Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lake Murray Striper Report--Looking Good

For striped bass anglers on Lake Murray, things are looking up for 2010 according to preliminary SCDNR studies. Catching a keeper—at least 21 inches long—will be easier this year than it has been in quite some time. Hal Beard and Ron Ahle, both biologists with the SCDNR, presented their findings at the Midlands Striper Club’s December meeting.
A similar study was conducted in 2008, and it called for a poor 2009 striper fishing year on Murray. That prediction rang true by all accounts, lending credibility to the current study. The difference in that study and the latest one can be measured in both inches and numbers. Through gill net sampling, the 2008 study showed the lowest ratio of keeper fish in 10 years. It also pointed to the shortest average-length fish in many years—17.1 inches.

Conversely, the latest study shows an improvement in the keeper ratio, and an increase in the number of fish sampled so far. The average striper sampled during this recent gill netting was 18.2 inches long. This points to a better 2010 and beyond.

Some reasons for the improved outlook include fewer drought conditions in 2009 than we had in 2008. Droughts deplete the oxygen levels and cause fish kills, evident by fish floating dead on the water’s surface. In 2008, over 325 striped bass were recorded floating on Lake Murray, while 2009’s numbers were under 100.

One of the other reasons the striped bass fishery has struggled lately is the existence of white perch on Lake Murray. During the December meeting, Beard and Ahle stressed to anglers that white perch do a lot of damage to striper fingerlings. They also emphasized the DNR removed gamefish status from the white perch last year in an effort to shrink their population from the state’s waters. Where anglers had to limit the number of perch they once took home, the DNR know encourages everyone to “keep all they catch.”

Questions on this striped bass fishing report should be directed to Ron Ahle at ahler@dnr.sc.gov and Hal Beard at beardh@dnr.sc.gov.

PhotoByBrianCope: Lake Murray's striper fishery has been down in recent years, but new studies show a rebound is in order for 2010.

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