Biology and Management of Inland Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass

A Brief History of Inland Striped Bass Management

Scott L. Van Horn


Abstract.—The term “inland striped bass” Morone saxatilis is used to describe populations established within freshwater reservoirs and their headwaters and indigenous populations living wholly within the freshwater portion of coastal rivers. In 1941, the gates closed on a project impounding the Santee and Cooper rivers, isolating a population of striped bass in a freshwater reservoir for the first time. This population thrived and biologists theorized that in reservoirs, striped bass could make use of additional forage fish by increasing predation pressure on large gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum, interact little as pelagic predators with existing reservoir game fish, and create a new sport fishery. Interest in duplicating the Santee-Cooper experience in other reservoirs created a demand for striped bass that was ultimately met by developing a successful striped bass culture protocol. Expanding striped bass culture capacity allowed the rapid expansion of inland striped bass around the country. As the new reservoir fisheries developed,stocking rates, growth rates, and mortality rates were related to harvest and catch statistics to inform evolving management strategies. Research in both reservoirs and coastal rivers also focused on understanding striped bass and hybrid striped bass habitat requirements, impacts on associated fish populations, and genetic considerations. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures from 2006 indicated that 25 million anglers fished for striped bass, white bass, and their hybrids in freshwater (excluding the Great Lakes) for 420 million days and estimated the total trip and equipment expenses at US$24.6 billion. Some controversy has followed inland striped bass management. A segment of reservoir striped bass anglers is increasingly strident in its demands for ever-increasing striped bass stocking rates while another segment of the angler population remains suspicious that the exotic introduction threatens more traditional reservoir fisheries. In coastal river populations, genetic tools have demonstrated that well-intentioned augmentation stocking has threatened striped bass populations indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico.