Striped Bass Project - Lake Ouachita

Stocking of Striped Bass in Lake Ouachita.

Life cycle of Striped Bass
 

So that anglers can continue to enjoy the thrill of striped bass fishing in Lake Ouachita the AGFC has to stock striped bass into the Lake to maintain populations of stripers.

Every year around the middle of April the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist and hatchery technicians gather on Ouachita outside Hot Springs to start its Striped Bass Brood stock project collecting the striped bass that will be used to produce the current year's crop of Striped Bass.

The Striped Bass are collected by gillnetting. Gillnets are set in areas frequented by stripers and then checked every hour for suitable fish.

The selected mature striped bass that are caught are loaded onto fish trucks and taken to the Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton.

Striped bass eggs

At the Hulsey Fish Hatchery in Hot Springs, Arkansas the eggs of female striped bass must be staged to determine the time until the fish will spawn. Eggs are abstracted by inserting a glass catheter through the genital pore into the ovaries. The eggs are then viewed under a microscope to determine the amount of time until the fish will ovulate.
 
If the eggs are at a stage one, the female striped bass is injected with a Hormone to speed up the ovulation time and help to ensure that the time until the fish will spawn is predictable to the staff of the hatchery. Males can also be injected with a hormone to induce milt production.

The stripers are then placed in large tanks for holding. The water in the tanks is highly oxygenated, temperature controlled and treated with salt to reduce the effects of handling on the stripers.

During ovulation, the eggs will flow freely from the female indicating that it is time to spawn. When the Striped Bass are ready, fish culturists at the hatchery manually spawn them into dry pans, mixing the eggs and sperm to get maximum fertilization. The eggs and milt are mixed gently with little pressure to ensure that the eggs are fertilized without causing damage to them. This is a very precise process considering sperm motility lasts approximately 30 to 60 seconds and eggs remain fertile for only about two minutes after added to water.

After spawning is complete, the fertilized eggs are placed in special jars that keep them gently moving. The eggs then are sampled periodically for their condition and development. The dead eggs have to be constantly cleaned out to prevent the formation of fungus that could effect healthy live eggs.

Depending on temperature, it takes about three days for the eggs to hatch. After hatching, the fry are placed in large fiberglass tanks that also have a current to keep them afloat for another three days.

Striped Bass Larvae

Striped Bass eggs and fry are semi-buoyant, without the right current they will settle to the bottom and die.  The semi-buoyancy of the eggs and fry is the primary reason why Striped Bass do not spawn successfully in most waters in Arkansas.

The Arkansas River is the only place where Striped Bass spawning is successful in Arkansas because it generally has the right amount of flow for a long enough distance to allow the eggs and fry to develop.

When the fry actively begin swimming and have used up their yolk sacks, they are stocked out in prepared hatchery ponds to be raised to fingerling size.

The ponds have been fertilized to stimulate production of zooplankton for the Striped Bass fry to feed on.

In about 45 days, the striper fingerlings are harvested by hatchery workers, loaded onto fish distribution trucks and stocked back into Lake Ouachita and other Lakes in Arkansas that support Striper populations.

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