The S.C. Department of Natural Resources recently completed the stocking of 652,450 hatchery raised striped bass and 271,057 hybrid bass fingerlings into Lakes Hartwell and Thurmond.
These stockings by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) complemented an additional 305,0000 striped bass and 224,000 hybrid bass stocked by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the Georgia shores of these lakes.
Both lakes are dependent on annual stockings of striped and hybrid bass fry to maintain the popular recreational sport fisheries. The Savannah lakes provide some of the best coolwater striper habitat in the state, and predictably grow some of the largest stripers. The current state record striped bass weighed 59 pounds 8 ounces and was hoisted from Lake Hartwell in 2002. Biologists estimate the sport fisheries in Lakes Hartwell and Russell support more than one half million angler trips each year. Fishing for striped and hybrid bass is a major component of the sport fisheries on these lakes. Angler surveys estimate Lake Hartwell and Thurmond anglers expend about $10 million annually in direct expenditures and equipment purchases to fish these lakes.
Striped and hybrid bass fry for the Hartwell and Thurmond stockings were produced at the DNR's Jack Bayless Fish Hatchery in St. Stephens. The fry were grown out to 1- to 2-inch fingerlings prior to being stocked in the lakes. Funding for the Jack Bayless Fish Hatchery and the hybrid and striped bass stockings comes from license fees and Sport Fish Restoration Funds, which are derived from a federal excise tax on selected fishing gear and motorboat fuel.
For information on DNR's freshwater fish stocking program, call (803) 734-3933 in Columbia. Check the DNR Web site for South Carolina (PDF file) freshwater fish regulations.
The DNR Freshwater Fisheries Section annually stocks from seven to 10 million fish in state waters, including striped and hybrid bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel and blue catfish, bluegill, redbreast, red ear sunfish (shellcracker), and rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Anglers in South Carolina spend almost $742 million to fish each year, making the sport, with economic multipliers factored in, a billion dollar business in the Palmetto State.
Stripers are fast growing and long-lived and sometimes reach weights of more than 40 pounds in the Savannah lakes system. Maturity occurs at about 2 years of age for male stripers and at 4 years of age for females. They can reach a size of 10 to 12 inches the first year. There is no disputing the striper is a superstar among freshwater fishes. Live shad and herring are excellent baits for catching big stripers. Other popular baits include white or yellow bucktail jigs, spoons, deep running crankbaits and a spinner with plastic worm rig. Popping plugs are best when stripers are schooling at the surface.