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Capt. Gus: What’s next for striped bass?

Traditionally, the month of November heralds the beginning of the winter striped bass fishing season on Lake Norman.
Sadly enough, what was once Lake Normanís most popular game fish has all but disappeared. And, with its demise, the number of tourist dollars has declined dramatically.
A look at history shows that Lake Norman was a favorite destination for striper fishermen until the turn of the century. It was then that the fish population began to decline. In addition to four fish kills, a gill maggot infestation took a toll on larger fish, and the introduction of white perch reduced the survival rate of the annually stocked striper fingerlings.
As the year after year catch rate declined, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission did little to reverse the trend, siting calculations that the striper fishery would recover in three or four years.
It has been eight years since the first kill and all that has been done so far is to increase the 2011 stocking by 15,000 fingerlings. Assuming that if 10 percent of survive, an additional 1,500 stripers will achieve the minimum creel size limit of 16 inches. While a 10 percent survival rate is the norm, Lake Normanís huge population of hungry white perch will reduce that number considerably.
The stocking options for 2012 are being seriously studied. One option under consideration is to supplement the stocking of striped bass with hybrids.
For those who donít know, a hybrid is a cross between a striper and a white bass. Hybrids have different names depending on location.
In Florida they are known as Sunshine Bass, and in Tennessee theyíre referred to as Cherokee Bass (the name of the lake where they were first stocked). In other parts of the country they are called Wipers, Whiterocks or simply, hybrids.
Fertilized by striped bass, the eggs from the female white bass are hatched and raised in ponds. They grow quickly and often reach weights of 10 pounds or more.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Hybrids swim in schools just as their parents, the white bass and stripers do. Methods of fishing are similar. Simply adjust the tackle to match the size of the fish.
Hot Spots of the Week: Lower water temperatures have activated bass, crappie and perch. Try top water baits for spotted bass in the south hot hole and in back coves and boat basins at dawn and dusk. Jigs, fished off points during the day and lighted docks after dark, are producing heavy limits.
Nice size crappie have moved to shallower water. Best bets are bridge pilings and submerged brush in water less than 15 feet deep. White perch are in coves to thirty feet and after dark are producing heavy limits.
The lake level on Lake Norman is down about 4.7 feet from full pond and down 3 feet on Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature is in the high 60s and low 70s.Capt. Gus Gustafson is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a professional sport fishing guide on Lake Norman. Visit his Web site at www.fishingwithgus.com , e-mail him at Gus@lakenorman.com or call 704-617-6812.

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