Sunday, July 09, 2006

Handling Big Texoma Stripers


Anglers fishing on Lake Texoma are reporting excellent striped bass fishing over the last several weeks with large numbers of big fish being caught. However, warm water conditions can be stressful for stripers when they are caught in deep water.

Lake Texoma, located on the Red River along the Oklahoma and Texas border, has earned a reputation as being one of the top striper lakes in the nation. Known for their outstanding fighting abilities, striped bass are long-lived and fast growing. Stripers are voracious predators with a diet consisting mainly of threadfin and gizzard shad.

“This time of year schools of stripers will often move to deeper water to find cooler temperatures,” said Paul Mauck, south central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There can be problems when you pull a big fish up quickly from 30 feet or deeper and then try release it. Their air bladders cannot compensate for the quick changes in pressure and the fish can die.”

Anglers are allowed to keep two stripers 20 inches long or longer and Mauck is urging anglers to exercise caution once they catch a limit of fish over 20 inches.

“Everybody, including myself, loves catching stripers. But it is important that we as anglers are aware of this issue and take responsibility for our actions. When the fishing is good, it can be hard to move to another spot or try a different technique, but it is simply the right thing to do if the methods we are using are hard on the fish that we all love,” Mauck said.

Larry Manering, law enforcement chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, pointed out that the issue goes beyond just good fishing ethics. “No good angler wants to waste this great resource, but this is more than just an ethical issue, it is also a legal issue. In the state of Oklahoma it is against the law for an angler to release a dead or dying fish,” Manering said.

Mauck offered several tips for releasing healthy striped bass during the summer months, including:
  1. Fish as shallow as possible: If fish are in 60 feet of water try catching them at 30 feet rather than at a depth of 60 feet as this helps reduce the changes in air pressure as they come to the surface.
  2. When bait fishing, use circle hooks, hooks specially designed to lodge in the corner of the fish’s mouth. One that has been successful is the Mustad "Croker Hook" in the 1/0 to 2/0 size range.
  3. Release fish along side of the boat to reduce handling stress. Be sure to wet hands and towels before grabbing the fish. Boga grips are good tools for holding fish while removing hooks.
  4. Cut line and gently release deep hooked fish.
  5. When you have caught a limit of big fish (2 fish 20 inches or longer in length), move and find a school of smaller “box fish” rather than staying and releasing fish that may die as a result of being caught.
  6. As a last resort, “fizz” floating striped bass by using a #18 -1 1/2" or 2" hypodermic needle. This procedure involves releasing air from the fish’s air bladder – go to:
    www.wildlifedepartment.com/fizzingstripedbass.htm for complete details.

Editor's Note: Texoma Striper handling tips courtesy of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Photo courtesy of Trails Guide Service, Lake Texoma.

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