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Old 07-16-2005, 12:44 AM
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Default Bass anglers battling stripers in Arkansas

Fisheries Management
Bass anglers battling stripers in Arkansas

By John Neporadny Jr.
BASS Times, July 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. ? A group of Arkansas bass anglers believes the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission needs to start putting more emphasis on the state's native species and curb its striped bass stocking program.
"It seems that our game and fish commission has really turned towards the striper industry," said Bobby Graves, president of the Arkansas Black Bass Coalition (ABBC). "We are very familiar with our lakes. We have fished them for years, and we know the type of fishing we can have just with our native species."
The ABBC believes that some Arkansas impoundments, in particular Lake Ouachita, have been overstocked with striped bass, and the result has been a decline in native gamefish species like bass, crappie, walleye and catfish.
"In the last 10 years they have put more than a million stripers in Lake Ouachita, and we're asking for a five year moratorium on striper stocking to let our lake catch up," said Graves. To curb the striped bass population further, the ABBC is asking the state to raise the daily limit on this imported fish from three fish per day to six.
The group believes the overabundance of stripers has depleted Ouachita's shad population. "You can only put so many cows in the pasture, and then you run out of grass," said Graves. "Ouachita has always been a great shad lake, and that's the reason we have always had really good bass fishing."
The group is now lobbying the state to stock black bass and shad to enhance Ouachita's fishing.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission is considering some of the ABBC proposals.
"The big problem with ABBC is that they want us to manage the lake the way they want it and for their specific needs and concerns, and we are trying to manage it for what we think is the best recreational use of the lake for all fishermen," said Mike Gibson, chief of fisheries in Arkansas.
"We are thinking about [the daily limit change] but we want to be very careful on that because Ouachita is recognized as a world-class striper lake, and it brings in a lot of tourism and industry."
Gibson believes the stocking of striped bass has no impact on the largemouth bass population in Ouachita or in other state reservoirs. "You can look in other (Southeastern U.S.) states that have done study after study on this subject. But it's hard to convince those guys that it's not happening," said Gibson.
The fisheries chief confirmed that the commission has stocked more than 1 million striped bass in Ouachita. But he believes the adult striper population is probably smaller than that amount. "Some of those fish came out of our nursery pond and were typically 1 1/2-inch stripers. There is pretty heavy predation on them when they hit the water."
Some action by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission could improve the fishing at Ouachita in the near future, according to Gibson.
"We have cut back on our striper stocking the last couple of years because we have noticed a strong year-class moving through that population, and our shad population has been on a downturn," continued Gibson.
"We've noticed that bass fishing has done fairly well in the last year or so compared to what it has been. The amount of time it takes to catch a 5-pounder has been cut in half."
Gibson added that his fisheries department is also considering stocking threadfin shad to replenish the forage supply, a move that could help all of the gamefish populations in Ouachita.
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