Striped Bass Information 2004

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wayne gustaveson

Staff member
Striped bass are caught on cut dead anchovies when shad are no abundant. When shad are the main forage target then a shad-imitating lure works better. Surface lures, large marabou jigs, spoons and crankbaits work well around shad. Trolling with flat line monofilament is deadly as is leaded line and down-rigger trolling. The most exciting technique is to cast surface lures (stick baits) in surface feeding frenzies called "striper boils". During the fall and winter stripers go deep but are readily visible with the use of a fish locating graph which reduces search time and greatly enhances total harvest.

Please keep all striped bass caught so the population can stay in balance with available forage.


Striped bass are ocean fish that can live in freshwater. Now that this population is landlocked in Lake Powell they are reproducing at an unprecedented rate due to the unique water chemistry of Lake Powell which allows eggs that settle on the substate to hatch instead of smothering as they would in most nutrient-rich (eutrophic) lakes.

With unlimited reproduction the limiting factor for striper survival and growth is available forage. Stripers have eliminated shad from the pelagic zone on more than one occasion. From 1986-1990 there were almost no shad seen in open water of Powell. That period resulted in stunted stripers and led to the current management plan which is to reduce striped bass numbers by angler harvest. If enough stripers are removed then those that are left will benefit from the finite forage base and remain healthy and grow normally.

That program has worked. In 2004 the average striper weighs about 3-4 pounds which is a good freshwater angling target. The fish are in excellent health which is my main concern. Stripers typically boil in the fall which is unheard of in most other freshwater species.

To keep the fishery as healthy as it is now we continue to harvest all stripers that will not be wasted. If you can't eat them all then give some to your family, friends and neighbors. Take good care of them, put fish immediately on ice, fillet as soon as possible, keep them cold and those that benefit from your good fishing fortune will be better friends and happy to see you coming up the walk. Do not waste any striped bass. In 2004 it is fine to release fish over 3 pounds but keep all the smaller ones to save shad for future striped bass feeding opportunities.


In the recent past most female stripers did not mature or spawn. That has changed in 2004 with most stripers spawning this year. The population was more than adequately replenished by trophy fish and young males spawning each year. Now a huge year class has been produced in 2004 which will lead to abundant catches in the near future.

Young stripers eat plankton and insects until they are about 4 inches long at which point they prefer to eat larval fish. If shad are available in larval form and they grow with the striper crop, then striper growth is phenomenal. A young striper could reach 12-14 inches in its first year of life. This was the case in 2003 and 2004.

In previous years, older stripers ate shad first leaving the young ones to exist on plankton. Then first year stripers go into their first winter at 4-5 inches.

Yearling stripers eat plankton til shad hatch in May. Then yearlings eat shad larvae and grow quickly during summer doubling their size by fall. These efficient, most numerous fish really consume a large number of shad and prevent many shad from ever growing up and becoming food for larger stripers.

Two year old stripers from 14-18 inches eat crayfish and shad as they enter the open water in July. Stripers will grow as large as each successive year class of shad will allow. More shad equals more growth. By fall of the second year they are healthy 18-24 inch fish and at their prime - although not old enough or large enough to be sexually mature.

The key for three year old fish is to find enough shad for growth - not just maintenance - during the 3rd year. They wait for young-of-year to eat larval shad, yearlings to eat the next size larger shad and two year olds to eat in the open water in July, before they get a good crack at the remaining forage. In a good year like 2003-2004 3-year old stripers can weigh from 3-6 pounds.

Mature fish weighing more than 4 pounds grow rapidly when shad are available in open water. When shad are scarce there is no food for the larger stripers as they are forced to live in cooler water by changing physical requirements. Big stripers need cool water. Yearlings have no problem with warm water and can eat the very smallest shad. This "ontogenetic" partitioning of size classes works well in the ocean but has turned everything upside down in freshwater. Smallest stripers are the favored predators when shad are scarce. Adult stripers have the upper hand when shad are plentiful. Stripers up to 3 pounds have acclimated to warm water and are able to feed in water exceeding 80 degrees.

Our harvest program is absolutely essential, critical, can't-stess-enough how important, to prevent stockpiling of age classes and allowing the population to reach the point where no one has enough food. When this happens all older fish are disadvantaged and the only ones that can survive the next winter are the yoy and yearlings that can eat plankton. A massive dieoff ensues.

We have not had a significant winter die off during the 90's thanks to angler harvest and 3 good shad years.

Catch and KEEP a striper. It is the only way we can keep this great fishery going.
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