Guy Harvey Magazine

SPR 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 34 of 83 | 35 GHM: Wow, that's a lot of stripers! What about the fish that spawn in the wild? FS: Most fishermen don't realize that Santee Cooper is the only lake in the state with significant natural reproduction. GHM: So what percentage of striped bass come from hatcheries? FS: In every reservoir except Santee Cooper, 100% of the stripers come from us. When someone catches a striped bass, we probably raised it. Even in Santee Cooper, where there is natural reproduction, in most years, 70-80% of the fish are hatchery raised. GHM: So, you're saying, without the hatchery system, there would be virtually no striped bass fishing in South Carolina lakes with the exception of Santee Cooper reservoirs? FS: Yes, that's correct. GHM: Can you explain how you identify fish that anglers catch? FS: We clip a fin from all male and female striped bass at the hatchery and store each fin clip for genetic analysis. We record which males we cross with each female and from the genetic analysis we know what the genetic fingerprint of those crosses will be. Years after stocking, a fin clip can be taken from a striped bass captured in the wild and we can tell you if it's a hatchery fish, and if it is, which female and male were used to make the cross. GHM: What's going on in the Congaree River? FS: The Congaree and Wateree rivers are rivers that flow into the upper Santee Cooper reservoir system. Adult striped bass leave the lakes in the spring and migrate into these lengthy headwaters. When striped bass spawn, their fertilized eggs will float down these rivers and hatch before they get to the lakes. In other reservoirs in S.C. the headwaters aren't long enough for the eggs to hatch before they get to lakes, where they settle to the bottom and don't hatch. GHM: If you're raising most of the fish, why are their size limits on striped bass? FS: In Santee Cooper reservoirs, we are encouraging natural reproduction. It takes a female striped bass four to five years to become sexually mature. So a 26-in. size limit is enforced to allow those females to get to a size they are sexually mature and have an opportunity to spawn before being harvested. Size limits vary in different reservoir systems. In those areas where there isn't natural reproduction, the size limit is usually lower because the fish don't need protection to become sexually mature. However, because of the growth potential of striped bass, a size limit may be present to allow those fish to reach trophy sizes. GHM: What's is the tackle of choice for catching stripers? FS: Spinning and baitcasting. Some use live bait. Some troll. Some use topwater lures. Others use depth finders to locate fish and use jigs. So, I guess people try a lot of different methods, just like any other fishing. GHM: Would you say South Carolina has the best striper fishing in the U.S.? FS: I can say that we're one of the most aggressive states for managing striper fishing. A number of states have really good striped bass fishing. Habitat is key for striped bass. Those states that have deep, cooler reservoirs can produce some big stripers. GHM: We've heard that you're an expert on robust redhorse. What is it? Sounds like a Bluegrass band. FS: Ha! No, it's a fish. The robust redhorse was first described by the early Naturalist Edward Cope in the 1800s. There hadn't been a documented sighting of these fish for over 100 years when fisheries biologists in Georgia collected specimens in the Oconee River. Once biologists knew what to look for and what type of habitat these fish utilized, searches for robust redhorse in other systems located remnant populations in the Savannah and Pee Dee rivers. These fish can reach 18 lbs. and have molar teeth on their gill arches that are used to crush freshwater clams. It's not a gamefish, but there are historical anecdotes of early settlers using pitchforks to collect these fish on their spawning grounds and carting them off to market. And, it's very likely native Americans ate them, as robust redhorse molar teeth have been found in archeological mounds. It's a highly imperiled species that at one time flourished from North Carolina to Georgia. We embarked on a stocking program back in 2004 and have now stocked over 70,000 fingerlings in South Carolina. We recently documented natural reproduction in areas we've stocked, so it's a good success story. Striped bass eggs are checked under a microscope to verify they are ready for fertilization before they are introduced to milt from the male fish. Photo: Courtesy of Forrest Sessions. | 35

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