Striped Bass Investment Paying Off in Fish and Fun

More than four decades of steady work of the DMR/GCRL stock enhancement program is paying off in an exciting sport fishing opportunity on the Mississippi coast and southern rivers. Striped bass, once common in coastal and river waters, were depleted by the early sixties, victims of DDT, water quality issues, and habitat loss due to dams and channelization of rivers. But today, as a result of the research and stock enhancement program, there are striped bass to be caught from the Pearl River to the Pascagoula River. Fish larger than the 15” minimum limit are commonly caught in all three coastal counties and trophy fish of 25 pounds or more are increasingly common. Many anglers have personal stories about the “one that got away” after an encounter with a big striper while fishing for smaller species like largemouth bass or speckled trout.

Phase II Striped Bass with external tags, ready for release into the Biloxi River
GCRL technician and M.S. student Jennifer Green prepares to release "K-Bob" a 2.2-pound striped bass caught by Jeff Deuschle, a volunteer from Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater Flyfishing Club (HOSSFLY), and fitted by Jennifer with an external tag and internal acoustic transmitter.

The program's ultimate goal is to reestablish and maintain reproducing populations of striped bass throughout their native waters in Mississippi. Working toward that goal, tens of thousands of young striped bass are raised every year at DMR's Lyman Fish Hatchery and released in Mississippi waters. As of June 2013, more than 13.5 million striped bass fingerlings have been released into Mississippi coastal waters. The fish raised in fresh water ponds using fry donated to the program by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Blackwater Hatchery. The fry reach the Phase I growth stage at approximately two inches in length after about 90 days. About 90 days later, they reach Phase II, with a length of approximately six inches.

There are typically two major releases of fish each year. In June and July, large numbers of two-inch Phase I fish are released. The second release takes place in the fall or winter with a smaller number of six-inch Phase II fish released. In 2013, a total 217,000 stripers were introduced to coastal waters. After release, the young striped bass spread out across the coast and inland up the rivers. Tagged fish have been caught on Horn Island and one fish moved up the Pearl River to the tailwaters of the Ross Barnett Reservoir. In two years, the released fish will reach 15” in length and be legal for anglers to catch and keep.

2013 Releases and Tracking

Phase II Striped Bass with external tags, ready for release into the Biloxi River
Phase II Striped Bass with external tags, ready for release with 20,000 others into the Biloxi River in November 2013.

Media release, November 14, 2013

Approximately 175,000 two-inch Phase I striped bass fingerlings were released during June and July 2013.

In November 2013, the Lyman Fish Hatchery will tag and release approximately 20,000 phase II striped bass.  Each of these six-inch fish has a yellow external tags attached at the base of their dorsal fin. Yellow tags are used in odd number years, and orange tags are used in even number years.

GCRL researchers will also surgically implant acoustic transmitters into seventeen of these hatchery fish. After a three-day recovery period, the fish will be released into the Biloxi River.  GCRL will manually track and locate tagged striped bass in the river utilizing acoustic telemetry techniques.  The data will help determine how seasonal changes in the river's physiochemical condition affect diel movement and habitat use by the fish, spatially and temporally. Similar tagging programs have been conducted in previous years.

GCRL researcher Jennifer Green surgically implants an acoustic tracking tag into an anesthetized striped bass caught by HOSSFLY member Doug Wells.
Jennifer Green surgically implants an acoustic tracking tag into an anesthetized striped bass caught by HOSSFLY member Doug Wells.

In addition to this study with young stripers, GCRL are surgically implanting several large adult striped bass with more powerful acoustic transmitters that are simply too big and heavy for the phase II fish. The larger fish are caught on rod and reel in the wild and the transmitters are surgically implanted right on the capture boat. The researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how adult striped bass utilize the river, as well as identify upstream migrations which could be an indication of potential spawning activity. 

GCRL researcher Jennifer Green surgically implants an acoustic tracking tag into an anesthetized striped bass caught by HOSSFLY member Doug Wells.
Sutures are used to close the incision where the transmitter was implanted.
Photo by Jeff Deuschle.

As of November 11, 2013, there are 26 striped bass with acoustic transmitters in the Biloxi River system. There are two transmitters remaining to be implanted, so two additional fish are needed. Anyone interested in assisting us in catching adult striped bass for this program in the Biloxi River during the fall of 2013 is encouraged to volunteer.

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Volunteer Doug Wells pauses for a quick photo before releasing the striped bass after GCRL researcher Jennifer Green had implanted an acoustic tracking sensor.
Photo by Jeff Deuschle.

What Anglers Need to Know

Read More About Striped Bass on the GCRL Website

Striped bass from Graveline Bayou, Mississippi
24" (~60 cm) Striped Bass from Graveline Bayou

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