The striped bass "success story in freshwater reservoirs" has not been without controversy.
several states, anglers have suspected that the
feed on native gamefish and / or over compete with them for food despite
scientific evidence they do not.
Biologists and fishermen alike became worried about these huge fish eating black
bass and other game fish.
Biologists at several universities and state and federal agencies quickly
determined through repeated scientific experimentation
that this was not the case.
In Tennessee and elsewhere study after study revealed that striped bass in
reservoirs preyed almost exclusively
on gizzard and threadfin shad.
(D. petenense) (Stevens1958;
Kohler and Ney 1981;
Moore et al.
One of the hottest controversy was on Norris Reservoir in Tennessee.
The reservoir was dammed in 1939 and experienced the normal explosion in fish
after impoundment, but 15 years later, fish populations showed a dramatic decline.
Striped bass have been stocked in over 100 reservoirs
in the southern United
States since the 1970s.
Originally, they were native to the coastal waters
rivers from New England to Florida
and in the northern Gulf from the Florida
to eastern Louisiana.
Many reservoirs develop very large
populations of shad, especially gizzard shad,
that grow too large for largemouth bass to eat.
Striped bass grow large enough
to eat these shad
and are open-water fish, as are shad.
With that realization,
in stocking striped bass
in reservoirs began.
Such a decline is normal in most reservoirs, but in Norris, it was dramatic. In
the 1940s, saugers were so plentiful that biologists suggested allowing anglers
to use gill nets to catch more of them. By 1975, the sauger fishery was
considered "insignificant." Walleye, black bass and crappie (sac-a-lait) also
declined. Anglers concerned with declining gamefish populations met with Game
and Fish Commission biologists in 1970 to express their concern.
meeting in 1966, striped bass stocking began at a rate of almost 9 fish per
acre. The stocking rate was increased to 14 stripers per acre in 1975, and to 30
per acre in 1991.
In the meantime, angler concerns increased. In 1988, another meeting was held
with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to express more concern. In
response, TWRA reduced crappie limits to 20 per day and began stocking crappie.
However, bass and crappie populations didn't improve and fishermen's concerns
were giving way to anger with TWRA.
Agency biologists cited many studies that showed that striped bass in reservoirs
feed almost totally on shad, and they formed a task force of biologists and
interested parties to work on the issue.
However, most of the decisions of the task force were pushed by TWRA biologists,
and in 1994, fishermen convinced that stripers were the cause of the decline in
other gamefish, formed the Tennessee Sportsman's Association (TSA), with over a
1,000 dues-paying members. Concerns expressed over 20 years before hardened in
anger that made compromise very difficult. TSA conducted an anti-TWRA campaign,
involving the press, billboards and bumper stickers.
In 1995, TSA was behind two bills in the legislature that would have stopped
striped bass stocking and lifted all limits on their catch.
Both bills failed,
but in 1995, TWRA put a moratorium on striped bass stocking.
In 1996, three more
such bills were introduced.
Again, the bills failed.
The Wild Turkey
Federation, the Tennessee Striped Bass Association, Quail Unlimited, the
Tennessee Smallmouth Bass Association, and the Tennessee Conservation League
all campaigned that fish and wildlife management decisions were best left to
biologists, not politicians.
The politicians agreed.
Mississippi State University Striped Bass Study
In 1996, TWRA commissioned a study by "out-of-state"
Mississippi State University biologists on striped bass
interactions with other fish in Norris Reservoir.
Their report stated that
striped bass preyed very little on other gamefish in the reservoir during the
period of their study.
After the study, TWRA formed the Norris Lake Fishery Advisory Committee,
composed of equal members from all fisheries interests. The group developed a
plan that included resuming stocking of stripers at a reduced rate, increased
stocking of walleye and crappie, created more stringent limits on largemouth
bass, smallmouth bass, and sunfish, and more liberal limits on spotted bass.
Although fisheries management in the reservoir is still controversial, some of
the controversy has eased because the close involvement of all user groups by
TWRA. The Norris Reservoir conflict is seen as justifying the need for fish and
game management agencies to pay more attention to the human part of modern
Source: Angler Conflicts in Fisheries Management: Case Study of the Striped
Bass Controversy at Norris Reservoir, Tennessee. T.N. Churchill, P.W. Bettoli,
D.C. Peterson, W.C. Reeves and B. Hodge. Fisheries. Vol 27, No 2. American
Fisheries Society. 2002
See Full Report
Angler Conflicts in Fisheries Management: A Case Study of the Striped Bass
Controversy at Norris Reservoir, Tennessee Fisheries Management
Effects of Simulated Removal of Striped
Bass from a Southeastern Reservoir
Scott W. Raborn, Leandro E. Miranda, and M. Todd Driscoll
Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Post Office Box 9691,
Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, USA
Abstract.—Since the introduction of
Morone saxatilis and hybrids of striped bass and white bass
Morone chrysops into reservoirs, much concern has been directed at
the possibility of these predators competing with other sport fishes for limited
If density of striped bass is reduced or eliminated through modifications
of the stocking program, the prey not consumed by striped bass may be shifted to
other sport fishes.
The resulting increase in biomass of other sport fishes
would be a function of the amount of added prey, the percent of this additional
prey eaten by other sport fishes, and the efficiency with which the prey is
converted into biomass.
We used bioenergetics models to estimate annual striped
bass prey consumption in Norris Reservoir, Tennessee.
Total annual consumption
was estimated at 52 kg/ha (estimated range = 17–100 kg/ha), clupeids accounting
for the majority (94%), followed by lepomids (4%) and other food items (2%).
Existing biomass of black basses
Micropterus spp., crappies
Pomoxis spp., and percids
Stizostedion spp. was about 65 kg/ha (estimated range = 35 − 106
Given the complete removal of striped bass, modeling indicated that the
most probable increase in the biomass of these sport fishes would be about 3%
with a 75% probability that it would be less than 12%.
Thus, not even the
complete removal of striped bass would measurably increase the biomass of other
MSU Study Findings:
The MSU study (Miranda et al. 1998) made several important findings.
Predation by striped bass on game fish in Norris
Reservoir was deemed negligible during the study period.
Direct competition between striped bass and other game
fish was also negligible in Norris Reservoir during the study period.
Potential did exist for competition between striped bass
and other predators during periods of low forage abundance at the
density of striped bass observed during the study.
MSU researchers concluded that low forage abundance may
become critical after winter shad kills which have occurred periodically
throughout the history of Norris Reservoir. It was possible that
striped bass would compete with other game- fish for food after periods
of winter shad kills.