Strippers take a long trip to the lakes of Arkansas
The Atlantic Coast Striped Bass can travel hundreds of kilometers from ocean to freshwater bays to spawn. Thanks to the efforts of biologists from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, some landlocked stripers from Beaver, Norfork and Ouachita lakes can claim a spawning ground measuring thousands of miles.
Hatchery staff transported a load of striped bass fry in early July from Watha, NC on a 2,200-mile road trip that took nearly 72 hours from start to the end.
Typically, striped bass stored in Arkansas lakes originate from spawners caught in all three Arkansas lakes when the fish begin to spawn. Although the stripers cannot breed successfully in the state’s lakes, the spawning race places them in predictable areas for biologists to catch them using nets and transport to hatcheries and artificially reproduce. appropriate spawning conditions.
âWe were unable to complete the striped bass project last year due to social distancing precautions,â said Ben Batten, Head of Game and Fish Fisheries. âThis is an operation on the bridge for a few days and nights, and we had to maintain the safety of our personnel. We were able to complete the project this year, but we were still below par in Ouachita, Norfork. and Beaver Lakes, our top three striped bass fishing opportunities in the state. “
Game and Fish was also researching new genetics to help keep striped bass populations in the Arkansas lakes healthy.
Tommy Laird, deputy head of fisheries for the game and fish hatchery system, said fish health can decline over generations in the absence of genetic diversity.
âThe striped bass collection process that we normally use is to capture spawners in the same body of water where they will be stored,â Laird said. âAfter long periods of time, we want to increase genetic diversity to avoid unwanted characteristics, such as crooked thorns, underdeveloped mouthparts and other genetic issues. We were looking for a helping hand to add diversity to our striped bass lakes in addition to filling the 2020 gap. “
Game and Fish is calling for help. This call was answered by Watha Hatchery, owned by the Inland Fisheries Division of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He had just under 220,000 striped bass fry that were about an inch and a half long that he was ready to give.
Batten said sharing the excess fish with other states was nothing new to hatcheries across the country.
âFisheries management biologists are trying to keep fish populations in balance in lakes and rivers. At the end of the year, you might have an excess that could serve another state,â Laird said, former manager of the Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton. “And some years they may have additional fish of another species that your fishermen could benefit from. It’s a great partnership that has lasted for decades.”
The North Carolina fish might have been free, but the shipping and handling was on Game and Fish.
On the morning of June 27, two drivers, one from Game and Fish Andrew Hulsey Hatchery in Hot Springs and the other from Joe Hogan Hatchery in Lonoke, traveled east in a truck. -tank equipped with gauges and supply lines to provide the appropriate amount of oxygen to the fish.
âThey left early Sunday morning and got to North Carolina to load the fish, took a few hours off, then came home early Monday morning, rolling in shifts all the way back,â said Jason Miller, manager. from the Lonoke Hatchery.
Miller said drivers stop every two hours to monitor the status of their transport and make any necessary adjustments.
The work was far from over when they returned. The fish had been in tanks for so long that transferring them to a tank and waiting until the next day to start moving them was not an option.
Three trucks with additional drivers were waiting for the arrival of the first crew with their cargo to transfer them and leave immediately for storage that day.
Once transferred, the striped bass made their final trip to Beaver, Ouachita and Norfork lakes about a four hour drive away. Before stocking, the hatchery staff still had to take one more step – bringing the fish to the temperature of the water at its destination.
âThe tanks of the trucks had water at 62 degrees,â Laird said. âBut the water temperature in the lakes was in the 80s. We had to let the tank water temperature rise slowly to avoid shocking the fish when they were transferred. It took about three hours to do so. . “