Fisheries biologists would like anglers to consider keeping their catch while striper fishing during the heat of summer.
This may actually increase the number of stripers available for other anglers.
Keeping fish in the name of conservation may sound strange during the modern era of catch-and-release, but there’s method to the madness. According to studies on delayed mortality, stripers caught any time the surface temperature exceeds 75 degrees risk a much greater risk of dying, even after release.
“During summer in Lakes Ouachita, Beaver and Norfork, stripers seek deeper, cooler water,” said Brett Hobbs. “This is a time of year when stripers are not prospering, but just surviving. That upper layer of water has plenty of oxygen, but not the cooler temperature stripers need.”
Hobbs explains that when caught from deeper and cooler water, stripers undergo an extreme amount of stress, both from the fight and from the water temperature. Many may seem OK at release, but never recover to get back to their preferred water temperature.
“They’re notorious for fighting hard, but stripers actually are pretty delicate,” Hobbs said. Hobbs says he’s received calls from concerned striper anglers on Lake Ouachita who said they’d seen people catching and releasing many stripers, likely not knowing those fish were poor candidates for catch and release.
“We certainly want to encourage people to come and fish for the stripers and enjoy the resource,” Hobbs said. “And by all means, keep a few for the freezer. We just really want people to know that they may actually be doing more harm than they think when they catch and release stripers when it’s hot.“
Hobbs says he believes it’s more a matter of anglers wanting to do what’s right for conservation, just not knowing all the facts about the species and what impacts catch-and-release fishing can have.
“You have likely induced delayed mortality in several of those fish, even if they’re released,” Hobbs said. “So it’s better to catch your limit, keep it and call it a day than to stay there catching and releasing fish, thinking they will live to fight another day.”