ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH
Warmer water temperatures bring an inevitable increase in fish mortality, even with catch-and-release fishing.
This is especially true for striped bass pulled from Arkansas’ top striper lakes. It may seem counter intuitive, but keeping striped bass can actually increase the number of stripers available for other anglers.
According to studies on delayed mortality, stripers caught any time the surface temperature exceeds 75 degrees are at a much greater risk of dying, even after release. Though oxygen is available in the upper portion of the water column, stripers cannot handle the heat. Instead they go deep, where cool water is more prevalent.
When caught from this cooler water, stripers undergo an extreme amount of stress, both from the fight and from the water temperature. Many may seem healthy at release, but never recover to get back to their preferred water temperature.
Many well-meaning striped bass anglers may enjoy a day full of catching hard-pulling striped bass at lakes Beaver, Norfork or Ouachita thinking they’re releasing their catch unharmed to fight another day. It’s actually better to keep the striped bass that are caught up to the legal limit. Striped bass limits are set at a conservative three-fish-per-person in these top striper lakes. Keeping those three fish and calling it a day is a much better option than catching a half dozen or more that are released.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few fish for the table, and limits are set with the notion that some people will want to enjoy a fresh fish dinner after their day on the water. Game and Fish stocks 515,000 striped bass each year for anglers to enjoy and to make use of the large, deep areas of these lakes no other fish use.
Anglers are encouraged to continue pursuing these large, hard-fighting fish, but should be aware that catch-and-release doesn’t work well for fish that come from deep water once water temperatures rise.