Trophy Striper Caught on the San Juan

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wayne gustaveson

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On July 29, Mike Kopicky (right) and Tony Carosa (left) were fishing for stripers at the mouth of the San Juan using anchovies for bait and catching a lot of fish. The school was down about 35 feet and very agreeably eating bait. That all changed when Mike hooked into a huge striped bass and fought it for 25 minutes before Tony netted it and hoisted it into the boat.

Mike is from Breckenridge CO and was using 12-pound test line to land the monster. They were able to measure the fish at 42 inches but did not have a scale to weigh it. My best guess when comparing the picture of this fish with the recent catches of other big fish over the past 5 years is that the weight was between 30 and 35 pounds. These large fish usually are between 8 and 10 years old.

Mike and Tony tried to release the trophy, but it could not swim back down to the 35 foot depth where big fish have to live due to the warm surface water temperature of the lake. The fish was kept and filleted.

Congratulations to Mike and Tony for catching the biggest striper to be caught in 2017.

MikeKopicky.jpg
 

KYKevin

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Hi Wayne,
Just curious, if it only take's a Striper this size, 8 to 10 year's, to get this big. Why do you think, there are so few of them caught? OR, do you think there are a lot of them in the lake, and there just not caught? And do you know, what the life span, are for Striper's?
Thank's Wayne
KyKevin
 

wayne gustaveson

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The oldest striper I have seen in Lake Powell was 12 years. Very few are older than 8. Most drop out of the picture at 5-6 years.

Why? Its all about forage. Why is bait fishing so good for large skinny fish? Stripers are a schooling fish that feed as a group. With enough forage all get fed. Without forage they do not continue to grow and prosper.

The second part is that as striper mature they cannot live in warm surface water. Their body has changed and they need habitat in the 55-64 degree range. That works well in the ocean where this fish came from but it does not work in Lake Powell where shad are the primary forage fish. Shad(both species) live in the warmest water available. Right now that 84 degree water is out of the picture for mature stripers. The big striper caught this week was released but could not survive because it was in warm water and died. It was hooked at 35 feet where life was good but surfacing was its demise.

There are very few stripers that leave the school and go out on their own to feed. Most stay in the school and compete over a limited food source in deep cool water. Only a few genetically superior fish that can grow fast and live on their own can make trophy size. I think that number is literally one in a million.

At 3-5 years old an individual would have to leave the school and forage on its own. If it got big enough by age 5 to feed on adult carp, walleye, catfish or bass then it can grow to a very large size. Unfortunately, gizzard shad grow wide instead of long which makes it almost impossible for stripers to actually swallow an adult. They also grow fast to the big, round size. I am sure that gizzard shad growing quickly in their first year do provide lots of forage to all stripers, but in their second year they quickly outgrow the gape size of most striped bass.

I tried in 1988 to get another deep water forage fish (Osmerus Mordax) introduced into the lake for this very reason but was not able to make that happen.
 
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Squirrel

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I tried in 1988 to get another deep water forage fish (Osmerus Mordax) introduced into the lake for this very reason but was no able to make that happen.

Wayne, it is too bad that somebody thinks they know more about your lake than you do, or was it financial. Sq
 

wayne gustaveson

Moderator
Staff member
I tried in 1988 to get another deep water forage fish (Osmerus Mordax) introduced into the lake for this very reason but was no able to make that happen.

Wayne, it is too bad that somebody thinks they know more about your lake than you do, or was it financial. Sq

Introducing a new fish species in the lake may be the very best thing for one body of water but may not be the best for the river that connects the lakes or for the competition that may occur hundreds of miles downstream.

We have a great fishery in Lake Powell but we are a bit short on trophies.

The next great challenge is mussels and how to keep the fishery thriving under this threat. Striped bass and shad are the first target on mussel radar but so far so good. The 85 degree water we have right now is killing a lot of mussels, not enough mussels, but many are dying now due to heat related issues.
 
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