broken-lined sides.

Biologist’s Tips

 

Hybrids, like both of their parent species, feed in schools. Anglers can locate schools with fish locators and by watching for flocks of feeding seagulls. On lakes, top bait choices include live shad, topwater plugs, slabs, spoons and jigs. Fishing for stripers and hybrids can also be good below dams. Surf tackle often is employed to throw heavy jigs and lures. Fishing is best during periods of heavy water discharges.

For big striped bass, try fishing the tailwaters and deeper holes downstream of the Arkansas and Red Rivers mainstream reservoirs and dams. Use large live baits (mainly shad six inches or longer) drifted through these areas.

Shoreline anglers should seek out areas of a lake that are exposed to wind and waves (i.e. points and flats). Food carried by the wind currents attract and hold plenty of stripers, as well as bass and catfish.

 Steps to Reduce Striped Bass Hooking Mortality From Fish Caught in Deep Water

Ø      Fish as shallow as possible; if fish are in 60 feet water try catching them at 30 feet rather than at a depth of 50 feet this helps reduce the bends. 

Ø      When bait fishing use circle-type hooks designed for hooking fish in the mouth; one that has been successful is the Mustad “Croaker Hook” size 1/0 to 2/0. 

Ø      Release fish along side of boat to reduce handling stress. Be sure to wet hands and towels before grabbing the fish.  Boga grips are good tools for holding fish while removing hooks. 

Ø      Cut line and gently release deep hooked fish 

Ø      When a limit of big fish (2 fish 20” or longer in length) are caught move and find a school of smaller box fish rather than staying and releasing fish that want to float. Try to leave space in your limit for a fish or two that can’t be revived. 

Ø      As a last resort fizz floating striped bass by using a #18 – 1 ½ or 2” inch hypodermic needle. See diagram and explanation. Hold fish in water along side of boat and let air bubble out  till bubbles stop and fish swims away. 

 

Striped bass like most fishes, adjust their buoyancy so they can maintain their vertical position in the water without actively swimming. Stripers adjust their buoyancy by the gas bladder.  The gas bladder in fish operates like a buoyancy compensating device used by a SCUBA diver.  As depth increases and the gas compresses (occupies less volume).  To maintain neutral buoyancy, the fish adds gas to the gas bladder.  When the fish ascends, pressure decreases, the volume of gas in the bladder expands, and buoyancy increases.  Stripers can remove gas from the bladder with the gas gland, but this a relatively slow process.  Therefore, a striper quickly displaced from deepwater to shallow water is helplessly buoyant and suffers “the bends.”  Behavioral symptoms of stripers with buoyancy problems include fish that remain at the surface after release and fish that lie on their side or assume a “head-down” posture.  These fish can be depressurized by using a #18 gauge  hypodermic needle having a length of 1 ½ to 2 inches.   Insert the needle under a scale, through the skin and into the body cavity to puncture the gas bladder.  The location of insertion is important, because sticking a vital organ, such as the closely located kidney can kill the fish. To locate the point of insertion insert the needle where the tip of the pectoral fin touches the 2nd stripe below the lateral line as indicated in the diagram.

Bass in Oklahoma