Study Looks At Hartwell Striped Bass Die-Off

Low oxygen levels last September killed stripers.

DNR Press Release | March 26, 2019

Over the last few years, Lake Hartwell anglers have expressed concern about the declining numbers of striped bass in the lake.

“We attribute the decline in the striped bass population to low levels of dissolved oxygen found down deep where striped bass live during the summertime,” said WRD fisheries biologist Anthony Rabern. “Droughts and floods can have a strong influence on water quality in the lake, especially during the summer months.”

Due to low oxygen levels last September, fisheries biologists from both Georgia and South Carolina DNR documented a major die-off of stripers.

To determine how striped bass in Lake Hartwell respond to harsh summertime conditions when these low oxygen levels occur, biologists are surgically implanting small radio transmitters into 40 striped bass this winter, and they will track their movements for the next 12 to 36 months.

Anglers are encouraged to release Hartwell stripers that have a 3-inch belly tag that indicates the fish has a surgically implanted radio transmitter. They should report the catch.

“One of the goals for this project is to determine the seasonal migration patterns of striped bass in Lake Hartwell, and identify potential areas in the lake where summertime water quality may be better suited for their survival,” said Anthony. “Another goal is to determine how many striped bass may actually die during the course of the year from either natural causes or from being harvested by anglers.”

Anglers should know they might catch one of these striped bass that has an internal transmitter. If you catch a striped bass with a 3-inch long filament protruding from its belly, the DNR encourages you to report the tag number by calling (888) 824-7472 and to release the fish alive, if possible, so they can continue to track the fish. If the fish is kept, instructions will be provided on how to return the transmitter.

This project would not be possible without the combined efforts of both state DNRs, and the support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For more information about the Lake Hartwell Striped Bass Telemetry Project, contact project leader Anthony Rabern at (706) 947-1507.

While biologists study how Lake Hartwell striped bass respond to low oxygen levels in late summer and why some died last September, the lake is still a top striped bass destination. Guide Preston Harden caught this monster in March 2019.

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