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.
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
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 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.
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.