HARTWELL — Striped bass fishing is a favorite pastime for many Lake Hartwell anglers. For more than 40 years, the striped bass population in Lake Hartwell has been maintained by stocking small fish into the lake each spring. Given enough time and “groceries,” these striped bass can reach weights of 40 pounds or more.
However, over the last few years, Lake Hartwell anglers have expressed concern about the declining numbers of striped bass in the lake.
“We attribute the decline in the striped bass population to low levels of dissolved oxygen found down deep where striped bass live during the summertime,” Georgia DNR fisheries biologist Anthony Rabern said. “Droughts and floods can have a strong influence on water quality in the lake, especially during the summer months.”
Due to low oxygen levels last September, fisheries biologists from both the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources documented a major die-off of striped bass.
To determine how striped bass in Lake Hartwell respond to harsh summertime conditions when these low oxygen levels occur, DNR biologists are surgically-implanting small radio transmitters into 40 striped bass this winter and will track their movements for the next 12 to 36 months.
“One of the goals for this project is to determine the seasonal migration patterns of striped bass in Lake Hartwell, and identify potential areas in the lake where summertime water quality may be better suited for their survival,” Project Leader Anthony Rabern said. “Another goal is to determine how many striped bass may actually die during the course of the year from either natural causes or from being harvested by anglers.”
It might be possible that some anglers will catch one of these striped bass that has an internal transmitter. If you catch a striped bass with a 3-inch long filament protruding from its belly, the DNR encourages you to report the tag number by calling (888) 824-7472 and to release the fish alive, if possible, so officials can continue to track the fish. If the fish is harvested, instructions will be provided on how to return the transmitter.
This project would not be possible without the combined efforts of both state DNRs, and the support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“In the long run,” Rabern said, “we will use the results from this study to make Lake Hartwell the best fishing destination it can be.”
For more information about the Lake Hartwell Striped Bass Telemetry Project, contact Rabern, at (706) 947-1507.